Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Kranish Speaks on The Real Romney

Interview with Michael Kranish

Today at the Miller Center at 11:00AM, author Michael Kranish will speak about his book The Real Romney. A Boston Globe investigative reporter, Kranish was able to get the the "real" backstory on the former Massachusetts governor.  From the amazon description:

The book explores Romney’s personal life, his bond with his wife and how they handled her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, and his difficult years as a Mormon missionary in France, where a fatal car crash had a profound effect on his path. It also illuminates Romney’s privileged upbringing in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; his rejection of the 1960s protest culture; and his close but complicated relationship with his father.

I had the chance to sit down with Kranish to chat about what he learned of Romney through the process of writing the book. Check out the clip to hear what he had to say.

To hear much more, be sure to tune in to Kranish's forum at 11AM. You can watch live at and submit your own questions for Kranish via Facebook and on Twitter using hashtag #MCForum.


Santorum Wins Louisiana Primary

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum at the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Rick Santorum's definitive win in the Louisiana primary on Saturday shows that the race to become the republican candidate for president is not yet over. Santorum won 49% of the vote; Mitt Romney came in second with 27%; Newt Gingrich was third with 16%; and Ron Paul received 6%.

Though his win in the conservative Southern state was Santorum's best showing date, it does little to change the overall delegate count, in which he trails Romney by a signficant margin. It does give Santorum some momentum going into the next contests in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which he must win to keep Romney from taking the nomination.

Missile Defense Systems

Excerpt of 1984 Presidential Debate

On this day in 1983, President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program to protect the U.S. from enemy nuclear missiles.

Yesterday NPR featured a story from the Associated Press about Russia’s concern over a missile defense plan that NATO has proposed, designed to deflect potential nuclear attacks from Iran. Russia’s president argued that plan broke existing nuclear parity between the United States and Russia.

NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but has rejected Moscow's proposal to run it jointly. Without a NATO-Russia cooperation deal, the Kremlin has sought guarantees from the U.S. that any future missile defense is not aimed at Russia and threatened to retaliate if no such deal is negotiated.

"I will say honestly that no matter how warm relations between me and my colleagues are, no matter how advanced relations between Russia and NATO member states are, we will have to take that into account and, under certain circumstances, respond," [President Dmitry] Medvedev said.

The idea of a missile defense system, and Russia's role in U.S. National Security, was a hotly debated topic in the 1984 presidential election between President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Party nominee, Walter Mondale. In this excerpt from a presidential debate in 1984, President Reagan advocates sharing the technology of the so-called Star Wars plan with the Soviet Union, while Mondale strongly disagrees.

Click to watch the whole debate. 

Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap

Endorsement of McCain-Feingold

John McCain and Russ Feingold join Tim Roemer, Jim Greenwood, and Ellen Tauscher to endorse the McCain-Feingold legislation.

Today's guest post is from Ray La Raja, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Univesity of Massachusetts Amherst.

Emily Charnock provides a very insightful post that reveals strong similarities between Super PACs and the various independently organized committees throughout the twentieth century.  In other words, we have been here before.

Political reformers concerned about the role of money in politics should rightfully be concerned about how wealth translates into political power.  Reformers, however, typically assume there is "too much money" when, in fact, it could easily be argued that there is too little, particularly if we consider the costs of informing and mobilizing voters.

Friday Feature: President Reagan Not Riding a Tiger

President Reagan and Vice President Bush ride horses on a dirt road near Camp David.

Photo courtesy About Camp David.

Ready for some weekend relaxation? President Reagan and Vice President Bush are shown here riding horses at Camp David around 1981.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Romney Wins Decisive Victory in Illinois

Mitt Romney at his headquarters in Boston in early March

Mitt Romney at the Romney headquarters in Boston, MA, in early March. (Sarah Mongeau-Birkett/BU News Service)

Mitt Romney won his third major contest in a row yesterday, boosting the argument that he is the rightful heir to the republican candidacy for president. Romney captured 47 percent of the vote, while Rick Santorum trailed with 35 percent, Ron Paul with 9 percent, and Newt Gingrich with 8 percent.
The win in Illinois is the latest in a string of victories for Romney in big industrial Midwestern and Northern states with large urban centers, and marks him as the likely favorite to accumulate enough convention delegates to secure the nomination. 

Romney Wins Puerto Rico, Delegates Elected in Missouri

In the weekend contests, Mitt Romney won handily in Puerto Rico's presidential primary, while no official winner was declared in the Missouri Caucus. 

Romney took an overwhelming 83 percent of the vote in Puerto Rico, while Rick Santorum claimed 8 percent. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul actively campaigned in the U.S. territory.

In Missouri, local caucuses elected delegates to advance to congressional district and state conventions, where the delegates will be bound to presidential candidates. No straw poll was conducted. However, Rick Santorum won Missouri's non-binding "beauty contest" primary on February 7, and it is a safe to assume that he will fare well at the state convention in April.



Friday Feature: President Lyndon B. Johnson Not Riding a Tiger

Lyndon Johnson rides a horse in front of smiling spectators, including a red-and-white clad marching band.

Photo courtesy of UCLA, Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

President Lyndon B. Johnson rides a horse during a 1964 campaign event. 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

“Shadow” Parties and the Origins of Super PACs

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, by CMBJ (Washington Post), February 2010

“Super PACs” are the enfants terrible of the campaign finance world today. These groups, sporting only slogans for names and raising unlimited contributions to support federal candidates, have been decried as a new and dangerous precedent in election campaigns.

In fact, fifteen years ago this week, the Senate authorized an investigation into fundraising activities in the 1996 elections, which brought similar problems to the fore.

SuperPACs are less creations of the 2010 Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions than they are new incarnations of old problems.

Looking Back on Voting Rights

Excerpt of President Johnson’s Speech on Voting Rights, March 15, 1965

In recent months, many state legislatures have tried to implement voter identification laws, in some cases requiring photo identification for people coming to vote. However, many of these efforts have been thwarted. Last week, the Wisconsin State Journal reported:

"A Dane County judge on Tuesday barred the enforcement of the state photo ID law at polling places during the general election on April 3, calling it an 'extremely broad and largely needless' impairment of the right to vote."

To supporters of these efforts, they are designed to prevent voter fraud. To some observers, however, these efforts harken back to the 1960s, when civil rights activists and everyday citizens protested voting restrictions, especially on African Americans.

Following Win in Kansas, Santorum Takes March 13 Southern Primaries

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum at a rally in New Hampshire.  Photo by Patrick Gensel.

In what is shaping up to be a two man race with no definitive end in sight, Rick Santorum won the GOP primaries in Mississippi and Alabama yesterday, while Mitt Romney claimed victories in the caucuses of Hawaii and American Samoa. Santorum won Alabama with 35% of the vote and Mississippi with 33%. Romney’s wins in the smaller contests of Hawaii and American Samoa were more definitive. He garnered 45% of the vote in Hawaii, and picked up all nine delegates in American Samoa.

Newt Gingrich barely edged out Romney to claim second place in the Deep South contests, giving his campaign a slight boost as the candidates hit the midway point in the presidential primary race.

Last weekend, Romney captured all 18 delegates at caucuses in two other U.S. possessions in the Pacific – Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Ron Paul took the U.S. Virgin Islands. The weekend’s main attraction, the Kansas Caucus, was won handily by Santorum (51%), who was trailed distantly by Romney (20%).

Like Father, Like Son?

George W. Romney campaign poster, 1968

George W. Romney campaign poster, 1968

Today we welcome a guest post from Nicole Hemmerpostdoctoral fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and former Miller Center National Fellow. A version of this piece originally appeared in the Spectator Australia magazine and on the UK Spectator's Coffee House blog.

After a career as a business executive, a handsome Mormon becomes the Republican governor of a Democratic state, then runs for President. He gets a reputation for flip-flopping and, as a moderate, has an uneasy relationship with the party's conservative base.

It's a pretty specific biography, yet it describes to a tee two men: Mitt Romney, one of the leading contenders for the GOP nomination, and his father George, who sought the same prize in 1968.

U.S. Territories and the Republican Contest

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Photo by Jason P. Heym

On Saturday, three of the five U.S. territories held their caucuses for the Republican nomination. Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands each began their caucus process on March 10, and will be followed by American Samoa on March 13, and Puerto Rico on March 18. Each of these territories will award 9 delegates, except for Puerto Rico which will award 23. And given the length and contested nature of the Republican nomination thus far, these relatively obscure contests are not being taken for granted.

Friday Feature: President Carter Not Riding a Tiger

President carter on a toboggan in a snowy field.

President Carter riding a toboggan at Camp David, 1978.

As spring approaches, here's one last salute to winter: President Carter riding a toboggan. 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

The Importance of The Swing Vote

Linda Killian, The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents

Journalist Linda Killian visited the Miller Center on February 20 to talk about her latest book, The Swing Vote.

In this clip she articulates the motivation of voters who identify as "independent" and points to Ron Paul's success as a "symptom of [voter] frustration." She notes that there are only about fifty competitive "swing" districts in the United States, and examines their potential effects on the national election. 

Watch the full forum here.