Between the Lines By Mark Halperin

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Johnny Hanson / AP

Sarah Palin speaks to a crowd of about 1,000 Ted Cruz supporters, Friday, July 27, 2012 in The Woodlands, Texas

Mitt Romney's gaffes in England and Israel are unlikely to sway many swing voters, but political elites of all stripes were stunned by the mind-boggling unforced errors ... Romney's brain failed to remind his mouth that precision matters when you're speaking abroad, and he violated a second rule: a presidential candidate should never assume the role of political analyst or sociologist ... The Democrats' move to endorse same-sex marriage in their national party platform at the convention in Charlotte, N.C., is the logical culmination of overwhelming support for equality among staunch party allies, dramatic shifts in public opinion in recent years and President Obama's May public backing ... Both parties, now sharply divided on the subject, will draw some strength from the issue ... Democrats will continue to raise big contributions from gay-rights advocates, while the GOP will use targeted messaging through e-mails, flyers and Web ads to try to win over rural and conservative voters who dislike the development ... An upset victory by Ted Cruz over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the GOP Senate primary produced a passel of other winners and losers ... The victors: Sarah Palin, who endorsed Cruz; the free-market group Club for Growth, which helped Cruz with TV ads; Republican diversity, with another young Hispanic to promote; and most of all, the Twitter-driven Tea Party wing of the GOP, which zapped and slapped the superconservative Dewhurst as too Establishment to stomach ... The losers: Governor Rick Perry, who backed his deputy; Dewhurst's personal bank account, drained by more than $20 million in a failed cause; and Republicans who think their party risks extinction by sacrificing any pretense of compromise in the name of ideological purity.

Q+A

Virgil Goode

Mitt Romney's biggest problem in the key swing state of Virginia may not be Barack Obama but a former Congressman by the name of Virgil Goode. The Democrat turned Independent turned Republican is running for President on the Constitution Party ticket--and is pulling nearly 9% in a recent poll of voters in his home state. If he gets on the Virginia ballot, Goode could pull enough voters away from Romney to single-handedly tip the state to Obama. TIME caught up with Goode recently in Farmville, Va.

How many states will have you on the ballot come November?

We're registered in 17 now and aim to be on the ballot in 40.

What is your campaign platform, in 15 seconds?

One: balance the budget now, not later. Two: get Americans jobs by ending illegal immigration and making legal immigration harder. Lastly: Impose term limits.

You are running as a conservative. In swing states like Virginia, isn't a vote for Goode effectively a vote for Obama?

No. I'm taking votes away from Obama as well as Romney by returning to America's constitutional principles.

Has anyone from the Romney team tried to dissuade you from running?

No.

Aren't you a very long shot?

This is an opportunity for Americans to elect someone who is not backed by multimillion dollars like Republicans and Democrats. Maybe a day or two before the election, the American people will wake up and say, We've had enough.

INDEX

$3.3 million

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