2012 Congressional Election

Defining Radical Down


As the presidential race tightens, Democrats and their supporters are working vigorously to define radical down. In his Bloomberg View column today, for example, Jonathan Alter warns that even if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems moderate now, he won't possibly govern that way. That's because radical Republicans in Congress wouldn't let him. "The Republicans have become the most extreme major political party in generations," he writes. "They are tolerating Romney's heresies this month only to gain power." Including Maine Senator Susan Collins and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who may not win reelection, Alter argues that "the moderate Republican caucus in Congress might include just two senators, plus three or four House members. That's it." 

Alter isn't the only one pushing the line that today's GOP is too extreme to govern. You can find former Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich making an extremely similar argument, saying that "today's Republican Party is more radical and extreme than it's been in more than 80 years." Democratic operatives are pushing the same line about various GOP targets. A spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told CNN that Tom Smith, a Republican Senate Candidate in Pennsylvania whose race is currently tied according to Rasmussen, "is a radical tea partier in the mold of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock." Here's how radical Smith is on the high-priority issue of Medicare:

Obama's campaign has worked hard to paint Romney as a super-scary political radical, with senior campaign adviser David Axelrod warning that Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan share "extreme" views on government, and arguing that the two share politival views that are way outside the mainstream. It's silly for a number of reasons. It's not just that Romney is clearly not some red-eyed radical but instead a managerial technocrat who, among other things, worked hard to pass a state-level version of ObamaCare. It's that the administration is making this argument at the same time that the president's key line of attack on the GOP contender revolves around a gimmicky bit about "Romnesia," in which Romney can't really be trusted because he doesn't have any principles. So which is it? Is Romney some crazy ideological firebrand? Or is he an unprincipled political striver with no particular attachment to principle? 

One response might be that it doesn't matter if Romney is an extremist because his willingness to go where the political winds blow will make him a puppet of radical Republicans in Congress. The same radicals, presumably, who have spent the last three years declaring their opposition to President Obama's Medicare cuts, who proposed a balanced budget plan so strict that exempted Medicare and Social Security, and who offered a debt deal so apocalyptic that it called for federal spending to continue to rise. And the same radicals who have rallied around Romney, who is so serious about spending cuts that he has promised to cut federal subsidies to the National Endowment for the Arts and Planned Parenthood, which would save a little less than $500 million out of a $3.7 trillion budget. 

Even if you buy this idea, however, it's essentially moot if Republicans fail to win a majority in the Senate. It's not impossible that the GOP will gain control of the upper chamber, but I wouldn't bet on it, because right now the polls are stacked against them

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  1. Best campaign commercial ever.

  2. They’re gonna force Mitt to be a MAVERICK!

  3. The Journolist light is flashing. Collect your talking points and proceed to the nearest keyboard.

  4. The real problem with Tom Smith is that he’s kinda an enigma. He has no previous record as a politician and hasn’t taken an opinion one way or the other on most issues, so it’s hard to say what he would do in office if elected.

    1. He and Keith Rothfus creep me the fuck out, but my standards are ultra-low this year. Romney is probably going to be the least uncomfortable vote I cast this election, which is saying something.

      1. I’ll probably vote Tom Smith because in ties I tend to go against the incumbent, and also because I’m glad Sam Rohrer didn’t win the primary (For those not familiar with PA state level politics, Sam Rohrer is basically Rick Santorum II).

  5. The real Mitt Romney is 10 feet tall, he kills senior citizens by the hundreds, and if he were elected president he’d consume all the gays and women with fire from his eyes and bolts of lightening from his arse.

    1. He’ll save the children but not the Palestinian children.

    2. Aye, I am Mitt Romney and I see before me an army of American sheep…

      Would you trade all those days of comfort against just a chance to be free?

      Crowd: “AYE, we would!”

    3. I’m thinking he sends out the black helicopters to take everyone’s birth control.

  6. Just a note on Nate Silver’s analysis (linked above): He is projecting the popular vote decision as follows:

    Obama wins popular vote 69.6%
    Romney wins popular vote 30.4%

    The most recent polls (including Dem-friendly outlier IBD) give Romney a 48.75 – 47.00 lead. Margin of error stuff, although the daily tracking polls show a little bigger lead for Romney (as much as 5% on Gallup, 4% on Rasmussen).


    But Silver is saying Obama has a better than 2 – 1 chance of winning the popular (not EC) vote. I don’t get it.

    1. He’s the NYT’s house poll guy. The purpose of the NYT is enfolding white urban progressives in a comforting blanket of soothing words and images. That’s what they do.

      1. Don’t worry Tagg Romney is going to steal the election for Hitler his Dad with HACKED VOTING MACHINES!!1!

    2. He also said the Carl Crawford signing had a 2:1 chance of working out. That’s all you need to know.

      1. Hey hey hey, he’s going to thrive once he’s healthy again with the Dodgers.

      2. He also claims to have been a really great poker player, yet there are no statistics on him to be found in any of the online databases.

      3. And now my Doyers are stuck with him.

    3. And the margin of error thing is a canard perpetrated on people who don’t understand statistics. The 4 point “margin of error” is a 95% confidence interval, meaning that there is a 95% probablity that the margin is between Obama +2 and Romney +6. This also means that there is a 67% probability that the margin is between Romney +0 and Romney +4. Which means there is only a 17% probability that BO is actually ahead.

  7. Plus, if the Republicans did win a majority in Congress as well, with all these “extreme” candidates … wouldn’t that be a mandate for Republican Extremism as the Will of the People, at least under the Democrat logic of 2008?

    (Okay, I kid. Of course not – that would require having a principle beyond “whatever we want is right”. Mandates only exist due to winning when it’s our side, just like the filibuster and cloture are bad when we have a majority-but-not-supermajority, and good when we have a minority.

    In fairness, the Republicans as a party are the exact same way, of course.

    I bet the Libertarians would be if they ever actually won anything and got the chance.)

  8. Should be rather interesintg to see how that all works out.


  9. I read Jonathan Alter’s column last night. He really does make Mitt Romney look like some type of budget cutting monster. Best quote from the article? “An additional 6 percent would be cut from “general science, space and basic technology” — a gut punch to the research institutions that are critical for a 21st-century economy.” 6 PERCENT whatever will we do with a research cut of 6 percent??? How will we possibly pay for the cocaine for our research monkeys????

    1. ::rushes to finish NSF grant proposal before the election::

      1. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

        1. It’s made from monkey cum you know.

        2. WTF is with the resurgence of this meme?

          1. It’s a hell of a meme.

  10. I am amused when Democrats talk about how “radical” Republicans have become. As if Democrats have become more moderate and centrist since (say) the days of JFK?

  11. It’s so unbelievably sad how ignorant Americans have become when they actually swallow the ling of hogwash that wanting to increase the budget and debt at a slightly lower pace is “extreme”, “draconian”, “radical”, etc, etc.

    1. *line of hogwash

  12. “If you don’t support subsidizing contraceptives, you are waging a war against women!”

    Yes, Republicans are the radicals.

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