2008 - %3, January

Romney's Message of Change Less Interesting Than Slamming Huck

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 6:16 PM EST

romney-tiny.jpg WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — As you can tell from the photo at left, I sat at the very, very back of a Romney campaign event today. The former Massachusetts Governor visited the corporate headquarters of the Principal Financial Group. He emphasized the need for new solutions to meet America's challenges, a campaign message of Romney's that has been overshadowed by the fact that he seemingly redrew all of his political stances in order to match the old Republican establishment. "We need a very different kind of foreign policy," he said. Modernizing Islamic nations and partnering with moderates in potentially extremist areas were priorities. "We need to realize there's an end in sight to our traditional sources of energy," Romney said, calling for new solutions to America's energy needs. And we need new economic solutions to compete with the surging India and China.

Really, though, the one thing that might win this state for Romney tonight are his negative ads against Huckabee. The Huckabee surge has been slowed of late (Huck and Mitt are neck and neck here) not because of Romney's message of change (which has been largely ignored by the media), but because Romney released very effective ads that showed Huckabee's record on crime, immigration, and other issues. Also helpful has been the Club for Growth ad showing fat Huckabee okaying tax raises. It's still running constantly here. I'll put them below. If Mitt wins, you'll know why.

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New Music: The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 6:11 PM EST

mojo-photo-raveonettes.jpgWhat to make of a Danish duo who seem obsessed with vintage American rock but can't help filtering it through a Jesus and Mary Chain fuzzbox? Well, with a name like "The Raveonettes," they're wearing their influences on their sleeves, and they've often been written off as a retro novelty act. But similarly to better-known male-female duo The White Stripes, the band's self-imposed stylistic restrictions often allow them to soar.

Ron Paul Attracts Out-of-Staters (And Beavers)

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 6:10 PM EST

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CLIVE CITY, Iowa — The Ron Paul event I attended this afternoon at Des Moines University was immediately unlike any campaign event I had been to before.

I arrived five minutes late, which ordinarily means I arrived 40 minutes earlier. But when I walked into the massive classroom that was holding the event, Paul was already deep into a discussion of monetary policy. The event was ostensibly a forum about health care, but Paul had already moved off topic and was calling for an end to the federal reserve and a more responsible monetary system.

This would become a theme, because to Paul, the federal reserve and America's monetary system are rarely off topic. Over the course of today's speech, he looped back to hospitals, doctors, and patients every so often, but only to point out that the struggles they face have much to do with inflation, which is caused by the federal reserve and America's monetary system.

The drop of the dollar was a favorite hobbyhorse because it played right into Paul's message. "The wealth of a country is measured by the strength of its currency," he said. "We're flunking."

One other thing Paul did talk about was disentangling ourselves from overseas commitments. He said that while other candidates (Democrats, of course) may want to pull troops out of Iraq, only he wanted to pull them out of Korea, Japan, and everywhere else they are installed around the globe. This would save us a ton of money, Paul argued, and make us safer, because the presence of our troops in foreign countries stokes a lot of the anger that is directed at us. But a few minutes after discussing foreign policy, Paul was back to statements like, "Our nation is based on debt."

ron-paul-chimp-beaver.jpg But for my lack of interest in Paul's pitch, the crowd was loud and enthusiastic. I set out afterwards to meet them. In particular, I hoped to meet the guy in the cape and the two people dressed in animal costumes (a chimp and a beaver, I suspect; judge for yourself at right).

Swift Boat Blow Back: The Hypocritical John McCain

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 4:51 PM EST

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth funders are back in the political mix, and they're not fooling around. According to the Nation, they've donated and bundled $200,000 for conservative presidential candidates thus far. Romney and McCain have received the most. The fact that McCain is at the top of the list is notable because...

When the Swift Boat ads were first unleashed, McCain was alone among his Republican colleagues to condemn them. A fellow Vietnam veteran, a good friend of Kerry's and a former target of smears about his own service, McCain called the ads "dishonest and dishonorable," a "cheap stunt," and he urged Bush to condemn them. But in pursuit of the GOP nomination, McCain ditched the mantle of maverick for that of hack, and his once-floundering, possibly rejuvenated campaign has been aided along the way by $61,650 from Swift Boat donors and their associates. "There is such a thing as dirty money," said Senator Kerry in a statement, after The Nation informed him of McCain's FEC records. "I'm surprised that the John McCain I knew who was smeared in 2000 and thought so-called Swift Boating was wrong in 2004 would feel comfortable taking their money after seeing the way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves."

Read the whole article here. We recently tracked what the GOP's dirty tricksters are up to; the Swifties are here.

Update: More McCain hypocrisy can be found in the WaPo's recent investigative piece titled, "McCain's Unlikely Ties to K Street."

Caucus Predictions: A Fool's Errand, but Popular Nonetheless

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 4:27 PM EST

Fred Barnes on Fox News just predicted that Obama will best Clinton tonight, and that because of Clinton's formerly inevitable status, it will make worldwide news. That's a courageous move by Barnes only because making any predictions today is risky—any of the top three Democrats could win and either Romney or Huckabee could take the Republican race. I'm going to chicken out/be completely honest and admit that I have no real idea what's going to happen. I think the Des Moines Register's last poll will be correct enough to give Obama a slight win, but let's not put that in print or on a blog or anything. And I think Romney's long-established and well-financed turnout machine will give the former MA governor the win over Huckabee and his still-nascent campaign. But again, I'm not going to stand by that. Aren't you glad I'm here?

Let's take a look around the punditocracy and see what the predictions are of those a little ballsier than I.

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has this to say:

I'll be shocked if Barack Obama doesn't win. In fact, I think he's potentially sitting on a very big win. He seems to have upward momentum in the polls, his crowds are huge, and his message appears to still be connecting with voters and there is no indication that he's experiencing an erosion of support in the final hours of the campaign. In other words, all the signs are pointing to a strong finish for Obama.
As I've said before, that will open the door for him to run the table on Clinton in the early states, especially if she finishes third - which I think she might. I'm hesitant to underestimate the Clinton people or their organizing ability, but from what I can tell she has nowhere near the enthusiasm in her campaign or among her supporters to match Edwards or Obama....
On the Republican side, the two-man race is literally a coin flip. My sense is the campaigns themselves believe it is so close it could go either way. Romney appears to have the better organization, but the polls say Huckabee has the more committed supporters.

Tom Schaller at the American Prospect:

Mashup Roundup: DJ Earworm Combines 25 Biggest Songs of the Year

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 3:11 PM EST

United State of PopTalk about polishing turds. San Francisco producer DJ Earworm has done the seemingly impossible: he's combined all of the Billboard Top 25-selling singles of the year into one, 4-minute mashup, and shockingly, it's really pretty listenable. He calls it "United State of Pop," and you can listen to it on his website here. He's been getting a bit of blog press about it, but he's my buddy so I get the first interview.

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Drug-Resistant E. Coli - Now Available in the Arctic, too!

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 12:37 PM EST

arctic%20birds150.jpgBecause I know you just can't get enough bad news about the prevalence of drug-resistant E. coli, kindly direct your attention to the latest bit of terrifying news: Those hearty little bacteria have now been found in Arctic birds...who have never been anywhere near a hospital, poultry plants, or anywhere else one might expect E. coli to lurk.

The birds are exposed to the bacteria during migration, when they cross paths with other birds who carry the bacteria—specifically, when they step in their acquaintances' feces (yeah, gross, but you know, they're birds). The takeaway lesson: Our actions (overusing antibiotics, in this case) have far-reaching consequences. As microbiology professor Dr. Roy Steigbigel told Newsday:

"We live in a world of migration of all sorts of animals, birds and humans," Steigbigel said. "We had an example recently of multi-drug-resistant TB. I see all of it as a continuum: as birds migrating on wings to humans migrating in airplanes."

As if Arctic birds don't have enough problems.

McCain-Romney Tie in NH

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 11:47 AM EST

As Iowa votes, New Hampshire appears to be tending narrowly toward McCain on the Republican side with Hillary holding a slight lead in the Democratic column. In Iowa for last minute barnstorming, McCain could get an added boost in New Hampshire if Fred Thompson, as expected, drops out of the race.

The polls this morning:

- A 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll released yesterday has McCain with 32 percent followed by Mitt Romney with 23 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 11; Mike Huckabee, 10; Ron Paul, 8; Fred Thompson, 2; and Duncan Hunter, 1, with 13 percent undecided.

- Another poll, this one from Franklin Pierce University/WBZ has McCain ahead of Romney with 37 points to Romney's 31. But this poll has 28 percent of likely primary voters undecided.

- A CNN-WMUR poll out this morning shows McCain and Romney tied with Hillary 4 points up on Obama.

One Night Before Caucus, John Mellencamp Rocks for Edwards

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 2:01 AM EST

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — John Edwards' 36-hour "Marathon for the Middle Class" culminated tonight with a concert performance by John Mellencamp at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. Mellencamp rocked classics like "Pink Houses" and "Jack and Diane" (which both got the notoriously cynical press corps taking pictures on their digital cameras), but he finished with the incredibly obnoxious "This Is Our Country," which has been used by Chevrolet to basically ruin several years worth of baseball playoffs.

Edwards' speech, which followed the musical performance, would have been familiar to regular MoJo readers, who know all about Edwards' "fight" theme. He has sharpened his attacks on Obama's approach to health care reform slightly. He tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who had to fight her insurance company for a much-needed liver transplant, only to get them to agree too late to save her from a premature death. "You want me to sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" Edwards shouted, indignantly. "It will never happen. Never!"

The Edwards message has been crystallized: "Corporate greed is robbing our children of the promise of America." His stump speech is basically an exercise in finding a dozen different ways of making that point. If you agree that corporations "have an iron-fisted grip on [American] democracy," and that only a candidate with "some strength, some fight... and some backbone" can break that grip, you've got your candidate.

Voters who don't mind corporations (perhaps because they work for one), or who feel that presidents can gain more with honey than with vinegar... they'll have to look elsewhere in tomorrow night's caucus.

I'll be in a caucus room, bringing you a blow by blow. Hopefully, I'll have a report from the victor's party as well. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, bone up a little on how the caucus works.

Huckabee on the Writers' Strike: Sharp as a Tack, as Usual

| Wed Jan. 2, 2008 9:48 PM EST

art.leno.ap.jpg Love this:

Republican Mike Huckabee, a presidential candidate sounding a populist theme, appeared on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno on Wednesday despite the strike and picketing by the show's writers.
Earlier Wednesday, Huckabee said he supports the writers and did not think he would be crossing a picket line, because he believed the writers had made an agreement to allow late night shows back on the air.
"My understanding is that there was a special arrangement made for the late-night shows, and the writers have made this agreement to let the late night shows to come back on, so I don't anticipate that it's crossing a picket line," Huckabee told reporters traveling with him Wednesday from Fort Dodge to Mason City.
In fact, that is true only of David Letterman, who has a separate agreement with writers for his "Late Show."
Told he was mistaken and that writers had cleared only Letterman's show, Huckabee protested:
"But my understanding is there's a sort of dispensation given to the late-night shows, is that right?"
Told again that he was wrong, Huckabee murmured, "Hmmm," and, "Oh," before answering another question.

New nickname ideas for Huckabee: Mr.-Not-Ready-For-Primetime or Mr.-Worst-Staff-Ever.