Friday, September 30, 2011

Pro-Perry 501(c)(4)

Peter H. Stone reports at iWatch News:

Citizens for a Greater America, a group newly launched by allies of GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, has organized under IRS rules as a 501(c)(4) permitting donors to give unlimited contributions and remain secret.

The mission of the new group is officially to “promote conservative leadership and values and to educate the public and policy makers about conservative issues and principles,” according to a fact sheet obtained by iWatch News from a Perry fundraiser.

The fundraiser, who also has been raising money for the Super PAC backing Perry, Make Us Great Again, said he received the fact sheet from Mike Toomey, a founder of the PAC. The fundraiser was seeking information about whether Make Us Great Again had a 501(c)(4) arm for people who wanted to remain anonymous.

Such secretive donations to help federal candidates have mushroomed since the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling that gutted campaign finance restrictions.

Toomey, a high-powered Austin lobbyist who used to be Perry’s chief of staff, in July co-founded Make Us Great Again, which also can accept unlimited donations but has to disclose its donors names publicly. Toomey's group hopes to raise $55 million, according to an MSNBC report

Good Gallup Numbers for GOP

Americans see the Republican Party as better able than the Democratic Party to protect the country from terrorism and military threats, and to keep the country prosperous over the next few years.

These views come as record numbers of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed and express highly negative opinions about a number of other dimensions of the federal government. Next year's elections provide Americans with an opportunity to vent their frustrations in the presidential and the congressional elections. At this point, Republicans, who currently control the House but not the presidency or the Senate, appear to be at least slightly better positioned going into the elections, given Americans' preference for the GOP to handle the nation's domestic and international woes.

Democrats held the advantage over the Republican Party on the "prosperous" dimension from 2003 through 2009, a period that included the majority of George W. Bush's presidency and the first year of Barack Obama's. The advantage switched to the GOP last year and remains so this year, by 48% to 39%

Gallup also reports on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Sept. 15-18:
In thinking about the 2012 presidential election, 45% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, while nearly as many, 44%, are less enthusiastic. This is in sharp contrast to 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, when the great majority of Democrats expressed heightened enthusiasm about voting.

Democrats' muted response to voting in 2012 also contrasts with Republicans' eagerness. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans, 58%, describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting. That is nearly identical to Republicans' average level of enthusiasm in 2004 (59%) and higher than it was at most points in 2008.

...

Democrats' net enthusiasm (+1) now trails Republicans' net enthusiasm (+28) by 27 percentage points. By contrast, Democrats held the advantage on net enthusiasm throughout 2008 -- on several occasions, by better than 40-point margins. Democrats occasionally trailed Republicans in net enthusiasm in 2004, but never by as much as is seen today. The current balance of enthusiasm among Republicans and Democrats is similar to what Gallup found in the first few months of 2000.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Perry Struggling

GOP activists have had misgivings about Perry for a while. There is now evidence of a Perry swoon among GOP voters. Dana Blanton writes at Fox News:

Three September debates have shaken-up the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Herman Cain has jumped into the top tier. Rick Perry’s stumbled. Mitt Romney's holding steady.

And Michele Bachmann is hitting bottom. That’s according to a Fox News pollreleased Wednesday.

The new poll found Cain’s support has nearly tripled among GOP primary voters to 17 percent.

That’s up from 6 percent before this month’s debates, and puts him in what is essentially a three-way tie with Perry and Romney.

Click here to see the full results from the poll

Cain has benefited not only from his debate performances, but also significant media attention after winning the Florida Republican Party’s straw poll on Saturday.

Perry now garners 19 percent, a drop of 10 percentage points from a month ago. That puts Romney back in the top spot with the support of 23 percent. Last month Romney was at 22 percent.

Newt Gingrich recovered some ground and now stands at 11 percent. Ron Paul receives the backing of 6 percent now compared to 8 percent before the September debates.

Bachmann registers 3 percent support, down from 8 percent in late August and a high of 15 percent in July.

Belatedly, Perry is trying to fix things. Newsmax reports:
Presidential candidate Rick Perry on Wednesday apologized for saying that anyone who opposed giving tuition breaks to the children of illegal immigrants “did not have a heart.”

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the Texas governor said he had made a poor choice of words during the Sept. 22 presidential debate, but he stood by his view that the decision in his state to extend tuition breaks was the right one.

“I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate,” Perry admitted. “In Texas in 2001 we had 181 members of the legislature – only four voted against this piece of legislation – because it wasn’t about immigration it was about education.”
But as a result of the debate, Perry is not only losing ground, but Herman Cain's opinion may have some impact. At Politico, Juana Summers writes:

Herman Cain said he could not support Rick Perry if he is the Republican nominee for president, citing a “basic fundamental difference of opinion” on border security.

“Today I could not support Rick Perry as the nominee for a host of reasons,” Cain told CNN host Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.

“Him being soft on securing the border is one of the reasons. I feel very strongly about the need to secure the border for real, the need to enforce the laws that are already there, the need to promote the path to citizenship that’s already there,” Cain said.

...

Cain, who supported Mitt Romney in 2008, said he could support the former Massachusetts governor again if he committed to repeal Obamacare soon after taking office.


The GOP Calendar

The 2008 Democratic campaign was a reminder that calendars, rules, and delegates still count in presidential nomination politics. Ben Smith and Emily Shultheis write at Politico:

Rick Perry needs an early knockout win. A long, drawn-out primary slog favors Mitt Romney. The very blue Northeast could play a key role in determining the GOP presidential nominee.

All of these assessments are rooted in the political realities of the election calendar approved at the annual summer Republican Party gathering in Kansas City last year—an event where party leaders set the stage for a extended, complex presidential campaign that almost seems designed to play to Mitt Romney’s strengths and compensate for his weaknesses.

A detailed analysis of the likely primary calendar – which is still in flux, though should be clearer by this weekend – offers a half-dozen possible outcomes, including early knockouts by either Romney or his main rival, Rick Perry.

But if the nomination fight remains a Romney-Perry two-man race after Super Tuesday, among the likeliest scenarios is a long, expensive spring trek through Romney’s political heartland. Perry has just one clear path: To blow the doors off the race with early momentum, and never let up.

A few factors at play could change the calculus: an early Florida primary could produce a cascade of changes, and the entrance of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would also alter the equation.

But much of the later calendar appears to be largely locked in, and as Democrats were reminded by Barack Obama’s well-planned 2008 campaign, the primary race is ultimately not about winning votes or states, but about winning delegates.

...

The changes to the broader primary structure were made primarily to please GOP officials from around the country, all of whom would like their states to participate in the primary process. A shift toward dividing delegates proportionally in each state makes it hard for a frontrunner to amass big lead—and thus effectively claim the nomination before most states have voted.

But the Romney camp also has had a hand in crafting the calendar. Aides like longtime RNC member Ron Kaufman were on hand to keep an eye on the process, and the former Massachusetts governor’s allies continue to try to tweak the calendar around its edges, and to move up Romney-friendly states.

“I talked to the Romney people and said, ‘Is this important for you?’ And they said, ‘A win is a win and delegate votes may really count,’ ” Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, a Romney supporter, told the Salt Lake Tribune this summer in reference to Romney camp attempts to move the Utah primary from late June to the spring.

[emphasis added]

Obama and the Jewish Vote

An earlier post dealt with Jewish support for POTUS in light of the Turner victory in NY. A release from the American Jewish Committee:
Disappointment with President Obama’s handling of the economy and U.S.-Israel relations has caused a falloff in Jewish support for the administration, a just-completed national survey by AJC, a non-partisan advocacy organization, shows.

For the first time during Obama’s presidency, disapproval among Jewish voters exceeded approval of his performance. Jewish approval of Obama’s handling of his job as president declined to 45 percent, with another 48 percent disapproving and 7 percent undecided, according to the survey, conducted from September 6 to 21, 2011. In the last annual AJC survey, a year ago, 51 percent approved, and 44 percent disapproved.

“AJC annual surveys seek to provide timely information on the attitudes of Jews across our nation regarding the pressing issues confronting our community and the country,” said AJC Executive David Harris. “Just as in previous years, this year’s survey offers a treasure-trove of data – and, as always, a few surprises.” One of the most striking findings is the divergence of opinion between Orthodox Jews and the views of Conservative and Reform Jews.

The full 2011 survey, as well as previous AJC annual surveys, are available at www.ajc.org/surveys.

2012 Presidential Election Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential race, the AJC survey revealed that if the election were held today, Obama would still hold a considerable lead over potential Republican challengers among Jewish voters. But the margin differed significantly depending on which candidate the GOP fields.

Mitt Romney would get 32 percent of the Jewish vote, according to the poll, against Obama’s 50 percent. Another 16 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t vote for either of the two candidates, and 2 percent were undecided.

Rick Perry would get 25 percent of the vote against Obama’s 55 percent, with another 18 percent voting for neither, and 2 percent undecided.

Michele Bachmann would receive 19 percent of the vote against Obama’s 59 percent, with 21 percent voting for neither, and 1 percent undecided.

In 2008, Obama garnered 78 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to 22 percent for John McCain.
Exit polls have tracked the GOP share of the Jewish vote in presidential elections. Note the abrupt dropoff between 1988 and 1992, reflecting an aversion to the religious right:

1972..34%
1976..34%
1980..33%
1984..39%
1988..31%
1992..11%
1996..16%
2000..19%
2004..25%
2008..21%

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can't Get No Dissatisfaction

At the Washington Examiner, Byron York asks whether GOP voters are really dissatisfied with their presidential field:

Not really. "I do not know of any widespread unhappiness," says pollster Scott Rasmussen. "Our polling shows that the vast majority of Republicans still are not certain how they would vote, but that's a sign that it's still very early in the process, not a sign of unhappiness."

"I'm not sure I've seen any," says Republican pollster David Winston. "There is this sense that since we haven't gotten to a clear, decisive winner, then that means there must be dissatisfaction. But it could mean that people are still thinking it through."

...

State-level polling also does not suggest that dissatisfaction is widespread among Republican voters. A recent Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire voters found that 68 percent say they are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the field, while 30 percent say they are very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied. Breaking down those numbers, 16 percent say they are very satisfied and 52 percent say they are somewhat satisfied with the field. Among dissatisfied voters, 19 percent say they are somewhat dissatisfied, while 11 percent say they are very dissatisfied. Rasmussen says that 11 percent -- the number of people who are most intensely unhappy -- is a very, very small number.

"I am somewhat irritated with the desire to pick a winner now," says Rasmussen. "Most voters still have the quaint notion that the election will be held in 2012, not 2011…My view of the GOP race is that Romney has won the establishment semi-finals by beating Pawlenty and Huntsman. Now, the outsider candidate has to be selected. GOP voters would prefer to vote for an outsider, but want to make sure it's the right outsider, and no one has closed that sale yet. Establishment Republicans (and some Democrats) seem puzzled that GOP voters aren't flocking to Romney, and that's probably causing some of the stories you're hearing about."

Perry Stumbles

At The Huffington Post, Mark Blumenthal supplies evidence that Perry's standing among party activists is plunging:

Politically engaged Republican activists have decisively soured on Rick Perry and warmed to Mitt Romney over the last few weeks, according to the latest HuffPost-Patch Power Outsiders survey in the early primary and caucus states. Romney has also gained a clear advantage over Perry on the critical question of electability.

We asked 160 Republican political activists, party officials and officeholders in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina how their opinions of presidential candidates Romney and Perry have changed over the last two to three weeks.

The results tell an unequivocal story: A majority (57 percent) say their impression of Perry has grown less favorable, while just 16 percent say it has become more favorable. The results are nearly reversed for Perry's rival. A majority (47 percent) say their impression of Romney has become more favorable, while only 13 percent say they think less of him.

In light of Perry's troubles, some Republicans still want Christie to run. At Mullings, Rich Galen writes:
  • As we've discussed before, the most popular guy in almost every NFL stadium is the backup quarterback. He hasn't thrown an interception; hasn't fumbled a snap from center. Even if the fans have no clue whether he can move the team down the field, it is just the idea of having a new guy in there that is so intriguing.

  • About six-and-a-half weeks ago the backup quarterback named Rick Perry snapped on his chin strap and, to the roar of the crowd, took his place in the GOP backfield.

  • Turned out - and I'll finish torturing this metaphor after this - Perry's lack of "reps" (running plays in practice) showed in his first debate, continued in the second debate, and had him heading to the sidelines with his head down after his third debate.

  • The step up in class from being the Governor of one of the largest states in the union to running in all the states in the union has been a very difficult transition for Perry.

  • Just like - and I suh-WEAR I'll stop after this - a really good college quarterback from a really good college going to the NFL. He finds the game is faster, the opponents are bigger, the defenses are smarter, and the plays are far more complex.
  • Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Super PACs and Disclosure

    At The Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal has a long piece on Super PACs and nonprofits:

    Nonprofit spending increased as the groups were freed to spend money on express advocacy advertisements. While more than half the money spent by non-disclosing groups went to so-called electioneering communications, issue ads that had previously been allowed, almost the entire growth in spending by non-disclosing groups came from the newly-allowed express advocacy, which grew from $6.9 million in 2008 to $62 million in 2010.

    Super PACs have even gotten in on the secret money act. While Super PACs are required to disclose their donors, they can accept contributions from nonprofits that do not disclose their donors and from corporations, some of which either do not identify their owners or dissolve upon making a large donation. This has already caused controversy for the Romney-backing Restore Our Future, which received three $1 million contributions from corporations that appear to do no business, one of which dissolved a few months after making the donation.

    "The money has shifted to the fringes and it's become less and less transparent," said Center for Responsive Politics Executive Director Sheila Krumholz. "It's shifting away from the parties, the candidates, the PACs, and shifting to these unregulated groups and becoming much and much more secret."

    The decrease in disclosure was aided by a 2007 ruling by the FEC that gutted a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law requiring the disclosure of donors to groups spending money on election ads, whether they be issue ads or express advocacy.

    "We had 100 percent disclosure for nonprofit spending on electioneering communications in 2004," explained Craig Holman, the lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen. "The FEC changed the disclosure rule in 2007 to only require disclosure for contributors who earmark their donations for [express advocacy and issue] spending, which no one does. Now, everyone has figured out that they don't have to disclose at all."

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Romney: The Default Option?

    In Epic Journey, we write that McCain's rivals for the 2008 GOP nomination all had bigger problems than he did. "Although he had irritated many Republicans, McCain was perhaps the most broadly acceptable of the candidates, and by the time voting began he seemed to be the one Republican who might be able to salvage a tough year." At this point, 2012 seems to be a more promising election for the GOP, but electability is still a concern. At The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney suggests that the pattern is repeating itself, with Romney in the McCain role. How has formerly-pro-choice author of a health mandate gotten into position?

    By default.

    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the favorite of the conservative movement elites, demurred, apparently because of family considerations. A different sort of family issue precluded former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from running. Conservative juggernaut Sarah Palin never really considered running. The most promising conservative leader, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, was overcome by true love for his mistress and thus abdicated his chance at the throne. It was too early for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Rep. Paul Ryan took a pass.

    Once Tim Pawlenty proved a paper tiger, Romney found himself surrounded by a thin field of congressmen, has-beens and other long shots. Rick Perry's Superman-like entry into the race after the Ames Straw Poll shook things up, but the Perry Express is already losing steam.

    Perry's immigration stands are unpopular with the base. His crony-capitalist mandate of Merck's Gardasil vaccine looks bad. But more importantly, his debate appearances make Republicans doubt he can beat Obama.

    In the debates, Perry fades. Near the end of long answers, he stumbles. In the second half of these two-hour debates, he starts to lose concentration and stammer. On Thursday night, he whiffed at an attempt to hit Romney for his flip-flops -- akin to striking out in T-ball.

    Perry's run looks less like Bill Clinton's 1992 white-knight performance and more like Fred Thompson's 2008 fizzle.

    This leaves Republicans with the unthinkable: Romney, who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994 and who could have been Obama's health policy director, is now the most likely man to carry the GOP nomination in 2012.

    It's Republican history repeating itself. In 2008, John McCain was the man the GOP base would never tolerate. McCain had passed unconstitutional "campaign finance reform," resisted Bush's tax cuts, supported a Ted Kennedy-sponsored "patients' bill of rights," and advocated amnesty for illegal immigrants, among other apostasies.

    But ultimately, McCain was "next in line," having come in second to George W. Bush in 2000. The GOP primary electorate settled for him.

    Romney: The Default Option?

    Perry Attacks Romney

    Michael Shear writes at The New York Times:
    Under fire by some conservatives for his views on immigration, Rick Perry on Monday sought to return the spotlight to Mitt RomLinkney and ov.
    In a new video, Mr. Perry’s campaign highlights the words Mr. Romney wrote in the original version of his book, “No Apology,” in which the former Massachusetts governor boasted about the health care plan in his state.

    “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country,” Mr. Romney wrote in the book when it was released in March of 2010.

    But as the Perry video points out, that sentence was gone when the book was released in paperback a year later.

    “Oops. Words deleted,” the video notes, pointing at the relevant passage with a big, red arrow.

    In Thursday night’s debate, Mr. Romney disputed the charge, responding, “Please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote. I believe in what I did. And I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see exactly what it is.”

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    GOP Debate on SNL

    The GOP debate made SNL last night. Bruce Tomaso writes at The Dallas Morning News:

    When the Texas governor first entered the presidential race, there was speculation about which Saturday Night Live regular would play him on the show.

    The answer, from last night's season premiere, was ... Alec Baldwin.

    He's got the hair down. But you could hear a better Texas accent at a high school play in New Brunswick.


    Florida Straw

    As of late September, Rick Perry has a problem. He appeals to true believers, but they have several other places to go: Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, even Gingrich (if they overlook much of his record). Unless Huntsman takes off soon, the "elect the most conservative candidate who can win" folks have just one place to go: Romney.

    The past few days have not been good to the governor. While no delegates were at stake at yesterday's Florida straw poll, the outcome may suggest that Perry's standing with activists is at risk. Byron York writes at The Washington Examiner:

    Meanwhile, dozens, maybe hundreds of GOP delegates who came to Orlando intending to support Perry were having second thoughts. They'd all been in the room for the Fox News-Google debate on Thursday night and were dismayed by Perry's performance. Actually, more than dismayed -- some were insulted by Perry's accusation that people who don't support his immigration positions are heartless. Still, they didn't immediately drop the Texas governor, did not immediately say, "That's it -- I'm outta here." Rather, in the 40 hours after the end of the debate, their minds were a little more open than they had been before. And most were specifically a little more open to Cain, who impressed them during the debate and had made a number of impromptu appearances around the hotels adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center.

    But even on Saturday, Perry might still have recovered some support with an inspiring speech before the voting. Instead, he headed off to Michigan, and it was Cain who delivered a barn-burner that brought at least seven standing ovations from the delegates. Wavering Perry delegates became Cain voters.

    ...

    What had happened? In the days before the vote, nearly all the delegates who voted for Cain either said or heard someone else say this: "I love Herman Cain, but he can't get elected." The assumption that Cain can't win the Republican nomination was a serious obstacle in their minds. But at some point late Friday and early Saturday, the delegates overcame that obstacle. Some concluded that since they had heard so many people speak well of Cain, he could indeed win, if everyone who liked him would actually vote for him. Others remained skeptical of Cain's ultimate chances but decided to send the message that they would choose candidates based on conservative principles, and not on perceived electability.

    Once the delegates got over the can't-get-elected hurdle, a close contest became a landslide for Herman Cain.

    One other factor should not be underestimated. Yes, the delegates liked what Cain had to say. But how he said it was just as important. With his deep, booming voice and a style that any motivational speaker would envy, Cain can give a rousing speech, and he gave several of them during four days in Orlando. No other candidate, frontrunner or back of the pack, could match him. It's not an exaggeration to say that his power as an orator sealed the deal for hundreds of delegates. They believed Cain was speaking to them from the heart, and they were carried away by it. As with the Democratic primary contests of 2007 and 2008, never underestimate the power of a stirring speech.

    Paul West writes at The Los Angeles Times:
    The Texans’ chins were up, but their public reaction to the initial setback of their man’s six-week-old campaign didn’t pass the straight-face test: they claimed it was actually a setback for Mitt Romney.

    Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner, whose candidate led Romney by 9 percentage points in a statewide poll in Florida released just two days earlier, told reporters the straw vote “must be a devastating loss” for Romney and “a morale buster for his campaign in a state like Florida.”

    Huh?

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Ponzi Breaks Through

    The Pew Research Center reports:
    Nearly two-thirds of the public (65%) say they have heard at least a little about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s reference to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. More than a third (36%) say they heard a lot about this, while 29% say they heard a little. Roughly equal numbers of Republicans (69%), Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say they heard at least a little about Perry’s take on Social Security.

    About six-in-ten (61%) say they heard at least a little about the debate among Republican candidates over mandatory vaccinations for young girls against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer; 31% say they heard a lot about this, while 30% say they heard a little. About four-in-ten (39%) had heard nothing at all. On this question also, partisans are about equally likely to have heard at least as little about the HPV vaccine debate.

    Republicans, though, are more likely than Democrats or independents to say they heard at least a little about the special congressional elections last week in New York and Nevada, both won by the GOP candidates. Overall, just more than half (54%) say they heard at least a little about the elections, including one to replace New York Democrat Anthony Weiner; 22% heard a lot about this, while 32% heard a little. Nearly half (45%) say they heard nothing at all. Among Republicans, 64% say they heard at least a little about the special elections, compared with 49% of Democrats and 54% of independents.

    Cain Wins Florida Straw Poll

    Rick Perry's bad week just got worse, as George Bennett writes at The Palm Beach Post:

    Florida Republican activists delivered a stinging rebuke to frontrunner Rick Perry today, giving longshot Herman Cain a resounding victory in a presidential straw poll.

    Former Godfathers Pizza CEO Cain, supported by less than 10 percent of Republicans in most polls, got 37.1 percent support today from 2,657 delegates at the Republican Party of Florida’s “Presidency 5″ conference.

    Texas Gov. Perry, who tops most national and Florida polls, finished a distant second with 15.4 percent.

    In a rousing speech before the vote, Cain urged delegates to ignore “the nasty rumor that Herman Cain can’t win” and instead “send Washington a message.”

    The straw poll voters certainly sent Perry a message.

    Perry was the slam-dunk favorite to win the “Presidency 5″ vote until Thursday night. But his wobbly performance in a nationally televised debate caused many Republicans to reexamine their support.

    The loss was particularly devastating for Perry because, while rival Mitt Romney and others downplayed the straw poll’s significance, Perry pointedly played it up.

    GOP Calendar and Allocation Rules

    Beth Reinhard reports at National Journal that the rules of the GOP nomination process could be especially relevant this time:

    The national party is requiring states that hold March contests to award delegates proportionally, meaning a first-place finish doesn’t guarantee the whole bag. Winner-take-all states can’t vote until April. The arrangement is designed to slow the flow of delegates to a trickle, unlike the fast floods typical of modern-day nominating contests that render the late-voting states irrelevant.

    “From my vantage point, it looks like it’s going to be a protracted battle, and both the Perry and Romney camps are showing that they are planning for something long term,” said Josh Putnam, a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College whose FrontloadingHQ blog is a leading authority on the primary calendar.

    In 2008, more than 50 percent of the Republican delegates were awarded by the time the race got to the multistate contest known as Super Tuesday, which fell on Feb. 5. The 75 percent threshold was crossed by March 4, Putnam said.

    Although the 2012 calendar is still very much in flux, Putnam predicts that 50 percent of the delegates won’t be awarded until March 13—one week after Super Tuesday—while 75 percent won’t be allocated until May 8.

    “We always hear about the states like Arizona and Michigan that are trying to move up, but underneath the surface we have a majority of the states complying with the rules, and a number of them have moved their dates back,” Putnam said.

    ...

    Here’s the catch: Even if Perry sweeps the South in March, his lead could be limited by the proportional allocation of delegates in those states. By April, when the winner-takes-all option kicks in, the race heads to Northeastern states closer to Romney’s home turf.

    The constant shifting among states friendly to Perry and Romney could turn the primary season into something of a relay race. Which candidate will be holding the baton at the finish line is still anybody’s guess.

    Perry's Debate Problem

    Juana Summers writes at Politico:
    The conservative commentariat spoke with near-unanimity Friday on Rick Perry’s debate performance: The Texas governor didn’t just lose, he bombed.

    There was no election-ending gaffe or singularly disqualifying remark. But his second consecutive weak outing set off alarm bells on the right, where too many cringeworthy moments raised questions about Perry’s durability, his seriousness and ability to compete on a stage with Barack Obama. Worse, after a near-flawless August rollout fueled his rise in the polls and quieted critics who fretted about the quality of the GOP field, Perry’s nationally televised face-plant revived dormant talk—and hopes—about the possibility of new candidates entering the race.
    At The Hill, Cameron Joseph reports:
    After another rocky debate performance, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a candidate for the White House, said in a Friday speech that Republicans should not necessarily back "the smoothest debater" for president.

    "As conservatives we know that values and vision matter. It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country," he said at a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. "The current occupant of the White House can sure talk a good game, but he doesn’t deliver."

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Obama and Clinton

    Gallup reports:
    Asked to compare Barack Obama with George W. Bush, Americans are more inclined to say Obama has been a better (43%) rather than a worse (34%) president, with 22% seeing no difference between the two. Obama compares much less favorably to Bill Clinton, with half saying Obama has been worse than Clinton and 12% saying better.gov
    In light of Clinton's relative popularity, his recent comments on the deficit carry some sting for the incumbent. NewsMax reports:
    President Obama this week unveiled his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in an effort to reduce the deficit, even though he could be sure that Republicans would reject the plan.
    Clinton says Obama’s whole approach to the deficit is “a little confusing.”

    He explains: “In the speech that the president gave to Congress, he didn’t propose any new taxes. The speech was $250 billion in tax cuts, $250 billion in spending over a period of two to three years. It focused mostly on a rather innovative set of payroll tax cuts and incentives to hire people.

    “I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending until we get this economy off the ground. If we cut government spending, which I normally would be very inclined to do when the deficit’s this big, with interest rates already near zero you can’t get the benefits out of it.

    “So what I’d like to see them do is come up with a bipartisan approach, starting with the payroll tax cuts because they have the biggest return.

    Perry: The Second-Half Fade

    In the GOP debate last night Romney was either polished (if you like him) or slick (if you don't). Perry's performance was more problematic, as Chris Cillizza replains at The Washington Post:
    The Texas governor started off just fine. While his answers on Social Security and immigration were far from perfect, they were steady enough. (Remember that Perry, as the frontrunner, simply has to avoid making big mistakes, not score huge victories.) Unfortunately for Perry, the debate was two hours long not one. In the second half, he appeared distracted and off his game — big time. His answer on Pakistan was odd — India? — and he totally flubbed a pre-planned attack on the idea that Romney has taken a number of seemingly contradictory positions on a variety of issues. The lingering impression Perry left with his now-trademark second half fade was a guy who might not be ready for primetime. Not good.
    Jennifer Rubin explains, also at The Washington Post:
    Perry has to reverse his slide, and for about a half-hour he seemed to be doing that. But then the fumbles and the missed opportunities came. He gave a near-incoherent answer on an arguably hard question on what to do if Pakistan lost control of its nuclear weapons. He said we should be friends with India (a non-sequitur and hardly a weak point for President Obama). He was smashed on the in-state tuition question (to my chagrin, since his more moderate immigration policy is essential for the long-term prospects of the party).

    He then made two errors that will come back to haunt him. First, in distinguishing himself from George W. Bush, he said he disagreed on Medicare Part D. (In the last debate, Perry had said he’d support keeping it.) More importantly, in a tussle with Romney, he declared that he wouldn’t move an inch away from his book. Yikes! That ties him to a host of positions that he presumably no longer believes. In the book, he favors states being allowed to legalize pot and gay marriage, and repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments. Moreover, it is in that book that he argues Social Security is unconstitutional.

    But the moment that may have sunk him was when he attempted to reel off the list of Romney flip-flops. He seemed to lose his place, get tired and stumble. Was he physically tired? Did he have a senior moment? The conservative media on Twitter did a group gasp.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    McCotter Out

    Few noticed that he was in, and now Rep. Thaddeus McCotter is out of the race. The Detroit News reports:

    Livonia Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told The Detroit News this afternoon he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination after he failed to win access to the Republican presidential debates.

    "If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter said. "It was sort of death by media."

    McCotter said he will give his support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Michigan native, and will likely run again for the 11th District congressional seat he's held since 2003.

    McCotter said he would back Romney after the Massachusetts governor made it clear he wouldn't seek a federal health care overhaul like the one Massachusetts adopted when he was governor. "Especially with his business background and in a stagnant economy, he may be the most electable," McCotter said.

    He likes Romney rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but said the country isn't ready for another Texas president so soon after President George W. Bush. "He may be a vice presidential nominee," McCotter said.

    Good Numbers for Romney

    Gallup has some electability news for Romney:
    More registered voters say they would definitely vote for Mitt Romney or might consider doing so (62%) than say the same about his two main rivals in the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama (54%) and Republican Rick Perry (53%).
    ...

    Romney's advantage in broader voter consideration over Perry and Obama results partly from his greater appeal to independent voters -- 70% say they would definitely vote for him or consider doing so, compared with 60% for Perry and 45% for Obama. Romney also receives greater consideration from Republican and Democratic voters than does Perry, and matches the 90% party loyalty Obama gets from his party's supporters.

    The greater consideration Romney gets among registered voters speaks to his potential in the 2012 election, something that has not necessarily been translated to performance yet. Romney is essentially tied with Obama in the latest head-to-head matchup for the general election, and currently trails Perry in Republicans' current preferences for the party's presidential nominee. However, the same poll finds Republicans saying they are more willing to trade agreement on the issues for electability when choosing their party's presidential nominee, something that could work to Romney's advantage given that he currently fares slightly better than Perry in a head-to-head matchup versus Obama.

    CNN reports:

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be the leader in national polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but a new survey indicates that in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney's still way ahead of the rest of the pack.
    According to a Suffolk University/7 News poll released Wednesday night, 41 percent of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters say they support Romney. The survey indicates that Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts who's making his second bid for president, has a 27 point lead over his nearest competitor in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

    In second place at 14 percent is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the presidency, followed by former Utah Gov. and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 10 percent.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    A Drizzle of Bad Numbers for POTUS

    The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes rose in August. But the sales were driven by an increase in foreclosures, a sign that home prices could fall further next year and slow a housing recovery.

    The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that home sales rose 7.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million homes. That’s below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.

    Gallup reports:
    A slight majority of Americans for the first time blame President Obama either a great deal (24%) or a moderate amount (29%) for the nation's economic problems. However, Americans continue to blame former President George W. Bush more. Nearly 7 in 10 blame Bush a great deal (36%) or a moderate amount (33%).

    Gallup found a substantially wider gap in public perceptions of how much responsibility Bush and Obama each bore for the economy when it first asked the question in July 2009, the sixth month of Obama's presidency. That narrowed by March 2010, caused mainly by a jump in the percentage blaming Obama a great deal or moderate amount, and has since changed relatively little. However, the results from a new Sept. 15-18 USA Today/Gallup poll are the first showing a majority of Americans, 53%, assigning significant blame to Obama. Forty-seven percent still say he is "not much" (27%) or "not at all" (20%) to blame.

    ...

    [A]bout 6 in 10 political independents believe both presidents bear considerable blame. That is not good news for Obama. In his re-election campaign, he will likely try to convince independents that although the economy hasn't markedly improved on his watch, his policies prevented the bad economic situation he inherited from Bush from becoming even worse.

    The Marist Poll reports:

    President Barack Obama has his work cut out for him on the campaign trail. According to this McClatchy-Marist Poll, 49% of registered voters nationally say they definitely plan to vote against the president in next year’s election. 36% say they will cast their ballot for Mr. Obama, and 15% are unsure. This is the highest proportion of voters since November 2010 who say they don’t think they will back the president in his re-election bid. At that time, 48% said they would definitely vote against him.


    Crossroads and Presidential Math

    Cameron Joseph writes at The Hill:

    Crossroads GPS, a Republican-affiliated outside spending group, jumped into the debate over President Obama's jobs bill Tuesday, releasing a poll that showed a divided public and a web ad that indicated they will tie the relatively popular plan to the president, whose popularity has been in decline over the last few months.

    Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, its sister organization, spent heavily to frame the debt ceiling debate earlier this summer, and Steven Law, the president of both groups, suggested they will do so again on this issue.

    While Crossroads officials insist they can win the policy debate on its own merits, they signalled that attacks against Obama could be more effective than going after the policies, a shift from previous debates when Obama remained more popular with the public than the ideas he was pushing.

    "There seems to be a tectonic shift with the public’s attitude towards President Obama," said Crossroads president Steven Law. "During the debt limit debate… we found independents and soft Democrats were uncomfortable with his policies, unhappy with his performance but were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. What we may be seeing is the benefit of the doubt is starting to give away to real doubt."

    ...

    "The president has done a clever job of developing an urbane form of class warfare… that does have resonance with some segments of voters," he said. "It’s an issue that’s not static, it’s dynamic and needs to be litigated. I think we can litigate it successfully."


    The Crossroads GPS release:

    Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) today released a new survey by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies focusing on President Obama’s jobs plan.

    The survey of 800 likely voters was conducted from September 17-19. A summary memo by Bolger on the survey can be found here.

    Key findings:

    • 16 percent say the country is going in the right direction; 77% say it is on the wrong track.
    • Obama has a 43% approve/53% disapprove rating, with twice the intensity on disapproval.
    • Support for Obama’s jobs plan is split with 43% in favor and 42% opposed. Independents oppose by a 53-33 margin.
    • Only 25% of those surveyed believe the bill should be passed immediately, while 69% believe congress should take a closer look to “make sure the ideas will work before money is spent on them.”
    • After being given liberal and conservative arguments for and against tax increases on high-earners, voters split 48-46%.

    “Barack Obama has spent the last two weeks selling his jobs plan, but he’s still a long way from closing the deal with the public,” said Steven Law, president and CEO of Crossroads GPS. “The benefit of the doubt that many Americans have been giving to President Obama is slowly transforming into real doubt about his ability to lead

    GPS also issued this critique of the president's math:

    How Newt Matters

    At RealClearPolitics, Scott Conroy notes that Gingrich has been ticking upward in the polls and gaining more attention than one would have thought after his staff implosion.

    In aggressively challenging the approach taken by debate hosts ranging from Fox News to MSNBC, Gingrich has positioned himself as the voice of the besieged, and that has won him some accolades among the Republican rank and file.

    During the MSNBC/Politico debate in California earlier this month, Gingrich received one of the best audience responses of any GOP candidate so far when he challenged the premise of moderator John Harris’ question that sought to pit Mitt Romney and Rick Perry’s records on health care against one another.

    “I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other,” Gingrich said before upping the theatrics by wagging his finger in Harris’ direction. “And I hope all of my friends up here are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated. All of us are committed as a team, whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.”

    In an interview with Sean Hannity last week, Gingrich said that his inspiration for acting as the intra-party defender was the book “Team of Rivals” -- Doris Kearns Goodwin’s oft-praised tome about the political adversaries of Abraham Lincoln who became Cabinet secretaries in the 16th president’s administration.

    “I think we’re in a similar place,” Gingrich told Hannity. “I think to truly change Washington as much as we need to, we’re going to need everybody, and we’re going to need each of them in their own unique way, and we’re going to need them doing something that they’re very good at.”


    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Perry's Inside Money

    Perry may be the major "outsider" candidate, but his money is coming from economic and political insiders. Michael Shear writes at The New York Times:

    Rick Perry minces no words in declaring what he thinks of the 2008 TARP bailout of big banks, saying in his book that such programs “turn America upside down, totally undermining the idea of limited government, free markets, and federalism.”

    But today, Mr. Perry will be hosted at a high-dollar, New York fundraiser by Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, the former head of the American International Group, a company whose spectacular collapse helped set the stage for the bailouts that Mr. Perry dislikes.

    Mr. Greenberg led A.I.G. for decades and was accused of fraud by the New York State attorney general before leaving his post in 2005. The company ended up taking more than $180 billion in federal aid, including more than $40 billion from the TARP program.

    The bailout is not, of course, mentioned on the invitation to this evening’s reception, which is billed as part of Mr. Perry’s “Big Apple Kickoff.” The reception will be at The Lotus Club and is listed as requiring a contribution of $2,500 per person.

    Sheila Krumholz and Michael Beckel write at CNN:

    Merck has given $28,500 to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns since January 2001, according to a new report by Texans for Public Justice, a political watchdog group, which uses data from the Center for Responsive Politics.


    And since January 2006, Merck has given an additional $377,500 to the Republican Governors Association, which, in turn, was one of the largest backers of Perry's own campaigns. Notably, Perry also served as the chairman of the governors association from 2007 until last month, when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell succeeded him, so that Perry could pursue his presidential run.


    Perhaps more importantly, Perry's friend, former chief of staff Mike Toomey, spun through the revolving door to become a lobbyist for Merck in Texas, a position he held at the time of the HPV-related executive order.

    And as for RGA, Matea Gold writes at The Los Angeles Times:

    The biggest political donor to Texas Gov.Rick Perry during his 11-year tenure has not been one of the state's oil barons or cattle ranchers, but a Washington-based organization into which Perry helped funnel millions of dollars.

    The Republican Governors Assn. — which Perry chaired twice — gave him $4 million in the last five years, making it the largest single source of the $102.8 million he has raised since 2001.

    The organization's donations came as Perry helped infuse the governors' group with millions of dollars from some of his major political patrons. Out of the $217 million the RGA raised between January 2006 and June 2011, $68.7 million came from 139 donors who have also given to Perry, according to a new report being released Tuesday morning by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.


    Monday, September 19, 2011

    California: Paul Prevails in Pay-for-Poll

    Ron Paul won a straw poll in California. CNN reports:

    Texas Rep. Ron Paul won a California straw poll, the state Republican Party announced in a statement Saturday night.

    A total of 833 ballots were cast during the straw poll, the statement said.

    Paul won with 44.9% of the votes, Texas Gov. Rick Perry came in second with 29.3% of the votes, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in third with 8.8% of the votes.

    In the latest Field Poll, however, Paul lags far behind Romney and Perry, with just 7 percent GOP support. What accounts for the difference? David Siders explains at The Sacramento Bee:

    Ron Paul may have won the California Republican Party's straw poll Saturday, but his votes came at a price: A Paul supporter wrote a check for $26,000 to register Paul supporters and allow them to vote, Flashreport.org publisher Jon Fleischman said this morning.

    The Texas congressman won 374 votes, roughly 45 percent of the vote. Registration for each person cost about $100.

    ...

    Nothing in party rules prohibits such a payment, and registration fees benefit the party.

    "It turns out that it costs money to participate in a straw poll," party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told delegates this morning. "We had a lot of new participants."

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Slipping Support for POTUS

    Has public opinion turned against the president on a personal level? Steven Shapard writes at National Journal:

    For the first time, more Americans have an unfavorable opinion of President Obama than have a favorable opinion of him, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll released late Friday, an indication that dissatisfaction with the president's job performance and the direction of the country is dragging down how Americans view Obama personally.

    Just 39 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 42 percent view him unfavorably. In January of this year, 40 percent had a favorable image of Obama, and 34 percent had an unfavorable opinion. In January 2009, as he was inaugurated, 60 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of him.

    While the president's approval rating -- which is down to 43 percent in the new poll, an all-time low -- is an important indicator of his re-election standing, the high regard Americans felt for Obama personally was a sign that Americans hadn't yet given up on his presidency.

    Republican pollster Glen Bolger made this point earlier this week in a blog post on the website of his firm, Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, conducted late last month by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff (Bolger's partner at POS), equal percentages of Americans had positive and negative opinions of Obama.

    From Bolger's post:

    For quite some time, Republican pollsters have been making the point to their clients: don't confuse the attitudes of base and swing voters toward the President. Base GOP voters do not like Obama's policies, and they dislike him personally (some more vehemently than others). However, we had consistently seen in our polls and focus groups that while swing voters are increasingly unhappy with his policies and his politics, they still liked Obama personally.

    Lately, I have been making the case (and others may have as well) that we're nearing a tipping point for the President's personal standing. If his job approval ratings were weak, eventually swing voters would no longer view him as the shining star he believes himself to be.

    Gallup offers a useful corrective regarding one constituency:
    There is little sign that President Obama is suffering disproportionately in support among Jews; 54% approved of his job performance from Aug. 1-Sept. 15, 13 percentage points higher than his overall 41% approval rating during that time, and similar to the average 14-point gap seen throughout Obama's term.

    American Jews' support for Obama has come into question after Republican Bob Turner won a surprise special election victory in the heavily Jewish 9th Congressional District in New York. The seat was previously held by Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner and has been reliably Democratic for decades. Some analysts suggested that Turner's victory was a result of the district's Jewish voters sending a message about their dissatisfaction with President Obama's policies.

    The Solyndra Scandal

    Until now, the Obama administration has been relatively free of major scandal. Things may be changing. John Kass writes at The Chicago Tribune:
    The FBI is investigating what happened with Solyndra, a solar panel company that got a $535 million government-backed loan with the help of the Obama White House over the objections of federal budget analysts.

    Obama and Vice President Joe Biden got a nice photo op. They got to make speeches about being "green." But then Solyndra went bankrupt. Americans lost jobs. Taxpayers got stuck with the bill. And members of Congress are now in high dudgeon and making speeches.

    Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie.

    So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it's going to smell worse.
    ...

    And now the Tribune Washington Bureau has reported that the U.S. Department of Energy employee who helped monitor the Solyndra loan guarantee was one of Obama's top fundraisers.
    ...

    It's the Chicago Way, but instead of a paving or trucking contract, it's a "green" solar panel contract. The company received a $535 million loan.

    "The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad," according to a Jan. 31 email from an Office of Management and Budget staffer printed in the Washington Post. "If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse later than they would be today. … In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."
    ...

    Those of us from Chicago know exactly what it smells like. And It doesn't smell fresh and green.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    What Republicans Want

    A CBS/New York Times poll shows Perry leading among Republicans. That finding is subject to change, and may not be meaningful this early. Perhaps more telling are data on what Republicans want in their nominee. At this point four years ago, Democratic preference for change over experience was a sign of opportunity for Obama.
    Looking ahead, Republican primary voters are split on whether they prefer a nominee who agrees with their positions on issues or one with the best chance of defeating President Obama in 2012 - with 48 percent in each side in the poll.

    While Perry, who has spent most of his career in politics, leads the Republican field nationally in this poll, 48 percent of Republican primary voters say they prefer a nominee whose experience has mostly been in the business or private sector, while fewer - 14 percent - want someone with a mostly political background. A third says it doesn't matter.

    More than half of Republican primary voters say it is important that a presidential candidate share their religious beliefs. This is also important to four in 10 registered voters overall. Among white evangelicals (six in 10 of whom plan to vote in a Republican primary), 81 percent say it is important that a candidate have the same religious beliefs as they do, including half who say it is very important.

    The field of Republican candidates includes a woman and two Mormon candidates. Forty-five percent of Republican primary voters say most people they know would support a candidate who is Mormon for president (without mentioning a candidate by name), but 36 percent say most people they know would not.

    There is more support for a hypothetical woman candidate, with almost seven in ten of all voters and Republican primary voters saying most people they know would support a woman candidate.

    GOP Calendar Turbulence

    Alexander Burns writes at Politico about the GOP calendar:

    In the final days before states submit their primary and caucus plans to the Republican National Committee, the GOP is sweating bullets over the possibility that a gang of rogue states could still wreak havoc on the 2012 presidential nominating process.

    One state, Arizona, has already announced that it will violate RNC rules and hold its primary on February 28 – a full week before joint RNC-Democratic National Committee rules permit states to do so. Michigan’s legislature is also moving toward scheduling its vote for the same date.

    Then there’s Florida, a repeat offender when it comes to calendar mischief, which has empaneled a committee to choose an election date that’s expected to fall before the RNC-sanctioned date of March 6.

    The RNC cutoff for states to schedule their elections is October 1—and some states may even blow that deadline.

    At the Orlando Sentinel, Aaron Deslatte writes:

    Florida wants to play a lead role in the Republican presidential beauty pageant with the P5 straw poll, a nationally televised candidate debate and a gathering of conservative celebrities in Orlando this week. And if party leaders have their way, the mega-state won't be giving up the microphone.

    Clearly, it's the perfect time for the state's GOP leadership to thumb its nose at the Republican National Committee and set an early date for its 2012 primary.

    Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon have agreed to a mid-February date -- moving Florida into the fifth spot after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and ahead of Arizona, which broke with the national party's calendar and set its primary for Feb. 28.

    "We should not try to leapfrog the official early states, but we should be no later than fifth and have our own unique date," Cannon, R-Winter Park, said last week. "That helps maintain our prominence as probably one of the most important litmus tests for anyone who wants to win the primary and the White House."

    Florida has waited until now to make its move because lawmakers last spring delayed setting a date, instead creating a "Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee" that will hold its first meeting this Friday – just when Orlando will be rocking the CPAC rallies and straw polls.

    MORE AT THE INVALUABLE FRONTLOADING HQ.


    Friday, September 16, 2011

    American Crossroads v. Obama and McCaskill

    A new web video:



    Josh Lederman writes at The Hill:

    American Crossroads, the conservative group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, is rehashing Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) private plane saga with a combination of radio ads and billboards.

    Unpaid back taxes on a private plane owned by McCaskill caused major political problems for the senator in March and gave Republicans fodder to portray her as out of touch and elitist. McCaskill eventually repaid almost $300,000 in taxes and said she would sell the plane.

    The radio ad simulates a detective drama, interjecting sound bites from McCaskill's public statements as if she were responding to interrogation by a detective.

    "I was working the truth squad out of St. Joe Airport. I found Sen. Claire McCaskill standing next to a fancy private jet," the narrator says sardonically.

    "I made a huge mistake," McCaskill says.

    The ad ends with the detective handing down a sentence of "guilty, for violating our trust."

    The billboard, for fictional airline "AirClaire," shows McCaskill in a flight attendant-style outfit and suggests that while high air fares might be a downer for the general public, they don't affect McCaskill.

    Immigration as a Barrier to GOP Hispanic Support

    Resurgent Republic reports that although the GOP has some opportunities among Hispanics, one issue is a particular barrier:
  • Republican positions on immigration reform continue to be at odds with the overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters.
    • Majorities of Hispanic voters support immigration reform legislation that includes earned legalization for undocumented immigrants who are already here. When asked which type of immigration reform legislation they prefer among three options, “A bill that includes border security, a temporary-worker program, and earned legalization for undocumented immigrants who are already here, because any solution to the immigration problem much deal with all of the problems with our immigration system” is the top choice in each state—55 percent in Florida, 53 percent in Colorado, and 50 percent in New Mexico.

    The second choice is “A bill that includes border security and a temporary-worker program, because we have to address the need for immigrant workers if we are ever going to get control of the border” – 20 percent in Florida, 23 percent in Colorado, and 24 percent in New Mexico.

    The third choice is “A bill that concentrates on border security but does not include a temporary-worker program or earned legalization for undocumented immigrants who are already here, because we have to secure the border first” – with just 19 percent in Florida, 15 percent in Colorado, and 17 percent in New Mexico.

    • Large majorities of Hispanics in each state support earned legalization for undocumented immigrants with no criminal background who meet strict guidelines like registration, paying a fine, and learning English. Florida Hispanics support earned legalization with these conditions by 67 to 27 percent, compared to 65 to 30 percent in Colorado, and 58 to 33 percent in New Mexico.
    • By large margins, Hispanics in each state support a version of the Dream Act--allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to attain legal residency if they complete college or serve in the military. Florida Hispanics support this policy by 67 to 28 percent, compared to 63 to 30 percent in Colorado, and 59 to 33 percent in New Mexico.
    • Florida Hispanics say that the federal government should focus on the economy right now, but those in Colorado and New Mexico say that now is a good time to pass immigration reform. Florida Hispanics say now is not a good time to pass immigration reform by a slim 48 to 45 percent margin, while those in Colorado and New Mexico say it is a good time by margins of 50 to 43 percent and 51 to 40 percent, respectively.
    • Republicans in Congress take the lion’s share of the blame for the government’s failure to pass immigration reform over the last few years, especially in Colorado and New Mexico. In Florida, 38 percent blame Congressional Republicans, while 31 percent blame Congressional Democrats or President Obama. In Colorado, 48 percent blame Republicans and 27 percent blame Obama or the Democrats. And in New Mexico, 46 percent blame Republicans, and 23 percent blame Obama or the Democrats.
  • (Mainly) Bad Numbers for POTUS

    The Field Poll reports on a September survey of California:
    With Californians, by a greater than three to one margin, saying the country is now seriously off on the wrong track, President Barack Obama’s standing with voters has declined. The current proportion approving of his performance (46%) is now only slightly greater than the proportion disapproving (44%), a big change from three months ago when Californians approved of the job he was doing 54% to 37%. In addition, those who are inclined to reelect Obama outnumber those not inclined by just five points (49% to 44%).

    For the first time since Obama assumed office, fewer than half of California voters (46%) approve of his overall performance as President. In 2009, during the first year of his presidency, 60% or more California voters held a favorable view of the job Obama was doing. Throughout 2010 and the first half of 2011, Obama’s ratings with the public remained quite positive. Three months ago more approved than disapproved by a 54% to 37% margin. However, the proportion viewing him in a negative light is on the rise, with nearly as many disapproving (44%) as approving (46%).
    POTUS, however, can take some comfort from trial heats, as another Field release explains:
    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads Texas Governor Rick Perry among Republican voters in the battle for California’s 172 delegates to the Republican National Convention. The latest Field Poll finds Romney preferred by 28% of registered Republicans in this state, while Perry is the choice of 20%. No other Republican contender receives more than 8% of GOP voter preferences.

    However, when the two leading GOP presidential candidates are paired against Democratic incumbent Barack Obama in general election trial heats, the President leads both by double-digit margins. Against Romney, Obama's lead is thirteen points – 51% to 38%. When paired against Perry, the President leads by nineteen points (54% to 35%).
    Then again, early trial-heat polls have limited value, as Kathleen Frankovic wrote a few years back:
    Potential voters often choose candidates they are familiar with. Many announced candidates are simply unknown quantities. Even after his years in the Senate and a previous presidential run, 55 percent of Americans interviewed in an April Gallup poll still could not say whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Delaware Democratic Sen. Joe Biden. The earliest polls say more about name recognition than likely votes.
    It's important to be cautious, however, in interpreting the President's standing in these early trial heat polls. The fact that Obama is leading now doesn't tell us much about how he would fare against Romney or Perry in November. Research by the political scientists Christopher Wlezien and Robert Erikson finds that general election trial heats have very limited predictive power until later in the campaign (gated). We are currently 419 days away from the 2012 election...

    The direction of the economy is a better indicator of how the election is likely to turn out (as well as Obama's approval ratings, of course, which are heavily influenced by the economy). As Wlezien and Erikson show, the campaign brings economic factors into focus for voters, which in turn causes trial heats to come into closer alignment with the eventual outcome as the election draws near.
    So back to the economy. As consultant Steve Lombardo writes at The Huffington Post, the signs are not good for POTUS:
    This is all about the perceptions of the economy and nothing else matters. Extreme comment you say? Well, think of it this way: on May 1, the President announced to a stunned and grateful nation that a Navy Seal team had just taken out Osama Bin Laden. Most public polls showed an immediate bump of 4 to 8 points in the President's approval rating. This lasted less than two weeks. Obama had done something Bush could not achieve over seven long years, and voters only gave him a modest and short-lived bounce. Obama's long, slow decline in approval appears to be decoupled from the major news events of his presidency. Other than the aforementioned successful raid which killed Osama bin Laden, non-economic events appear to have no lasting impact on voter perceptions of Obama. This is equally true of negative events: 66 soldiers died in Afghanistan last month--the highest monthly toll ever in that war--and there was barely a blip. Other events that Democrats would consider to be the signature achievements of Obama's presidency, such as the passage of the stimulus and health care reform legislation, had little or no lasting impact on Obama's approval rating. Simply put, we rather doubt that there is anything the President can do or say which will change perceptions of his Presidency. Obama needs either substantive improvement on the economy or a major mistake by his GOP rival to win 14 months from now.
    Thirty-nine percent of Americans in September name unemployment or jobs as the most important problem facing the country, up from 29% in August. Unemployment has now passed "the economy" as the most frequently mentioned issue. In the month since the passage of debt ceiling legislation, concerns about the federal budget deficit have eased, while the percentage citing dissatisfaction with government as the top problem has held steady at 14%.

    ...
    The September poll also asked Americans to say which party they thought would do a better job of handling whichever problem they named as most important. More Americans chose the Republican Party (44%) than the Democratic Party (37%) as better able to handle that problem.

    The current seven-point spread is one of the bigger Republican advantages on this question, which Gallup has asked periodically since 1956. It is the largest GOP advantage since January 1995, when Republicans had a 10-point edge.At that time, crime was the top overall problem according to Americans. The all-time-high Republican advantage was 19 points in January 1981, just after Ronald Reagan took office, when the economy was the most important problem.

    Among those in the current poll who cite unemployment as the biggest problem facing the U.S., 42% say the Republican Party is better able to deal with it and 40% say the Democratic Party. Among those saying the economy in general is the top problem, the Republicans have a wider advantage, 57% to 31%.
    At CNN, James Carville sums up:
    People often ask me what advice I would give the White House about various things. Today I was mulling over election results from New York and Nevada while thinking about that very question. What should the White House do now? One word came to mind: Panic.