And they’re off!

The horse race for the Republican presidential nomination is officially under way with the Iowa caucuses. Who will pull up lame, and who will win it down the home stretch?

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Republican hopeful Mitt Romney

Watching the press coverage of the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucus was like watching a horse race: Announcers breathlessly telling viewers the latest results; charts and graphics that looked more like the screens of a sports-book in Las Vegas than political coverage.

In reality, Iowa chooses only about 1 percent of the total delegates to the national conventions. So focusing so much attention on this process is more about the hoopla than the impact.

What Iowa does do is weed out the also-rans and focus attention of a few frontrunners. And unlike a horse race, the winners in Iowa are less important than the losers.

Already Michelle Bachmann has dropped from the field and I expect John Huntsman to soon do the same. Texas Gov. Rick Perry probably should have dropped out, but he insists on plugging on despite his dismal showing in Iowa.

That leaves four contenders for the Republican nomination in the field — and none of them are even remotely LGBT friendly. In fact, Rick Santorum’s strong finish in Iowa will almost guarantee a tougher line of anti-LGBT rhetoric from the remaining candidates. Each one will be trying to out-conservative the other and the “family values” canard will rank high in their strategy.

Santorum, pushing his socially conservative views, managed to bubble up through other candidates like Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry and strike a note with evangelical voters. According to some polls it is because of his “strong moral character,” code for being anti-LGBT and anti-choice. But the truth is, those two issues are not enough to carry him to the White House. And I suspect the GOP knows that.

A lot of Santorum’s success was due to his very effective ground campaign in Iowa. He spent a lot of time in the state and focused on his key constituency — and that falls outside the mainstream GOP profile.

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Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul surprised everyone with his third place finish in Iowa. Personally, I hope he decides to run on a third party ticket. He might split so many votes away from the Republicans that President Obama will have a clear path to re-election.

And then there is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The biggest problem for the GOP is that Romney is just so, well, Mitt Romney. It seems that everyone wants someone with more charisma and momentum than Mitt, but they just can’t figure out who that might be.

For now, it looks like Romney will be strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina. His organization is well funded and has a great infrastructure in the remaining states, whereas Santorum will have to scramble to keep up.

I suspect Romney’s biggest challenge will be Newt Gingrich, the man who came in fourth in Iowa. While he most likely doesn’t have the staying power to win the nomination, Gingrich does have a grudge — and that can go a long way.

The Romney campaign and Ron Paul heaped negative ads on former House Speaker Gingrich, and it really showed at the caucuses. Now the question is whether Newt and his super-PAC money will fire back with equal vehemence.

Of course, we all know the Super-PACs do not coordinate with the campaigns (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), so that remains a mystery.

So, what does all this mean for LGBT Americans? Well in my opinion, it’s probably a good thing.

As the GOP candidates try to “out-socially-conservative” each other, their real feelings about LGBT rights will become clear. There are no friends among this group of candidates, and considering how much LGBT Americans have gained in the past few years, I seriously doubt much of our votes or money will go to anyone as far to the right as this field of contenders looks.

As this horse race comes down to the wire in November, the real question is: Can the Obama campaign do enough to remind LGBT citizens why they should support his re-election? Will President Obama’s opinions finally evolve to the point where he can actively support issues like marriage equality? Will LGBT voters be willing to risk losing the gains of the past four years, like the repeal of DADT?
Personally, I think the smart money will bet on President Obama in the home stretch.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Equality Texas slams Perry

Dennis Coleman

As we noted below, it sounds as though Rick Perry is staying in the Republican presidential race, at least until the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. But before Perry could announce his intentions, Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT advocacy group in his home state, issued a statement rejoicing in the governor’s poor showing in Iowa and declaring that Perry “will not be the next president of the United States.” Here’s the full text:

Statement from Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman on Governor Rick Perry’s Performance in the Iowa Caucus

The good news is that Texas Governor Rick Perry will not be the next president of the United States. Governor Perry’s homophobic pandering did not resonate with Iowa voters just as it does not resonate in Texas.

As Governor Perry returns to Texas to reflect on his campaign, it is our hope at Equality Texas that he will also reflect on what Texans really want for their state.

Over 75% of Texas voters support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation (1), and over 63% of Texas voters support legal recognition for same-gender couples (2).

It is time our Governor recognize that homophobia and transphobia have no place in our great state and he should join in the effort to eradicate them from all public policy.

—  John Wright

Karger remains in the race but focused on NH

Fred Karger

The Iowa caucus is tonight and one name that has been mentioned in very few news reports is openly gay candidate Fred Karger.

Karger is mostly sitting out Iowa but has spent more time campaigning in New Hampshire than any other candidate. Two recent polls have him tied with Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum in that state.

The New Hampshire primary takes place Tuesday, Jan. 10.

While his bid was always considered a long shot, he is one of just eight Republicans still left in the race. Herman Cain suspended his campaign. Buddy Roemer is seeking the nomination of Americans Elect. One candidate who is not anti-gay, Gary Johnson, announced last week that he will seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, rather than the Republican Party. Thaddeus McCotter, another candidate who has been excluded from all of the debates, also left the race.

So while Karger is a long shot, he also remains in the narrowing field along with Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, John Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Santorum.

Karger has been excluded from the debates to keep him from embarrassing the other Republicans over their homophobia.

To keep him from participating in the debates, rules were changed to refuse him a place on stage with other candidates. Those rules included raising the percentage candidates had to poll to qualify and increasing the number of polls in which a candidate had to score that higher percentage. Then polls where he scored the required 2 percent were discounted.

Still, Karger continues in the Republican race, but don’t look for him until next Tuesday.

While other candidates who don’t finish in the top three may be considered big losers in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Karger will be considered a big winner if he finishes with more than 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire or with more votes than any of the other better-known candidates.

—  David Taffet

Has the Republican Party gone nuts?

As Iowa Caucus nears, taking stock of laughingstock that is GOP field

GOP-candidates

Associated Press

Months ago, in a column I wrote about the Dallas Public Library and some books, I mentioned recommendations for mysteries by gay writer Mark Richard Zubro. I love Zubro and zipped right through all of his books. I bought the only volume the library didn’t own through its “Be A Book Hero” program, so I got first dibs when it came into the system.

Zubro’s books comprise two series, one built around gay Chicago police detective Paul Turner, the other featuring high school teacher Tom Mason and Tom’s partner, professional baseball star Scott Carpenter. In the latter series, when confronted with some monumental idiocy, Tom is prone to say, “Are you nuts?” — which is also the name of one book in the series.

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Phyllis Guest Taking Notes

Well, as I take in as much as I can bear of the Republican presidential primary campaign, I keep asking my screens and my radios that question.

Here’s an example.

One morning on the local NPR station, a network political reporter was asking Republican debate attendees which candidate they favored. One couple, finishing each other’s sentences in their enthusiasm, said: “Newt Gingrich. He’s so honest. And honorable.”

This, about a man who asked his first wife for a divorce while she was in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery; who betrayed his second wife through an affair with the woman who is now wife three; and who was fined $300,000 in 1997-98 for violations of House ethics rules. Not to mention that Newt Gingrich was working to impeach Bill Clinton for seducing Monica

Lewinsky at the very same time he was boffing a Capitol Hill aide of his own.

Here’s another example.

Rick Perry, we have recently learned, not only takes his $150,000 salary as governor while he travels around Iowa in a big, ugly tour bus labeled “Faith, Jobs and Freedom,” but he collects $92,000 in government retirement pay at the same time. He lives in a taxpayer-funded spread that costs, if the news reports have it right, $10,000 per month. He hardly governs at all, and as proof that much governance is unnecessary, he proposes to make the U.S. Congress a part-time organization.

This is a man who also benefits from state-funded security protection, doles out jobs to friends with lots of ready money, and subscribes to a Christian faith so profound that he is one lethal injection away from having killed half the persons put to death in Texas since the ultimate penalty was reinstated in 1977.

And a third example.

Mitt Romney, we all know, grew up rich and got even richer. He sells himself on the basis of his business acumen. But he had a huge head start since his father was George Romney, the CEO of American Motors Corp., Michigan’s governor and a national Republican political player. He’s a very bright guy, no doubt; he has degrees from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. Before entering politics, he ran a management consulting firm and its spinoff, Bain Capital, a very successful private equity firm.

But there is something profoundly weird about the man. When he sought the Republican nomination four years ago, I bought Mormonism for Dummies because I knew almost nothing about that religion. I must say I found it not so much impenetrable as incredible, but don’t take my word for it, read about it yourselves. What is weird, though, is not his religion or even the fact that he says, “Corporations are people, my friend.” It’s his whole persona. He seems to have all the right pieces in all the right places, but with insufficient glue holding them together.

Or how about Michele Bachmann? Shall we talk about her assaults on the LGBT community and apparent astonishment when the daughter of a lesbian confronted her? Perhaps we should consider her husband’s “conversion” therapy.

Or what about Ron Paul? For one thing, the man is even older than I am, and given his adherence to libertarian principles, I cannot imagine how he would manage to get anything done in our contentious, contemptuous capital.

Or why not revisit Herman Cain? I could hardly get past the fact that he thought God had called him to run for president so as to pay attention to his sexual exploits. I did manage to notice that his much-vaunted stint as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza was a full 15 years ago.

Finally, consider Rick Santorum, who apparently eschews both self control and birth control and so has seven children, and Jon Huntsman, who apparently lacks the gene for the rabid right-wing statements the party base demands.

So, Republican candidates and Republican voters, I put it to you: Are you nuts?

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Still no single clear leader in Republican presidential contest

Romney often under fire from conservatives for changing positions on issues including LGBT rights

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Mitt Romney

STEVEN R. HURST  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

WASHINGTON — Republicans are growing significantly less satisfied with the field of candidates to challenge President Barack Obama next year, and they are about evenly split in their support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Despite Obama’s low approval ratings and deep vulnerability over his handling of the U.S. economy, the poll of all people surveyed, including Democrats and independents, found Romney and the president statistically even. Obama leads Gingrich 51 percent to 42 percent.

With three weeks remaining before the Iowa caucus, the first contest where voters actually declare their choice of a candidate, Romney’s argument that his Washington outsider status sets him apart has not blocked Gingrich’s stunning climb to the top of the field.

A similar AP-GfK poll of Republicans in October found Gingrich well behind the leading candidates, with 7 percent. Romney had 30 percent.

The new poll conducted earlier this month finds Gingrich preferred by 33 percent of Republicans and Romney by 27 percent. However, that finding falls just within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Gingrich,Newt

Newt Gingrich

All other candidates are in single digits.

The poll also found a considerable drop in satisfaction with the overall Republican field. In October, 66 percent of Republican adults were satisfied, and 29 percent unsatisfied. Now, 56 percent are satisfied and 40 percent unsatisfied.

Voter preferences in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina do not necessarily match those in national polls. The Iowa caucus is Jan. 3. The New Hampshire primary is one week later.

At a time when polls show plummeting public approval of government, the 68-year-old Gingrich has a long history in the capital as a member of Congress, speaker of the House of Representatives and, since 1998, a lucrative, Washington-based consultant, speaker and author.

Except for four years as Massachusetts governor, Romney, 64, has spent his career in business and management. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1994 and for president in 2008.

Both men have earned millions of dollars over the years.  Romney has built his campaign largely on the argument that his business background makes him better suited for the presidency than anyone else, especially on creating jobs in an economy where unemployment remains at 8.6 percent. But in a recent debate in Iowa, Romney at first struggled to name issues on which he and Gingrich disagree.

After citing Gingrich’s support for a mining colony on the moon and changes to child labor laws, Romney said: “The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works.”

Among Republicans who say they prefer a non-Washington candidate, Romney has a modest edge over Gingrich. Gingrich has a larger advantage among those who say they prefer Washington experience in a nominee.

Romney’s better showing in a head-to-head matchup with Obama may give him some ammunition with Republicans whose top priority is ousting the president. Otherwise, Republicans appear to see Romney and Gingrich as similar in many important ways. The two men polled about evenly on the questions of who would be a strong leader, has the right experience, understands ordinary people’s problems and can bring needed change. Romney holds a clear edge on who is most likable. Gingrich leads on the question of who “has firm policy positions.” Romney is often asked about his changed positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control and immigration. Gingrich, however, also has shifted views on key issues.

AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas