By Luke Brinker
Mitt Romney’s rout of Newt Gingrich in yesterday’s Florida primary dealt a severe blow to Gingrich’s hopes of mounting a strong challenge to Romney’s nomination. A look at the exit poll data shows why. Romney won whites and Hispanics by decisive margins, dominated Gingrich among women, and won every age and income group. Romney even bested Gingrich among Tea Party supporters, upon whom Gingrich is staking the future of his candidacy.
Notable blocs among whom Gingrich beat Romney included voters whose most important issue was abortion, those who described themselves as “very conservative,” and those who thought “true” conservatism was the most important quality in a GOP nominee. But none of those measures were the most interesting aspect of the Florida exit polls. That honor belongs instead to the question of whether voters wanted more candidates to enter the race. Fifty eight percent said they were satisfied with the current field, while a sizable 38 percent said they would like to see someone else enter the race. (To understand why this is no longer realistic, click here.) Romney won 51 percent of those satisfied with the current crop, but he and Gingrich were much closer among voters who want a new candidate to toss his or her hat into the ring. Romney won 38 percent among this group, versus 37 percent for Gingrich.
If a sizable chunk of Romney supporters want a new candidate, doesn’t that portend ill for the putative front-runner? Actually, the numbers are far worse from Gingrich’s perspective. That Gingrich had such large support among voters dissatisfied with the current field suggests that many of those voting for Gingrich are doing so not out of a deep affinity for the former House Speaker, but as a vote of protest against the allegedly moderate Romney. That’s not exactly a recipe for staying power, particularly given Gingrich’s considerable personal and political baggage.
Many Romney supporters wish there were more candidates from which to choose, but this mostly reflects the falling-in-line effect. Few Romney voters love their candidate, but they judge him to be the strongest possible nominee against Barack Obama. Most of them probably realize that it’s logistically impossible for a new candidate to enter the race and secure enough delegates to claim the GOP nod in Tampa this summer. They may wish Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush or Bobby Jindal or who-have-you had opted to run, but they’re mostly resigned to backing Romney, and unlike the fickle hard-right voters who have gone from Palin to Trump to Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich to Santorum to Gingrich again, they’re not liable to change their votes.
By Luke Brinker
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the prominent breast cancer charity, discontinued its grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings on Tuesday. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte writes, Komen claimed that the withdrawal of funds stemmed from Rep. Cliff Stearns’s (R-Florida) investigation of Planned Parenthood, but given the politically charged nature of Stearns’s investigation, it’s more likely that Komen simply “caved under relentless pressure.”
Planned Parenthood has been under conservative assault in recent years, even facing prosecution in Kansas. The group struggled in 2011 amid federal and state budget cuts, which resulted from a largely fact-free conservative campaign against the group. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl erroneously claimed that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” When confronted with the actual figure – three percent – Kyl’s spokesman defended his boss’s comment, saying it “was not intended to be a factual statement.” Anything to advance the social conservative agenda, I suppose.
What is most remarkable about the right’s concerted campaign to stigmatize Planned Parenthood is that for much of its history, the family planning organization, founded by Margaret Sanger in 1916, was far from the political hot potato it is now. To be sure, social conservatives have always opposed its mission, but before party polarization set in, there was substantial bipartisan backing for Planned Parenthood. Prescott Bush and his son George Herbert Walker Bush were major fundraisers. John D. Rockefeller III was the recipient of a Margaret Sanger Award. Ann Romney, wife of Willard Mitt, was a donor in the 1990s. And until 2012, the nation’s foremost breast cancer charity supported Planned Parenthood’s efforts to screen women for the disease.
In an era of sham investigations, prosecution, and savage budget cuts, one might assume that Planned Parenthood has always been a lightning rod of controversy. But it has not always been true that one’s political party predicted one’s attitude toward the organization. Nor has it always been deemed necessary for a mainstream organization to cut all ties to a group focused on women’s health. Anyone who doubts that ideological polarization has very real consequences need look no further than Komen’s action yesterday.
By Luke Brinker
Likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a man who knows a thing or two about sizable pay packages, thinks that too many federal workers earn exorbitant salaries. In a speech last summer, the former Massachusetts governor singled out the “over a quarter” of federal employees who earned more than $100,000 annually. (As PolitiFact noted, the actual figure is not a quarter, but 21.7 percent.) Are such workers overpaid? A new Congressional Budget Office study yields illuminating insight on this question.
The CBO compared the average wages and benefits of federal employees and their private sector counterparts with the same level of education. Overall, federal employees earned two percent more in wages and 16 percent more in overall compensation (including benefits) than private sector workers. That picture becomes a bit more complicated when one examines compensation levels by education:
It’s worth noting that 49 percent of federal employees work for a military-related government department. Conservatives have denounced President Barack Obama’s modest proposed reductions in defense spending as “slashing our military,” but if Romney wants to reduce the number of federal employees with six-figure annual salaries, he won’t only have to fire Veterans Affairs doctors (who account for about 140,000 of the roughly 2 million federal employees), but he’ll also have to get rid of military officers and career Defense Department bureaucrats.