For Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the latest rebellion began last week in the South, by way of friendly fire.
"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, told Macon station WMAZ. "If we do it his way, then we'll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that."
The next shot came from South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham: "I think Grover is wrong when it comes to we can't cap deductions and buy down debt....I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country."
More Republican salvos followed. Rep. Peter King of New York said the hard line on revenue was based on outdated thinking: "A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress" - not an entire congressional career.
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Editor's note: Watch Anderson Cooper on AC360 at 8 and 10 p.m. ET for a comprehensive analysis of the race, a break down of the other key contests and initiatives around the country, and a look at the challenges ahead for President Obama.
Two days before Election Day, Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit to foot soldiers serving on the front lines of the 2012 campaign: suburban Colorado. Early voting had been under way in the Western battleground for weeks; the Obama team was counting on a volunteer army to deliver the state.
The polls in the race's final weeks had careened back and forth between razor-thin Obama and Romney leads. But Biden told the volunteers he wasn't worried - and they were the reason: "The ground operation which you guys represent is the best in the history of presidential politics."
"I'm telling you, it's this way in Virginia, it's this way in Florida. ... And I think that the one thing that is going to fundamentally make the difference is you guys - for real," Biden said. "I'm not just trying to be nice. I really genuinely believe that's the deal."
Republicans, surveying the very same landscape at the very same time, sounded a much more skeptical note.
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Wednesday's convention programming followed Tuesday's standard script: red meat for the base in the early hours, capped off with a slightly sweeter offering in prime time for independent consumption.
But there was nothing routine about Bill Clinton's speech. The 48-minute address - nearly 3,200 words of prepared text and a thousand more of classic Clinton riffs - checked off nearly every item on the Obama campaign's wish list:
• Appeal to the persuadable who cite bipartisanship as a key quality: Clinton praised Eisenhower. He quoted Reagan. He even got an arena-full of loyal Democrats to cheer George W. Bush.
"Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other," Clinton said. "When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better."
While Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich can sustain their bare-bones insurgent campaigns long enough to fight through the spring, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have already moved on to the next battlefield.
Earlier on Tuesday, less than a day after his campaign released a tough anti-Romney attack ad labeling him as the candidate of Big Oil interests, Obama criticized the former Massachusetts governor by name for the first time this year, taking a swipe at his support for Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan.
Romney himself has turned up the heat in recent days, telling voters the president is personally responsible for high gas prices. After his decisive victories in the Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia primaries, Romney fired back Tuesday night in a speech that didn't mention any of his Republican rivals.
Rick Santorum said a few days ago an Illinois win could guarantee him a path to the nomination. Now a double-digit victory in President Barack Obama's home state may do the same for Mitt Romney.
First, the good news for Santorum: He held on to his edge with working-class and rural voters, winning both categories Tuesday in Illinois. He continued to claim Republicans looking for strong character and conservative bona fides in their presidential candidate. And he was the top pick among the most religious voters: regular churchgoers, evangelicals and those who think the religious beliefs of their party's nominee are important.
Now, the bad news: According to exit polls, Romney won virtually everyone else.
Romney's victory was fueled by massive majorities of voters with college degrees and six-figure incomes. But by narrower margins, he claimed nearly all other demographic blocs, too, including groups he's struggled to win throughout the primary season, such as the strongest tea party supporters.
In a year when electability consistently tops Republican primary voters' lists of candidate qualities, Mitt Romney has made the sale. In contest after contest, he's generally chosen as the contender most likely to beat President Barack Obama in November.
On Tuesday, voters in Ohio agreed: They thought he was roughly twice as electable as Rick Santorum, according to exit polls.
But if Romney has primary voters' heads, Santorum seems to be reaching their hearts.
Super Tuesday results
Romney may have made up some ground with working-class voters, but Santorum held the advantage on the question of which candidate "best understands the problems of average Americans." He held it in the working-class battleground of Ohio; he held it in the evangelical stronghold of Tennessee. He didn't capture it in Vermont, where Romney scored a major win Tuesday; there, the title went to ... Ron Paul.
Here are some selections drawn from recent newspaper endorsements backing Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary - along with some similar-sounding critiques drawn from an equal number of editorial writes backing his opponents. Can you tell which is which? Give it a shot! (Answer key below)
1) ...for the past 12 months, Romney has been refashioning himself as something other than what his record suggests. He has made gestures toward
economic and social radicalism, and eschewed the common sense of cooperative governing that made him a success in Massachusetts.
2) It has become difficult to define who Romney really is and what he believes. Is he feigning some positions now to win votes? How would he
govern as the virulent anti-tax, anti-federal government candidate we see now or as the more reasoned leader he used to be?
Romney’s auto gaffes (there’s really no other honest way to describe them) are a discomforting window onto how those questions might be answered.
3) (Romney’s) stance against government interaction to revive the domestic automobile industry is disappointing. Also disappointing are inconsistencies in his message.
As Mitt Romney admitted, they may not have been his prettiest wins.
"We didn't win by a lot - but we won by enough, and that's all that counts," he said Tuesday night after victories in the Michigan and Arizona primaries.
Yet even in a cycle where he's already endured far more do-or-die contests than expected, these wins may be his most valuable yet.
Romney succeeded in both states when it counted most, largely on the strength of the same voting blocs that have consistently backed his campaign. The older, richer and better-educated you were, the more likely you were to vote for Romney. If you made your decision before the primary season began, or if beating President Barack Obama was your top priority, and the economy was your biggest concern, then Romney was your pick.
The outlook for Romney was sunny in the Southwest. He scored solidly with most Arizona demographics on his way to his more comfortable win of the night, winning pluralities in every age group, income level and major religious denomination, helped in part by overwhelming support from the state's sizable Mormon population. But it wasn't just a Mormon-fueled win: He even beat Rick Santorum among Santorum's fellow Catholics.
The audience at Rick Santorum’s first stop of the day Monday – a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in suburban Detroit - was a bit subdued at the top of his talk. Maybe they’d reached candidate speech threshold; maybe it was all the breakfast carbs.
Then Santorum’s remarks started moving into red meat territory, sliding from his early swipes at Mitt Romney to full frontal assaults on President Obama. He took aim at the president’s policy on religion, and blasted the alleged negative impact of the administration’s energy policy. Santorum told the crowd that the average life expectancy in 1935 was 61 years, which meant that Social Security was designed so only a minority of Americans would ever have a chance to draw benefits – and that he was the only candidate bold enough to acknowledge that fact. With each statement, the crowd’s reaction grew more animated. By the end, he’d seemingly won them over completely; as his time on stage ended, the room rose in a spontaneous standing ovation. “He seemed to get a lot better later on,” said supporter Paul Bonenfant. “He just got so much more comfortable up there.”
Here’s the problem: none of those crowd-rousing statements yesterday were entirely true. Sometimes it was the sort of mistake anyone could make (although anyone with actual policy knowledge probably shouldn’t): the difference between life expectancy at birth and the life expectancy of working adults. Others were much harder to mistake. The country isn’t increasingly dependent on foreign oil thanks to President Obama. And it isn’t quite accurate to say that “people of faith” no longer have the “right to come to the public square and express their points of view or practice their faith outside of their church” – since Santorum, a person of faith, has repeatedly and vocally expressed his point of view in daily appearances that have involved every region of the country.
Editor's note: On the eve of the Republican primaries in Arizona and Michigan, tune in to AC360 for Raw Politics at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
Rick Santorum is no stranger to unorthodox scheduling decisions: this is the campaign, after all, that scheduled a major economic speech for a Friday night, where news stories generally go to die. So there’s a certain sort of logic to the fact that their big home-stretch phone-banking event in Michigan - featuring some of their candidate’s highest-profile surrogates - happened to coincide with the top of the Academy Awards broadcast. (In some ways, it’s an understandable oversight: there are no visible TVs at the Troy rent-an-office currently serving as the campaign’s only official Michigan base.)
Still, there was a healthy showing yesterday. Reality show stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar spoke to an enthusiastic group drawn from all across the southeastern part of the state, pointing to the divine roots of Santorum’s rise as several in the family-heavy crowd nodded their agreement. “You can see the hand of God in what’s happened in this campaign,” said Jim Bob Duggar. “We have to pray that God move the hearts of the people to support Rick Santorum.” Some of the volunteers present looked eager enough to hit the streets that night.
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