Ron Paul had a bounce on a New Hampshire Zogby poll coming out of Iowa but in two other polls has reverted to his earlier second place margin.. he has to hold off a Santorum surge to stay in second. Gingrich is rumored to have a non-agression pact with Santorum with whom he's friends, and apparently doesn't like Mitt (McCain had that moment with Mitt four years ago) but has actually made substantive policy arguments against him. At some point, Gingrich or Santorum will concede and probably endorse the other, and in SC, Mitt's lead is contingent on the vote splitting between the two.
Ron Paul is putting up a negative against Santorum in South Carolina as well as a pro-soldier (Called "He Served," perhaps attempting to strike contrast with Romney, who tho supporting the Vietnam war was permitted to focus on his Mormon mission in a Paris mansion trying to convert the staff chef and housekeeper) and an anti-choice ad. The negative isn't as good as the Gingrich negative, because it starts out gloating about attacking Gingrich which just makes the voice-over guy seem like he complains about everyone. It then hits Santorum on voting against the National Right to Work law, as SC is Right to Work. Before people start to think of Santorum as a champion of labor, someone paraphrased an early Iowa appearance thus-ly: "On Right to Work – He doesn’t support a national right to work law. He thinks states can handle that. He said he would take on the unions, but he is focusing on federal marriage amendment. He noted was the only conservative senator elected in a heavy union state. That he was focused on the life issue, No one in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania has taken on the life issue. He said not only was his votes in the Senate prolife and pro-marriage, he said he led on those issues. He felt that in order to represent his constituents well he needed to be neutral on labor. If he were President if Congress sent him a National Right to Work bill to sign he would sign it." Now this is not on camera, but according to this account, he starts out saying he's against National Right to Work, but then said he'd sign the bill as President, and that "he focused on the life issue." This is very true: Santorum's reelection bid lost by 17.4 points or 700,000 votes, the largest margin of defeat for a GOP incumbent since Abraham Lincoln joined the party, and the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator since 1980, because the folks in the Commonwealth wanted a Senator that did more than make strident arguments on behalf of foetuses. His Pennsylvania advisers no doubt told him not to vote for Right to Work, and the Whip may have told him they don't have the votes for passage so don't risk your seat.
TARP was an issue where both party's leaders agreed it would pass and then, since every Congressman was getting calls against it 20-1, traded off which party's members could vote against it to preserve their incumbency in close districts. Santorum wasn't in Congress, so when he decided he wanted to run for President he started talking up his opposition even though he didn't feel the need to raise his voice in advance of the vote. Perry also tried to talk up his opposition but got busted, having co-signed a letter in its support the day of the vote.
Without question, TARP had something to do with Santorum's performance in Iowa and will help him against Romney and Gingrich hereafter, an effect that I thought in my preliminary analysis here would have benefited Huckabee. Huckabee is a better candidate because even if he may be out of his league in a national election, Santorum isn't only out of his league he's the guy you move away from in the nosebleeds. Despite The New York Times' hopes they can prop up a new demagogue to incite the hoi polloi to scapegoat Islam for another decade, columnists across the country that have maintained some semblage of self-respect are taking aim, and Santorum has the ability to offend almost everyone in the most ignorant manner possible. Like I just heard his response to environmental concerns: “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now.” His candidacy will put the evangelical base to a test of how loyal they will be to someone who is being jeered everywhere he goes, much more so than Huckabee would have been, and as with Glenn Beck the time comes when it isn't cool for Caucasians to quote him at the water cooler any more.
On other labor issues, Santorum voted against NAFTA but for CAFTA, and had a close working relationship with WalMart (like the Clintons) that prompted him to support shipping jobs to China and a lower minimum wage. In 2011, he was asked about his "no" vote on NAFTA, which is a softball for a talking head with an IQ higher than a guinea-hen since the public now overwhelmingly opposes it, and what he came up with was "I didn't think Mexico was a trustworthy trading partner." Yes, work your mistrust of Mexicans in there, too.
Update: I have a nagging feeling that with Santorum's decision to campaign in New Hampshire rather than go straight to SC, culture has finally produced the mirror image of The Sex Pistols' concert tour of the American South.
Update 1/7: I don't watch the debates but read through a few liveblogs: with Romney's lead, it was sort of like four guys fighting over a cab while Romney gets into his limo. Paul didn't focus his attacks on Romney and generally hasn't done so - I believe his chicken hawk remarks were directed solely at Gingrich this time. Paul's attacks on Santorum seemed to be effective and defended his second place standing, and he may be thinking that Santorum and Gingrich are legitimate menaces to the country so his days of negativity are justified. Strategically, he seems to be eyeing a two way race with Romney after Paul has used the race to redefine conservativism in his image as much as he can, taking advantage of the weak field to become the anti-Romney choice. When asked about his racist newsletters, he gave a quick rehash of his response (which seems to me to be less than forthcoming) then pivoted into saying the Drug War is racist, and I can't remember any other candidate save for maybe Nader saying that. That's a nice way to call everyone's bluff: "oh, are you concerned about racism? Here's what you can do." "Oh no, we want to lock up more black kids for crack but call you a racist." The most important part, I think, is planting the chicken hawk meme on Romney and Gingrich for SC. Many SCers won't agree with Paul's military budget cuts but he's not going to change his position and no one is emphasizing that issue. He has ground to make up down there but is employing a sound strategy. As you have noticed I like it when tactics are formed around regional strategies, serving good causes (tho many of Paul's positions are not so), and making sure the bad guys go back to K Street where they belong. Santorum called Paul a liar when Paul brought up the hospital chain that paid him $400K, which will hurt Santorum more, and someone made a chart saying Paul is the most truthful of that bunch:
Update 1/8: I'm leaving the above up, but heretofore I'm not commenting on debates until I read a transcript, because all the live blogs I read said that Ron Paul was attacking Santorum and Gingrich, when both criticisms were prompted unavoidably by the questions. Stephonoupolos introduced the Santorum criticisms and then asked follow-ups, and then McElveen asked about the chicken hawk comment. These are, of course, charges that Paul has made on his own, and I don't have a major objection to those questions though the public would be better served with questions on policy.
Stephanopoulos' questioning about the newsletters didn't focus on the racist content but about credibility: "the speaker said that you’ve had a history of inaccurate statements" "a number of comments that were perceived as racist, as inaccurate" "you don’t necessarily stand by them." The chart above on credibility was compiled by an non-partisan journalist. By focusing on credibility rather than the racist content, which is the reason why people are talking about the newsletters in the first place, Stephanopoulos sidesteps having to ask Santorum and Gingrich about statements that both have made in the past week about African-Americans on welfare, when government records show that most welfare recipients are white.
Update 1/8, ten minutes later: Listen to me: "the reason why people are talking about the newsletters in the first place." Corporate journalists who talk about the newsletters and not about Santorum and Gingrich's comments do so because Paul is anti-war. Many people who write about the newsletters have done so with good intentions, but my inclination not to read into Stephanopoulos' intentions makes me repeat the same garbage. Paul is being punished for being anti-war. McElveen's lecturing Paul that "foreign policy is something that a lot of people think is your Achilles’ heel," all the hypothetical questions and false assumptions of the ABC debates from the last two presidential cycles speak unquestionably to their pro-war bias.
Update 1/8: If you didn't see Stephanpoulos' and Charles Gibson's April 2008 questioning of Obama and Hillary Clinton you missed the worst questions in the history of political debates, which included the introduction of the Bill Ayres association, Rev. Wright questions from both moderators, a question about Obama not wearing a flag pin on his lapel, and questions about Iran's nuclear program which were based on evidence that they should have known was incorrect. Seymour Hersh's recent New Yorker column cited the 2007 NIE that was made available to members of Congress: "In mid-February, [Lieutenant General James] Clapper’s office provided the House and Senate intelligence committees with an update to the N.I.E. on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. The previous assessment, issued in 2007, created consternation and anger inside the Bush Administration and in Congress by concluding, “with high confidence,” that Iran had halted a nascent nuclear-weapons program in 2003. That estimate added, “We do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”
In April 2008, Stephanoupolos asked: "Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat on Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack against the United States?" Despite the fact that a National Intelligence Estimate shared with Congress said the exact opposite, the claim is made without any degree of uncertainty.
Hersh then mentions "bitter infighting within the Obama Administration and the intelligence community's  N.I.E. update... centered on the Defense Intelligence Agency’s astonishing assessment that Iran’s earlier nuclear-weapons research had been targeted at its old regional enemy, Iraq, and not at Israel, the United States, or Western Europe. One retired senior intelligence official told me that the D.I.A. analysts had determined that Iran “does not have an ongoing weapons program, and all of the available intelligence shows that the program, when it did exist, was aimed at Iraq. The Iranians thought Iraq was developing a bomb.” The Iranian nuclear-weapons program evidently came to an end following the American-led invasion of Iraq, in early 2003, and the futile hunt for the Iraqi W.M.D. arsenal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Iran, like Libya, halted its nuclear program in 2003 because it feared military action."
Sawyer introduced the same topic last night this way: "And Governor Huntsman, you have already said for us that -- that the Iranians have made the decision to go nuclear. You think they want a nuclear weapon. Tell us why you would be better as commander-in-chief than the other candidates on this stage?"
Jennifer Epstein's article in Politico (the networks don't mention Hersh's columns) attempted to discredit Hersh based on an anonymous source in the Obama administration, and then wrote "Hersh has faced criticism for his heavy reliance on anonymous sources," despite the fact that the New Yorker article is full of named sources. Hersh referred to Obama officials that were strongly against disclosing the NIE, and Epstein cited the unnamed administration source's only counterargument, a new IAEA report, which Hersh spoke to: "Well, the word "evidence" was not in what the IAEA said. What the IAEA said is something it’s been saying repeatedly, even under ElBaradei. And I must say, the new director general, Mr. Amano, is, I think, more willing to please us than ElBaradei was, just in terms of speculating more. There was nothing new in that report. They’ve been saying repeatedly that they have concerns about certain information they have. They don’t describe it as evidence.
"The new trigger is a very complicated device that was used by us maybe 30 years ago to trigger a hydrogen — a fusion weapon, and it went nowhere. And it’s a, as I say, extremely complicated device that there’s no evidence that anybody in their right mind would want to use that kind of a trigger. It would involve creating a different kind of reactor. The technical problems with that kind of a complicated device are enormous. And anyway, are you really going to be — are you going to make a trigger before you know what kind of gun you have?
"I mean, it’s just — the word "evidence" was nowhere in the report. It’s been going on a long time."
Later in the ABC debate, McElveen asked: "I want to give Congressman Paul a chance to weigh in here, because foreign policy is something that a lot of people think is your Achilles’ heel when it comes to getting elected. You have said that you wouldn’t have authorized the raid to get Osama bin Laden. You think that a nuclear Iran is really none of our business. How do you reconcile that, when part of your job as president would be to..." Paul replied "Well, I think -- I think that’s a misquote. I don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. I voted to go after bin Laden, so that, you know, takes care of that." A transcript of the context of the interview with Simon Conway where the bin Laden comment is made appears to be nowhere online:
Q: Are you asking us to believe that a President Ron Paul could have ordered a kill of bin Laden by entering another sovereign nation?
Paul: I think things would be done somewhat differently. I would suggest that the way they got Khalid Mohammed, ... probably the ring leader on 9/11, we went and cooperated with Pakistan, they arrested him actually and turned him over to us, and he's been in prison, and in a matter of fact the same thing happened with the people who were involved with the bombing of 1993. They were all captured, brought and tried before a civilian court, and they've all been punished, so no, what's wrong with that? Why can't we work with the government?
Q: I just want to be clear, a President Ron Paul would not have ordered the kill on bin Laden.
Paul: I don't think it was necessary, no. It was absolutely not necessary, and I think respect for the rule of law and international law... What if he had been in a hotel in London? If we wanted to keep it secret.. would we have sent the helicopters into London? Because they were afraid the information would get out? No you don't want to do that.
Q: I think you've been very clear, sir, you've been very clear, I definitely don't want to put words in your mouth, but you're telling me that a President Ron Paul would not have ordered the Ron Paul kill to take place as it took place in Pakistan.
Paul: Not the way it took place. And you know he was unarmed and all these other arguments...