TPM News

Jon Stewart on Monday caught himself up on the growing controversy over the Obama administration's rule that employers provide birth control coverage in their health care plans.

President Obama last week announced a compromise that would require insurance companies to pay for coverage if employers oppose contraception on "moral" grounds.

Great, Stewart said. "So I guess we're done here. Compromise made, everybody happy."

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When it comes to courting Hispanic voters, Republicans have a tricky time threading the needle on immigration. Rather than reach out to Hispanics by softening their hard-line tone - at least during the primaries - the conservative wing of the party has embraced harsh immigration policies. Republicans do not count Latinos among their key constituents like Democrats, so tactically, they may be better off using anti-immigrant rhetoric to fire up their base even though they will need a modicum of Hispanic votes come November. But today, this disregard for the issue puts Hispanic conservatives in a tight spot: get on board or clash with the party.

In retrospect, two events at CPAC showed this tension in spades. On the one hand, the gathering saw the launch the first conservative Hispanic Super PAC; however, not long after that, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the man widely considered the architect of Alabama and Arizona's tough "self-deportation" laws, drew cheers at a panel on immigration.

The Super Pac's launch came on Saturday afternoon, and took place in one of the small conference rooms at the hotel hosting CPAC. About 50 people showed up for the opening presentation. There was a cash bar, but free cupcakes. The main pitch was a PowerPoint presentation on how Hispanic Vote Super PAC was going to use social media to connect Hispanic voters with conservative ideas. It sounded so much like a grassroots educational operation that one audience-member asked why they were a Super PAC. They responded that they had been advised to register as such. Would they support any candidates? They couldn't say.

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Rick Santorum has a new TV ad, a positive spot in which he is pitched as the most electable Republican candidate — a clear play for one of the political cards that the Romney campaign has been playing.

"Who has the best chance to beat Obama? Rick Santorum," the announcer says. "A full-spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues; a favorite of the Tea Party for fighting corruption and taxpayer abuse; more foreign policy credentials than any candidate; and Rick's 'Made in the U.S.A.' jobs plan will make America an economic superpower again. Rick Santorum — a trusted conservative who gives us the best chance to take back America."

It should be noted that when the announcer touts Santorum's foreign policy credentials, the on-screen text declares "Served 8 Years on Armed Services." This particular phrasing might give the impression that Santorum is a veteran — which he was not — if the viewer did not realize that it is a reference to Santorum having served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A new Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows that former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) does a bit better against President Obama in national matchup at the moment -- Obama gets 49 percent to Santorum's 44, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney only sees 42 percent support to Obama 49 nationally.

“One of Mitt Romney’s strongest arguments has always been that he would be the toughest GOP opponent for Barack Obama,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling in a release. “It no longer looks like that’s necessarily the case.”

Santorum is viewed more favorably by Americans than Romney by about ten points. They are both under water on the metirc -- only 29 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Romney against 57 percent who see him in a negative light, versus a much closer 39 - 46 split for Santorum. That's pretty big improvement for Santorum, who saw a 30 - 51 split on favorability in January and wasn't even tested by PPP's in December national poll. Romney was at 35 - 53 in January and 35 -50 in December, when he lead Obama in PPP's national numbers.

The TPM Poll Average shows the President with a 6.9 percent lead on Romney currently.

Our average of the Obama--Santorum matchup shows the President with a 7.2 percent advantage at the moment.


There were more people than dogs at a 'Dogs Against Romney' protest outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on Tuesday. The protests, part of an ongoing ribbing of Mitt Romney for his once putting the family dog on the roof of his car, took place outside Madison Square Garden.

Picture from TPM's Jillian Rayfield.

Mitt Romney is driving again. Back in New Hampshire, Romney debuted a video that showed him driving across the state and talking about his deep connections to it. The formula is back in Michigan, where the Detroit News reports Romney is set to go up on air with a TV ad featuring the candidate driving around the Motor City and talking about his deep familial ties to the state where he was born and raised and polls now show him losing to Rick Santorum.

In an interview with Buzzfeed's Ben Smith an unnamed Romney adviser outlines a plan to hit the "blank slate" Rick Santorum on two levels: first for having no executive experience; second for an attachment to earmarks during his time in DC. 

The pro-Romney Restore Our Future Super PAC already has web ads widely circulating with the earmarks attack. Romney has in several speeches noted that he is the last of the remaining GOP contenders who has managed businesses outside of Washington. 

The adviser said the team was getting over its fears that voters would react poorly to negative attacks. The final line of Smith's article is this:

"The expectation is that Santorum, just given his personality, is going to whine like crazy about this," the advisor laughed.


The show where former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) went to rebuild his reputation is apparently beneath the dignity of Herman Cain. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Cain has turned down the chance to appear on ABC's Dancing With The Stars:

Cain nixed the idea. “He can’t dance in an eight-count. He can only dance in a nine-count,” said Lisa Reichert, Cain’s executive assistant.

Nine-count. Get it? 9-9-9.

Other failed candidates have declined to appear on the show. Christine O'Donnell was reportedly asked in 2010, but didn't appear either. 

Senate Democrats are rallying around the contraception issue. Several Senate Democrats are holding a press conference at noon Tuesday to discuss the "sweeping attack on women's health care," notably Senator Roy Blunt's amendment which would allow any employer not to offer contraception coverage. Senators Murray, Boxer, Lautenberg, Gillibrand, and Blumenthal will be there. 

In addition, the DSCC sent out an email Tuesday morning asking recipients to sign a "One Million Strong for Women" petition -- individual Senators have also pushed the petition over the last few days. "I can hardly believe this: Republican Senators are pushing legislation that will allow any employer to deny women coverage for birth control! Yes, you read that right. Birth control," the email from chairwoman Patty Murray begins. It seems Senate Democrats feel this is a fight they want to take on.