Schadenfreude, while temporarily satisfying, is a dish that is best served cold. Newt Gingrich's precipitous decline from front-runner status in Iowa provides a sobering example of what we can expect in the general election. Barring some unexpected turn of events, Romney will be the Republican nominee, with financial support likely to approach if not exceed a billion dollars, the vast majority of it poured into carefully and painstakingly crafted attack ads against President Obama which will blanket the airwaves every time you turn on your television or radio, not to mention log on to your computer.
This morning's New York Times directly correlates the fall of the House of Newt to the carpet-bombing anti-Gingrich ad blitz unleashed by the secretive SuperPacs which make up the heart of Romney's election campaign. Even the usually dispassionate New York Times seems taken aback by the enormity and swiftness of the onslaught that destroyed Gingrich:
Democrats and Republicans alike have singled out the $2.8 million-and-counting air deluge as the biggest factor in Mr. Gingrich’s precipitous drop in polls of Iowa voters and Mitt Romney’s corresponding rise, reshaping the critical first contest of the Republican primary season to Mr. Romney’s benefit.
The ads, which continue to blanket Iowa days before the caucuses here, were created and paid for by people with deep knowledge of the Romney campaign’s strategic thinking, close relationships with Mr. Romney’s most generous donors, and even research on what television viewers like and dislike most about Mr. Romney himself.
Yet neither Mr. Romney nor his staff has had to lift a finger or spend a dollar to make it happen.
The SuperPacs, which do not disclose their recent donors until January, are run by Romney staffers as well as veteran Republican political operatives who "do not need to be told" what type of message their candidate needs. These include:
Carl Forti, the political director of Mr. Romney’s 2008 campaign; Charles R. Spies, Mr. Romney’s former chief counsel; and Larry McCarthy, an alumnus of Mr. Romney’s media team who was known for producing some of the more compelling positive spots for Mr. Romney four years ago, but has nonetheless earned a reputation as one of the most fearsome political ad makers in the country — he produced the Willie Horton commercial that devastated Michael S. Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988.
The particular SuperPac responsible for the Iowa attacks against Gingrich is called "Restore Our Future" and is run by Steve Roche, who led Romney's campaign finance operation until this summer. He now spends his time soliciting huge contributions from hedge fund managers unhappy with Obama's and Democrats' efforts to rein in Wall Street, as well as unnamed "Utah businessmen" and "Boston financiers." These are the same people who will finance Romney in the general election. They and their cronies can make unlimited political contributions thanks to our Supreme Court's abominable decision in "Citizens United." They include Romney's job-destroying predators at Bain Capital as well as the same cast of characters who conducted the character assassination of John Kerry that cost the country four additional years of George W. Bush:
Edward Conard, who gave a million dollars to Restore Our Future, is a former top executive at Bain Capital, the private equity firm Mr. Romney helped start. Another donor is J. W. Marriott Jr., chairman of the hotel chain, on whose board Mr. Romney served on until January. The group has also raised money from Sam Fox and Bob Perry, conservative businessmen who helped finance Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
I was in Ohio in October 2004. The Swift Boat ads were ubiquitous and impossible to ignore. They were played on television 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they did their job well. Kerry lost Ohio.
I was also in Pennsylvania in 2010, when American Crossroads blanketed Pennsylvania with non-stop advertisements maligning Admiral Joe Sestak in vote-heavy Southeastern PA. They too did their job well, and as a result a pro-corporate extremist name Pat Toomey is my bought and paid-for Senator. The only reason he won is because of those ads.
The battle in Iowa has underscored what advocates for tighter campaign finance restraints have warned for months: that the new groups will be deployed to devastating effect, in the primary season and then in the general election.
“Iowa is ground zero of what we can expect in every competitive state for the rest of the presidential election,” said Ellen S. Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks outside money in politics.
The benefit of the SuperPacs is that they allow Romney to appear publically in a positive light while the corporations and hedge fund managers do his dirty work for him. This provides Romney with the opportunity to pretend to lament the political process without any actual accountability from the Republican base for going "negative." Admittedly, Gingrich was an unusually easy target and had little money to spend in his own defense. But the methodology to be employed here by Romney is obvious and will be carried over into the campaign against Obama.
Today's New York Times also contains a concise breakdown of Romney's and the other candidates' positions taken thus far in the primary race.
On destroying Social Security and Medicare:
Mr. Romney has said that “current seniors” and those near retirement should not have their benefits reduced. He would like to return Medicaid to the states, and the Medicare plan he unveiled this spring was similar to the Ryan plan, including a voucher-like system.
On lowering taxes for millionaires:
He has proposed eliminating all taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest. He has also signed the cut, cap and balance pledge.
On regulating Wall Street and business practices that directly led to the Economic collapse resulting tens of millions of unemployed Americans:
Mr. Romney has said regulations impose a huge hidden tax on business, and that President Obama has allowed many new ones to be enacted. Those would be rolled back, he said, if he was elected.
On eliminating health care for Americans:
Even though he fostered legislation in Massachusetts that was the paradigm for Mr. Obama’s overhaul, Mr. Romney said he favors repeal. Further, he would “on Day 1” issue an edict granting a waiver from the provisions of the Obama health care law for all 50 states.
On ending any possibility of same-sex marriage:
Mr. Romney has pledged to support a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
He said in the Google debate in Orlando that small classes make little difference in education, but are promoted by the unions to hire more teachers.
On Bush's bailout of the financial industry and Obama's bailout of the auto companies:
Mr. Romney said the bailout of the financial system was essential, but the bailout of carmakers was mishandled by the Obama administration. He said Chrysler and General Motors should have been put through bankruptcy before they got any money.
On continuing to torture:
But after a debate in November, his spokeswoman said that he did not believe waterboarding is torture, and Mr. Romney said the same thing when asked about it by reporters.
On the War on Brown People:
Mr. Romney is pro-fence, and critical of the Perry-approved tuition breaks for illegal immigrants in Texas. He has also said, “we cannot give amnesty to those who have come here illegally."
I omit Romney's position on abortion because it changes regularly and we'll have to wait and see. This is not someone we want to be running the country by any stretch of imagination. The corruption to our political process wrought by well-financed special interests and now sanctioned and encouraged by the Supreme Court is going to make the election turn in large part upon money, whether we like it or not. That corruption can only be ended by a new Supreme Court majority, and that can only be accomplished with the re-election of President Obama. For that and many other reasons all my Diaries next year will include the link for donations to President Obama's campaign.
Happy New Year!