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A Bitter Pill

Via USA Today:

MILWAUKEE – President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side…In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.

The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.

Utterly predictable. Probably disastrous.




Big Government Rick (Again)

Here’s Josh Barro writing for Forbes with details of some Santorum plans for wasteful and intrusive government:

The Daily Caller flags a little-discussed position paper on Rick Santorum’s campaign website—his pledge to aggressively prosecute those who produce and distribute pornography. Santorum avers that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He pledges to use the resources of the Department of Justice to fight that “pandemic,” by bringing obscenity prosecutions against pornographers.

I would note that this is very different from what the Bush Administration did. The Bush DOJ did establish an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in 2005, but this body focused on bringing prosecutions against small-time producers who made porn with extreme content. (Even so, it faced significant pushback from U.S. Attorneys, some of whom viewed such prosecutions as a distraction and a misuse of resources.) Many social conservative groups were disappointed with the task force, contending that more mainstream hardcore porn violates obscenity laws, and they urged the Bush Administration to bring obscenity cases against major producers.

Santorum promises that he would do exactly this. His statement references going after pornography that is distributed not just on the Internet, but also “on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV.” Perhaps I am not staying in the most interesting hotels, but my impression is that porn distributed through such channels is almost definitionally not extreme. Santorum’s statement also touts his work on this issue with “groups including Morality in Media, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association”—many of which were among the groups calling on the Bush Administration to prosecute mainstream porn producers in 2007. And he says he “proudly support[s] the efforts of the War on Illegal Pornography Coalition,” which advocates the use of obscenity laws against mainstream porn.

Some of Santorum’s defenders have taken the tack of separating his personal views from his policy views. Santorum thinks contraception is “not OK” and he has announced his intention to use the bully pulpit to discuss “the dangers of contraception.” But he doesn’t think contraception should be illegal, and he voted for Title X contraception subsidies (though he said in a recent debate that he opposes Title X, despite voting for it.) On pornography, though, Santorum’s views can’t be written off as purely personal—he has stated a clear intent to use the levers of government to stop adults from making and watching porn.

And, of course to fritter away taxpayer money (and prosecutorial resources) while doing so.

Now that’s obscene.

· · · ·



Shocking News

Via the Washington Post, but even so this is not, perhaps, the most surprising news:

The fragile gains Republicans had been making among female voters have been erased, a shift that has coincided with what has become a national shouting match over reproductive issues, potentially handing President Obama and the Democrats an enormous advantage this fall.

In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Republican candidates ran evenly with Democrats among women, a break with long-established trends. That was a major reason the GOP regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, female voters appear to be swinging back to Democrats.

A number of polls show that Obama’s approval among women has risen significantly since December, even as it has remained flat among men. The same trend, which began before the controversy in recent weeks, is also showing up further down the ballot.

When a Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey asked in the summer which party should control Congress, 46 percent of women favored Democrats and 42 percent preferred Republican control.

But in a survey released Monday, compiling data since the beginning of the year, that figure had widened considerably to a 15-point advantage for the Democrats, according to polling by the team of Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. Fifty-one percent favored Democratic control; only 36 percent wanted to see the Republicans in charge…

Both sides have tried to shape the narrative in this battle for and about women. But many Republicans are beginning to wish they had never waded into what has become a heated conversation over contraception, who should have it and what it says about people who use it.

GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s campaign, said Republicans need to return to pocketbook and fiscal issues. “We know what works,” she said, “and we need to get back to it.”


And even those who saw the “contraception” controversy as being over religious freedom rather than contraception should have realized the political dangers of the territory into which they were sailing, and navigated it with distinctly more skill than they have shown.

Terri Schiavo, part deux? We’ll have to see, but there can be no doubt that, under these circumstances, choosing Santorum, a character with strongly-held views on the , uh, perversity of contraception (“a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”), as the GOP’s nominee would both drown out any argument over religious freedom and be an extraordinary act of electoral self-destruction.

· · · · ·




Via CBS:

[Santorum] lambasted the president’s health care law requiring insurance policies to include free prenatal testing, “because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.”

On the other hand Santorum probably does approve of the prenatal testing discussed by David Frum here:

…It is the Obama administration that is winning the communications war. Republicans blame the media. OK, maybe. But then Republicans do things like this in the state of Virginia:

HB 462 Abortion; informed consent, shall undergo ultrasound imaging.

“Abortion; informed consent. Requires that, as a component of informed consent to an abortion, to determine gestation age, every pregnant female shall undergo ultrasound imaging and be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus prior to the abortion. The medical professional performing the ultrasound must obtain written certification from the woman that the opportunity was offered and whether the woman availed herself of the opportunity to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal heartbeat. A copy of the ultrasound and the written certification shall be maintained in the woman’s medical records at the facility where the abortion is to be performed. This bill incorporates HB 261.”

The ABC news report on the Virginia bill explains:

“The ultrasound legislation would constitute an unprecedented government mandate to insert vaginal ultrasonic probes into women as part of a state-ordered effort to dissuade them from terminating pregnancies, legislative opponents noted.”

· ·

Say what you will about Santorum, it’s difficult to argue that he is a man who succumbs to the vapid ecumenicism that dominates so much of the discourse we hear these days from the, uh, “faith community”.

Here he is speaking to Ave Maria University in 2008:

We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. […]




Helping Obama

The polling data relied upon for this Washington Post article is from a Democratic polling firm, but the results should come as no great surprise:

The firm’s poll finds that one of the most important factors powering Obama’s gains against likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been the President’s improving numbers among unmarried women, a key pillar of the present and future Democratic coalition.

Among this group, Obama now leads Romney by 65-30 — and there’s been a net 18-point swing towards the President among them:…After unmarried women dropped off for Dems in 2010 and were slow to return to the Dem fold in 2011, Obama is now approaching the 70 percent he won among them in 2008.

Unmarried women will be important to Obama’s success at rebuilding his 2008 coalition in time for reelection, something that already seems to be underway, as Ronald Brownstein has demonstrated. The crack Post polling team tells me that the key to understanding this constituency is that it’s complex and diverse; it includes young women who have never married, divorced women, and widows, and it cuts across class, racial, income, and geographic lines.

Various factors — the improving economy; the drawn-out Republican nomination process; the GOP’s sinking approval ratings — already seem to be driving unmarried women back towards Obama. And the pitched battle over birth control could continue to galvanize and unite this group behind him, particularly if Romney is forced to embrace the conservative position. The Greenberg poll also tested the two sides’ position on this issue, and found that 61 percent of unmarried women side with the Democratic one.

Concludes the memo: “We may yet look back on this debate and wonder whether this was a Terri Schiavo moment.”

The chances that this will indeed be the case will increase substantially if Santorum is the nominee. To use a hackneyed term, elections are all about the “narrative” and the narrative says that Santorum wants to ban contraception. He can deny that all he wants (and that’s just what he’s doing), but he’s said enough in the past to ensure that there are a lot of people who will never believe him. That will tell at the polls should Santorum become the nominee.

And not in a good way.

· ·




How to lose a presidential election 101…
Via The Hill

The top donor behind a pro-Rick Santorum super-PAC said Thursday that contraception doesn’t have to be costly because women used to use aspirin for birth control.

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s so inexpensive. You know back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception,” Foster Friess, the major donor behind the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund super-PAC said on MSNBC. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Friess was referencing an old saying that women who held their knees closely together would have to remain abstinent.

· ·



Helping Obama to Victory

If ever the GOP were to score points in the contraception wars it ought to have been at the beginning of the controversy, when it was easiest to frame the discussion in terms of religious freedom.

Well, it hasn’t been happening.


PRINCETON, NJ — Catholics’ views of President Obama were little changed during a week in which the administration battled publicly with Catholic leaders over whether church-affiliated employers should have to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health plans. An average of 46% of Catholics approved of the job Obama was doing as president last week, compared with 49% the prior week, a change within the margin of sampling error.

Although Catholic Church leaders’ opposition to the requirement dates back to last fall, when the policy was being laid out, the controversy erupted and made headlines in the last 10 days, after the Obama administration announced that religious-based employers would ultimately have to comply. The Obama administration’s rules would have forced organizations affiliated with the church — such as Catholic hospitals, service organizations, and universities — to pay for employee healthcare services that go against their belief that Catholics should not use contraception.

It is possible that practicing Catholics are more likely than nonpracticing Catholics to hew to the church’s teachings on birth control. But both groups — those who attend church every week or nearly every week and those who attend less often — had identical 46% approval ratings of Obama last week. Though both more frequent and less frequent churchgoing Catholics’ approval ratings of Obama were down from the prior week, neither change was statistically meaningful.


Amid continued controversy surrounding an Obama administration policy mandating that women working at religiously-affiliated institutions be provided with free access to contraceptive health care, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that most Americans – including Catholics – appear to support the rule.

According to a survey, conducted between Feb. 8-13, 61 percent of Americans support federally-mandated contraception coverage for religiously-affiliated employers; 31 percent oppose such coverage.

The number is similar among self-professed Catholics surveyed: 61 percent said they support the requirement, while 32 percent oppose it.

Majorities of both men and women said they are in favor of the mandate, though support among women is especially pronounced, with 66 percent supporting and 26 percent opposing it. Among men, 55 percent of men are in favor; 38 percent object.
The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

And it’s only going to get worse, as the perception that the GOP is somehow anti-contraception sinks ever deeper in public consciousness (helped along , of course, by the pronouncements of Santorum on this topic), and the argument over the First Amendment gets lost in the noise. And that, have no doubt about it, is going to cost the GOP a lot of votes.

This whole thing is looking more and more like a Terri Schiavo moment.

And here’s a reminder from ABC (Mar 21 2005) of how that played out with the public:

Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

The public, by 63 percent-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case. Congress passed such legislation and President Bush signed it early today.

That legislative action is distinctly unpopular: Not only do 60 percent oppose it, more — 70 percent — call it inappropriate for Congress to get involved in this way. And by a lopsided 67 percent-19 percent, most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.

This ABC News poll also finds that the Schiavo case has prompted an enormous level of personal discussion: Half of Americans say that as a direct result of hearing about this case, they’ve spoken with friends or family members about what they’d want done if they were in a similar condition. Nearly eight in 10 would not want to be kept alive.

In addition to the majority, the intensity of public sentiment is also on the side of Schiavo’s husband, who has fought successfully in the Florida courts to remove her feeding tube. And intensity runs especially strongly against congressional involvement.

Included among the 63 percent who support removing the feeding tube are 42 percent who “strongly” support it — twice as many as strongly oppose it. And among the 70 percent who call congressional intervention inappropriate are 58 percent who hold that view strongly — an especially high level of strong opinion.

And who was one of the politicians most involved with the attempt to ‘federalize’ the Schiavo tragedy?

Why, none other than Santorum, crushed a year later in a senatorial contest in which his role in the Schiavo case is thought to have played no small part in his humiliating defeat. The idea that this rigidly dogmatic ideologue is in any way electable is ludicrous. There is also every danger for the Republicans that his candidacy would be so polarizing that it would trigger a surge in voters interested only in voting against Santorum, and while they were at it, his parties’ candidates for the Senate and House, something that would present additional dangers for the GOP.

Obama must be laughing.

· · ·



Adding to the Merriment of the Nation

Gingrich never fails to deliver…

Via Yahoo:

From Newt Gingrich’s latest campaign release:

“Speaker Newt Gingrich has unveiled his Faith Leaders Dream Team — rallying several fearless Christians including Don Wildmon, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, George Barna, JC Watts, Chuck Norris, Mat Staver and others as he takes on the the radical secularism of the Obama Administration.

The Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition is Newt Gingrich’s official advisory coalition on issues pertaining to life, marriage, and religious liberty.

Okey Dokey




Own Goal

So how will the politics of the great contraception wars pan out for the right? Badly, if I had to guess. Given time, the notion (true or false) that this is an argument about religious freedom will fade from the public mind and what will be left, reinforced by the depressing persistence of Santorum in the Republican race, is a vague sense that the GOP is opposed to contraception, and that will not play well, not at all.

Already there’s this:

A Fox News poll released Friday showed a large majority, 61 percent, of Americans approve of requiring employer health plans to cover birth control for women. Thirty-four percent disapproved. The nationwide survey was conducted by telephone among 1,110 registered voters Feb. 6-9 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, the network said.

And that poll is not alone. Obama must be laughing.


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