Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Ron Paul

Politics, Money, and Super Pacs — the Road to South Carolina

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New Hampshire’s primary election results both confused and baffled me.  How could the Republican Party electorate be so fragmented that not one, not two, but five Presidential candidates drew 10% or more of the vote?

And the putative winner, Willard “Mitt” Romney, didn’t exactly impress anyone even though he took 39% of the vote due to how close, geographically, New Hampshire is to Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.  While he gained seven delegates, Ron Paul did quite well in gaining 23% of the vote and garnering three delegates, while Jon Huntsman came in a strong third with 17% of the vote and gained two delegates.

But I’d rather talk about something else aside from the bare results today; to wit, it’s time to talk money.  Namely, Super PAC money.

Where is all this money coming from?  Most of it is coming from a handful of individuals, supremely wealthy sorts who can spend millions like it’s going out of style, which allows the various candidate-affiliated Super PACs to run all sorts of negative ads.  Some of which actually have some resemblance to the truth.

Now, are the candidates supposed to be affiliated with the Super PACs that are helping them?  Of course not.  But it’s hard to believe that Jon Huntsman’s father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., isn’t talking to his son about the ads he’s running on his son’s behalf; it’s really difficult to believe that the folks backing Romney haven’t talked with him about the ads they’ve aired on his behalf, either.

As most long-time political watchers are aware, the best-funded candidate often wins rather than the best-qualified candidate, mostly because he or she can take command of the narrative in a way that it can become tough to rebut if there’s enough money to throw at an election.

But if you read that as, “if there’s enough money to throw an election,” you might not be too far wrong, either.

So here’s the deal, folks; we have way, way too much money in politics, something MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan often discusses during his afternoon show.  We have Super PACs who can raise unlimited amounts of money and who don’t, necessarily, have to disclose who’s funding what with whose money due to the controversial Supreme Court of the United States’ “Citizens United” decision.  And we have a completely broken, fraudulent system that’s become more like an oligarchy than the putative democracy most of us grew up to know, study and love.

So the road to South Carolina is littered with all of that, which is why this is such a mess.

What I see is this: we have Romney, who a whole lot of Republicans and right-leaning Independents don’t like.  We have Rick Santorum, who is a Christian conservative — he’s a kind-hearted and well-meaning man by all accounts, but some of his public statements (especially regarding GLBT Americans) are, to be charitable, questionable at best.  There’s Newt Gingrich, who is a smart, wily politician — I don’t agree with many of his stances, but I’ll never deny that he has skills and smarts — but who has a great deal of ground to make up if he intends to win the Republican nomination for President.  There’s Rick Perry, who can’t seem to get over his disastrous debate performances to gain any traction.  There’s Ron Paul, who has become attractive to many people, mostly because he speaks his mind and isn’t anywhere near as “packaged” as the rest of the folks running for President.  And there’s Jon Huntsman, who really looks like he’d be a great President down the road — but not this year, methinks.

All of these candidates, were there some semblance of a level financial playing field, would be far better served than they are right now.  Gingrich has said so, and so has Perry to a degree; I applaud them both for their stances, even though what they’d do to fix this mess as conservative Republicans is to make every candidate have to fully and freely declare who’s funding whom and why.  (To my mind, that’s a good start.  But it’s only a start.)

As I see it, the road to South Carolina is filled with all sorts of potholes, unintended sinkholes, and way too much money to be borne.  So the media will clean up, the populace of South Carolina will largely tune out, and it’ll be much harder for any candidate to gain any sort of legitimate traction than it would’ve been with a more level playing field.

Because of that, my best guess is that if there is an upset here, it’s going to come from Newt Gingrich.  I think Paul will once again be a factor and gain delegates.  I think Romney will draw at least 25%, and I think if Huntsman continues to represent himself well, he’ll get at least 9% or 10%, a respectable showing.  But it’s also possible that Rick Santorum will do well in South Carolina; because Santorum and Gingrich both are trying to take Romney down, that might split the “anti-Romney” vote between them which allows Romney to eke out another narrow win.

And I do think, for whatever it’s worth, that South Carolina is Rick Perry’s final stop on the 2012 Presidential merry-go-round.

One final thought: I’d really love to find out how much money Romney’s five sons are earning as “campaign aides.”  I believe the only person, by law, a Presidential candidate can “shield,” financially, is his spouse — that’s because a married couple is counted as one, legally.  And I’m fine with that; I don’t really need to know how much money Ann Romney needs at this point, nor Callista Gingrich, nor any of the other candidates’ wives, either.

But Romney’s five strapping adult sons are another matter.  They are all listed as “campaign aides,” which means they’re drawing a salary.  I think it’s time we know how much Romney’s paying his five sons to do a bunch of make-work on the campaign trail, don’t you?

Whither Iowa? Thoughts on the 2012 Iowa Caucuses

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If you watch politics on television as much as I do, you probably have seen a great deal of hoopla surrounding the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.  This is the first test of several Republican candidates** who’ve had their moments in the sun — including Michele Bachmann (who won the Ames Straw Poll last year), Newt Gingrich (ahead in the polls in Iowa in early December), Rick Perry (ahead in the polls in mid-September), Ron Paul (ahead in some Iowa polls as little as two weeks ago), the hard-charging Rick Santorum (who could actually win tonight) and, of course, well-heeled frontrunner Mitt Romney, who ran in 2008 and whose support seems to run a steady 25% whether he campaigns hard — or doesn’t — in Iowa.

But the question remains, “Why does what the people in Iowa think of these candidates matter so much year after year?”

There’s an easy answer that goes like this:  “Well, c’mon, Barb!  These Iowans see the candidates every four years.  They’re less likely to glom onto a candidate who’s all talk and no action — that goes without saying!” 

But that’s a facetious answer.  The real reason Iowans matter so much is because most of ’em are middle-income folks and below.  These are as close to “real people” as the candidates on both sides are likely to see; between Iowa and New Hampshire, ordinary citizens get to have more dialogues with candidates than anywhere else.  And this may give campaigns like Romney’s a better idea of what middle-income people want out of their government, especially as the words “Romney” and “middle-income” go together about as well as a bullwhip and iced tea.

As a long-time political watcher, I’ve seen candidates do well in Iowa but flash-and-fade otherwise (2008 Republican winner Mike Huckabee comes to mind, here; so does 1980 Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush).  I’ve seen some candidates, like Barack Obama, do very well — surprisingly so — in Iowa, which helps them overall, yet others who’ve done well in Iowa, like Howard Dean and/or John Edwards, aren’t able to maximize their opportunities down the road and end up with that flash-and-fade effect, which looks the same regardless of party.

See, some of the candidates just peak too soon, that’s all.  Newt Gingrich seems to be one example of this, though he may well rally as he’s an intelligent, highly-seasoned political operative and if anyone can do it, he can.  Rick Perry is yet another one, though in Perry’s case he’s been his own worst enemy in the debates and that has definitely hurt him.

Over time, what the Iowa caucuses have shown is this: if a politician is smart, and can rally from this experience (whatever it may be), he or she will do well.   But you must learn from whatever it is the Iowans are telling you; if they’re saying, as I believe they are to Rick Perry, “Rick, we really like you, but you don’t have the gravitas.  You need to go work on your public speaking, develop a foreign policy, and come back in four to eight years,” the best thing Perry could do going forward is give himself a crash course in foreign policy, do his best to look like a statesman, and study up before he goes into another debate lest he have another one of those “oops!” moments.

Or if they say to Ron Paul, “Ron, we really like your energy.  You’re a breath of fresh air and we wish that more Republicans were like you in speaking their minds,” Paul needs to realize that what they’re saying, while gratifying personally, may not translate to electoral success in other states.  I’ll be interested to see if Paul can indeed follow up what I’m sure will be a very strong showing tonight — top four, easily, and he could possibly win the state as Romney isn’t beloved in Iowa — with a good showing in New Hampshire and a halfway decent one in South Carolina.  If he can do that, then he has real potential nationally.

And the guy with the most to gain — or lose — is obviously Rick Santorum.  The pundits have claimed for the past several days that Santorum will win, or come in second or maybe a close third, but that Santorum will definitely be a major factor. 

As I see it, Santorum could gain much if he wins Iowa; he’ll have instant national attention, a bigger flow of money toward him (as many people back a winner, but fewer flock to those who are seen to lose unless they’re super-committed — and those, in this crowd, mostly go for Paul or Gingrich, not Santorum), and more media types reporting on what he does every day, thus an easier way to get on free TV and make a bigger difference nationally.

But what he loses if he doesn’t come in the top four (assuming the top four will be nearly evenly split) is breathtaking, considering how far the expectations for his campaign have been ratcheted up. 

My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that Romney, Paul, Santorum and Gingrich will all have around 15% of the vote (or a bit more).  I think it’s more likely than not that Paul will win Iowa because his voters are passionate, committed, will caucus, will stay as long as is necessary and are vocal about their support.  But I have a sneaky suspicion that Gingrich will do better than he’s polled, too, because the folks who are backing Gingrich do it for these reasons: he’s smart.  He has good answers in the debates.  He’s a wily, resilient old pol in the best sense of that word; he knows how to roll with the punches.  And best of all for Gingrich’s supporters, Gingrich is the only one of the lot who seems to understand that to become President someday, you must turn your liabilities into strengths.  (I’m not totally sold on whether or not Gingrich has actually done this.  But I can see that he’s really tried to do so and that attempt matters.)

And I believe that Santorum, at the end of tonight, will either be ecstatic — in that he’s greatly exceeded expectations — or crushed.  I’m unwilling to say at this time which is more likely.


Note:  As President Obama is running unopposed in the Democratic caucuses, those are expected to be far more quiet — and far less well attended — than the Republican caucuses.  (As you might expect.)**

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Compassion Strikes Out: People Cheer Hypothetical Death Example at R Debate

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I have now seen and heard it all: compassion has struck out.

Why do I say this?  Well, last night there was a strange occurrence where audience members watching the “Tea Party” Republican Debate in Tampa, FL, actually cheered the thought of someone dying young due to a lack of health care.  This was an awful occurrence, one that turned my stomach, and I have many things to say about it — but before I do, let me first set the stage in order to possibly understand the crowd’s behavior.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was asked a hypothetical question about a thirty-year-old man without health insurance; the moderator of the debate, Wolf Blitzer, asked whether or not Paul felt this man should get governmental help to pay for health care (as health care is extremely expensive in this country, and some working people — perhaps many working people — cannot afford to have health insurance due to high co-pays, pre-existing conditions, or other factors that raise the premiums beyond their ability to pay).  Paul, also a licensed medical doctor, was asked this question first because as a doctor, he should know the most about the health care system.

Paul’s answer was that private charities used to do the work and can and should do the work again; this is a very Libertarian philosophy that goes along with his lifetime viewpoint.  This answer wasn’t at all a surprise to me as a long-time political watcher as for the most part, Paul’s objections are made from a standpoint of long-held principle and he’s been eloquent on the subject before.

What was a surprise, and a most unwelcome one, were the wags in the crowd who shouted, “Yeah!” after cheering Paul’s answer.  Blitzer followed up with, “So you’d just let this man die?” and people cheered even louder.

Look.  I do not believe that the Republicans, as a whole, want people like me who are poor and do not have health insurance to “die quickly” as former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) once said.  But I also agree with Grayson’s comments, made tonight on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on Current TV, that the behavior of much of the crowd showed a sadistic streak that should not be tolerated.  (I’m using the term precisely: sadism is joy in other people’s pain, or at minimum, delight over other people’s pain.)

Now, does that mean that every member of the audience who cheered this hypothetical example of a thirty-year-old man not getting needed medical care are bad people?  Probably not; mob psychology may well have gotten to them, and some in that crowd may really not believe that the idea of a thirty-year-old without insurance should die is a good one after all.  (This is also called “get on the bandwagon psychology,” and is a known phenomenon in large groups.)

The main problem is that something like this, at what was billed as a “Tea Party debate,” makes everyone in the Tea Party look both unsympathetic and lacking in empathy.  I know that’s not true; one of my doctors has spoken at Tea Party rallies (she is against nationalized health care because she believes that it would severely weaken the overall standard of care) and is a compassionate person who volunteers her time to work with low-income people (myself included).  I have many other friends in the Tea Party movement across the nation who are good, caring, empathetic people; they may not believe that government should implement what they call “Obamacare” (the most recent health care bill), but their objection to it is principled and rational, not the nonsensical behavior of a bunch of creeps in a crowd who’d cheer for someone to die merely because he doesn’t have the money to pay for health care.

Olbermann had as another guest on his program Nicole D. Lamoureux, who is the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics (to donate to this worthy program, go to — they do very fine work).  Lamoureux made a good point about mob psychology, made another good point about how some people seemingly would rather “take care of themselves” than anyone else, and said how upset she was in seeing that behavior.

What I would have added, had I the chance to speak with Ms. Lamoureux, is that some Republicans seem to behave like Florida Governor Rick Scott.  Scott has a minimal co-pay (something like $25) for himself and his family for operations and such (chump change), and for several of his immediate underlings, but much of the rest of state government have atrociously high co-pays (into the high hundreds or thousands) as Scott struck some sort of deal with the insurer.   This is a classic example of “I’ve got mine; the Devil take the hindmost,”* and is quintessentially the behavior of many hard right Rs in local, state and federal offices.

Once again: this does not mean the voters, who put people like Scott in office, are unfeeling and uncaring people.**  It doesn’t mean that all Tea Party members are as uncompassionate as those who cheered for this hypothetical man to die; it doesn’t even mean that all Tea Partiers in that particular audience last night felt that way.

But what this does mean is that the hard-right Rs have successfully made a class-based argument to some of their own voters — enough, they hope, to keep them in office.  The voters who trended R in 2010 are people who are working, who mostly have decent health insurance or believe they’ll be able to get it soon, and some don’t see that “there for but the grace of God goeth I.”  Nor do some of them see that this is unChristian or uncharitable behavior, even though such classic Biblical texts such as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount make it clear that the poor, widowed, infirm (meaning sick and/or disabled) and elderly should be well-treated.  This is a practical approach as well as a compassionate one, because one day, you may be in one of those categories.  Where will you be if no one helps you out?

Look.  We have really high unemployment in this country — 9.1% nationally.   Millions of people are out of work.  Millions more are underemployed at best; millions more are retirees, who may have to go back into the workforce to make ends meet due to the down economy wiping out their savings, 401(k) plans, or entire retirement in the 2007-8 stock market crash.  All of these things mean that more people are using free clinics or charitable services than ever before, with fewer dollars going to support such endeavors because fewer people are working in order to help them out.

In other words, this is the time to be more compassionate, not less.

This is the time to care for your neighbor as yourself, because this economy is so fluid that even the best employees can get laid off tomorrow, lose their health insurance, and end up needing to go to a free clinic or using charitable services at local clinics in order to get the health care they need.

This is the time that we must pull together as a country.  Find ways to help people who need it get the proper health care, particularly with regards to health care prevention; it’s shameful that women cannot get Pap smears if they’re poor.   Which means that someone like me is more likely to get care only if and when she discovers cancer — is this right in the wealthiest nation in the world?  (God, I hope not.)

Most importantly of all, people need to be educated about this.  They need to understand that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  And that sometimes, paying for a low-income person’s health care is going to save the government money in the long run while allowing that person to fully recover, then resume paying taxes and funding the same services for someone else in need.

Maybe by doing all this, we won’t have any more instances of supposedly-educated people cheering the thought of anyone dying young due solely to a lack of health care, or lack of means.  Because the fact that anyone at all can do this in our country shows a streak of barbarism that I’d truly hoped we’d fully rooted out, and cheapens American citizens in the eyes of the world.


* Another way to say this is, “I’ve got mine, so to Hell with you.”  Keith Olbermann called this attitude by so-called Christians “more the work of Devil-worshippers,” and I completely agree.

** Scott narrowly won office in ’10, and may end up becoming a one-term Governor over things such as the health insurance debacle as what he did is deeply unpopular throughout Florida across all parties and incomes due to its hypocrisy.