Mojo - January 2012

Santorum in Your Pants

| Wed Jan. 4, 2012 12:35 PM EST

Rick Santorum caught a lot of people off guard with his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. But just in case you forgot how extreme his views are on a number of issues, here he is earlier this week talking about homosexuality and birth control on ABC News.

Discussing the Supreme Court's 1965 ruling that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception, he said:

The state has a right to do that. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have. That is the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court, they are creating rights, and they should be left up to the people to decide.

Santorum also argued that there is no constitutionally protected right to sodomy, and that the Supreme Court's decision in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas was wrong. "I wouldn't have voted for that law. I thought that law was an improper law, but that doesn't mean the state doesn't have a right to do that," he said. "We shouldn't create constitutional rights when states do dumb things."

Of course, that would be a different idea of what the Constitution is, and why the Supreme Court exists, than most people have.

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WATCH: Canada for President! (NSFW)

| Wed Jan. 4, 2012 7:30 AM EST

Less Iowa, more Ottawa: Courtesy of the Canada Party.Less Iowa, more Ottawa: Photo courtesy of the Canada Party

Have you hit your Iowa caucus threshold? Still waiting for your presidential prince to come? Our neighbors in the north have a humble suggestion: Elect Canada in 2012. A couple of comedic Canucks calling themselves the Canada Party announced their country's candidacy for White House in an online video Tuesday (watch it below). "We've seen your candidates," the party spokesman says, "and frankly, they scare the shit out of us. So we're volunteering our country to lead your country."

They make a pretty compelling case, starting with a list of the commonwealth nation's capstone achievements: Human rights, employment rate, gun control, lumberjack fashion, Bigfoot sightings, human kindness, barley production. "That's just what our hippies have accomplished," the narrator says. "Wait till you see our redneck cred." No, seriously: "Our prime minister is a muppet version of George Bush, our oil sands are so dirty it makes Texas look like a Greenpeace retreat, and we have the same problem you do with illiterate foreigners invading our southern borders to steal our jobs."

So far, the Canada Party appears to be operating on a shoestring budget; its web presence is limited to a sparse Facebook page and Twitter account—a function, no doubt, of their country's more stringent campaign finance laws. But assuming they've got a longform birth certificate on hand (who are we kidding? They've probably been here longer than your ancestors!), this could be the start of something big. Let's just hope that if they're elected, they won't screw with the rules of American football.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 4, 2012

Wed Jan. 4, 2012 6:57 AM EST

Soldiers from Charlie Troop, 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry (2-38th), patrol an area of the Shorbak Desert, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, December 11, 2011. Photo by Spc. Phil Kernisan.

The Ron Paul Show Goes On

| Wed Jan. 4, 2012 1:54 AM EST

Ron Paul took to the podium at the Courtyard Marriott hotel Tuesday night to celebrate results in Iowa that didn't quite live up to expectations. While he led in the polls just days ago, he finished third, with 21 percent of the vote. If the Paul devotees packing the room were feeling disappointed, they did a good job of hiding it. They offered exuberant cheers of appreciation that Paul returned with gracious praise for their countless hours of campaign work. Paul's supporters are still optimistic he can capitalize on the momentum that catapulted him from something of a fringe candidate in 2008 to a contender in Iowa in 2012.

"I really thought he'd get second, if not first," 59-year-old Eric Riedinger, of Des Moines, told me. "I was a little bit shocked by Romney's turnout in my district," Mike Fortune, a 39-year-old caucus-goer from West Des Moines, said. But, Fortune added hopefully, Paul's third place finish means that "he's now officially in the top tier."

During his speech Tuesday night, Paul told his supporters that he was "one of two [candidates] who can run a national campaign and raise some money," presumably a shot at the surging Rick Santorum, who will now be scrambling to build out his campaign operation elsewhere. "There were essentially three winners, and we will go on," Paul continued. "We have a tremendous opportunity to continue this momentum. It won't be long that there's going to be an election up in New Hampshire."

But Paul's time to get out the vote may be running out. Mitt Romney has consistently held more than a 20-point advantage in the polls over Paul in New Hampshire, whose primary is next Tuesday. And in South Carolina, which votes on January 21, Romney and Newt Gingrich both hold double-digit leads over Paul.

Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus was the candidate's best opportunity to create real momentum and cement his status as a contender for the GOP nomination. The state's same-day voter registration was perfectly tailored to the non-traditional voters to whom Paul owes much of his success. They didn't turn out in large enough numbers, though, to overcome Iowans' tendency to flock to a social conservative. Nor could they ultimately compete with a wider focus on Mitt Romney as perhaps the only candidate with a real shot to beat Obama. Yet the energy behind Paul remains substantial, and he'll continue to have an effect on the race at least in the near term. Earlier in the night, when returns showed Paul in a three-way tie for first, one supporter in the crowd summed up the night succinctly, shouting, "We may not win, but we've got the passion!"

Rick Santorum: "The Militant" Candidate

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 11:46 PM EST

They've tallied up the results at Johnston, Iowa's precinct 481 and the big winner is...well, that's not totally clear. But here are the basics: Out of 335 votes cast, Mitt Romney claimed 76; Rick Santorum had 75—and further down, Michele Bachmann had 15; Jon Huntsman trailed former Alabama supreme court judge Roy Moore, by a 2 to 1 margin (Moore had 2, Huntsman had 1). Huntsmentum, feel it.

Over at Santorum headquarters at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston, the mood is fairly jubilant. There's a sizable crowd around the television, chanting "Rick! Rick! Rick!" (and the occasional ear-piercing whistle) whenever Fox News returns from commercial and updates its results. Steven Wagner's monitoring the television, as the results begin to show, for the first time, Santorum, creeping into first place. He's actually from DC—he flew to Iowa this weekend because Santorum's a family friend. And as much as it might pain him to say it, he wasn't quite sure Santorum was ever going to catch fire. "I was really waiting for Rick to make a move and was kind of perplexed as to why he hadn't caught on," he says. "I didn't think that it was his year, in a structural sense. There was somehow this environment in Iowa that was preventing him from catching on."

But now that he's caught on, Wagner thinks there's no stopping him. "I think Rick's the kind of militant candidate that'll give the president a run for his money. He means what he says to his bones."

Undecided in Iowa

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 9:44 PM EST

Through some stroke of luck*, I've made it to a caucus location at an evangelical church in Johnson, Iowa—just down the street from Rick Santorum's caucus night party at the Stoney Creek Inn. The stage is still set for Christmas services—there are five Christmas trees on stage, and a baby grand piano; the place is about three-quarters full. Santorum's wife, Karen, is here and, by all accounts, she gave voters the hard sell (although it was Santorum's Florida campaign chair who gave the official endorsement speech). 

One quirk of the caucus system is that, at each location, each candidate has an official endorser. An endorsers' pitch can have a big impact on how voters come down. None of the voters I spoke with were 100 percent sure who they were going to vote for. Here are four snapshots from the crowd:

  • Tara Helwig: "I'm not completely sure. I'm swayed a little, but it's possible I'd switch." Her candidate for now? "Mitt Romney. I just kinda feel like"—she motions to her friend sitting next to her—"we were discussing this. He's the one with the most experience in the area I'm most concerned about." That's the economy. "I'm not saying for sure; I'm not saying definitely. I chatted with [Ann Romney] and she answered some of my questions very well." But not her questions on Santorum's experience on the economy. That's key. She voted for Romney in 2008, too.
  • Lee Sellneyer: "I guess for me, maybe Romney and Santorum." He'd met Karen Santorum a few moments earlier, and it's part of the reason he's thinking of voting for him. "She basically just talked about his issues, the economy, right to life. I mentioned being NRA and she said she was. I'm impressed that she's doing it. It's a lot of effort." He voted for Huckabee in 2007.
  • Alan and Barbara Morton: "I think we're getting close," says Alan, wearing a Packers hat. They're leaning toward Rick Santorum "because we talked to his wife," Alan says. "We've been flipping back and forth between Herman Cain and Rick Perry and Rick Santorum." Their one concern about Perry: He's not on the ballot on Virginia—and just as important is how he responded to that. They docked points from Perry when he filed suit in federal court to reverse the state GOP's decision, pointing out that it contradicted his 10th Amendment arguments. They voted for Fred Thompson in 2008, "and then he dropped out." 
  • Liz Smith: "I'm not 100 percent," but she's leaning toward Ron Paul. "I just think he's different—he's way different from what we have." What could sway her away from Paul? "Possibly hearing more of the candidates' stances on education." (As it happens, that's pretty much all Bachmann's endorser talks about.) Smith voted for Obama in 2008, but says she won't make that mistake again.

As I write this, they're voting. It's mostly quiet, although one guy is concerned that the press will be allowed to vote (we won't be). The endorsements were fairly low-key, the highlight probably coming when Ron Paul's endorser bragged that Paul had voted to authorize the use of force to go after "Obama." It was a slip-up, and he apologized for it, but he was greeted with laughs and a round of applause.

*By which I mean "no traffic"; these events are open to the public and press—they even allow you to register to vote right before you go in. Voter fraud, it turns out, only becomes a serious issue when you allow Democrats in.

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Your Daily Newt: Legalize It

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 3:00 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich occasionally smoked marijuana as a graduate student at Tulane. As he explained later, "that was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era." Hey, it was the '60s. So it made a certain amount of sense that as a back-bench congressman, he penned a letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association calling for the drug to be legalized for medicinal purposes:

We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. The medical prohibition does not prevent seriously ill patients from employing marijuana; it simply deprives them of medical supervision and denies them access to a regulated medical substance. Physicians are often forced to choose between their ethical responsibilities to the patient and their legal liabilities to federal bureaucrats.

Fast-forward to the present:

Ron Paul's Wildcard: Iowa Progressives?

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 7:00 AM EST
Young Ron Paul supporters in Des Moines, Iowa

With a New Year's Day poll showing Ron Paul in a three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum going into Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, who will emerge victorious is anyone's guess. If it's Paul, the conventional wisdom goes, he will owe much of his success to a weak Republican field and an adoring flock of disillusioned youth, hundreds of whom have traveled from out of state to work behind the scenes. But there's one other wild card: Paul's crossover appeal to liberals attracted to his anti-war platform.

On Monday morning, Ron Paul, introduced by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, spoke briefly at a downtown Des Moines hotel. Afterward, several Paul supporters told me that they supported the candidate for opposing the National Defense Authorization Act, recently signed into law by Obama, which codified the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects arrested in the United States. Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, was in town for the Paul event. Later, at his nearby hotel where the Democratic National Committee houses its caucus-prep "war room," he watched occupy protesters echo many of the same complaints about the NDAA. "The only people in America who understand NDAA—I think it's fascinating—are Occupy Wall Street and Ron Paul supporters," Scarborough told me. "But you want to talk about the 99 percent—99 percent of Americans have no idea what this is all about."

Francis Thicke, an organic farmer from Fairfield, Iowa, who ran for secretary of agriculture on the state's Democratic ticket in 2010, announced that he would caucus for Paul on Tuesday "to keep his voice for peace and his voice to reduce the military in the debate, because he will challenge the other Republican candidates." Thicke told me that although a Democratic county chairman responded by telling him that he was "stabbing them in the back" by supporting a Republican, he would vote for Obama over Paul without a doubt, because he doesn't support dismantling the government. "This is a tactical thing" to expand voters' awareness, Thicke said.

The Newtification of Mitt Romney

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 5:01 AM EST
2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has a habit of posing for applause before it begins, a quirk that's made only slightly less awkward by the fact that over the last five years he's become pretty good at guessing when the applause will come. When he's just delivered a jab, such as—seizing on President Obama's suggestion that he'd be a one-term president if he didn't turn things around—"we've come to collect!" there's a brief moment, before the hands start coming together, where Romney stops, smiles in an "Oh boy, I really said it, didn't I?" kind of way, drops both arms to his side, and rotates 90 degrees to receive the adulation. The energy isn't infectious, but his message is sinking in with Iowans—perhaps because he's gotten a rhetorical makeover from an unlikely source.

Even as his allied super-PAC spent $3.5 million hammering Newt Gingrich on the Iowa airwaves, Romney himself is channeling the former House speaker's bombast. Belying his reputation as a lily-livered moderate, he packs his speeches with red meat. In Council Bluffs on Sunday, he said that President Obama has no jobs plan (let me Google that for you), and that Obama will create a society that "substitutes envy for ambition." At one point, he told the crowd about a little old song he's quite fond of:

12 Protesters Busted at Democrats' Iowa War Room

| Mon Jan. 2, 2012 5:31 PM EST
Occupy Iowa Caucus protester Perry Graham, of Eugene, Oregon, is led out of the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel by police on Monday.

On Monday afternoon, 12 Occupy Iowa Caucus protesters were arrested after staging a die-in at a Des Moines hotel where the Democratic National Committee has set up a communications "war room" in preparation for Tuesday's caucuses. The move came after protesters delivered an invitation on Sunday asking the DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, to hear their complaints in person. According to the occupiers, Schultz declined the offer, saying she would be out of town Monday.

In a press release, protesters claimed that DNC officials "hid in a second floor room, locked the doors, and called police" to avoid speaking with them after they returned to the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel on Monday. But no one was in the war room immediately before protesters arrived. A hotel staffer said the officials had left the building before the protesters arrived and planned to come back later in the day.

About 40 people, marching silently to the beat of a drum, had arrived at the hotel, where they criticized Democrats for the party's ties to Wall Street and Barack Obama's support of the National Defense Authorization Act. Two dozen protesters then lay on a lobby floor near a staircase to which the hotel's general manager, Rick Gaede, had blocked access. Across the lobby, two disinterested businessmen in suits ate lunch at a hotel restaurant. A hotel staffer called police, who told reporters and protesters that anyone (other than hotel guests and staff) who stayed in the building would face arrest.