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Posts for January, 2012

What New Hampshire Means

Jim Burroway

January 11th, 2012

As with Iowa, not much in national terms, but for different reasons. It remains to be seen whether New Hampshire or Iowa will stand out as an anomaly. But it may mean something in state politics where there are murmurings that the state legislature may take up a bill repealing that state’s marriage equality law. If state lawmakers looked to these results as an indication of their own electoral futures, they may notice that two of the three top finishers have kept the National Organization for Marriage at arm’s length. Yes, Romney signed and won the primary, but 40% of the the GOP’s own voters backed candidates who didn’t. What’s more, audiences openly booed Santorum’s making Teh Gays a central talking point of his campaign, making that the most visible indication of how Granite Staters feel about anti-gay politics.

Whether that matters in the state legislature or not however isn’t a given. State Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) seems to understand the temperature of the state electorate, and warned the GOP candidates to avoid discussing the state’s effort to repeal its 2009 marriage equality law, declaring such talk “off message” even though she herself is a staunch opponent of marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, having resigned as Attorney General in protest after Governor John Lynch signed the marriage equality bill into law. But social conservatives have an amazing capacity for self-delusions of power and grandeur. Gingrich’s victory speech last night, which didn’t mention Romney’s inconvenient existence, had Gingrich crowning himself the winner of “the conservative primary” as he all but measured the White House’s drapes. And in a related late-breaking development, a box of rocks moved ahead to edge him out of his third place finish. Meanwhile Perry has already saddled up for South Carolina after pulling out an upset victory over the write-in candidates. Santorum is already there as well, where he hopes his Iowa streak will leave a mark.

Romney Again

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2012

The results are in for last night’s New Hampshire GOP Primary. There weren’t too many surprises with the final results: Romney, as expected, came in with a strong first place showing. Given that he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts, he was practically a native son in political terms, making his strong showing unsurprising. Also, as expected, Ron Paul came in second. Huntsman was expected to do well in the state, having put all of his eggs in the Granite State basket. He came in third, and it’s not clear where his campaign goes from here.

Gingrich came up short, pulling on only 10% of the vote, as further evidence of his rapidly dropping popularity. A Box of Rocks came on surprisingly strong, ahead of Santorum and Perry. Cowboy Perry barely outpaced the write-ins to finish at the rear, with Santorum settling in just a short distance up it.

And that’s a wrap at BTB Elections Central for New Hampshire. Now it’s on to South Carolina where the fun really begins.

Huntsman surges in New Hampshire

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2012

Maybe it was just his time. Maybe it was the fact that in the debates he actually answered questions that reveals an understanding of the issues rather than a memorization of cue cards. And just maybe New Hampshire primary voters wanted someone who wasn’t committed to coming in and overturning their laws.

But over the past few days, Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah (where he has received credit for working with the gay community) and ambassador to China, has had a surge in the polls. And with early poll results coming in, it looks as though Huntsman has performed well above expectation. A strong third place tonight would strengthen Huntsman’s campaign.

At (admittedly small) 14% of precincts reporting, the numbers are:

35.6% Mitt Romney 10,393
24.1% Ron Paul 7,029
18.0% Jon Huntsman 5,243

UPDATE:

With 19% of precincts (still small), Huntsman is holding well

35.5% Mitt Romney
24.7% Ron Paul
17.0% Jon Huntsman

UPDATE:

24% are in. Huntsman’s initial number is proving a bit weak, but I think he can leave tonight with his head held high. Incidentally, Huntsman is the only remaining Republican nominee to support civil unions because he thinks “this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality.”

35.4% Mitt Romney
24.9% Ron Paul
16.9% Jon Huntsman

UPDATE:

With 26% in, I have to leave you for a bit.

35.1% Mitt Romney
25.1% Ron Paul
16.8% Jon Huntsman

UPDATE:

With 96% reporting

39.3% Mitt Romney
22.8% Ron Paul
16.8% Jon Huntsman

In all, not a great night for the extreme wing. And perhaps the results will give Huntsman greater credibility for his more moderate message.

It’s Romney By A Perfectly Coiffed Hair

Jim Burroway

January 4th, 2012

After spending millions of dollars and campaigning more or less nonstop for four years, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney barely squished passed the late surging Sen. Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. Santorum is now the last Not Mitt in the race, having dethroned a long line of other Anyone-But-Mitts who had held the frontrunner or near-frontrunner status over the past several months. And what a line that was, beginning with Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then pizza magnate Herman Cain, then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom courted the tea party and Evangelical wings of the GOP. When caucus day came, it just happened to line up with being Santorum’s turn. According to entrance and exit polls, Santorum came in first with the tea party vote and the Evangelical vote, both by wide margins. If you were against abortion or wanted a candidate with “strong moral character,” then you almost certainly voted for Santorum. You also voted for him if you had only made up your mind in the past few days, indicating that he likely captured the vote that had been shifting from one candidate to another in search of the socially conservative Not Mitt for the past several months.

While Santorum soundly won the expectations race in Iowa, it’s hard to see how he can carry the momentum forward through the rest of the long primary season. He’s been effectively broke throughout the race, although this win will likely bring a huge fundraising bonus with it. But it will come too late to put together badly needed organizations in the upcoming races. Already, he has lost the ability to appear on the ballot in Virginia; he had no organization there to collect the signatures and turn them in. And so far, he’s been relatively untouched by the so-called super-PACs which played such a huge role in the campaign. That won’t last long now that he has their attention.

Meanwhile, third place Ron Paul’s entrance and exit poll results reveal his challenges ahead. If his critics charge that he is not a “true Republican” — whatever that’s supposed to mean these days — they can probably find data to back that up. Iowa is an open caucus state, meaning that it’s easy for anyone to show up at a caucus and participate even if they hadn’t been registered as a Republican for very long. Of those who identified as independent, Paul captured 43% of those votes, smashing the rest of the filed with that segment. He also captured 40% of those who claimed they were “moderate or liberal” and 33% of those who had never participated in a caucus before.  These numbers demonstrate the challenge he faces. He came in third in a state with a relatively open caucus. We might expect him to do similarly well in other open primary states as well. But his base of support will almost certainly be sharply curtailed in closed primary states where non-Republicans won’t be allowed to easily change their registration or participate.

Which means that it now looks like the GOP nomination is Mitt’s to lose.

But while we’re discussing Paul, here’s another surprising thing about his numbers. He came in second place among Evangelicals, capturing 18% of the vote behind Santorum’s 32%. That’s comfortably ahead of Romney’s 14%. It’s also well ahead of Gingrich’s and Perry’s 14% each and Bachmann’s 6%. The latter three assiduously courted that vote and lost. Paul’s play for the Evangelical vote took place mostly behind the scenes by hiring anti-gay activist Michael Heath to serve a leading role in the Iowa campaign. It won him the endorsement of a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, who advocated for the death penalty for gay people. Not that Rev. Phil Kayser thought it should be necessary to kill very many homosexuals. Just killing a few of them “would have a tendency of driving homosexuals back into their closets.” It turns out that Paul’s campaign platform of effectively demolishing the role of the Federal Government in most affairs fits in very nicely with Christian Reconstructionsist theology, and Paul’s campaign was initially thrilled with Kayser’s endorsement. “We welcome Rev. Kayser’s endorsement and the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.,” his campaign announced, before quietly erasing that announcement from Ron Paul’s web site with nary an explanation. “We’re thankful for the thoughtfulness with which he makes his endorsement and hope his endorsement and others like it make a strong top-three showing in the caucus more likely.” A top three showing is exactly what he got.

As for the rest, Rick Perry is going back to Texas to find out what God wants him to do next, Michele Bachmann is bowing out so her husband can keep on buying doggie sunglasses in a totally not-gay way, Gingrich has become bored by the whole thing now that he’s not the center of attention, and Jon Huntsman — well, we’re not quite sure where he is exactly.

Johnson “Embarrased” By Booing of American Soldier, Other Candidates Refuse To Comment

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2011

ABC News’ Emily Friedman rounds up the reactions of GOP presidential candidates to the booing by audience members of Stephen Hill, a gay American Soldier stationed in Iraq, who asked about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during Thursday night’s debate. On the night of the debate, Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. said he heard the booing and thought it was “unfortunate.” He later added, “We all wear the same uniform in America. We all salute the same flag I have two boys starting their journey in the U.S military. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation.”

After one news cycle passed, Sen. Rick Santorum claimed that he didn’t hear the booing (which was loud enough to actually create an echo in the vast hall in Orlando), and said he should have thanked the soldier for his service. At least that’s what he told Fox News. When speaking to ABC News, Santorum walked it backed a little.

“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”

“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”

“You find out why they booed, and I’ll respond to your question,” he added.

Today, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said he was embarrassed by the episode:

“That’s not the Republican Party that I belong to,” said Johnson. “I’m embarrassed by someone who serves in the military and can’t express their sexuality. I am representing the Republican Party that is tolerant. And to me that shows an intolerance that I’m not a part of in any way whatsoever. ”

Johnson added that he could hear the boos from the stage and believes that the other candidates – despite Santorum’s denial – could as well.

That’s a second candidate who admitted he could hear the boos from the stage. Yet none of the nine candidates spoke up against the demonstrated disrepsect of an active-duty soldier stationed in Iraq, and none of them engaged in the time-honored Republican tradition of shoving each other out of the way in the race to thank that soldier for his service to the country.

And for six of those candidates, that silence continues through day three. Pizzaman Herman Cain refused to comment saying he didn’t want his comments “taken out of context.” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s spokesperson refused to comment, as did the campaigns for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

GOP Candidates On Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2011

Think Progress has a handy compilation clip from Thursday night’s GOP debate in Iowa of candidates discussing same-sex marriage. One of my favorite reactions comes from across the Pond, with The Guardian’s Richard Adams responding to Romney’s argument that “marriage is a status“:

Looking back through some clips, there’s Romney saying: “Marriage is a status, it’s not an activity.” Who says romance is dead, eh? Calling marriage a “status” makes it sound like a Facebook update.

The emerging consensus, albeit a snarky one,  is that the debate’s real winner was Rick Perry, who doesn’t officially declare his candidacy until tomorrow.

Here’s the clip and transcript.

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Mitt Romney: Marriage should be decided at the federal level. … Marriage is a status. It’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state and as a result, our marriage status relationship should be constant across the country. I believe we should have a federal amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman because I believe the ideal place to raise a child is in a home with a mom and a dad.

Jon Huntsman: I also believe in civil unions, because I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality. And I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights rights. And I believe that this is something that ought to be discussed among the various states. I don’t have any problem with the states having this discussion. But as for me, I support civil unions.

Ron Paul: (About whether polygamy would “be okay too”) It’s sort of like asking the question if the states wanted to legalize slavery or something like that, that is so past reality that no state is going to do that. But on the issue of marriage, I think marriage should be between a single man and a single woman and that the federal government shouldn’t be involved. I want less government involvement. I don’t want the federal government having a marriage police.

Rick Santorum: It sounds to me like Rep. Paul would actually say polygamous marriages are okay. If the state has the right to do it, they have the right to do it.

Michele Bachmann: I support the Federal Marriage Amendment because I believe that we will see this issue at the Supreme Court someday, and as president I would not nominate activist judges who legislate from the bench. I also want to say that when I was in Minnesota, I was the chief author of the Constitutional amendment to define marriage as one-man, one-woman. I have an absolutely unblemished record when it comes to this issue of man-woman marriage.

Huntsman on Hannity

Timothy Kincaid

June 22nd, 2011

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has announced his entry into the race for Republican Presidential nominee. And, unlike many in the race, his is a serious candidacy. Also unlike the others in the race, Huntsman is taking a decidedly different approach to “the gay issue”.

This is in part due to his own personal beliefs and history on the subject. While governor, Huntsman used that office to support the Common Ground Initiative, a panel of (unsuccessfully) basic gay rights bills, which was considered admirable considering the tenor of Utah politics.

But his support for civil unions caught most people by surprise. And a number of commentators wondered if it could be seen as a strategic positioning for a 2012 run, including Box Turtle Bulletin:

However, Jon Huntsman may be playing to a bigger audience than his neighbors. As a successful and popular governor, Huntsman is considered as a potential Republican Presidential nominee in 2012.

If this is part of Governor Huntsman’s strategy to craft his image for Nominee Huntsman, it tells us something interesting about what a conservative Republican in a conservative state predicts American attitudes towards gay couples will be in four years. But whatever his motivation, Huntsman’s support is very welcome.

It remains welcome. As one of the few credible candidates on the Republican ticket, Huntsman’s positions help define the debate. In terms of national perception, the presumption is that civil unions (at least) are the consensus with the President “evolving” and a leading opponent “not open to redefining marriage”, but accepting of states that do.

Huntsman is making a gamble that the Republican Party is ready to drop it mandatory hostility towards gay people. And this is a big gamble – one that John McCain was too fearful (or too foolish) to take.

Long part of the Three G’s that matter to “the base” (guns, gays, and God), gay rights has been an issue on which posturing has been more important than policy. No real problems arose from appointing gay people (even to the head of the RNC) as long as you spoke a good game. A close look at administration over the past several presidencies will reveal that rhetoric was in much greater abundance than significant change in either direction. A cynic might even note that while George W. Bush is known for his nasty 2004 campaign based on supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment, his advocacy for that cause seemed to magically disappear on the day he was reelected.

Huntsman is now challenging that presumption. He is publicly positioning himself as gay-friendly, and it is not an accidental or incidental position. One of the first campaign actions was a glowing endorsement letter sent out from Charles Moran, the President of Log Cabin Los Angeles, on the night before Huntsman’s announcement.

In fact, his lack of hostility towards gays may be the very first thing that sets him apart from the field and makes him recognizable to many Republican primary voters. Taking his message to the heart of “the base”, Huntsman gave his first interview to Fox’s far-right talking head, Sean Hannity.

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Hannity: What about some of these areas where… obviously conservative voters are a big part of the voting block in the primary. Your support of climate change which includes cap and taxes and sort of you went along with Arnold Schwarzenegger on that. Civil unions, your support for gays and lesbians, and the right of children of illegal immigrants to go to school. Those are not conservative positions. Uh, you stand by them today?

Huntsman: Cap and Trade, I do not. Cap and Trade is something that every governor looked at, every governor consulted CEOs and the experts on, many years ago. In today’s economic environment, there’s no way that we should be promoting anything that stands in the way of economic and business recovery. And that would.

In terms of civil unions, I am where I am on civil unions. Some will like it, some won’t. I’m traditionalist when it comes to marriage, but I think subordinate to marriage we have not done an adequate job in terms of equality and fairness when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights.

Hannity: What about gay marriage?

Huntsman: No I’m not for gay marriage. I’m for ..

Hannity: … gay civil unions.

Huntsman: That’s right.

Hannity: Okay. As you take this to conservative states, early primary states, the Iowa caucuses, South Carolina, um, those probably are not going to be popular positions. Have you thought that through?

Huntsman: Well, we’ve been in many of these states. We’re not competing in Iowa. We’re competing very aggressively in New Hampshire and South Carolina and well in Florida. And I talk about my record. Anyone who wants come up and challenge me on it, I tell them what it is and try to explain it to the best of my ability. You’re not going to win over 100%, nobody ever does, but I think being true to yourself is also very important.

As the campaign season progresses, we’ll see it Republican primary voters are ready to embrace a nominee that is unapologetic about supporting civil unions. And we’ll also see where Huntsman comes down on a number of other issues involving our community.

But regardless of whether one eventually supports or rejects Huntsman, we are witnessing a test of the politisphere. Should Huntsman fare well in this pursuit of the nomination, we may never again see a presidential campaign that features anti-gay positions or policies as a selling point.

Will Huntsman Defend DOMA?

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2011

Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has officially announced that he is running for the GOP nomination for President. Coinciding with that announcement were moves to position him as the most gay-friendly of all the major GOP candidates (leaving aside openly gay Fred Karger). Charles T. Moran, a vice chair for the California Log Cabin Republicans and a political consultant for the Huntsman campaign, released a letter touting Huntsman’s support for the LGBT community, adding as Utah’s governor he’s “talked the talk and walked the walk,” and is “unique in his desire to have a fully inclusive campaign.” He added:

On the domestic front, and as it specifically pertains to our greater LGBT community, Governor and Mrs. Huntsman are particularly supportive of our issues. Governor Huntsman signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation – a politically courageous move on his part given that state’s politics.

In the relative terms of Utah politics, Huntsman was relatively supportive: he supports civil unions (a position confirmed by a campaign spokesman), but he never actually signed a civil unions bill into law. As anyone who has been remotely paying attention, Utah does not have civil unions. What he did do was sign a bill into law that would allow municipalities to offer domestic partner benefits as long as they weren’t called domestic partner benefits. There is a massive difference between getting a family library card and a civil union. Believe me, the only scenario under which civil unions could come to Utah would be if there was a big empty shell where the LDS headquarters used to be.

Yesterday, Huntsman sought to burnish his pro-gay credentials further, by saying that if New York passes marriage equality into law, he “would respect the state’s decision on that.” It’s not clear however what he means by respecting the state’s decision. The Defense of Marriage Act actually prohibits the federal government, including the president, from respecting any state’s decision to provide marriage equality.

President Barack Obama also supports civil unions but not full marriage equality — a position similar to Huntsman’s — but he says his position is “still evolving.” Some of that evolution appears to include the recognition that DOMA is a discriminatory law that was the product of animus toward a minority, making heightened scrutiny the legal standard under which the law’s constitutionality is to be judged. As a result, last February the Justice Department announced that they could not defend the law under heightened scrutiny in Federal Court.

It’s a fair question to ask whether Huntsman’s respect for a state’s decision extends to recognizing that DOMA as a discriminatory law. We don’t know, but early indications suggest that having staked out a ground that is clearly different from the other major GOP candidates, he now recognizes that he first has to get through the GOP primaries:

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REPORTER: Governor, you support civil unions for gays and lesbians like the President does. He suggested he’s evolving on that issue. Can you imagine ever being open to legalized gay marriage?

HUNTSMAN: I think redefining marriage is something that would be impossible and it’s something I would not be in favor of. But I believe, just subordinate to marriage we have not done an adequate job in the area of equality and reciprocal beneficiary rights. And I’ve spoken out about that, my support of civil unions. Some people like it, some people don’t. And folks have said, they’ve said people are going to hold it against you in the Republican primaries. I answer that question all the time and I say it is where I am and it is who I am, and people can take it any way they want.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, told The Daily Beast, “If you want to vote for a Republican, Huntsman is probably your best option.” In the relative terms of Republican politics, Huntsman’s position is clearly ahead of the others. But there is still plenty of grey areas that he hasn’t addressed — DOMA chief among them, but also anti-discrimination laws and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — that we still need to hear from him on.