EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Morning Briefing for January 11, 2012
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We’re far down the rabbit hole of primary season right now, and that inevitably means that charges and counter-charges are flying so fast that the news cycle can change dramatically from morning to afternoon. Naturally, when things are moving this quickly and emotions are running high, people get carried away. This happens to everyone. A lot of people who sit on the sidelines are too quick to say, “oh, so-and-so totally lost credibility with me by making that argument.” But candidates and pundits in particular are making arguments all day long, day after day; they’re going to grab hold now and then of a story they should know better than to believe or an argument they should know better than to make. Like anything in life, the test of character is not the occasional stumble but the long sweep of your record over time – whether you back off when you’ve dug into an untenable position, whether you learn from mistakes.
This comes to mind with yesterday’s confluence of attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record at Bain Capital and his ill-timed quip that “I like to be able to fire people.” To varying extents, the Gingrich and Perry campaigns and their supporters jumped all over him on both counts. A pro-Newt SuperPAC is rolling out a 27-minute documentary attacking Romney’s Bain record; as Erick notes, Perry’s campaign has been pushing a more modest line of attack against the Bain record, but still one that has something of a whiff of desperation about it. Perry’s camp also pushed a downloadable ringtone of Romney’s “fire” line. With time and some context, both campaigns backed off hitting Mitt on the “fire” comment: Perry’s people pulled the ringtone, and Newt told Fox News that the line had been taken out of context.
The “fire” comment is the easier call. Romney was making a completely valid point: that people should be able to fire service providers like insurance companies if they’re not getting good service. That’s one of the pro-consumer aspects of the conservative message, and where we part company from liberals who think first of protecting entrenched interests at the expense of consumer choice. That being said, the comment fed directly into the most damaging narratives about Romney, and was emblematic of how he’s much like Rick Santorum in terms of his tendency to use cringe-inducingly tin-eared language when he’s making even valid points.
The Bain storyline is a little more complicated, in part because there are a lot of angles to Bain’s business; while Romney’s record, as Jim Pethokoukis notes, includes a lot to be proud of, as Jonathan Last notes, you don’t have to necessarily take that business record as a whole if there are aspects worth defending and aspects worth criticizing.
Here’s what everyone thinks about this year. If Romney sweeps Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina he wins. It is conventional wisdom and conventional wisdom is usually right.
But this year there is an anomaly. The first several rounds of primaries and caucuses are not winner take all, but proportional. In fact, as you can see from the chart below the fold, there is still a long way to go.
That is one reason Perry stayed in after finishing fifth in Iowa and expecting to finish at the bottom in New Hampshire. Not only does South Carolina not care about Iowa and New Hampshire, but they are not really relevant to South Carolina, the first Republican primary in a consistently Republican state.
But the Perry camp knows what got them to this point isn’t working.
Some Wisconsinites have been pointing to our neighbors to the south as an example of fiscal responsibility hoping to follow their model. Those who think that Illinois is the way to go should think again and take a page out of Wisconsin’s book.
The Illinois budgetary record is not pretty. Heading into 2011, Illinois faced a budget deficit of over $13 billion and passed a massive tax increase both to personal income and corporate income tax rates. They’re still broke. With a pension system in shambles, Illinois also borrowed massive amounts of money to make this year’s pension payment.
In September, Illinois laid off 1,900 public employees and closed seven state facilities. Also, much to the chagrin of Wisconsinites who drive to or through Illinois, toll rates in the state have increased on average by 88%.
Illinois’ budgetary moves failed miserably to solve their problems and the state is still projected to end this fiscal year on June 30th with a budget gap upwards of half a billion dollars and unfunded obligations of up to $8 billion.
As a result, this past week, Moody’s lowered Illinois’ credit rating, giving the Prairie State the lowest rating of any state in the nation.