Analysis Politics

Iowa! New Hampshire! South Carolina! Santorum! God!

Andy Kopsa

While Perry goes straight off to South Carolina, skipping New Hampshire in trying to scoop up votes in a friendlier (southern) state, Santorum will let his boots-on-the-ground team in South Carolina work its magic for him – just like in Iowa – while he traipses around New Hampshire. Let me explain.

Cross-posted with permission from the Ames Progressive.org.

The Iowa Republican caucuses found Mitt Romney winning in an eight-vote landslide over Rick Santorum. Not 8 percent – eight votes. Santorum’s showing was impressive and more of a win than Romney’s. The candidates packed up and left for New Hampshire, Bachmann dropped out, and Perry is heading straight to South Carolina – he is sick of the “loosey-goosey” Iowa process and would like to get back to the real deal.

Barring an airport restroom toe-tapping incident, Romney will win New Hampshire. But Santorum is happy to use his Iowa victory to peel off some Romneyites. With Newt’s newfound obsession to bury Romney – and after giving an Iowa concession speech that practically endorsed Santorum – the margin between first, second, and third place will be shaved.

Current polling shows Santorum edging up via the Iowa bounce: Romney at 43 percent, Paul at 18, Santorum at 11, Gingrich at 9, Huntsman at 7, and Perry barely ahead of also-ran Buddy Roemer at 1.

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While Perry is off trying to scoop up votes in a friendlier southern state, Santorum will let his boots-on-the-ground team in South Carolina work its magic for him – just like in Iowa – while he traipses around New Hampshire.

Let me explain.

The media marveled at the spending gap between Romney and Santorum. According to the Washington Post, Romney spent about $1.47 million on media and won 29,874 votes — $49 per vote. Santorum spent only $21,980 in Iowa and took 29,908 votes in the caucuses, totaling about 73 cents per vote. (UPDATE: The Washington Post numbers were based on totals at press time; the final tally was 30,015 votes for Romney and 30,007 for Santorum.)

Romney spent most of that slamming Gingrich while Santorum didn’t need to spend as much – he had The FAMiLY Leader (TFL), its leader Bob Vander Plaats, and a host of evangelicals both in and out of the pulpit spreading the Santorum good news. (Currently, “Romney is pumping $264,000 into television ads in New Hampshire, while Santorum is spending just $16,000 in the Granite State this week, according to the Associated Press.”)

Two pastors, Cary Gordon of the recently bankrupt Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City and Jeff Mullen of Point of Grace church in Waukee (who is running for Iowa Senate), have both worked with TFL and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition to organize the evangelical electorate in Iowa. Be it rallying against gay marriage, ousting justices from the Iowa Supreme Court, or waxing ridiculous about secularism’s resemblance to Nazis, these pastors defied the IRS to endorse candidacies.

Santorum was on the stump in Iowa since the anti-judge campaign during the midterms of 2010. He showed up with Vander Plaats and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins on the FRC and National Organization for Marriage anti-judge bus tour, which rallied the evangelical base to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

To recap, TFL is responsible for the bizarre “Marriage Vow” made famous in July that extolled the benefits of slavery to African-American families (after push-back, TFL removed all reference to slavery from the pledge’s text) and women’s role in society (producing lots of babies), and most recently a possible pay-to-play scandal in which TFL asked Santorum to essentially pay for its endorsement. (Despite all this, TFL wouldn’t be half as interesting a story if the organization hadn’t been built with over $3 million in federal funds.)

Vander Plaats, a former high school principal (with a gentle, golden Trumpian comb-over), was called a Republican political “kingmaker” by the Atlantic (and almost all national media outlets) and ranked as one of the top 10 “endorsements the presidential candidates covet most” by the Hill last year.

TFL began building its serious national political clout during the run-up to the 2010 midterms. Then known as the Iowa Family Policy Center, The FAMiLY Leader (the little “i” stands for subservience to God) scooped up Vander Plaats, the three-time Iowa gubernatorial race loser. His assignment? To lead the charge to oust the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage (mentioned above). With the help of over half a million of out-of-state dollars from groups like the Family Research Council, the insane American Family Association, and the National Organization for Marriage, he pulled it off.

Vander Plaats leveraged this success and his success in chairing Huckabee’s campaign to victory in 2008 to become the man holding the door for every single GOP candidate coming through Iowa in 2011. The organization’s coup de grace this caucus season? The Thanksgiving Family Forum featuring Republican candidates taking turns weeping during their personal testimony to cement their Christian conservative cred. Riveted evangelicals were stapled in their pews as the candidates spoke for over two hours in an Iowa church.

Santorum’s chumminess with TFL will serve him well. TFL is part of network of Christian organizations – affiliates of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. The South Carolina analog to TFL – The Palmetto Family Council – will undoubtedly follow suit and start working its magic for Santorum. The PFC also received federal funding – $1.2 million to preach heterosexual marriage and abstinence-only education by way of George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives. 

One thing to note: It doesn’t matter what Santorum wins – Romney is a foregone conclusion as the nominee, which in turn won’t matter because Obama is a shoe-in. This is a polish job for 2016. Santorum is just trying to get his organization right. His message will need to be refined, as he can’t possibly let his crazy hang out too much – gotta keep that man-on-dog as analogy for homosexuality stuff to yourself, Rick.

That Santorum will not get the candidacy is irrelevant – it is the right-wing infrastructure of state FRC affiliates (in many cases built with taxpayer money) that enabled Santorum to spend so little money in places like Iowa and no doubt South Carolina.

There are many things to understand about the caucus process itself before one even dives into the run up to the caucus circus of GOP campaigning. If you would like to investigate further I recommend this Des Moines Register explainer. Here is the bottom line: no delegates were awarded, nor will they be until the convention, and even then delegates can hop from candidate to candidate.

You could say – and many have – that Iowa just doesn’t matter, and in a way you would be right. But in the sense that Iowa gives us an inside view as to how candidates will campaign and who is campaigning for them, it is invaluable.* Iowa is the first true vetting process for the presidential election. Candidates are forced to leave it all on the field in the state. They have to show up and sling their arm around a farmer, or hoist a baby off a propped hay bale at the Iowa State Fair.

I don’t remember which pundit brought this up during the caucus coverage (probably Chris Matthews), but he spoke with two (count ‘em – two!) Iowans who said they wouldn’t vote for Romney because of his Mormon faith. This is a popular storyline and one that the media loves to whip up. Though it may have been true Romney’s last go-’round, the sheer desperation of the Republican Party has done away with much anti-Mormon sentiment. With such a representative sample of two people, Chris (or whoever it was) does nothing to help the country’s ailing perception of Iowa. Iowa is not the bible belt. Again – this was a GOP caucus – Iowa Democrats effectively didn’t caucus this year. As with any GOP anything the God talk is going to be at least a simmer and often a rolling boil. In Iowa there is just a fine point put on right-wingery as the main political group is TFL.

By the way, Iowa has a Mormon Secretary of State, Matt Schultz (who ended up backing Santorum).

I have a handful of evangelical friends in Iowa so I ran the Mormon question up the flagpole. Was it an issue at their precinct? The answer came back a resounding no. One very conservative Christian gentleman I went to high school with (Jason S.) summed it up like this:

“The supporter for Romney in our precinct specifically mentioned that although Romney’s relationship with God was different than this person’s own, they would leave that between him and God. Perhaps my perception was stronger than the reality, we will have to see. It does appear though that there are a number of people who are of the camp that there is some sort of common morality between most religions and that this is what is important, that the elected official has demonstrated that they are morally upstanding.”

I found this Romney supporter’s rationale refreshing: leave Romney’s religion between him and his God.

Here is what a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll finds about the 2012 Republican caucus in Iowa:

Among the 57% of Iowa caucus-goers who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, Santorum finished in first place with 32% support. Ron Paul garnered 18% of the evangelical vote, while Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry each received 14% of the evangelical vote.

Romney, Gingrich and Perry all walked away with 14 percent. And, Romney didn’t show up to the Thanksgiving Family Forum sponsored by TFL, whereas Gingrich and Perry did. Pew also points out Huckabee was the clear winner in 2008, walking with 46 percent of the evangelical vote.

CNN’s Belief Blog co-editor Dan Gilgoff said that religion will not be a factor in the Granite State, as if when the candidates left Iowa the cathedral doors of the state clapped shut. (Although Gilgoff’s observations, and the input of New Hampshirites in his article, that religion is essentially less discussed in New Hampshire than Iowa, is probably true, that doesn’t mean it isn’t at work in the political process in New Hampshire.)

Here’s what I mean. In the very first paragraphvery first! – Gilgoff points to Cornerstone as the go-to Christian group in the state. (Karen Testerman, founder of Cornerstone, has already endorsed Santorum.) He talks about the group’s flagging membership and how it’s changing its focus from “family values” (read: anti-gay, anti-choice, Christian worldview, etc.) to fiscal and taxation issues – their membership and bank account soared.

This doesn’t mean that religion is taking a backseat. This means religion – via a Christian worldview – is embedded in our political system. Here is an example of the Christian worldview of TFL pulled from an article I wrote for the Revealer about the group last year:

Guided by such a Christian world view – with their interpretation of the Bible as policy guide — The Family Leader and Iowa House Republicans have already introduced a landslide of far-right legislation. There is the previously-mentioned HJR 6 anti-gay marriage amendment. A “religious conscience protection” act was introduced but quickly scrapped after a swift public backlash. It is feverishly being reworked to more closely resemble other states’ Religious Freedom Restoration Acts for re-release, possibly during this congressional session. There is a “personhood” bill that will be discussed in committee any day now, and the always repugnant “fetal pain” bill. These bills attempt to make abortion illegal based on the personal religious belief of some that life begins at conception and on bad science claiming to prove that a fetus feels pain.

The Christian worldview is applied across the board – not just on social issues but to economic and foreign policy as well. Santorum aligns with this worldview. How will that play in New Hampshire? His anti-gay talk is off to a bad start, with the candidate receiving boos when he expressed his anti-gay marriage views. But in a state that had the “chootspah”** to introduce an anti-evolution bill, the booing that greeted Santorum could be the exception, not the rule, in New Hampshire.

One thing is for sure: Santorum will have to downplay his Christian chatter in New Hampshire. To be a mainstream candidate he is going to have to appeal to Ron Paul libertarians and old-school Republicans, not just the tea-partying religious right. Can he pull off such a ruse? I don’t know, but if his recent claim that there should “always be a Jesus candidate” in a political race is any indication, it may be rough-going for Rick.

~

* RE: Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus status: anyone that goes first in anything is going to be the source of ridicule and, frankly, state envy. Who would be more suited to go first? Minnesota? South Dakota? New York? LA? Mississippi? No one anywhere will be happy with who goes first except the state that goes first. There is no magical place where racial, religious, or socioeconomic groups coexist in perfect percentages. It just won’t happen. Iowa is white. There is no getting around that. There is also no getting around the fact that Iowa gave Obama his first win in 2008. And, as a native Iowan, I would like to say you should always care about Iowa.

** Bachmannian spelling

*** There is a minor debate among Christian pundits about who handed Santorum his political win in Iowa. Steve Deace hands over full credit to Bob Vander Plaats for a Santorum win. Keep your eyes on the sky in the Midwest, people, as Vander Plaats is about to float out the top. Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart doesn’t agree, however, giving BVP some credit but spreading it around to several other helpmeets.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court Decision, After Pressure From Anti-Choice Leaders

Ally Boguhn

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—much to the lamentation of anti-choice advocates.

Donald Trump commented on the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week—but only after days of pressure from anti-choice advocates—and Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed explaining how one state’s then-pending decision on whether to fund Planned Parenthood illustrates the high stakes of the election for reproductive rights and health.

Following Anti-Choice Pressure, Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

Trump finally broke his silence Thursday about the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week, which struck down two provisions of Texas’ HB 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that,” Trump claimed of the Court’s decision, evidently not realizing that the Monday ruling was 5 to 3 and one vote would not have made a numerical difference, during an appearance on conservative radio program The Mike Gallagher Show. “It would have been the opposite.” 

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“So just to confirm, under a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week?” asked host Mike Gallagher.

“No…you wouldn’t see that,” replied Trump, who also noted that the case demonstrated the important role the next president will play in steering the direction of the Court through judicial nominations.

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—prompting much lamentation from anti-choice advocates. Despite having promised to nominate anti-choice Supreme Court justices and pass anti-abortion restrictions if elected during a meeting with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders in New York City last week, Trump made waves among those who oppose abortion when he did not immediately comment on the Court’s Monday decision.

“I think [Trump’s silence] gives all pro-life leaders pause,” said the president of the anti-choice conservative organization The Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, prior to Trump’s comments Thursday, according to the Daily Beast. Vander Plaats, who attended last week’s meeting with Trump, went on suggest that Trump’s hesitation to weigh in on the matter “gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate—it gives them an unnecessary pause. There shouldn’t have to be a pause here.”

“This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment—was all over Twitter—and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump,” Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a Tuesday statement to the Daily Beast.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, expressed similar dismay on Wednesday that Trump hadn’t addressed the Court’s ruling. “So where was Mr. Trump, the candidate the pro-life movement is depending upon, when this blow hit?” wrote Hawkins, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “He was on Twitter, making fun of Elizabeth Warren and lamenting how CNN has gone negative on him. That’s it. Nothing else.”

“Right now in the pro-life movement people are wondering if Mr. Trump’s staff is uninformed or frankly, if he just doesn’t care about the topic of life,” added Hawkins. “Was that meeting last week just a farce, just another one of his shows?”

Anti-choice leaders, however, were not the only ones to criticize Trump’s response to the ruling. After Trump broke his silence, reproductive rights leaders were quick to condemn the Republican’s comments.

“Donald Trump has been clear from the beginning—he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and said he believes a woman should be ‘punished’ if she has an abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has already endorsed Clinton for the presidency, in a statement on Trump’s comments. 

“Trump’s remarks today should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes women should have access to safe, legal abortion. Electing Trump means he will fight to take away the very rights the Supreme Court just ruled this week are constitutional and necessary health care,” continued Laguens.

In contrast to Trump’s delayed reaction, presumptive Democratic nominee Clinton tweeted within minutes of the landmark abortion rights decision, “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.”

Clinton Pens Op-Ed Defending Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire

Clinton penned an op-ed for the Concord Monitor Wednesday explaining that New Hampshire’s pending vote on Planned Parenthood funding highlighted “what’s at stake this election.”

“For half a century, Planned Parenthood has been there for people in New Hampshire, no matter what. Every year, it provides care to almost 13,000 people who need access to services like counseling, contraception, and family planning,” wrote Clinton. “Many of these patients cannot afford to go anywhere else. Others choose the organization because it’s the provider they know and trust.”

The former secretary of state went on to contend that New Hampshire’s Executive Council’s discussion of denying funds to the organization was more than “just playing politics—they’re playing with their constituents’ health and well-being.” The council voted later that day to restore Planned Parenthood’s contract.

Praising the Supreme Court’s Monday decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Clinton cautioned in the piece that although it was a “critical victory,” there is still “work to do as long as obstacles” remained to reproductive health-care access.

Vowing to “make sure that a woman’s right to make her own health decisions remains as permanent as all of the other values we hold dear” if elected, Clinton promised to work to protect Planned Parenthood, safeguard legal abortion, and support comprehensive and inclusive sexual education programs.

Reiterating her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care, Clinton wrote that she would “fight laws on the books” like it that “make it harder for low-income women to get the care they deserve.”

Clinton’s campaign noted the candidate’s support for repealing Hyde while answering a 2008 questionnaire provided by Rewire. During the 2016 election season, the federal ban on abortion funding became a more visible issue, and Clinton noted in a January forum that the ban “is just hard to justify” given that restrictions such as Hyde inhibit many low-income and rural women from accessing care.

What Else We’re Reading

Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher highlighted some of the potential problems Clinton could face should she choose former Virginia governor Tim Kaine as her vice presidential pickincluding his beliefs about abortion.

Foster Friess, a GOP mega-donor who once notoriously said that contraception is “inexpensive … you know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” is throwing his support behind Trump, comparing the presumptive Republican nominee to biblical figures.

Clinton dropped by the Toast on the publication’s last day, urging readers to follow the site’s example and “look forward and consider how you might make your voice heard in whatever arenas matter most to you.”

Irin Carmon joined the New Republic’s “Primary Concerns” podcast this week to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on the election.

According to analysis from the Wall Street Journal, the popularity of the Libertarian Party in this year’s election could affect the presidential race, and the most likely outcome is “upsetting a close race—most likely Florida, where the margin of victory is traditionally narrow.”

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Alec Goodwin gave an autopsy of Jeb Bush’s massive Right to Rise super PAC.

Katie McGinty (D), who is running against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania, wrote an op-ed this week for the Philly Voice calling to “fight efforts in Pa. to restrict women’s access to health care.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against an attempt to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 residents affected by the state’s law disenfranchising those who previously served time for felonies, ThinkProgress reports.

An organization in Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the almost 70,000 people there who have previously served time for felonies and are now on probation or parole, alleging that they are being “wrongfully excluded from registering to vote and voting.”

News Law and Policy

New Hampshire Council Restores Funding to Planned Parenthood

Teddy Wilson

The council’s 3-2 vote to approve the contract comes ten months after the executive body voted to reject a similar contract. In both cases Councilor Chris Sununu (R- Newfields) was the deciding vote.

The New Hampshire Executive Council voted Wednesday to reinstate a contract with Planned Parenthood amid pre-election politics.

The council’s 3-2 vote to approve the contract comes ten months after the executive body voted to reject a similar contract. In both cases Councilor Chris Sununu (R-Newfields) was the deciding vote. 

Sununu is a Republican candidate for governor of New Hampshire. 

Council members Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) and Colin Van Ostern (D-Concord), a Democratic candidate for governor, also voted to approve the contract, while members Joe Kenney (R-Union) and David Wheeler (R-Milford) voted to reject the contract.

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The $549,000 contract will fund services like physical exams, sexually transmitted infection tests, and breast and cervical cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers in New Hampshire.

There are five Planned Parenthood facilities in the state. All of them offer a range of other reproductive health-care services; only two provide abortion services.

“We are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the Council listened to their constituents and the majority of New Hampshire voters and chose to reverse course from last year’s vote,” Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, said in a statement“Blocking access to health care at Planned Parenthood threatened the wellbeing of Granite State citizens.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England served 14,191 patients at the end of 2014, according to statistics provided by the organization. That number dropped by 21 percent, to 11,119, by the end of 2015 following the council vote to reject its funding request. 

Last year Sununu voted against approving the contract for Planned Parenthood citing surreptitiously recorded videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress.

The organization’s leader, David Daleiden, is facing a felony indictment in Texas for tampering with government documents.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan refused to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of the smear campaign. “We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor,” Hassan said last August according to a local ABC affiliate. “We do not launch criminal investigations in the state of New Hampshire because somebody edits a tape.”

Hassan is a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and a crowded field of Democrats and Republicans are competing to succeed her in November.

Sununu defended his vote in January because of Hassan’s refusal to investigate Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and because of political pressure from reproductive rights advocates after his vote against the funding. “They proved themselves to be bullies and I don’t do business with bullies,” Sununu said, reported Seacoast Online.

However, Sununu’s tone changed Wednesday. “As [Planned Parenthood] is no longer under investigation, they should be treated like any other organization that comes before the council,” said Sununu in a statement.

Sununu told reporters after the vote that he decided not to allow politics to interfere with ensuring health care access in the state.

“I’m not going to let politics [influence] the importance of funds that go to help low-income women. I’ve been a supporter of these types of funds since the day I became a councilor, and I’m going to maintain my consistency with that support,” Sununu said, reported New Hampshire Public Radio.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Frank Edelblut reportedly criticized Sununu for his vote. He remarked, according to New Hampshire Public Radio: “Clearly what this shows is we’ve got a lack of principle here. We need a governor who has principles that the voters can rely on.”