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Poll: Gingrich Rising In South Carolina, Fueled By Debate Performance

| Thu Jan. 19, 2012 1:29 PM EST

South Carolina is warming to Newt Gingrich, according to the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, which shows Gingrich with a six-point lead over Mitt Romney:

Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney 34-28 in PPP's South Carolina polling last night, the first of what will be three nights of tracking. Ron Paul at 15%, Rick Santorum at 14%, Rick Perry at 5%, and Buddy Roemer at 3% round out the field.

PPP speculates that Gingrich's strong debate performance—in which he lectured debate moderator Juan Williams on the subject of race and food stamps—has a lot to do with his rise in the polls. According to their statement, "56% of voters say they watched it, and with those folks Gingrich's lead over Romney is 43-27." How much of that has to do with Gingrich's "food stamp" rhetoric is anyone's guess, though the campaign felt so strongly about that exchange that they turned it into a campaign ad

Gingrich got another boost Thursday when Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed him. Unfortunately for Gingrich, whatever momentum he gets from the Perry endorsement is going to be mixed with the revelation from Newt's second wife Marianne Gingrich that he had asked her for an "open marriage" while cheating on her with the former House staffer who would become his third wife. Gingrich has spent much of his career deriding as "gay secular fascism" the desires of same-sex couples to have their relationships be legally recognized the same way Gingrich's three marriages have. So it's news that Gingrich's second wife is accusing him of believing that marriage is between a man and a woman and a woman, ect.

As Reason's Mike Riggs points out, two of Gingrich's favorite targets, Muslims and atheists, are "two demographics that bear the polyamorous stereotype." Perhaps when Gingrich said he was worried about America becoming "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists," he was concerned about giving into temptation. 

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Chart of the Day: 2011 in Reproductive Rights

| Thu Jan. 19, 2012 1:24 PM EST

On Thursday, NARAL Pro-Choice America released its annual report on the status of reproductive rights in the US. The report puts numbers to something you might already have guessed: in 2011, legislators around the country were quite busy passing bills limiting access to abortion services.

At the national level, the House voted on eight different bills dealing with reproductive rights. That's up from one vote in 2010, three in 2009, and zero in 2008. But state-level lawmakers were even more active. In 2011, 26 states enacted 69 new limits on abortion rights. That's the second-highest number since NARAL started counting in 1995, coming in just below 1999, when 70 such measures were passed around the country. Over 700 anti-abortion rights measures have been passed around the US since 1995.

Here's the national picture:

Image courtesy of NARALImage courtesy of NARAL

The Air Force Wants to Read Your Brain Waves

| Thu Jan. 19, 2012 11:39 AM EST

The military's not-at-all-complicated plan to read your mind: Air Force/WiredThe military's not-at-all-complicated plan to read your mind: Air Force/WiredMinority Report fans, your moment has arrived: The Air Force's top scientist is trying to develop a system that can predict conflicts and terrorist attacks by collecting and analyzing your thoughts. "Social radar," as Dr. Mark Maybury calls it, is just a natural extension of what the military already does with conventional sonar and radar—except, in this case, "we also want to see into the hearts and the minds of people." It's a demand that comes straight from the US's top politicians and military brass, Maybury tells Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired's Danger Room blog:

"We're supposed to provide ISR," says Maybury, using the military acronym for intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. "But our constituents [say], 'Don't just give me a weather forecast, Air Force, give me an enemy movement forecast.' What's that about? That's human behavior. And so [we need to] understand what motivates individuals, how they behave."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 19, 2012

Thu Jan. 19, 2012 6:57 AM EST

US Army Rangers, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, participate in a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFX) near Ft. Stewart, Ga., January 10, 2012. The exercise is conducted in order to evaluate and train members on de-escalation of force, reactions to enemy contact, and other objectives that prepare them for forward operating. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Lancaster/Released)

Romney Floats a Whopper About the Navy

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 5:17 PM EST
Two of the 11 aircraft carriers in the supposedly weak US Navy.

Mitt Romney's grand entrance at his Wednesday morning pit stop at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina goes like this: He shows up 30 minutes late, bounds on stage without signing autographs, and, after a brief introduction, directs the audience's attention to the white-haired man to his left. This man, he says, is "NASCAR legend David Pearson!" "David, you wanna say hi?" David doesn't, really, but Romney insists—"Go say hi to everybody!" and Pearson grabs the mic—"I guess I'll say hi"—and then he hands it right back off to Romney. "Those are the kinds of speeches I like!," Romney says. "Gosh, it's great to be in South Carolina. What kind of tree is that?," he says. It's a laurel oak. A few people shout from the audience, and Mitt apparently finds the answer that makes the least amount of sense and rolls with it: "It's a Mitt Romney tree. Okay!"

And we're off. Since turning their attention to South Carolina a week ago, Newt Gingrich's campaign has undergone a dramatic shift in tone, pushing a furious attack on Romney's record at Bain Capital; Rick Santorum is now taking shots at Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts for covering abortions (a job previously left to his surrogates). But if Romney's changed his tack, it's tough to see how. At Wofford, he breezes through his litany of applause lines—he won't apologize for America, etc.—and attacks President Obama for appeasing our enemies and weakening America's defenses. Then he breaks out a statistic he's used before: "Do you know how small our Navy is today? It's smaller than it has ever been since 1917!" Likewise, he adds, the Air Force has shrunk to 1947 levels.

Romney in 2001 on the Relative Dangers of Animal Rights Activists and Al Qaeda

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 11:22 AM EST
John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2012. Most likely not discussing the former's oppo file from 2008.

In the flurry of tidbits that were pulled from the 2008 McCain campaign's oppo research on Mitt Romney (rediscovered and posted by BuzzFeed on Tuesday night), a familiar narrative takes hold: Romney is a compulsive flip-flopper who says and does weird, out-of-touch things.

In the chapter of the oppo book labeled "Terrorism," the McCain campaign paints one-time rival Romney as soft on Al Qaeda. One way of doing this was, apparently, to highlight Romney's bizarre post-9/11 priorities. As you probably could have guessed, the real "gotcha" moment of chapter is the (by now old) news of Romney saying in April 2007 that it would not be "worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch [Osama bin Laden]." But on page 78, the '08 McCain researchers target Romney's emphasis on a very different kind of terrorism—animal rights extremism:

After hijacked jetliners smashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Utahns began openly wondering if the 2002 Winter Games might become a target of Islamic terrorists. But Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney, in a meeting with the Deseret News shortly after the attacks, downplayed any threat posed by Osama bin Laden, explaining instead that the real threat of terrorism against the Winter Olympics lay with home-grown terrorists acting under the flag of animal rights.

That passage was taken from the opening lines of a story published in Salt Lake City's the Deseret News in mid-November 2001. Deprived of context, the quote does make Romney look naïve, dismissive, and insensitive—and just two months after the 9/11 attacks!

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Your Post-New Hampshire #FantasyGOP Update

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 8:56 AM EST

If you've used our GOP primary predictor, you already know it's fun and easy to use. Just fill in as many predictions as you want, state-by-state, save, and share. Here's what some of our users have predicted so far.

Ara G has Ron Paul drawing close to Mitt Romney in the delegates race by early March:

Driveswift has Mitt Romney cruising towards the nomination (that's my prediction, too), but Jon Huntsman picking up a surprising 50 delegates by early March:

Jackie Snow has Mitt Romney leading late but taking a bruising from Rick Santorum:

 

 Intrigued? You can make and share your own predictions.

 

21 CEOs With $100 Million Golden Parachutes

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 7:00 AM EST

For some CEOs, the easiest way to get rich is to quit.

Increasingly, corporations offer their chief executives fantastically generous severance packages—retirement bonuses, extended stock options, and pensions that can add up to $100 million or more. Call 'em platinum parachutes. These deals are supposed to benefit shareholders by encouraging CEOs to take a long-term view of corporate profits, but some compensation experts have their doubts. "Too many golden parachutes and too many retirement packages are of a size that clearly seems only in the interest of the departing executive," says a new report by GMI, a corporate governance consultancy.

By way of example, the report singles out 21 CEOs whose severance packages are worth more than the median US earner would make in 49 lifetimes. In the case of GE's John Welch Jr., the figure would be 203 lifetimes. But you could still argue that the most outrageous example is Viacom's Thomas Freston, who put in just one year of work for his $100-million-plus sendoff.

GMI, "Largest Severance Packages of the Millennium"GMI, "Largest Severance Packages of the Millennium"

Your Daily Newt: Pitt the Youngest

| Wed Jan. 18, 2012 7:00 AM EST
Newt Gingrich (left) and Pitt the Younger.

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 had been Speaker of the House for all of six days in 1995 when he made a triumphant appearance at DC's Mayflower Hotel to give a major address entitled "From Virtuality to Reality." It was Gingrich distilled to his concentrated essence, interspersing musings on Americans' conception of speed limits, the merits of creating a federal entitlement for laptops (it would be "dumb"), the Wealth of Nations, and the works of the futurist power-couple Alvin and Heidi Toeffler. It was conservatism at its most Newt Agey: "Virtuality at the mental level is something I think you'd find in most leadership over historical periods," Gingrich told his audience.

Perhaps no leader better embodied those characteristics, Gingrich explained, than 18th-century British prime minister William Pitt, better known as "Pitt the Younger." As Newt put it:

I think equally useful is to look at the role of Pitt the Younger in the 1780s and 1790s. Because Pitt the Younger—surrounded by the disciples of Smith—rationalizes British tax policies to create the commercial environment in which so much wealth is made, the people are able to fight the Napoloeonic wars and Britain is able to carry virtually the entire financial weight of the alliance against Napoleon in a way that would have been literally impossible without Adam Smith's intellectual ideas being transmitted into the tax policies of Pitt the Younger.

Whew, long sentence. Gingrich's point was fairly straightforward, though: Pitt the Younger had the ability to look at the big picture rather than simply the task at hand; think big thoughts; and then apply those big ideas "directly to the modern world." It was a quality Gingrich considered seriously lacking in most politicians not named Newt Gingrich.

But there was another side to Pitt's reforms that Gingrich chose to downplay. Pitt paid for the Napoleonic wars by raising taxes. Specifically, he implemented the first-ever income tax—and not just any income tax, but a progressive income tax. Also, as Adam Gopnik points out, he was "probably gay."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 18, 2012

Wed Jan. 18, 2012 6:57 AM EST

US Army 1st Lt. Conrad Lauer, of Buffalo, N.Y., marches under the full moon during Task Force Attack's winter "Spur Ride," December 7, 2011 on Forward Operating Base Sharana in eastern Afghanistan. Soldiers marched more than six miles per day between challenges of tactical, technical and leadership skills. More than 40 soldiers tested their abilities to overcome terrain, cold weather, and fatigue to earn the right to wear coveted silver cavalry spurs. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon, Task Force Poseidon Public Affairs)