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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

DMR Poll: Romney Leading, Santorum Gaining

The Des Moines Register reports:
Mitt Romney tops the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in the closing days before the Iowa caucuses, but Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are poised within striking distance.

The poll, conducted Tuesday through Friday, shows support at 24 percent for Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts; 22 percent for Paul, a Texas congressman; and 15 percent for the surging Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

But the four-day results don’t reflect just how quickly momentum is shifting in a race that has remained highly fluid for months. If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

“Momentum’s name is Rick Santorum,” said the Register’s pollster, J. Ann Selzer.
Another sign of the race’s volatility: 41 percent of likely caucusgoers say they could still be persuaded to change their minds.

Gingrich Talks About His Mother

Jason Clayworth writes at The Des Moines Register:
Newt Gingrich’s tearful moments Friday in Des Moines as he talked about his mentally ill mother are the type of memorable occurrences that can make or break a presidential candidate, an Iowa political scientist who has researched campaign tears said.
The most critical element for Gingrich: Will voters perceive his emotion as sincere?
If yes, he just might see a bump at one of the most pivotal points in any presidential campaign: the cusp of the Iowa caucuses.
“If people find it to be sincere, then I think it can be a real boost, particularly for men and particularly because he was talking about his mother and how that changed him as a person,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.

Bystrom has written articles and made presentations examining gender roles and emotions on the campaign trial. One incident she discusses happened four years ago when Hillary Clinton briefly got misty-eyed while answering a question in New Hampshire about juggling career and family.
The media and some members of the public were not kind to Clinton, questioning whether her tears were a campaign ploy, Bystrom recalled.
Headlines like one in the New York Times, “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?” circulated like wildfire.
In the end, any bump Clinton got came because people were angered by how the former first lady had been treated, Bystrom said.
More here.

Outside Spending for Gingrich

Jeremy W. Peters reports at The New York Times:
His cash-short campaign unable to buy much advertising of its own, Newt Gingrich’s well-financed allies are coming to his rescue in Iowa, securing large chunks of airtime across the state.
Newsmax, the conservative magazine and Web site, will show a 30-minute special on Mr. Gingrich throughout the weekend in all of Iowa’s major television markets. The program is hosted by Michael Reagan, son of the former president, and makes the case that Mr. Gingrich is the strongest candidate to carry forward Ronald Reagan’s legacy.
A second major player in conservative circles, Liberty University, the evangelical institution founded by Jerry Falwell, is also giving Mr. Gingrich some help in Iowa, running 30-second commercials in which Mr. Gingrich extols the virtues of a Liberty education.
Neither video explicitly endorses Mr. Gingrich as the Republican nominee, but their pro-Gingrich messages raise a host of election law questions and highlight how loopholes in the law allow politically motivated groups to influence the outcome of elections. Liberty, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, is prohibited by law from participating in campaign activities on behalf of any candidate. Newsmax, a corporate entity, is also limited in its political activities but is now much freer to get involved since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case.
Liberty is the second organization in recent weeks to advertise on Mr. Gingrich’s behalf in Iowa. Citizens United, the nonprofit that produces conservative films, has been showing old commercials featuring Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, and his wife, Callista, promoting a video on Ronald Reagan.

Friday, December 30, 2011

IN IA, 45% of Ads Are Anti-Newt

At CNN, Kevin Liptak reports:
Anyone seeking an explanation of GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's recent drop in Iowa polls may find answers in a new analysis of Iowa political advertising.
The survey, conducted by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, finds 45% of all political ads in Iowa have been attack spots against Gingrich. Only 6% were supportive of the former House speaker.
 Gingrich's opponents were quick to pile on after he became the front-runner in December. A super PAC supportive of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney carried out a sustained assault on Gingrich's record, saying the former House speaker "has more baggage than the airlines."
Other candidates, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, produced ads that slammed Gingrich for being a Washington insider who was paid to influence votes after he left Congress. Gingrich has denied those charges.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good Gallup Numbers for Romney, So-So for Obama

Gallup reports:
Mitt Romney has edged ahead of Newt Gingrich, 27% to 23%, for the national lead among Republican voters for the first time since Gallup Daily tracking of the Republican race began on Dec. 1. Ron Paul remains in deep third place with 11% of the GOP vote, followed by Rick Perry at 8%.
Former Speaker of the House Gingrich began December with a dominant lead over the rest of the field with 37% support, compared with Romney's 22% and single-digit percentages for all other candidates. Gingrich's support began to fall after the first week of December, landing at his current 23% for the five days of interviewing conducted Dec. 22-23 and Dec. 26-28.
The collapse in Gingrich's lead has been accompanied by slight gains for other candidates, as well as a small increase in the percentage of Republicans who don't have a specific choice for their party's nomination.
After a brief bounce coinciding with the holidays, some good economic figures, and the GOP's payroll-tax blunder, President Obama's approval rating is back underwater: 50 percent disapproval, 41 percent approval.

Americans perceive Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul as closest to themselves ideologically, and Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama as furthest away.

A USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology -- and the ideology of the eight major presidential candidates -- on a 5-point scale with 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Americans' mean score on this scale is 3.3, meaning the average American is slightly to the right of center ideologically. Huntsman's score matches that at 3.3, but that mean rating excludes the 45% of Americans who did not have an opinion of Huntsman. Of the better known candidates, Romney's and Paul's 3.5 scores are closest to the average American's ideology.
Obama's mean ideology rating ends up furthest away from Americans' own mean score because Republicans place him far to the left, with an average of 1.7, compared with 2.5 among independents and 2.8 among Democrats. In fact, Obama is the only candidate whose ideology is perceived very differently by party groups; Republicans, Democrats, and independents generally perceive each of the Republican candidates' views similarly.

Defections from Bachmann

Supporters of Michele Bachmann are deserting her in a very public and very embarrassing way.

In a stunning, late-breaking Iowa caucus turnabout, the state chairman for presidential candidate Michele Bachmann ditched her campaign Wednesday night to endorse Ron Paul, a rival in the race for the GOP nomination.

The defection of Kent Sorenson, an Iowa state senator, came just six days before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, and caught the Bachmann campaign by surprise. Sorenson had chaired Bachmann’s caucus efforts here for months, and even attended a Bachmann event in Indianola on Wednesday afternoon just hours before appearing at a Paul rally in Des Moines to announce his endorsement.

“I believe we’re at a turning point in this campaign,” Sorenson said in his announcement at the Paul rally “… I thought it was my duty to come to his aid, just like he came to my aid during my Senate race, which was a very nasty race.”

Sorenson, an Indianola Republican, was elected to the state Senate in 2010 with support from Paul and his legion of Iowa backers. His announcement was greeted with sustained applause from a crowd of roughly 500.

From The Daily:
A political action committee which had planned to support Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign has very quietly defected to Mitt Romney — and it's spending big on his behalf.
Citizens for a Working America, the so-called Super PAC which aired TV ads against a Democratic congressional candidate last year, had indicated earlier this year that it was backing the Minnesota congresswoman in the GOP nominating contest. But the group instead made a $475,000 Iowa ad buy on Christmas Eve in support of Romney, according to Federal Election Commission data published today.
The so-called independent expenditure was listed as supporting Romney's candidacy, and an Iowa political operative who has seen the ad confirmed to The Daily that it's a 30-second positive spot about the former Massachusetts governor that doesn't mention any other candidate.

Rove's View

In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove offers some predictions:

  • Republicans will keep the U.S. House, albeit with their 25-seat majority slightly reduced. In the 10 presidential re-elections since 1936, the party in control of the White House has added House seats in seven contests and lost them in three. The average gain has been 12 seats. The largest pickup was 24 seats in 1944—but President Barack Obama is no FDR, despite what he said in his recent "60 Minutes" interview.
  • Republicans will take the U.S. Senate. Of the 23 Democratic seats up in 2012, there are at least five vulnerable incumbents (Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania): The GOP takes two or three of these. With the announcement on Tuesday that Nebraska's Ben Nelson will retire, there are now seven open Democratic seats (Connecticut, Hawaii, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virginia, Wisconsin): The GOP takes three or four. Even if Republicans lose one of the 10 seats they have up, they will have a net pickup of four to six seats, for a majority of 51 to 53. 
  •  Scandals surrounding the now-bankrupt Solyndra, Fannie and Freddie, MF Global and administration insider deals still to emerge will metastasize, demolishing the president's image as a political outsider. By the election, the impression will harden that Mr. Obama is a modern Chicago-style patronage politician, using taxpayer dollars to reward political allies (like unions) and contributors (like Obama fund-raiser and Solyndra investor George Kaiser).
  • To intimidate critics and provoke higher black turnout, Democrats will play the race card more than in any election since 1948. Witness Attorney General Eric Holder's recent charge that criticism of him and the president was "both due to the nature of our relationship and . . . the fact that we're both African-Americans." 

 He also speaks in an American Crossroads video released a couple of weeks ago:


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

American Crossroad: Responding to Labor

As previous posts have noted, the successful tactics of labor unions provided a model for American Crossroads.  In the Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes writes of Steven Law. who was a Bush deputy secretary of labor.  Barnes lists three AC tactics:

  • Funding the right;
  • Stretching the battlefield;
  • Expanding the issue environment.

Now, as president and CEO of the independent pro-Republican group American Crossroads (AC), Mr. Law is preparing to fund seven or eight conservative organizations and create a broad front of support for Republican candidates in 2012. As a trial run, AC gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, $4 million to Americans for Tax Reform, and $1.5 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee in last year's midterm election campaign. Republicans won a massive victory, and Mr. Law decided it was money well spent.
"Funding the right," as AC calls it, isn't the only political tactic Republicans are swiping from Democrats for use next year. Another is focusing on early voting in the weeks before Election Day, a tactic that helped Democrats capture both houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. AC tested an early-voting operation in a special House election in Nevada in September. Republican Mark Amodei won a majority of early voters and was elected handily.
The organization has also embraced two other tactics that have been applied more effectively by Democrats in recent elections than by Republicans. One is "stretching the battlefield," as a Republican consultant describes it, to make the Republican presidential candidate competitive in normally Democratic states—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, for example. The other would expand the issue environment by raising subjects, such as the Solyndra solar-subsidy scandal, that voters may have heard of but failed to understand.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Former Aide Criticizes Ron Paul

At Right Wing News, former Ron Paul staffer Eric Dondero writes that Paul is neither racist nor anti-Semitic, but....
He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.
It’s his foreign policy that’s the problem; not so much some stupid and whacky things on race and gays he may have said or written in the past.
Ron Paul is most assuredly an isolationist. He denies this charge vociferously. But I can tell you straight out, I had countless arguments/discussions with him over his personal views. For example, he strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII. He expressed to me countless times, that “saving the Jews,” was absolutely none of our business. When pressed, he often times brings up conspiracy theories like FDR knew about the attacks of Pearl Harbor weeks before hand, or that WWII was just “blowback,” for Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy errors, and such.
There is much more information I could give you on the sheer lunacy of his foreign policy views. Let me just concentrate on one in specific. And I will state this with absolute certainty:
Ron Paul was opposed to the War in Afghanistan, and to any military reaction to the attacks of 9/11.
He did not want to vote for the resolution. He immediately stated to us staffers, me in particular, that Bush/Cheney were going to use the attacks as a precursor for “invading” Iraq. He engaged in conspiracy theories including perhaps the attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time. He expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions, or openly asserting pro-military statements in support of the Bush administration.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ron Paul and the John Birch Society, 2010

Ron Paul's relationship to the John Birch Society is not some long-abandoned fling. David Frum, among others, notes connections of a more recent and seamy variety.  Also see this speech to a JBS luncheon on August 20, 2010:


Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

In 2008, William Buckley recalled the 1962 National Review article that effectively excommunicated the JBS from the conservative movement:
Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society. 
“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.
“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”
“I like that,” Goldwater said.
What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”
“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

In the next issue of my magazine, National Review, I published a 5,000-word excoriation of Welch:
How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense? That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America. . . . The underlying problem is whether conservatives can continue to acquiesce quietly in a rendition of the causes of the decline of the Republic and the entire Western world which is false, and, besides that, crucially different in practical emphasis from their own.

Mail Ballots in Florida

Adam C. Smith writes at The Tampa Bay Times:

More Florida Republicans — about 370,000 — already have requested absentee ballots for the Jan. 31 primary than the number of Republicans who voted in the 2008 Iowa and New Hampshire contests combined.
The ever-growing volume of votes cast before the primary in Florida is one of the factors that make the state a very different challenge from the earliest elections, in Iowa on Jan. 3, New Hampshire on Jan. 10 and South Carolina on Jan. 21.
Candidates not only have to grapple with the sheer size and diversity of Florida, but they must prepare for a contest where half the votes or more are in well before the primary.
"Under the old model in Florida, a campaign would work toward a 72-hour program going into Election Day,'' said Republican strategist Brett Doster, who is leading Mitt Romney's Florida effort.
Now, ballots come in right after the start of the new year, followed by a lull, then more absentees, then early voting, then the primary.
In theory that means a successful statewide campaign in Florida requires a formidable campaign apparatus to chase absentee ballots to bank as many votes as possible. But there's a little secret that most professional campaign operatives in Florida prefer not to acknowledge: It's not at all clear the ground game matters much in a presidential election.
Florida's GOP primary results will be driven much more by national momentum — the results in Iowa and New Hampshire and what's being broadcast on Fox News — than by campaign get-out-the-vote efforts.

Ron Paul Videos

Ron Paul has denied knowing much about his old newsletter, which contained inflammatory language about race.  But Andrew Kaczynski has posted video of a 1995 C-SPAN interview in which Paul discussed the newsletter  (at 1:40):

 He has additional video at Buzzfeed:


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pearl Harbor in Virginia?

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Salant writes about the failure of Newt Gingrich and several other candidates to make the Virginia primary ballot:
“It speaks volumes to me about the particular organizational skills of the candidates,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “It’s hard for me to understand how they could miss this opportunity.”
Gingrich’s campaign director, Michael Krull, issued a statement calling Virginia’s ballot requirement “a failed system” and said the former House speaker would launch a write- in campaign. Virginia law, however, doesn’t allow for write-ins in primary elections.
“Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates,” Krull said.
Krull said last night on Gingrich’s Facebook page that the campaign was “exploring alternative methods to compete” in the primary, and likened the failure to make the ballot to December 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Gingrich earlier failed to make the Missouri ballot, though he claimed that he didn't bother because it was a beauty contest.  These oversights -- along with the campaign's apparent failure to check whether Virginia even allows write-ins -- suggest serious organizational problems.

And the campaign's analogy to Pearl Harbor will revive concerns about Gingrich's rhetorical excess.  Military analogies are often useful in politics, but the Gingrich camp is likening a campaign setback to the death of more than 2,000 Americans. In any event, the comparison does not hold up.  Whereas Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, the Virginia petition requirement was a matter of public record long available to all the campaigns.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingrich, Perry Fail to Make VA Ballot

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia's presidential primary, the Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday.
The state GOP announced at 2:40 a.m. that Gingrich, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, had failed to amass the required 10,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify for the March 6 contest.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, certified earlier Friday by the state GOP, will be the only candidates on the ballot.
The stunning result means Gingrich — who lives in McLean, led among Virginia's GOP primary voters in the latest poll and is vying with Romney for national front-runner status — will not get a chance to compete with Romney in the state's primary.
Gingrich's list of Iowa supporters -- famously full of errors and inaccuracies -- foreshadowed his failure in Virginia. Sweating the details has never been his strength.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 76

On 20/20, Barbara Walters asks the president to identify the most overrated virtue. 
Security. People naturally resist change in our personal lives. ... Malia, actually, was the one who brought it up because she says, 'You know, one of the things that happens is sometimes transitions are hard, and I really enjoy my life, and I like how things are going.' And I said, 'Get in the habit of being able to embrace change, and what's new. Because you don't want to live your life where, you are held back because you've gotten too comfortable, and you are afraid of what might be out there around the corner.'" 
If a Republican president had given that answer, Democrats would have claimed it as proof that he or she opposed Social Security.

Friday, December 23, 2011

GOP Delegate Selection Process

John McCormack writes at The Weekly Standard:
Just in time for Christmas, the RNC has a gift for political junkies: a comprehensive document* that explains how each state (and territory) will award its delegates through the Republican presidential primaries and caucuses. 
It's more than a little complicated, but it's important because winning delegates--not states, not the popular vote--is what ultimately matters. The GOP nominee will be the person who gets the votes of 1,144 delegates (that's 50% +1 of the total number of delegates) at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next August.
There's no real uniformity to delegate allocation. New Hampshire, for example, will award its 12 delegates proportionally based on the statewide popular vote. Florida, on the other hand, will award all 50 of its delegates to highest vote-getter in the state. Still other states have a hybrid system--awarding some delegates based on the congressional district vote (either proportionally or "winner-take-all") and other delegates based on the statewide vote (either proportionally or "winner-take-all"). Some states have popular-vote thresholds that candidates must clear in order to be awarded any delegates. Like I said, it's all a little confusing. 
*If you want even more details, check out The Green Papers.
See here for more on the significance of Florida's winner-take-all primary

American Crossroads and the Payroll Tax Fiasco

After weeks of bickering and doubt, Congress delivered a last-minute holiday tax cut extension to 160 million workers Friday along with further unemployment benefits for millions laid off in the nation's fierce recession and weak economic recovery. It was a convincing victory for President Barack Obama, a humbling retreat for House Republicans.
Back-to-back voice vote approvals of the measure by the Senate and House came in mere seconds with no debate, just days after House Republican leaders had insisted that more negotiations and a full-year bill were the only way to prevent an immediate tax increase on Jan. 1.
Steven Law of American Crossroads is urging the GOP to stay on offense:
The Obama economic strategy is a political strategy.  Rather than govern and fix problems, this White House is going to throw up chaff, manufacture bright shiny objects, affix blame and create villains.  It is vitally important that Republicans stay focused on the big-picture concerns voters have about our economy and this President’s gross mismanagement of it –and not get ensnared in Team Obama’s political gamesmanship.
Our message is simple: Obama’s big-spending, big-government ideas have failed.  Obama has wasted money we don’t have, and is wasting time we don’t have to fix these problems.  Obama has a reelection strategy, not a recovery strategy.  And right now, what our country needs most is jobs, not more Washington-style politics.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

American Crossroads and Presidential Greatness

American Crossroads goes after a recent claim (on "60 Minutes" but missing from the White House website) by President Obama:


Changing Rules of the Game

At National Journal, Reid Wilson notes several ways in which the 2012 contest is changing presidential campaigns:
  • "Debates are now the first primary," said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster sitting out the 2012 race (Bolger's firm, Public Opinion Strategies, is Mitt Romney's lead pollster). 
  • "The echo chamber has been exponentially heightened and strengthened by social media," said Rich Killion, a New Hampshire Republican strategist who worked for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "The water cooler is not at work and you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to share your opinions; it's at your fingertips and you can do it in your pajamas in the middle of night or in the back of a cab racing to the airport.
  • Meanwhile, the 2012 contest has been marked by the emergence of candidates who have used presidential campaigns as a way to sell books and make a profit. Donald Trump and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin never went beyond flirting with bids in the media, though cable news networks hungry for ratings covered their every move.
  •  Other states have long coveted the attention (not to mention the tens of millions of dollars in economic activity) an early slot on the primary calendar guarantees. Florida's refusal to move its primary in compliance with Republican National Committee rules earlier this year forced Iowa and New Hampshire to move up; Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, and other states have put similar pressure on the nominating calendar, despite warnings of RNC-levied penalties.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

California Redistricting Games

In 2010, a "citizens' commission" redistricted California.  It was supposed to be "nonpartisan," but as Pro Publica reports, Democrats gamed it anyway.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.
When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.
In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.
California’s Democratic representatives got much of what they wanted from the 2010 redistricting cycle, especially in the northern part of the state. “Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC,” said one enthusiastic memo written as the process was winding down. “This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”
Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party’s voter registrations have grown only marginally. 
"Very little of this is due to demographic shifts,” said Professor Doug Johnson at the Rose Institute in Los Angeles. Republican areas actually had higher growth than Democratic ones. “By the numbers, Republicans should have held at least the same number of seats, but they lost.” 

Romney Says He Can't Stop Anti-Gingrich Ads

Byron York writes at The Washington Examiner:
Mitt Romney claims campaign finance laws forbid him from saying anything to stop a pro-Romney super PAC called Restore Our Future from airing attack ads targeting Newt Gingrich. The PAC has just unveiled a new hit on Gingrich in Iowa, following up on a devastating ad played repeatedly across the state. The ads are widely crediting will cutting into Gingrich's support in Iowa.
Is that true? Would it be illegal for Romney to say, in an interview like that on MSNBC, or in a speech, or in some other forum, "I call on all entities putting out ads on my behalf to stop the negative attacks." Would that be illegal? A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission says the answer is no. 
"Nothing prevents [Romney] from simply saying he doesn't want the ads run or from criticizing the super PAC for doing it," says Trevor Potter, now a lawyer and advocate of campaign finance reform in Washington.
 On Wednesday morning, Romney had a different position. "There are limits as to what you can tell a PAC," he told Fox. "Obviously, there are these coordination rules, you're not allowed to coordinate, but I'm sure I could go out and say, 'Hey please don't do anything negative.' But you know, this is politics, and if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama's Hell's Kitchen turns up the heat. Look, this is a time when we have to be able to stand up, defend ourselves. I've done the hard work of raising money for ads, and the speaker came after me pretty aggressively in his attacks. We're going to respond, and we've got an ad campaign in my campaign that's positive, but this super PAC that's been organized, it has to do what it does on an un-coordinated basis."
 UPDATE: The Romney campaign, which Tuesday night declined comment on the coordination question, sent this regarding Gov. Romney's statement Wednesday morning: 
Mitt Romney and his campaign are prohibited from issuing any requests or suggestions to a Super PAC regarding communications by the Super PAC. Coordination is crime punishable with criminal sanctions under current election law. As Gov. Romney said, asking, 'Hey, please don't do anything negative,’ in and of itself isn't 'absolutely' illegal but, given the law, our attorneys have advised that the candidate and campaign not issue any condemnations or praise of any Super PAC communications by Restore Our Future at this time. If Mitt Romney made any public comment about a Restore Our Future ad, it could be considered a request or suggestion about that particular ad. And, once a campaign comments about one Super PAC ad, silence about the next Super PAC ad could also be perceived as a request or suggestion. His comments are consistent with this position.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Romney and Gingrich Have an Authenticity Problem

Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write at The Washington Post:
A bare majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as willing to say what they actually believe, according to a new Washington Post-ABC-News poll.

Call it the authenticity gap.
Just 52 percent of Republicans in the survey say they can rely on Gingrich either a “great deal”(21 percent) or a “good amount” (31 percent) to “say what he really believes.” The numbers are even less encouraging for Romney, with just 16 percent saying they feel they can rely on him “a great deal” to voice his actual opinions and 35 percent saying they trust him a “good amount” to speak his mind.
Those numbers compare unfavorably to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is the only candidate aside from Romney and Gingrich who clocks double digits in the national ballot test. Fully two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they have either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of faith that they can rely on Paul to say what he believes.The trust issue comes up repeatedly in the data. While six in 10 say they would vote for either Gingrich or Romney, just 35 percent say that either Romney (22 percent) or Gingrich (13 percent) is the “most honest and trustworthy candidate” in the field.
The data provides one — though not the only — explanation for why the frontrunners, particularly Romney, have been unable to close the deal with voters as of yet.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingrich: Surge or Bubble?

Gallup reports:
After enjoying 14- to 15-percentage-point leads over Mitt Romney in early December, Newt Gingrich is now statistically tied with Romney in national Republican preferences for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination: 26% for Gingrich vs. 24% for Romney. This follows a steady decline in support for Gingrich in the past 10 days.
The latest findings are from Dec. 13-18 Gallup Daily tracking, based on 1,177 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote. Gallup initiated Daily tracking of the Republican presidential trial heat on Dec. 1, and reports the results in continuous five-day rolling averages.
CNN reports:
Newt Gingrich's lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination has evaporated, according to a new national survey.
A CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday indicates that 28% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say the former House speaker is their choice for their party's nominee, with an equal amount supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In CNN's previous national poll, conducted last month, Gingrich held a 24%-20% margin over Romney. And Gingrich's lead over the rest of the field of candidates was even larger in other surveys conducted at the beginning of this month.
Full results (pdf)
Public Policy Polling reports:
Newt Gingrich's campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has nowtaken the lead in Iowa. He's at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.
Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row. His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%. And there's been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich's image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has 'strong principles,' while 43% think he does not.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Debate Ratings

As a previous post noted, the audience for debates has been greater than it was four years ago. Politico reports:

RATINGS FOR THE 13 GOP DEBATES, per Nielsen data:1) ABC, Dec. 10 -- Des Moines: 7,631,000 total viewers (2,101,000 in 25-54 demographic)
2) Fox, Dec. 15 -- Sioux City, Iowa: 6,713,000 (1,865,000)
3) Fox-Google, Sept. 22 – Orlando: 6,107,000 (1,701,000)
4) CNN, Oct. 18 – Western debate in Vegas: 5,495,000 (1,660,000)
5) CBS, Nov. 12 – Spartanburg, S.C., national security: 5,480,000 (1,520,000)
6) NBC-POLITICO, on MSNBC, Sept 7 – Reagan Library: 5,411,000 (1,728,000)
7) Fox, Aug. 11 – Ames, Iowa, two nights before Straw Poll: 5,053,000 (1,430,000)
8) CNN, Sept. 12 – Tea Party debate in Tampa: 3,613,000 (1,132,000)
9) CNN, Nov. 22 – national security, DAR Hall in D.C.: 3,602,000 (1,041,000)
10) CNBC, Nov. 9 – “Your Money, Your Vote,” Rochester, Mich.: 3,332,000 (993,000)
11) Fox, May 5 – Greenville S.C. (first debate): 3,258,000 (854,000)
12) CNN, June 13 – Manchester, N.H.: 3,162,000 (918,000)
13) Bloomberg-WP, on Oct. 11 in Hanover, N.H., wasn’t carried on a rated station.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Waves of the GOP Campaign

At The New York Times, Katherine Q. Seelye reports:
An analysis by The New York Times of more than 50 polls between June and last week shows a stark pattern of how voter sentiment shifted in defined blocks, first for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, then for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, then to Herman Cain, the former business executive. Support for Mr. Romney and for Representative Ron Paul of Texas remained fairly static.
The Times charts the candates' rise and fall here.

Some Good Numbers for Democrats

The drop in the unemployment rate from 9 percent in October to 8.6 percent in November raises the legitimate question of whether the picture is brightening for the economy and the incumbent. Some analysts noted the similarity between November’s 8.6 percent unemployment rate and the 8.5 percent jobless rate in November 1983, a year before President Reagan won reelection in a 49-state landslide. Unemployment had been a bit worse for Reagan earlier in his first term than it was for Obama, 10.8 percent for the former compared with 10.1 percent for the latter. Reagan got to enjoy a strong “V” shaped recovery where unemployment fell to 7.2 percent by Election Day. But no economists anticipate such a swift recovery now.
But maybe the job recovery will be swifter than they expectCNN reports:
Fewer Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week. So few in fact, that initial jobless claims were at their lowest level since May 2008.
About 366,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ended Dec. 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was a decrease of 19,000 from the prior week, and far better than the bigger influx of claims that economists were expecting.

And discontent with Congress could hurt GOP House incumbents. The Pew Research Center reports:
Public discontent with Congress has reached record levels, and the implications for incumbents in next year's elections could be stark, according to the the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11. Two-in-three voters say most members of Congress should be voted out of office in 2012 - the highest on record. And the number who say their own member should be replaced matches the all-time high recorded in 2010, when fully 58 members of Congress lost reelection bids - the most in any election since 1948.
The Republican Party is taking more of the blame than the Democrats for a do-nothing Congress. A record-high 50% say that the current Congress has accomplished less than other recent Congresses, and by nearly two-to-one (40% to 23%) more blame Republican leaders than Democratic leaders for this. By wide margins, the GOP is seen as the party that is more extreme in its positions, less willing to work with the other side to get things done, and less honest and ethical in the way it governs. And for the first time in over two years, the Democratic Party has gained the edge as the party better able to manage the federal government.

Friday, December 16, 2011

FEC & Crossroads GPS

Jonathan Salant writes at Bloomberg:

The Federal Election Commission said it won’t consider requiring organizations that air political advertisements to disclose their donors.
On a 3-3 party-line vote, the FEC decided today not to proceed on a request for such a rule by Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat.
Van Hollen filed his petition in April, more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which removed restrictions on political ads funded by corporations and unions. Senate Republicans twice in 2010 blocked legislation that would require public disclosure of contributors.
The FEC did agree to begin changing regulations that conflict with the court decision. Chairwoman Cynthia Bauerly and fellow Democratic commissioner Steven Walther called the action “the bare minimum necessary” in a statement. Democrat Ellen Weintraub voted with Bauerly and Walther to consider a disclosure rule.
 Of the five Republican-leaning groups that spent the most money, four kept their donors hidden, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which former Republican White House aide Karl Rove helped create.
Crossroads GPS and its affiliated American Crossroads, which does disclose donors, said they planned to raise more than $240 million for the 2012 elections. Democrats have countered with their own political groups, including some that won’t disclose donors.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Against Gingrich"

In a remarkable editorial, National Review issues an anti-endorsement of Gingrich:
His character flaws — his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas — made him a poor Speaker of the House. Again and again he combined incendiary rhetoric with irresolute action, bringing Republicans all the political costs of a hardline position without actually taking one. Again and again he put his own interests above those of the causes he championed in public.

He says, and his defenders say, that time, reflection, and religious conversion have conquered his dark side. If he is the nominee, a campaign that should be about whether the country will continue on the path to social democracy would inevitably become to a large extent a referendum on Gingrich instead. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Each week we see the same traits that weakened Republicans from 1995 through 1998: I’d vote for Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform; Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform is radical right-wing social engineering; I apologize for saying that, and no one should quote what I said because I was wrong; actually, what I said was right all along but nobody understood me. I helped defeat Communism; anyone who made money in the ’80s and ’90s owes me; I’m like Reagan and Thatcher. Local community boards should decide what to do with illegal immigrants. Freddie Mac paid me all that money to tell them how stupid they were. Enough. Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself. He should be an adviser to the Republican party, but not again its head.

GOP Insiders and Newt

Newt Gingrich's surge to the top of the Republican presidential field is attracting donations and volunteers to his minimalist campaign. But Gingrich still lacks a staple of successful bids for national office: a big-name endorsement.
No prominent Republican leaders have jumped aboard Gingrich's growing but still-small bandwagon.

[W]hen it comes to major Republican office holders, "I think people are waiting and seeing to see if (Gingrich) is going to falter like so many of these other supposed front-runners" such as businessman Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry, said Republican strategist Keith Appell.
"So people are keeping their powder dry a little bit."
In The Washington Post, Paul Kane quotes former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA):
“If this becomes a race between competing visions of America, and not about personalities, I can’t think of a better spokesman than Newt Gingrich getting up there and being able to articulate a competing vision,” said Davis, a former congressman from Virginia who was first elected in 1994 as part of the Gingrich revolution. But Davis warned that Gingrich’s past ethics issues and his extramarital affairs provide Democrats with ammunition against GOP candidates.
“If this becomes about all the other baggage and so on, he’s a loser,” said Davis, who twice chaired the National Republican Campaign Committee, the House GOP’s campaign operation. “The question is: Can you get there or can you not get past [the baggage]? I think that the jury is still out on that.”
Also at The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner has a collection of not-so-fond reflections on Newt by those who served with him. At McClatchy, William Douglas quotes former Rep. Susan Molinari and Senator Lindsay Graham:
"Even though Newt liked to talk about team-building and quality management, the theory he really subscribed to was management by chaos," Molinari wrote. "He loved chaos, and even when he didn't create it knowingly and intentionally, he managed to leave it in his wake after every meeting, after every press conference, after every phone call."
Graham, now a senator from South Carolina, likens Gingrich's tenure as speaker to a "Tale of Two Newts."
"We got things done in a bipartisan fashion that we could only dream of today: welfare reform, balanced budget agreement with President Clinton," said Graham, who personally likes Gingrich. "Then there was the Newt that got us all frustrated and upset, and that's the guy who was erratic. If you could bring out the best of Newt Gingrich and encapsulate that, you could have a transformative president."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad 1998 Memories of Newt

Why are so few Republican lawmakers supporting their former Speaker? At Human Events, Neil McCabe quotes a former House GOP leadership staffer who recalls how Gingrich botched the 1998 midterm. Even though Congress had not reached a budget agreement, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott let senators go home for campaigning, and Gingrich did not object. Meanwhile, four House Republicans running for the Senate were suddenly at a disadvantage.
“The result was that while Newt kept those four congressmen in town with the rest of the House to vote on stupid resolutions and to name post offices, the Democrats they were running against were back in their states campaigning.”

The four were: Rep. John E. Ensign (R.-Nev.) who lost to Sen. Harry M. Reid (D.-Nev.) by 428 votes; Rep. Robert D. Inglis Sr., (R.-S.C.) who lost to Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D.-S.C.) whose 47 percent held Hollings to his second lowest percentage in his six Senate elections; Rep. Mark W. Neumann (R.-Wis.), whose 48.40 percent was bested by the 50.55 percent Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D.-Wis.) garnered; and Rep. Linda Smith (R.-Wash.), who lost to Sen. Patricia L. Murray (D.-Wash.).
And Gingrich's style hurt on his own side of the Hill:
On the House side, Gingrich placed his home state ally Rep. John E. Linder (R.-Ga.) as the leader of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, he said. “He also sent over a tribe of his gurus from his office to work at the NRCC.”

This move gave Gingrich complete control, he said.

“Today, you can look at any race and there are five different bloggers, who can tell you exactly what is happening up-to-minute,” he said.

“Back then, you had to rely on what the leadership told you what was happening, so we lost five seats, there was complete shock—no one saw it coming at all.”

“What was even more galling to the members was the way Gingrich and Linder had everyone convinced we were headed for a 30-seat gain,” said the former staffer, who is not affiliated with a presidential campaign.

“It also didn’t help that the budget that passed was a disaster. It had no tax cut and Clinton got everything he wanted,” the former staffer said. “Limbaugh was killing us and calling the budget a sellout, so conservatives stayed home.”
The key to the budget disaster was Gingrich’s leadership style, he said.

“Because Lott was just going to go along with whatever, it came down to the White House and the House,” he said.

“Gingrich’s ego was so huge, he insisted on conducting the negotiations himself,” he said. “There would be four staffers from the White House on one side of the table and then Newt.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Obama...or Gingrich?

Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) attacks President Obama at The Hill. The criticism strongly resembles descriptions of Newt Gingrich's speakership.
After observing President Obama for the last three years, it has become obvious to me that the president might prefer to be a university professor rather than do the job he holds today. While he might not realize that he feels this way, the evidence is very clear to those who work with or watch him closely.

Let me be clear — I’m not trying to disparage professors. But anyone who wonders why the president is not crushing the weak Republican field only needs to examine how President Obama has behaved more like Professor Obama:

In the president’s first year in office, his administration suffered from what I call “idea disease.” Every week, and sometimes almost every day, the administration rolled out a new program for the country. There was no obvious prioritization and, after the rollout, very little effort to actually pass the latest idea/imperative/plan/edict.
Early in his administration, President/Professor Obama repeatedly referred to “teaching moments.” He would admonish staff, members of Congress and the public, in speeches and in private, about what they could learn from him. Rather than the ideological or corrupt “I’m above the law” attitudes of some past administrations, President Obama projected an arrogant “I’m right, you’re wrong” demeanor that alienated many potential allies.

Pew Measures the State of the GOP Race

New Pew survey:

It finds that 70% support Gingrich or say there is a chance they would vote
for him. Romney trails Gingrich for the nomination, but as many as 61% of likely
Republican primary voters either support Romney or say there is a chance they
could support him.

Just 18% of likely Republican primary voters say there is no chance
they could support Gingrich and only somewhat more (26%) say there is no chance
they could vote for Romney. More than four-in-ten likely Republican primary
voters have effectively ruled out voting for the other GOP candidates.

The survey finds that neither Gingrich nor Romney is drawing much in the
way of strong support. Just 29% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters who
favor Gingrich for the nomination support him strongly; 69% support him “only
moderately.” Similarly, far fewer GOP voters support Romney strongly (33%) than
support him only moderately (66%). Support for both Gingrich and Romney
is softer than was support for the leading GOP candidates four years

Elizabeth Warren, Banks, and the Crossroads Groups

Crossroads GPS has gone after Elizabeth Warren on her ties to the financial services industry and Occupy Wall Street. Michael Beckel writes at The Open Secrets blog:
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies -- the conservative nonprofit advocacy group founded with assistance from GOP strategist Karl Rove -- wants you to believe that Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is too close to Big Finance. However, last month, the group criticized her for being too close to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Warren has called Crossroads GPS' new ad “factually wrong and morally wrong.”

Who is funding these attacks? For its part, Crossroads GPS is not legally required to publicly disclose its donors, but its sister organization -- a super PAC known as American Crossroads -- is. And American Crossroads has significant ties to the finance sector and other wealthy business interests.

Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, called the pair of Crossroads GPS-produced ads some of the "least effective" ads he has seen.

"Rarely do you see such diametrically opposing attacks made by the same group within a short period of time," Sabato told OpenSecrets Blog. "Given her liberal ideology, a viewer could believe that Warren had some sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, but to make her somehow sympathetic to big bankers and Wall Street? That strains credulity."

For her part, Warren helped create the President Barack Obama's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- a new regulatory body that many finance sector interests spent heavily to oppose.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crossroads GPS v. Obama on Solyndra

A release from Crossroads GPS:

WASHINGTON – Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) today is releasing a new TV ad focused on President Obama and his involvement with Solyndra, the failed solar energy company that squandered at least $535 million of taxpayer money.

Entitled “Typical,” the ad will run on national cable for ten days in a buy totaling $500,000. It can be viewed here.

The new ad focuses on the fact that Solyndra’s executives were major campaign contributors to President Obama; that they were able to leverage their White House connections to help secure a taxpayer-guarantee on a $535 million loan; and that the company dramatically failed to create jobs and instead left taxpayers on the hook for its losses. Instead of Obama being an agent of change in Washington, he participates in the games and cronyism of typical Washington.

Additionally, Crossroads GPS released a memo, entitled “New Crossroads Ad Confronts President Obama’s Crony Keynesianism,” which lays out the strategy behind the ad.

Attacking Newt

An earlier post featured a tough Ron Paul web ad against Gingrich. And now, James Hohmann writes at Politico:
EXCLUSIVE – PAUL VIDEO BLISTERS GINGRICH FOR “SELLING ACCESS”: Ron Paul continues to intensify his attack on Newt Gingrich, releasing another two-minute web video this morning that seeks to define the former House Speaker as a corrupt Washington insider who got rich by “selling access.” The fast-paced video, which will be pushed hard on conservative web sites this week, includes a clip of Gingrich calling himself “an insider” and another in which he mind-bogglingly brags about getting paid $60,000-a-speech. The video comes on the heels of the Paul campaign’s decision to expand the buy size for their first, 60-second Gingrich takedown in Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's campaign just launched to highlight Newt's breaks with conservative orthodoxy: Watch the Paul video:

Hohmann continues [emphasis added]:
USA TODAY - "GINGRICH SLAMMED '96 RIVAL ON CHILD LABOR": "Before Newt Gingrich questioned the validity of child labor laws, he used them to attack an opponent," Jackie Kucinich writes in what is likely a rival campaign's quick-hit oppo dump. " a 1996 ad titled 'Cookie,' Gingrich slammed his then-congressional opponent, Michael Coles, former CEO of Great American Cookie Co., as an 'unscrupulous businessman' partly because of a 1993 violation of child labor laws and accused him of using children 'for hazardous labor,' according to a transcript of the ad in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."
Team Romney is also going after Gingrich's desciption of Palestinians as an "invented" people. Scott Conroy writes at RealClearPolitics:
In addressing Gingrich’s comments, Romney said that while he agreed with most of what his opponent had said, he took issue with Gingrich’s eagerness to throw “incendiary words into a place which is a boiling pot.”

In language that seemed to imply Gingrich is a loose cannon, Romney added, “I will exercise sobriety, care, stability and make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with rockets going in, with people dying, I don't do anything that would harm that process.”

In the spin room following the debate, Team Romney turned up the heat with some of the most eviscerating language that a campaign aide has leveled against a GOP foe in the primary fight thus far.

Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom called Gingrich’s remarks “tremendously destructive to a negotiated settlement” in the Middle East and said that he was “astounded that Newt Gingrich stood by his incendiary comments.”

“You heard Mitt Romney say, ‘I’m not a bomb-thrower.’ Newt Gingrich clearly is,” Fehrnstrom added. “He comes across as the Foghorn Leghorn of politics -- very loud, very brash, and very sure of himself, even when he’s wrong.”