The New Compassionate Conservatism and Trickle-Down Economics

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Atkins: Liz, Mitt have work to do to get to the White House.

Mitt Romney, sudden champion of Americans trying to make ends meet — it’s coming off to progressives and veterans of President Barack Obama’s winning reelection campaign as a little too rich.MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie aren’t exactly popular names at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention. “Christie lost weight, but that just means he can hug Obama even closer,” Joe Dugan, who organized the conference, told msnbc. “Romney was a poor candidate and ran a terrible campaign.” That doesn’t mean attendees are unhappy to see them running, however. After watching Romney grind his way to the nomination in 2012 against a rotating cast of underfunded conservative challengers, tea party activists are hopeful that the reverse dynamic might occur in 2016. His reinvention Friday night as an anti-poverty warrior has them in a frenzy of excitement, even glee, at what they see as the Democratic Party’s stroke of good luck. “In a word,” said one of Obama’s 2012 campaign alums, describing the reactions bouncing around on private emails and text messages, “disbelief.” “Romney is 47 percent concerned about inequality,” the president’s 2012 campaign press secretary, Ben LaBolt, said in an email. “The other 53 percent of him would rather polish his car elevators.” “Romney’s problem has always been really about believability and connection with the challenges of average Americans,” said Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager. “It’s simply never going to be believable to go from car elevators, off-shore accounts and his famous 47 percent comment to the populist income equality warrior.” There was “corporations are people, my friend,” from the 2011 Iowa State Fair.

For right-wing conservatives who saw Romney as a means of knocking off Jeb Bush, this ironically means Bush would face a less formidable candidate in Romney than he would against Christie or Rubio. At a breakfast in New Hampshire a few months later, Romney declared, “I like being able to fire people.” And in an interview that aired the day after he clinched the Republican nomination, he remarked, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” Now that Romney wants back in on the game, convincing his party to give him a third shot is going to require not just some reassurances that he’d do things differently, but a little pizazz to stand out from a very crowded field of more dynamic newcomers.

Romney didn’t dampen any speculation about a third presidential bid when he told a Republican National Committee meeting that he’s giving “serious consideration” about his future. Early polling is not predictive of the outcomes of primaries still more than a year away, but it does reflect the immediate problem for Christie and Rubio.

On the other side of the country, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who became a progressive icon when he made income inequality the centerpiece of his 2013 mayoral campaign, said he was astounded. “Doing it in such a ham-handed manner in what appears to be a deathbed conversion is a strange way to suddenly come out of the box with it, and I find it disingenuous, and I think a lot of other people will too,” de Blasio said, speaking Saturday evening from New York. “This is a guy who was pretty brazenly uninterested in addressing income inequality in 2012.” At this point, Romney is just toying with another presidential campaign. But if Republicans are high on Romney and Bush, they don’t appear to be so enthusiastic about Chris Christie — who would presumably draw on the same establishment and business-oriented support as the two former governors. In a speech at the RNC’s spring meeting, Romney laid out three principles for GOP success in 2016: boosting national security, helping the middle class and lifting people out of poverty. Other candidates who could potentially make a play for social conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers include Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker.

Likewise, when we look at a poll measuring who Republican voters want in the race, Romney, no doubt based on name recognition, leads the field at 59 percent, while Christie goes to 29 percent and Rubio to 26 percent. The percentage of Republicans who want to see the New Jersey governor in the presidential race is slightly more than Rand Paul (27%) and Marco Rubio (26%), but off the marks that Sarah Palin (30%) and Mike Huckabee (40%) receive.

For all the evident pleasure Obama’s former campaign staff is taking in Romney’s sudden conversion — Obama himself deflected a question about Romney earlier Friday with a smile and a “no comment” — the president himself has been bitten repeatedly for being insufficiently committed. The massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo was the latest in an apparently escalating line of atrocities reminding the US voter that al-Qaeda and its offshoots outlived Osama bin Laden. It followed the Taliban’s slaughter of 148 school children in Peshawar, the staged beheadings in Syria by Isis and a hardening perception that the death cult is spreading. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made a cause of stopping the confirmation of Obama’s nominee to a top Treasury Department job, Antonio Weiss, in part because of his Wall Street background.

Some prospective GOP candidates like Perry, Walker, Pence, and Rubio could plausibly lay claim to establishment and grassroots support alike and Romney actually performed surprisingly well with tea party voters in 2012 (his weak spot was evangelicals). On Tuesday night, Obama will use his State of the Union address to lay into the case further, promoting his free community college plan and a series of tax changes that progressives are already embracing as an assault on the “1 percent,” without much care about which have a chance of passing Congress.

Obama’s recent executive action to protect undocumented immigrants has been one of the top issues at the conference so far, with speakers garnering standing ovations decrying illegal immigration. Given the tenacity of the gains of Isis in Syria and Iraq — it has held its ground in spite of US air strikes — and al-Qaeda’s strong advances in Yemen and beyond, it is hard to imagine this will change in 2015. Are corporations still people too, Mitt?” Warren’s Twitter swipe at Romney demonstrates that despite her denials about plans to challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, she intends to remain a force to be reckoned with.

Only one contender, Rand Paul — the artist formerly known as isolationist, also a senator from Kentucky — diverges from his party’s muscular line on national security. Whether she jumps in or not, she’s doing everything she can to impact the race by giving Democratic candidates a sharp nudge to the left, ensuring that economic equality remains a major issue, and holding Wall Street-backed candidates’ feet to the fire. But if that business executive or female voter can get Romney — at least they know him and know he is sound on issues they care about — why take a substitute? But despite the ceaseless calls from those trying to draft her into the race, Warren has a long way to go to prove she can draw support beyond her party’s progressives.

And her aversion to the press evidences skin that may be too thin for the kind of public scrutiny that will make her senatorial campaign look like a cakewalk. Christie may find his donor base is primarily a subset of Romney’s (those Republican Governors Association donors have not yet decided to transfer their support from governors to Christie specifically).

We have seen an avalanche of criticism from the establishment and big donor community, from state party leaders, from elected leaders and from party activists about the idea of a third Romney run. If Romney faces an uphill battle convincing people he should get another shot, a presidential candidate Warren may quickly raise questions about whether she’s ready for her first try. In the long run, then, after name recognition has worn off and the low-hanging fruit in the donor class has been snatched up, Romney is not likely to prevail.

Mr Paul now describes the chaos in Libya as “Hillary Clinton’s war” — she was secretary of state when the US helped arrange the Anglo-French toppling of Muammer Gaddafi. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a realistic choice. (To the contrary, if Romney was right about everything on foreign policy, then his polar opposite, like President Obama, was wrong about everything.) Romney, however, does tremendous damage to Rubio and Christie, simply by sucking up initial donor support, coasting on name ID and benefiting from early, albeit nonpredictive, polling. The median income is still 8 per cent below where it was in 2007 and more than Some economists believe that 2015 will be the year when some of America’s aggregate growth trickles down into Joe Sixpack’s paycheck.

Few will forget Mr Romney’s offhand remark that 47 per cent of Americans were “takers” (spongers), a phrase borrowed from Ayn Rand, the cultish philosopher of small government. In his acceptance speech as Republican speaker of the House of Representatives this month, John Boehner talked of the urgent need to reverse the US “middle-class squeeze”.

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