Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oppo on Perry Goes Wide, Deep, and Sometimes Nasty

At the Austin American-Statesman, Ken Morrow recounts a call from Perry communications director Ray Sullivan:

Sullivan called about Robert Morrow. Morrow is a problem for Perry. And any problem for Perry is a problem for Sullivan. Morrow, from his Austin home, has become a key purveyor of nasty, unsubstantiated allegations about Perry's personal life. You may be aware of Morrow's recent full-page Austin Chronicle ad trolling for bad stuff about Perry.

"Here is what we are learning about Rick Perry," Morrow wrote in a recent late-night email listing unsubstantiated stuff about Perry and concluding with "I think it is just a matter of time before a credible source" comes forward to substantiate the rumors.

Maybe. Maybe not. We've been down this road more than once with rumors about Perry. Lots of journalistic sweat and dollars have been spent on them. Reporting on such things is tricky. At this newspaper, we're not much interested in public officials' personal lives unless those personal lives affect public duties or offer evidence of rank hypocrisy. We are interested in discerning the truth, but unless it meets that criteria, we might choose not to write about it.

My American-Statesman colleague Mike Ward, one of the best diggers in our business, recently wound up at what he called a "nasty little townhouse" in North Austin to meet someone sources indicated might know something of potential note about Perry. Ward knocked on the door and identified himself. As Ward told me, "I kind of look like a cop." He kind of sounds like one, too. The conversation did not last too long.

"This guy basically said, ‘We don't want nothing, and you need to get the hell out of here.' He had a knife he was cleaning his fingernails with and he said, ‘I think you get it.' And I said, ‘I get it,' " said Ward, father of two cute kids.

Lots of opposition research sweat and dollars also have been spent chasing Perry rumors. To date, nada. But we're in a presidential campaign now. Things are different in a presidential campaign. And that's why Morrow is a problem for Perry.

"Morrow's (allegations) are more false rumors, with a different story line. The fact is that decades of intense media scrutiny, political opposition research and more than $100 million in attack ads have proven nothing other than Perry's solid and stable family, financial and political life," Sullivan told me in an email. "Unfortunately, the current political environment and exponentially larger number of media/information outlets allow crackpot conspiracy theorists like Mr. Morrow to run amok in cyberspace and in some cases traditional media outlets."

When Texas billionaire Harold Simmons wanted to build a radioactive waste dump, one data point that would loom large in the permitting process wasn’t required on the application: He is a major donor to Governor Rick Perry.

“Everybody was aware that this was an important item for the people that were seeking the license as well as for the governor’s office,” said Larry Soward, a Perry-appointed, Republican member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at the time of Simmons’s permit application.

Simmons, who has donated more than $1.2 million to Perry’s campaigns, was granted the permit over the objections of some TCEQ staffers concerned the site threatened the Ogallala Aquifer, a water source for much of the plains.

At least three commission employees resigned in protest and Soward voted against the permit. Meanwhile, a state employee who advanced the permit became a lobbyist for the company a month after it was approved.
...

“As Americans look past his swagger, they’ll see he represents more of the same lobbyist-run politics as usual that they despise,” said Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Washington-based Democratic opposition research group. Perry spokesman Mark Miner didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Daily Caller reports:

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been among the most vocal critics of President Obama’s health care reform initiative, and of Mitt Romney’s preceding health care program in Massachusetts. But in 1993, while serving as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Perry praised the efforts of then-first lady Hillary Clinton to reform health care, a precursor to Obama’s health care reform efforts.

In a letter to Clinton, who is now U.S. Secretary of State, Perry wrote: “I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable.”

“I would like to request that the task force give particular consideration to the needs of the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers, and other members of rural communities,” Perry continued, noting his administration’s focus on economic development for rural Texans. “Rural populations have a high proportion of uninsured people, rising health care costs, and often experience lack of services.”

...

Perry’s 1993 letter first emerged in 2005 when GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Texas gubernatorial campaign used it as ammunition against Perry. It has not been raised as an issue during the 2012 presidential campaign cycle.

Now it has.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Somebody's Doing Oppo on Rick Perry -- Continued

In general elections, candidates and parties are now more open about publicizing oppo. Things are a little different in presidential primaries, where candidates have to nod in the direction of party unity (and may need the support of their opponents later on). It might just be possible that the oppo shops of rival campaigns are feeding the press with material on Rick Perry.

In a speech to a group of county officials in June 1987, according to the Abilene Reporter-News, Mr. Perry said the state had only three choices to close its spending gap: cut spending, boost state sales taxes, or move toward a state income tax. He said he wasn’t advocating an income tax, but “we need to start talking about it…Someday this may be the only thing we’ve got left. We’re fast approaching that day,” he said, according the Abilene paper, which ran the story under the headline: “Perry: Let’s Think About Income Tax.” In the meantime, he favored hiking the state sales tax to cover the budget deficit.

He appeared to be even more positive about a new state tax seven months later in another Abilene Reporter-News story. The story quoted Mr. Perry talking to a group of insurance underwriters. He “told the group that the time had arrived when ‘forward looking, intelligent’ Texans should not be afraid to say ‘income tax,’” the story said.

From The San Antonio Express-News:

In the final week of Gov. Rick Perry's 2006 re-election campaign, his two biggest donors got out their checkbooks and into a gray area.

On the same day that Houston homebuilder Bob Perry received three phone calls from someone at the Republican Governors Association, he overnighted a $500,000 check to the group.
Two days later, the executive director of the RGA personally handed Perry a contribution for the same amount.

Records of the phone calls between Bob Perry, no relation to the governor, and the RGA were contained in a lawsuit filed by Rick Perry's unsuccessful Democratic challenger, Chris Bell.

While Texas law allows for unlimited contributions, lawyers on behalf of Bell believe the contributions were routed through the RGA because the Perry campaign had attacked Bell for accepting a $1 million contribution from the late Houston trial lawyer John O'Quinn.

From The New York Times:

Although his 2010 book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” describes his outrage that federal bureaucrats distributed more than $245 billion in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, the governor received some of that money. Mr. Perry, a former West Texas cotton farmer, received at least $83,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1987 and 1998, during the time he was in elected office, according to his tax returns.

At the Republican Leadership Conference in June, Mr. Perry said that while government plays an important role in helping a city recover from a disaster, “the real recovery” stems from hard-working individuals. Unfortunately, he added, Mr. Obama believed government was the answer to every need, a sign of the “arrogance and audacity” of the White House.

It's Still Early

At The Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn offers a useful note of caution about early polls:

A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken in late August 2007 — nearly this exact point in the previous election cycle — had former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani way out in front of his Republican rivals, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who eventually won the nomination, limping along in fourth place with 7 percent support.

Among Democrats in that same survey, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was pounding the eventual winner, Illinois Sen. Obama, 38 percent to 25 percent. In early September 2007, CNN/Opinion Research had Clinton up 48 percent to 23 percent, and McCain still lagging well behind Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

These polls weren't outliers. Giuliani and Clinton led in every major scientific survey from that time archived at the indispensable PollingReport.com. McCain didn't surge into the lead in any national poll until the second week of January 2008. Obama didn't pass Clinton until the first week of February.

Eight years ago at this point in the cycle, a pack of Democrats was running to challenge Republican President George W. Bush. A Fox poll had Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in the lead, as did surveys by CNN/USA Today/Gallup and Quinnipiac University. Newsweek had retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark in front, NBC News/Wall Street Journal concluded former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the narrow favorite of his party, and only Time/CNN found the eventual nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, in first place.

Gallup, however ,has noted that early Republican frontrunners do tend to go on to the nomination.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Team Perry

Michelle Cottle writes at The Daily Beast:
Among Perry’s key assets is a loyal, long-serving campaign team widely admired, and even feared, across the Lone Star State. Led by veteran New Hampshire operative Dave Carney, Team Perry is shrewd, flexible, ruthless, and—ironically, considering the gov’s fire-aim-ready rep—obsessed with hard data and the science of campaigning. (For details, check out Sasha Issenberg’s new book, Rick Perry and His Eggheads.)

“This is a team that does not go with gut instinct or seat of the pants,” stresses Mike Baselice, who has been Perry’s pollster for more than two decades. “It’s empirical-research driven.”

Carney in particular is “a guy driven by numbers and driven by data in a profession of people driven by instincts,” notes a Republican consultant with close ties to the governor. As a result, he says, the team “understands how to spend campaign resources and where to spend them.”

...

Of course, no amount of research will save you if your candidate is a disaster. But here again, Perry is not the half-cocked yahoo his critics assume. Oh, sure, the governor has a mouth on him and is prone to colorful gaffes—such as chalking up the BP oil spill to “just an act of God.” But Texas political watchers from across the spectrum have stressed to me over the years that, come crunch time, Perry buckles down and stays relentlessly on message. And his campaign team works hard to ensure that message is neither too broad, too cluttered, nor too complicated.


See a Texas Observer profile of Carney.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bad Obama Poll Numbers, Late August Edition

Caroline May writes at The Daily Caller:

President Obama’s disapproval rating reached its highest level to date Sunday, according to Gallup’s daily presidential tracking poll.

Based on the latest data, 55 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. Just 38 percent of Americans say they approve of Obama’s performance as president. (RELATED: Obama’s approval rating reaches lowest point of his presidency)

Gallup’s polls are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,500 adults and carry a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.

Following up on previous data, Jennifer Agiesta writes at AP:

Whites and women are a re-election problem for President Barack Obama. Younger voters and liberals, too, but to a lesser extent.

All are important Democratic constituencies that helped him win the White House in 2008 and whose support he'll need to keep it next year.

An analysis of Associated Press-GfK polls, including the latest survey released last week, shows that Obama has lost ground among all those groups since he took office. The review points to his vulnerabilities and probable leading targets of his campaign as he seeks to assemble a coalition diverse enough to help him win re-election in tough economic times.


Super PACs and Presidential Candidates

Nicholas Confessore writes at The New York Times that most current presidential candidates have support from at least one super PAC:

Restore Our Future is run by three veterans of Mr. Romney’s 2008 campaign team. They were recently joined by a fund-raiser who left Mr. Romney’s 2012 team, according to a report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity. Restore Our Future raised more than $12 million during the first half of the year — more than any actual Republican candidate except Mr. Romney himself.

A pair of aides to President Obama started Priorities USA, the leading Democratic Super PAC, just two months after they left their jobs at the White House in February. And two weeks ago, a onetime consultant to Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota took over Citizens for a Working America, a previously existing Super PAC, with plans to focus solely on electing Ms. Bachmann president.

On Thursday, Thomas E. Muir, an executive at the Huntsman Corporation, filed papers to form Our Destiny PAC, a Super PAC devoted to electing Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and the son of the corporation’s founder.

Make Us Great Again, a Super PAC founded late last month, is backed by Mike Toomey, a prominent lobbyist in Austin, Tex., who is a former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Mr. Toomey also owns a private New Hampshire island with Dave Carney, the top strategist for Mr. Perry’s nascent presidential campaign.

...
Early fund-raising suggests that the new groups are relying on a handful of wealthy donors capable of writing five-, six- and even seven-figure checks. According to a study published last week by the Center for Responsive Politics, more than 80 percent of money raised by Republican-leaning Super PACs this year came from just 35 donors.

Democratic-leaning Super PACs relied on an even smaller group, with more than 80 percent of contributions coming from just 23 donors.

“What took thousands of individual donations to make significant political advertisements in 2008 can now just take one phone call,” said Spencer MacColl, the study’s author.

At the Los Angeles Times, Tom Hamburger, Melanie Mason and Matea Gold note a potential problem for Perry:

Perry will be hamstrung by new Securities and Exchange Commission rules that inhibit donations from financial services company employees to sitting governors. The regulations are intended to limit contributions that could influence state contracting decisions.

For this and other reasons, Perry is likely to be more reliant on a familiar network of corporate and construction barons and conservative fundraisers who backed his campaigns for governor, as well as a cluster of "super PACs," the new entities that can legally raise unlimited sums from wealthy donors, including corporations, for independent campaign efforts.

The SEC rules could pose a serious hurdle for the Texas governor. In 2008, securities firms alone gave the Republican presidential candidates nearly $20 million, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Perry can succeed without the support of Wall Street, but it would require strong help from other sectors and could increase his reliance on the super PACs. The biggest of the new groups is the Texas-based super PAC Make Us Great Again, led in part by Michael Toomey, a lobbyist and a former chief of staff to the governor.

Campaign finance lawyers are split on whether financial services employees affected by the rules could simply channel their money to super PACs working on Perry's behalf. Ken Gross of Skadden, Arps is urging affected clients in the financial services industry to be cautious about giving to a super PAC for Perry.

"You don't want to be doing something indirectly that you can't do directly," said Gross, who represents Democratic and Republican clients.

Republican campaign finance lawyer Jan Baran said he believed such donations would be permitted, but agreed that the new rules were worrisome for the campaign.

"Perry will definitely lose some campaign funds because of the pay-to-play rules," Baran said.

And then there is Colbert, as The New York Times reports:

Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow may be a running gag on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, but it is spending money as it sees fit, with little in the way of disclosure, just like its noncomedic brethren.

Comedians, including Mr. Colbert in the last election, have undertaken faux candidacies. But his Super PAC riff is a real-world exercise, engaging in a kind of modeling by just doing what Super PACs do.

And he has come under some real-world criticism for inserting himself in the political process so directly. Mr. Colbert, who lampoons conservative talk show hosts by pretending to be one, is now making fun of Super PACs by actually forming one. His committee spent money on advertising in Iowa during the run-up to the Ames straw poll, which took place Aug. 13. It’s as though Jonathan Swift took his satirical suggestion about Irish babies one step further and actually cooked one.

At first blush, it seemed to be one more skirmish in the culture wars: East Coast funnyman uses his fan base to pay for satirical commercials, implicitly demeaning the Ames straw poll in specific, and Iowa in general. Mr. Colbert suggested that all the soft-money ads with their soft-focus shots of rural tableaus were exposing the children of Iowa to “cornography.” But the folkways being criticized belonged to the Beltway, not the Corn Belt.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Polls: Good for GOP Field, Less Good for POTUS

Previous polls showed unhappiness with the GOP field. But things have apparently changed, as AP reports:
Republicans party elders are still grousing about the GOP choices for president ... But an Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday found that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are coming around to the choices already on the table: About two-thirds are pleased with the party's presidential field, compared with just half in June. And they're paying more attention, with 52 percent expressing a "great deal" of interest in the GOP nomination fight — compared with 39 percent earlier this summer — after a period that saw Perry enter the race and Michele Bachmann win a test vote in Iowa, the lead-off caucus state, threatening Mitt Romney's standing at the top of the pack.
Gerald Seib writes at The Wall Street Journal that the president's state-level approval ratings differ from his national numbers:

Gallup recently tried to address that by aggregating roughly 90,000 interviews it conducted in the first six months of the year, and assembling the Obama job approval readings into a state-by-state breakdown. Now Bill McInturff, head of Public Opinion Strategies and co-director, along with DemocratPeter Hart, of The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, has gone one better. Mr. McInturff has taken those state-by-state findings and overlaid them on the electoral map.

He finds a set of “blue” states with 215 electoral college votes where Mr. Obama’s aggregate approval rating is above 50%; another set of “purple” states, with 161 electoral votes, where his approval rating ranges from 44% to 49%; and a bloc of “red” states, with 162 electoral votes, where his approval rating is below 43%. (Winning the presidency requires 270 of the 538 electoral college votes.)

As that suggests Mr. Obama has some work to do to get to those 270 electoral votes, particularly in states he turned to the Democrats’ favor in 2008. In Virginia, for instance, his aggregate approval rating is 46%, and in Colorado it’s 44%. On the other hand, and surprisingly, his aggregate approval rating is a healthy 48% in normally red Georgia.


For a look at the graphics with Mr. McInturff’s findings, click here.

Support for U.S. military action in Libya has skyrocketed nearly 20 points in the wake of this week's events in Tripoli, but most Americans don't see the rebel advances in Libya as a victory for the United States, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll released Friday also indicates that while President Barack Obama's approval rating on Libya has grown, his overall job rating has not budged.

According to the poll, 54 percent of all Americans now favor U.S. military action in Libya, up from 35 percent in July. And a 52 percent majority now approve of how Obama has handled the situation in Libya, up seven points since May.

But only a third say that removing Moammar Gadhafi from power is a major achievement for the U.S. and only a third say that the events of the past week represent a victory for the U.S.

Did the president get a bounce from Libya?

Apparently not. Libya has not changed the president's overall approval rating. Obama still gets low marks on the economy, and previous polling suggests that the number who think the economy is the number one issue is 12 times higher than the number who were principally concerned about Libya. As a result, Obama's overall approval rating now stands at 45 percent, with 54 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing in office, virtually unchanged since mid-July.


Friday, August 26, 2011

American Crossroads in Nevada Special Election

In The Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson reports:

Two days before early voting begins in the special election in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District, American Crossroads is out with a new web video, as part of a $250,000 independent expenditure attacking the Democratic candidate Kate Marshall.

The web video uses a particularly unflattering clip of Marshall, the state treasurer, (which was used in an earlier ad put out by the National Republican Congressional Committee), in which Marshall says: “I’m in charge of your money. You have less money today than you had yesterday.”

“With Nevada families hurting, what does state treasurer Kate Marshall have to say?” says the announcer in the ad, which then cuts to the clip of Marshall making that statement. “Under Kate Marshall, Nevada taxpayers have lost $25 million investing with a failed Wall Street bank. And Kate Marshall has increased spending in her Nevada treasurer’s office more than a million dollars. Kate Marshall’s big spending and wasted tax dollars: Not what we need more of in Washington.”

After each sentence, the clip of Marshall saying “You have less money,” repeats.

The statement was made when Marshall was addressing a Douglas County Democrats Keep Nevada Blue dinner. Marshall’s communications director James Hallinan explained that Marshall was “empathizing with what everyone in the room was experiencing: The economy had tanked causing people to have less money at home. The same thing was happening for the state’s budget with the economy crashing and less revenue coming in as a result.”

...

A big part of the American Crossroads expenditure is devoted to get-out-the-vote efforts, reaching out to voters “by mail, phone and internet advertising to promote the website www.MeetKateMarshall.com, with a special focus on making likely voters aware of early voting locations,” according to the Crossroads press release.

Such efforts are important, because, as University of Nevada, Reno, political science Professor Eric Herzik explained, “Turnout is THE factor in the race.” Lacking, “overwhelming interest,” in the race, getting people to the polls is a big concern, as turnout is expected to be low.

Republicans have a large voter registration in the district, which has had a Republican representative since its inception. As Jonathan Collegio, communications director for American Crossroads, explained, there are certainly enough Republicans and enough dislike of Obama in the district to propel Mark Amodei, the Republican candidate, to victory. But because of the turnout issue, “it’s mostly a matter of getting them to the polls.





The NRCC version (8/9):



The Nevada State GOP version (11/7):



Religion and the GOP Field

Religion has a high profile during this campaign. Alana Goodman writes at Commentary:

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, who never expressed much curiosity about the religion of Democratic presidential candidates, is suddenly burning to find out more about the Republican field’s religious beliefs:

This year’s Republican primary season offers us an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life — and to get over them. We have an unusually large number of candidates, including putative front-runners, who belong to churches that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons, a faith that many conservative Christians have been taught is a “cult” and that many others think is just weird. (Huntsman says he is not “overly religious.”) Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are all affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity, which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.

...

I’m sure Keller would also “care a lot” if Obama was a secret Muslim intent on destroying America and replacing it with a socialist empire/American caliphate. But he wouldn’t write innocently about this unfounded worry in a column. Why? Because there’s no evidence of it. Just like there’s not a shred to suggest that Romney, Perry or Bachmann are Trojan horses for some bizarre Christian theocratic conspiracy.

Lisa Miller writes at The Washington Post:

The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world. (Some extremist Christians leveled a similar charge against Barack Obama in 2008, that he was the antichrist aiming to take over world governments.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Electability of Ron Paul?

Erik Hayden writes at National Journal:

Who does the president fare worst against in a head-to-head matchup? On Wednesday, Rasmussen released its latest nationwide early campaign survey. And right now, Barack Obama does well against Mitt Romney (46 to 38 percent) and narrowly leads Perry (43 to 40 percent) and Michele Bachmann (43 to 39 percent).

Which means, if you combine these results with the Rasmussen poll released Tuesday, the GOP candidate doing the best against the president is....Ron Paul? Yesterday's head-to-head poll showed the libertarian trailing the president 39 to 38 percent, by presumably the same methodology. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison (the Paul survey was conducted a week earlier) and a larger percentage of voters would choose the "other" option if Paul was the GOP nominee. But it seems like another indicator, in very early nationwide telephone surveys at least, of Paul's viability.

Romney Guy Goes to Pro-Romney Super PAC

Circulation of personnel is one lawful method of coordination, as Spencer MacColl reports at Open Secrets:
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's top campaign fund-raiser, Steve Roche, has left the Romney campaign to head up the multimillion-dollar pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future.

As Peter Stone reported for the Center for Public Integrity, this shows another sign of the close relationship between Romney's presidential campaign and the Restore Our Future super PAC.

Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate with any federal candidates according to federal laws. Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, told Stone there is a specific rule that prevents high-level campaign employees from leaving to work at different political committees because it "raises issues of possible coordination." Noble added, "Bringing over strategic information from the campaign to an independent committee can be an element of coordination." Carl Forti, one of the founders of Restore Our Future and a top Republican operative, told Stone that the super PAC was "absolutely aware of the FEC rules."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perry Leads in Gallup Poll

Shortly after announcing his official candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as rank-and-file Republicans' current favorite for their party's 2012 presidential nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say they are most likely to support Perry, with Mitt Romney next, at 17%.

These results are based on an Aug. 17-21 Gallup poll, the first conducted after several important events in the Republican nomination campaign, including the second candidate debate, the Iowa Straw Poll, and Perry's official entry into the race after months of speculation.

Romney and Perry essentially tied for the lead in late July, based on re-computed preferences that include the current field of announced candidates. Gallup's official July report, based on the announced field at the time and thus excluding Perry, showed Romney with a 27% to 18% lead over Michele Bachmann. Romney enjoyed an even wider, 17-point lead in June over Herman Cain among the field of announced candidates (Gallup did not include Perry among the nominee choices before July).


Rubio Rising

Marco Rubio is getting attention for his appearance at the Reagan Library.

Scott Wong writes at Politico:

It might look like tea party hero Marco Rubio waded into enemy territory with stops in San Francisco and Beverly Hills this week. But rubbing shoulders with a different crowd is the point of the freshman senator’s three-day swing through the Golden State.

The Florida Republican is out to prove he can appeal beyond the activist base, introducing himself to the state’s political and corporate elite, raising cash for his party from some of George W. Bush’s top donors and paying homage to one of Republicans’ most venerable icons — Ronald Reagan.

It’s the second act of a well-orchestrated national rollout that began this spring for Rubio, who insists he has no immediate national ambitions. But if the tea party favorite makes a strong debut and can win over establishment Republicans outside his home state, he could emerge an irresistible choice for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket in 2012.

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes:

Watching Sen. Marco Rubio speak at the Reagan Library was, for me, a bit like watching Kobe Bryant early in his career. Until the Lakers drafted Kobe, basketball players always seemed much older than me. Suddenly, one of them wasn't. Everyone talked about Kobe's promise (through the flashes of brilliance and the air balls). Would he be the next Magic Johnson? The next Michael Jordan?

In political circles, Rubio is considered a rising star. Born in 1971, he's 9 years my elder but strikingly youthful in a profession dominated by old men. Just looking at him, one can't shake the impression that he's offering a preview of the Republican Party's next generation of politicians.

As he puts it, "I grew up in Ronald Reagan's America."

But he also notes the absence of policy alternatives in the speech:

Every conservative can tell a story about how America was a freer, more self-reliant place until big government came along, crowding out the family, the church, and private charity. They talk as if we need to dismantle the whole system of social welfare, to re-imagine the safety net... but now that folks are reliant on government, and family ties are less strong, what do they suggest? I know what Milton Friedman wanted to do. I know what George W. Bush wanted to do (a prescription drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, faith based initiatives, privatized Social Security).

What does Rubio want to do? Nothing very specific, insofar as I can tell. He's young, so there's time yet for him to do better. But evaluating him based on this speech, I don't see what all the fuss is about.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Marco Rubio Speaks at the Reagan Library

Pataki?

The Albany Times-Union reports:
Here's the official word from David Catalfamo, Pataki's spokesman: "Governor Pataki is seriously considering getting into the 2012 race. He is deeply disappointed by President Obama's utter failure of leadership on the debt issue and in the lack of real solutions being offered by the current Republican field of candidates."
He would join 10 other declared, candidates, including the former governors of Utah and Massachusetts, many with active campaign operations in the early-primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Pataki lacks the infrastructure, his allies admit, but he has appeared in the states as a leader of two political action committees fighting the national debt and the health care reform law the President signed in 2010

...

Pataki would compete against more moderate candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, and Rudy Giuliani, should he decide to formally enter the race.

And Pataki has a record more liberal than all of them.

Pataki has supported abortion rights for women, entered New York into the first mandatory cap and trade program to reduce CO2 emissions and signed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, a gay-rights law.

The actions made Pataki, a Westchester County resident who has been practicing law at a white shoe firm since leaving office, win votes from Democrats to keep him governor in New York, and could help him in a general election.

...

"It's only the stated goal that you're running for president, but there are other values. He gets press play that he can convert into money, status, and other things that are part of this," said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College. "At the very least, he's got to be bored with his life, and looking at this Republican field like everyone else and saying, why not me?"

Might the GOP carry New York? After all, Obama's numbers there are not good. But in the end ... nah. It is just way too blue for a Republican to carry unless it's a landslide year such as 1984. In any case, Pataki is not going to be on the ticket. He's too liberal, too obscure, too late.

Harsh Judgment on the GOP Field

Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith write at Politico:

It’s a tough time to be a conservative intellectual.

From The Weekly Standard to The Wall Street Journal, on the pages of policy periodicals and opinion sections, the egghead right’s longing for a presidential candidate of ideas — first Mitch Daniels, then Paul Ryan — has been endless, intense and unrequited.

Profoundly dissatisfied with the current field, that dull ache may only grow more acute after Ryan’s decision Monday to take himself out of the running.

The problem, in shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Not-Great Poll Numbers for the President

Gallup reports:

President Barack Obama is closely matched against each of four possible Republican opponents when registered voters are asked whom they would support if the 2012 presidential election were held today. Mitt Romney leads Obama by two percentage points, 48% to 46%, Rick Perry and Obama are tied at 47%, and Obama edges out Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann by two and four points, respectively.

If such numbers persist, they could undercut Romney's "electability" argument.

Dems Try to Influence GOP Race

John Heilemann writes at New York:

In the midst of his controversial comments last week, Perry was hammered mercilessly by every liberal under the sun—except one. “I think that everybody who runs for president, it probably takes them a little bit of time before they start realizing that ... you’ve got to be a little more careful about what you say,” President Obama told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “But I’ll cut [Perry] some slack. He’s only been at it for a few days now.”

It’s no secret that the White House would prefer to run next fall against the likes of Perry (or, perish the thought, Bachmann) than Romney, the easier to paint Obama’s opponent as unacceptably outrĂ© and even scary. Less appreciated is how significant a player Obama’s reelection team—along with its allied outside groups—may be in the Republican primaries. By spending millions of dollars on anti-Romney ads and pointing out the similarities of his Massachusetts health-care plan to Obamacare at every opportunity, they may be able to function effectively as a pro-Perry “super pac”—and one with greater resources and media reach than anything Perry and his allies can muster. The irony here would be rich, for sure, and the effect bordering on perverse. But don’t kid yourself: The possibility of things playing out just this way is one of many nightmares that keep Romney’s advisers awake at night.

Alexander Burns writes at Politico that the DNC is highlighting Huntsman statements that will not help him among primary voters.

Jon Huntsman's appearance on ABC's "This Week," is winning applause from one of the two major political parties. It's not the one Huntsman's hoping to represent as its nominee for president.The Democratic National Committee just blasted out a greatest-hits reel from Huntsman's Sunday show appearance, wherein the former Utah governor criticized Rick Perry for being anti-science, Michele Bachmann for being unserious about the economy and Mitt Romney for being a flip-flopper.The DNC subject line: "Don't take our word for it ..."
The Note notes:

Huntsman, embracing the newfound strength of his Twitter voice, replied via tweet:

@JonHuntsman:.@thedemocrats - You missed 1. "Pres. Obama is too far left. His policies have failed." " Time to get economy back on track w/ new leadership.

Huntsman’s spokesman Tim Miller followed up with a statement to ABC News: "The DNC is shilling for a President who has failed on the most important issue to Americans - the economy and job creation. Governor Huntsman has a record of creating an environment for job growth and balancing budgets, President Obama has none. He's the one person who is offering serious solutions and has a record to back it up."
The "pick your opponent" strategy does not always work. In 1966, California governor Pat Brown tried to undercut GOP primary candidate George Christopher, in hopes that the party would nominate the other major candidate. Brown figured that the other guy was too extreme and would be easy pickings in the fall. His name was Ronald Reagan.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Huntsman Difference

Jon Huntsman is different from the other GOP candidates.

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

People tend to see Mormonism as a binary, you-are-or-you-aren’t question, but Jon Huntsman is something more like a Reform Jew, who honors the spirit rather than the letter of his faith. He describes his family on his father’s side as “saloon keepers and rabble rousers,” and his mother’s side as “ministers and proselytizers.” The Huntsman side ran a hotel in Fillmore, Utah’s first capital, where they arrived with the wagon trains in the 1850s. They were mostly what Utahans call “Jack Mormons”—people with positive feelings about the Latter-Day Saints church who don’t follow all of its strictures. “We blend a couple of different cultures in this family,” he says.

You’d never hear a phrase like that from Romney, who has raised his sons as Mormons and sent them on missions. Nor would you see Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, or Craig Romney in a hotel bar, sipping a glass of wine, as you might see one of Huntsman’s adult children.

ABC News reports:

In an exclusive interview on "This Week," Huntsman said "there's a serious problem" with comments made by Perry in New Hampshire last week calling man-made global warming "a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question" while claiming scientists have "manipulated data" on the issue.

"The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party -- the anti-science party, we have a huge problem," Huntsman told ABC News Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. "We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012."

"When we take a position that isn't willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said … about what is causing climate change and man's contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position," Huntsman added.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Cowboy Talk

John Spong of The Texas Monthly translates Perry for New York Magazine:

To those of us in Texas, the shitstorm kicked up by Rick Perry’s “we’d treat him pretty ugly” advisement to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke largely missed the point. Perry wasn’t threatening a literal lynching; he was talking the way he has throughout his undefeated political career, which gets at a far more essential fact of his fledgling presidential candidacy. As you may have already noticed — what with Perry’s constant claims to having authored a “Texas Economic Miracle,” or the footage of him leading thousands in prayer at the Houston Texans’ football stadium, or the wire photos of him waving a pistol over his head at a NASCAR event in Fort Worth in April — Rick Perry is from Texas.

"Treat him pretty ugly” is, in fact, the way we talk down here. We’re prone to violent imagery, typically without the intent to actually hurt anyone. Ann Richards’s Republican opponent when she first ran for governor, Clayton Williams, actually survived a campaign-trail rape joke. (She didn’t pass him in the polls until he refused to shake her hand after a debate.) What’s more, we use terms like “shitstorm” in public as naturally as “y’all.” Though Perry has avoided that specific bit of profanity with the press, he was once caught on-camera mocking a reporter at the close of an interview by saying, “Adios, mofo.” He’s also shown an inclination to our trademark Big Talk, as evidenced by his willingness to consider secession at an Austin tax day event in 2009. When people say everything’s bigger in Texas, they don’t mean to exclude the rhetoric.


Jonathan Martin and Jake Sherman write at Politico:

Cut the cowboy talk.

That’s the message congressional Republicans facing the prospect of sharing a ballot next year with Rick Perry have for the newest GOP presidential candidate.

In a series of interviews, uncommitted Republican members praised the Texas governor’s economic record but called his suggestion that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is guilty of treason a serious misstep and said that kind of inflammatory talk could scare off swing voters.

House Republicans from heavily suburban districts were particularly uneasy about the Bernanke remark and Perry’s refusal to say whether President Barack Obama is a patriot. These members, some of them facing potentially tough reelection campaigns next year, urged the White House hopeful to stick to core issues of jobs and spending.

“You can’t be calling Bernanke a traitor and you can’t be questioning whether or not Barack Obama loves America, that type of thing,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and veteran Long Island incumbent. “I’ve been with Perry a few times, and I can see how he could project, again, if it’s done the right way. But no, if he continues this, he’ll have a tough time.”


Friday, August 19, 2011

The Media Downplay Ron Paul

At the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Tricia Sartor writes of Ron Paul:

As pundits debate whether Paul is getting the attention he deserves, a PEJ analysis of campaign coverage this year indicates he is the 10th leading election newsmaker— trailing far behind non-candidates Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and as well as floundering Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich.

From January 1-August 14, Paul has been a dominant newsmaker in only 27 campaign stories. (To be considered a dominant newsmaker, someone must be featured in at least 50% of a story.) That is less than one-quarter of the media attention generated by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (120 stories), who is the top newsmaker among Republican candidates. And he has received 25% as much coverage as Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman (108 stories).

Paul’s coverage also lags far behind Trump (94 stories), who dallied with a run before opting out in mid-May and Palin (85 stories), who has given no indication to date that she will enter the race. In addition, Paul trails longshot candidate and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (44 stories) and Texas Governor, Rick Perry (33 stories) who only announced his candidacy on August 13.

The only significant GOP candidates that Paul is besting are former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (21 stories) and businessman Herman Cain (11 stories).

The top campaign newsmaker overall is incumbent President Barack Obama, at 221 stories.

In a further attempt to gauge the post-straw poll attention to Paul’s campaign, PEJ also used the Snapstream server’s closed captioning capability to assess the candidates’ television coverage in the first few days after that balloting.

The sample included the three network Sunday morning panel shows on August 14, the morning and evening network news programs on August 15 and four hours of prime-time cable and one hour of daytime from each of the three major cable news networks on August 15.

According to that analysis, Paul was mentioned just 29 times. By comparison, Perry was mentioned 371 times, Bachmann was mentioned 274 times, and Romney was mentioned 183 times.

At ABC, Michael Ono follows up:

The lack of coverage does suggest a conventional wisdom among many journalists that he can’t win the Republican nomination,” said Mark Jurkowitz, who is the Associate Director at the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism.
...

Adding insult to injury, Politico reported that Paul was canceled on by NBC’s Today Show and Fox News Sunday.

At The Daily Caller, Jack Hunter adds:

The day after the Ames Straw Poll, CNN’s Howard Kurtz discussed the lack of Paul coverage on his show. He explained the media’s kingmaker role, saying, “We are in the business of kicking candidates out of the race.”
But kicking them out based on what?
Politico’s Roger Simon vocally disagreed with Kurtz: “[Paul] lost to Michele Bachmann by nine-tenths of one percentage point. In a straw poll that isn’t supposed to pick winners but is supposed to tell us which way the wind is blowing, that’s as good as a win. So we had a tie for first, but where is he on the morning shows this morning? Where are all the stories analyzing what it means that Ron Paul essentially tied for first place in Ames?”
“And the reason that he’s essentially being ignored is?” Kurtz asked.
“The media doesn’t believe that Ron Paul has a hoot-in-hell’s chance of winning the Iowa caucuses, winning the Republican nomination, winning the presidency,” Simon replied. “So we’re going to ignore him.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good and Bad Numbers for POTUS

At National Journal, Reid Wilson points out that the president has good numbers on personal favorability:

"The president's job approval is dropping a good deal, whereas his personal ratings are not to anywhere near that extent," said Peter Brown, a pollster at Quinnipiac University. "If he were to become personally unpopular to the degree his policies are unpopular, he would have a very difficult time getting reelected. And it's hard to see how his personal numbers would rise without his job approval rising."

Obama's high personal-favorability ratings show swing voters are rooting for him to succeed, while his low job-performance rating demonstrates they don't like where he's going so far. If Obama's favorability ratings start sinking to match his approval numbers, it may be a sign that those critical independent voters have washed their hands of his presidency.

But other numbers are bad. Gallup reports:

Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States has fallen back to 11%, the lowest level since December 2008 and just four percentage points above the all-time low recorded in October 2008

And Gallup also reports:

A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GOP Nominating Process

At RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende makes important observations.

First, the South is not necessarily dominant:
Southern delegates will make up just over a third of the total GOP convention -- and this is using the Census Bureau definition of the “South,” which includes border states like Maryland and Kentucky. Note that the Northeast and West combine for as many delegates as the South, while the West and Midwest can combine to trump it.
What about Romney?

That Rose Garden strategy may have worked well against Michele Bachmann in August, but it won’t work against Perry in November. And that brings us to the realquestion: What happens when Romney does join the fray? He has always been 100 times better on paper than in reality -- has that changed? Has Romney really solved the problems from his 2008 race? Can he come across as convincing and personable, or will he always seem insincere and robotic? Can he withstand the barrage over RomneyCare when it comes, or does he have a glass jaw (as he did in 2008)? To my mind, those questions are as important, if not more so, than questions about Perry’s ability to campaign.

There are new rules:

The RNC has decided to strip half of the delegates from any state that holds a primary or caucus before March 1, other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada. Some states are considering pushing their primaries back, although these also tend to be the more moderate states, like Wisconsin and New Jersey. The more conservative states seem to be hanging tough, for now. In other words, you could end up with some of the more conservative states in the GOP electorate losing clout at the convention.

And a new calendar:

Notice that these late primary states are overall substantially more moderate, and significantly less evangelical than the earlier states.

This could prove critical in a drawn-out race. The reason is simple, and yet not well-known. The RNC has provided that states holding primaries before April 1 must allocate delegates proportionately. But after that date, states may opt for winner-take-all primaries, and many of these states have done so. In other words, we could have a situation where a conservative candidate (or a pair of conservative candidates) does well in the first three months, but has to give some delegates to the more moderate candidate. This is similar to what happened to Clinton, who won crucial primary battles late in the game, but couldn’t make much headway in the delegate count because of how these delegates were allocated. So despite winning the majority of primaries, the conservative candidate could end up with only a small lead in delegates over the more moderate candidate. If the moderate candidate then performs well in April or afterward, he could quickly rack up enough delegates to break away and claim the nomination.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Truman Analogy

At the Atlantic, screenwriter Erik Tarloff writes:
Like Obama, Truman had suffered a resounding defeat in the 1946 Congressional elections. In fact, it was even worse for him; he lost control of both the House and the Senate. And like Obama, he confronted an emboldened Republican Congress that refused to pass his program (and unlike Obama, he had several of his vetoes overridden). And when he ran for re-election, here's what he didn't do: talk about amity and compromise and cooperation. The other side wasn't interested, and Truman knew it. So what he did was draw clear lines and make a principled fight.
This version is Hollywood, not history. As Brendan Nyhan noted last November, Truman won because of a good economy, not a good acceptance speech. Moreover, Dewey was a fine governor who might have made a first-rate president, but in 1948 he was a weak candidate who ran a bland campaign. The 2012 GOP candidate will probably be a tougher foe than Dewey was.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Perry and Bachmann: A Contrast

Politico reports that Perry and Bachmann both spoke at the Black Hawk County GOP dinner.

But the contrast that may lift Perry, and undermine Bachmann, in their high-stakes battle for Iowa had less to do with what they said than how they said it — and what they did before and after speaking.

Perry arrived early, as did former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.

But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign’s signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners.


Approval Numbers ...Not Good for POTUS

President Obama's summer woes have dragged his approval rating to an all-time low, sinking below 40% for the first time in Gallup's daily tracking poll.

New data posted Sunday shows that 39% of Americans approve of Obama's job performance, while 54% disapprove. Both are the worst numbers of his presidency.

Obama's approval rating has hovered in the 40% range for much of 2011, peaking at 53% in the weeks following the death of Osama bin Laden.
Even in a Democratic stronghold, things do not look good for the president. ABC reports:

More voters in the heavily Democratic state of New York now disapprove of President Obama than approve of him – the first time he has ever received a negative rating – according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

The 49 to 45 percent split reflects growing popular angst over the country’s economic woes and frustration with Obama’s response, even in one of his electoral strongholds. In June, New Yorkers approved of the president by a 57 to 38 percent split.

Overall, New Yorkers split fairly evenly on whether Obama deserves re-election. His strongest support is concentrated in New York City and among union households, while majorities of upstate and suburban voters strongly say Obama does not deserve a second term.

“The debt ceiling hullaballoo devastated President Barack Obama’s numbers even in true blue New York,” Quinnipiac’s Maurice Carroll said in a statement with the poll.