A few quick thoughts on the passing scene.
1. The allegations that Arizona Republican congressional candidate Paul Babeau threatened to have a Mexican illegal immigrant boyfriend deported (he denies everything from the deportation threat to knowing that the fellow was in the country illegally but admits he is gay) is the scandal du jour. It would not be unprecedented for Arizona to elect an openly gay Republican congressman. Jim Kolbe came out in 1996 — or rather was outed by gay liberals who disapproved of his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act — was reelected five more times before deciding to retire in 2006.
But Kolbe was a moderate Republican. His district was subsequently represented by Democrat Gabby Giffords. Babeau is running as a conservative against an incumbent Republican trying to switch seats after redistricting. It’s a somewhat different political animal. The immigration angle also looms large: Babeau had established himself as a border security hawk and appeared in a campaign commercial with John McCain during the latter’s successful campaign against restrictionist primary challenger J.D. Hayworth.
2. I don’t expect the Babeau controversy to have a huge impact on Mitt Romney in Arizona (Babeau resigned from his informal role with the Romney campaign). But it could move some socially conservative primary voters in the state who have lingering misgivings about Romney and are still on the fence. Romney still leads in the state but Rick Santorum has been gaining.
3. At the other extreme, Santorum keeps getting ensnared in controversies over faith and politics. The latest concerns whether President Obama adheres to “phony theology” about the Earth. These tussles are partly a media creation — some of the statements being reported on now clearly predate his presidential campaign while others involve the kind of messaging to evangelicals and other social conservatives done by many Republican candidates — but Santorum does keep giving them ammunition. It is a pattern that bears watching.
4. The White House’s attempt to defend the president’s new budget in congressional testimony this week was mostly a disaster. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner didn’t do much better.
5. Pete Hoekstra’s hamfisted, raciallly charged Super Bowl ad sure didn’t help his poll numbers against incumbent Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. (The spot seems to have been taken down from YouTube, so I can’t link.) But there’s always ESPN.
6. Despite criticism that it will divert funds from Social Security, Congress easily passed and sent the president an extension of the payroll tax cut.