Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Why Hasn't Romney Moved More to the Center?

| Mon Jul. 30, 2012 10:16 AM EDT

It's an old story. Republican presidential candidates move rightward to win the GOP primary (and Democrats move left). After securing the nomination, both Republicans and Democrats move back towards the center to appeal to the broader electorate. "Everything changes" in the general election, Eric Fehrnstrom, a top Romney adviser, said in March. "It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again." Yet so far, Romney's actual policy ideas haven't changed much at all. Sure, he's softened his tone on immigration. But he hasn't edged away from his previous proposals.

Perhaps the reason it seems that Romney hasn't moved more to the center is that he hasn't been particularly specific about what he would do as president. It's hard to be seen as changing your position if no one knows what your position is. But on some issues, at least, there seems to be some potential for Romney to pick up votes by moving towards the center. A recent survey by Public Policy Polling found that picking Condoleeza Rice, who has a reputation as a moderate on domestic policy and has described herself as "mildly pro-choice," as his running mate would be a "huge game changer," creating a tie in Pennsylvania and dramatically narrowing President Barack Obama's lead in Michigan. But Romney has run away from his moderate, pro-abortion rights, pro-health care reform record as governor of Massachusetts, and there is not yet a single significant domestic policy position that Romney has staked out in the general election that is significantly more centrist than the proposals he advocated in the Republican primary. How can that be?

There's no doubt that Romney has a reputation as someone who radically shifts his positions based on the political climate. His campaign may be wagering that tacking center will only reinforce that image. They also probably want to illustrate as large of a contrast with Obama as they can. But money might have something to do with it, too. Never before has a presidential candidate been so indebted to just a few major donors. Just seven families gave the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future $15 million of the $21 million it raised in June. Gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson has already given eight figures to pro-Romney groups. Conservative millionaires and billionaires certainly want Romney to win, but they also want to keep him on the straight and narrow. Presidential nominees have always had to answer to party machers and big money donors. But campaign donations on this huge, post-Citizens United scale carries even larger obligations.

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After Bachmann Allegations, Clinton Deputy Reportedly Under Police Protection

| Mon Jul. 23, 2012 11:02 AM EDT
Huma Abedin.

In June, five Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), sent letters to the nation's top law enforcement, defense, and intelligence agencies warning that the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist organization, had infiltrated the United States government. Bachmann and her associates—Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)—demanded an investigation, and Bachmann told radio host Sandy Rios that "it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency."

There is not even a smidgen of credible evidence to back up the charges Bachmann and her colleagues have made. But one of the individuals Bachmann has singled for her supposed ties to the Muslim Brotherhood—Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—has suffered very real consequences. Abedin, who's married ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, with whom she has a new baby, has received threats in the wake of Bachmann's charges and is now under police protection, the New York Post reported Sunday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor last week to defend Abedin, but that hasn't been enough to stop the witchhunt.

People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, has called on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), who called Bachmann's charges "pretty dangerous," to remove her from the House Intelligence committee as a way of sending a message that this kind of conduct is unacceptable.

5 Questions for the Fact-Checkers on Romney and Bain

| Mon Jul. 16, 2012 8:00 AM EDT

Media fact-checkers continue to take issue with the Obama campaign's claims that Mitt Romney was responsible for Bain Capital's outsourcing of American jobs, even though journalists (including Mother Jones' David Corn, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, the Boston Globe, Huffington Post, and others) continue to uncover more information about Romney's role at Bain between 1999 and 2002. Here are five questions for Annenberg's FactCheck.org and the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" that may help sort things out:

  1. Is it possible that even without day-to-day managerial control, Mitt Romney may bear some moral or personal responsibility for the actions of Bain Capital post-1999, given that no one is disputing that he benefited financially from its actions and that his name was on the door? Is that question even fact-checkable?
  2. Much of the debate over when Romney left Bain has been driven by the Obama campaign's claims that Bain invested in outsourcing US jobs while he was there. Fact-checkers have said it's unfair to tie Romney to outsourcing during the 1999-2002 period. How should voters account for the fact that, as Corn reported, Bain invested in Global-Tech Appliances, a Chinese company that depended on outsourcing, prior to February 1999?
  3. Even if the Obama campaign made inflated claims about Romney's post-1999 role at Bain, are Bain and Romney's categorical denials that Romney was not "involved in the operations of any Bain Capital Entity in any way" and Romney "has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure" justifiable? What is the definition of "operations" and "management activities"? Does it include signing documents? Are companies that Bain part-owned "Bain Capital Entities"? Are companies like LifeLike, whose board meetings Romney says he attended, Bain "portfolio companies"? If not, what is a "portfolio company"? Does serving as CEO/president/chairman of the Bain board count as a "management activity"? If not, why not?
  4. Does what we know about Romney's situation during the 1999-2002 period—that Jane Swift's Massachusetts governorship had not yet imploded, that Romney was also mulling a run for Utah governor, that contemporaneous accounts refer to him taking a "leave of absence," and that on Sunday one of his advisers referred to Romney's retirement as "retroactive"—indicate that Romney was maintaining some ties with Bain, if not active day-to-day management, in order to keep his options open if a political opportunity did not become available? Given those circumstances, would the company have made major decisions he strongly disagreed with?
  5. Most broadly: Given the available evidence, is it unfair to attribute any responsibility for Bain's post-1999 actions to Mitt Romney? Are such attacks completely out of bounds? Would it be correct to say that Romney's company—rather than Romney himself—outsourced jobs, given that he still owned it?

Correction: Due to a production error, a draft of this piece was published earlier. The text has been updated and corrected.

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