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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Chart: Why Liberals Lose Primaries More Often Than Conservatives

| Mon Jun. 18, 2012 10:25 AM EDT

The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner had a nice story on Sunday about liberal and progressive candidates losing to more moderate and conservative candidates in Democratic primaries. "Three of the seven candidates endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a leading liberal campaign organization, have lost their primaries," she notes. Jonathan Bernstein, a political scientist/blogger, argues that "there seems to be a difference" between Republicans and the Democrats on this score, with moderates more likely to win Democratic primaries than Republican ones. He wonders why this is.

There's an answer! As Bernstein no doubt knows, the GOP is more ideologically unified than the Democratic party. Self-identified conservatives make up a much larger portion (71 percent, as of 2011) of the Republican party than self-identified liberals make up of the Democratic coalition (39 percent as of 2011—up from just 29 percent in 2000). Here are two charts from Gallup that make this clear:

There are some nuances to consider involving the words "progressive" and "liberal." But it's hard to dismiss these numbers.

Supporters of Abortion Rights Should Fear a Supreme Court Shaped by Romney

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Mitt Romney, shown here waving goodbye to legal abortion in red states.

Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that paved the way for legal abortions in America, is likely to be in serious danger if GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is elected in November. The future of the nation's highest court hasn't gotten a lot of attention this election year, but the subject was thrown into stark relief on Friday, when Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, discussed it with a group of journalists at Netroots Nation. "Oh my god, it's just immeasurable how bad it would be," Richards said in response to a question from my colleague Andy Kroll about Romney's potential impact on the court. "It's difficult to make it a voting issue for average Americans because they don't think of the Supreme Court every morning when they get up. But the next nominees to this court are going be critical."

Given the aging profile of the Supreme Court, the next president is expected to nominate several justices. The court already has an active conservative majority, and the next nomination is likely to be for the spot of liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 79. Stephen Breyer, another liberal justice, is 73; conservative Antonin Scalia and Republican-appointed Anthony Kennedy (often the swing vote) are 76 and 75, respectively. If all four step down during the next administration—something that's certainly possible—whoever is president will have an opportunity to reshape the court in his image. Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, would be able to ensure that abortion remains legal for the foreseeable future. Romney, who believes states should be allowed to outlaw abortion, would almost certainly be able to ensure that would happen. (The Senate does have to confirm Supreme Court nominees, so control of that body will matter, too.)

Here are more of Richards' comments:

Oh my god, it's just immeasurable how bad it would be. I think right now, there are several cases that could get to the court on Roe. I don't think anyone is confident that Roe will be upheld. You see more and more bills pass and signed at the state level that are unconstitutional under Roe and I think again the Supreme Court, it's difficult to make it a voting issue for average Americans because they don't think of the Supreme Court every morning when they get up. But the next nominees to this court are going to be critical. There's just no way to overstate that.


The real concern is what could happen in this country if Roe is overturned or just continues to get chipped away at, and it just becomes a country more and more where women are safe in some states and not safe in others. That's clearly what Mr Romney would like to see. I've seen that around the world and it's not pretty. The divide that you see and we're already seeing in this country is that women who have access to reproductive care—safe and legal abortion, birth control, cancer screenings—it becomes a have and have-not, and that's what really of concern. Reproductive health care will always be available to women who have money. But not for women who are struggling just to have access to basic care.


Rove Super-PAC: Smear First, Get Answers Later

| Mon Jun. 11, 2012 10:32 AM EDT
US Secretary of Commerce John Bryson.

Secretary of Commerce John Bryson was involved in a series of car accidents in California on Saturday, and allegedly left the scene of one of them, Reuters and other news wires report. It's not publicly known what caused these incidents, but police have said that so far "there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions." That didn't stop American Crossroads, the GOP super-PAC advised by Karl Rove, from recklessly speculating. Progressive Media's Josh Dorner grabbed a screenshot of a tweet from the group (it has since been deleted):

Bryson's spokeswoman says he had a seizure, and Bryson has been released from a hospital after spending the night there. Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, has since apologized for the tweet, saying the hashtag he used "attempted levity" but "communicated poorly."

Poll: Wisconsin Recall a Tossup

| Mon Jun. 4, 2012 9:43 AM EDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

On Sunday, just two days before Wisconsinites decide whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker, a new poll showed the race between the GOP incumbent and his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett narrowing. North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,226 likely voters over the weekend and found Walker leading Barrett by just 3 points, 50-47—less than Walker's previous lead of 50-45 in PPP's last poll three weeks ago. (The latest poll's margin of error was ±2.8 percent.)

Former President Bill Clinton was in Wisconsin this weekend to rally the Dem troops, and the state's labor unions are going all-out to beat Walker. But Dems and labor face a campaign cash disadvantage—Walker has raked in millions from out-of-state dark-money donors—and the final debate of the race saw Barrett and Walker fight to a stalemate. Ultimately, the outcome of this battle will depend on turnout. If labor unions and Dems can get their voters to the polls, they stand a chance. If not, a more motivated conservative electorate will keep Walker in office. By Tuesday night, we'll know.

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