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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mitt Mutes Newt

John Dickerson writes at Slate:
Newt Gingrich once reportedly said that "one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty." No danger of that anymore. Romney has won back the front-runner slot through a relentless assault on his rival. After South Carolina, the Romney team decided to leave no Gingrich attack unanswered. Privately, they describe Gingrich as a bully who can't take a punch. "He's never won an exchange that hasn't been with a member of the press who can't fight back," said one.

The Romney campaign was trying to get into Gingrich's head, and it appears to have worked. In South Carolina, voters said Gingrich spoke to their conservative heart. Romney advisers say the 22-point switch in polls in the state took place after Gingrich's extended tussle with Juan Williams over racial sensitivity. "Williams was a stand-in for Barack Obama in people's minds," said one Romney adviser. Gingrich didn't repeat that performance during the Florida debates, and all of his other time was spent answering charges from Romney or complaining about them. He was also buried under negative ads, outspent by five to one. All of this effectively rendered him mute. What little space was left, Gingrich botched, driving himself off message by pushing the idea of a lunar base.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gingrich and Reagan

(reposted from Bessette-Pitney)

There has lately been some campaign controversy over Newt Gingrich's relationship to Ronald Reagan.  Gingrich suggests  that he was a key supporter, whereas his critics say he was either irrelevant or hostile. As this blog has pointed out, he may have supplied Reagan with a key debate line in 1980.  He also spoke in favor on the Reagan Administration's policies on many occasions.  But he also broke with Reagan on issues such as tax increases and South African apartheid.

One measure of his significance in the Reagan universe is the number of times the president mentioned him in speeches, press conferences and the like.  If one looks in The Public Papers of the Presidents, one finds exactly seven mentions of Gingrich during the entire eight years of the Reagan presidency.  Five were brief acknowledgments in speeches that the president gave in Georgia.  Here are the other two:
  • July 24, 1981:  "We have this chance because many of you have been working very hard. But I think our special thanks go to people like Barber Conable and Dick Cheney and Stan Parris and Newt Gingrich." 
  • March 2, 1984:  "I'm gratified that Congressman Newt Gingrich is organizing a rally Monday night on the Capitol steps in support of our prayer in school amendment."

That's it.

Here is the complete list of items mentioning Gingrich:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mitt's Political Warfare

Anger his general and confuse him....If quick tempered you can make a fool of him;If he has too delicate a sense of honour you can calumniate him. 
                  -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

At the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny write that the South Carolina defeat prompted the Romney camp to take a new approach to Gingrich. In a conference call, key advsierslaid out more aggressive tactics: " Behind the scenes, it was more than that. It was a call to arms employing all the visible and invisible tactics of political warfare."
David Kochel, an adviser who arrived here from Iowa to oversee the pressure campaign, described the strategy as “let’s go rush the quarterback.” A team of Romney boosters started infiltrating nearly every Gingrich campaign stop to offer instant rebuttals. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah showed up to challenge Mr. Gingrich’s record to reporters and at one point tangled with Mr. Gingrich’s press secretary as the cameras rolled. Bay Buchanan, a longtime conservative activist, worked on the Romney campaign’s behalf to win over voters and commentators.
...A team of some of the most fearsome researchers in the business, led by Mr. Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, spent days dispensing negative information about Mr. Gingrich, much of it finding its way to the influential Drudge Report, which often serves as a guide for conservative talk radio and television assignment editors and to which Mr. Rhoades has close ties.
The effort hit a peak by Thursday, when the site was virtually taken over by headlines assailing Mr. Gingrich, whose advisers said they eventually gave up on trying to persuade the Drudge staff to spare them, acknowledging, in the words of one aide, that “very little can be done.”
The Romney team was also carefully tracking Mr. Gingrich’s every utterance for a potential opening. What an aide described as a “eureka moment” came just hours before the debate on Thursday night. At a Tea Party rally in the Central Florida town of Mount Dora that day, Mr. Gingrich had opened a new line of attack, noting that Mr. Romney had investments in funds that included shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage lenders.
Mr. Romney’s opposition-research team in Boston quickly dug into Mr. Gingrich’s own publicly disclosed holdings to find that he, too, had mutual funds invested in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The information was quickly fed to Mr. Romney during his private debate preparation session at a hotel in downtown Jacksonville.
When Mr. Romney delivered the attack against Mr. Gingrich that evening, Mr. Gingrich was left with no substantive response, a killer blow that helped keep Mr. Gingrich from commanding the debate stage as he had in South Carolina.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where Gingrich Got His Lunar Ideas

Where did Newt Gingrich get the idea that private business could finance travel to the moon, and make money from it?

From Andy Griffith, of course.

In January 1979 -- when Gingrich was in his first month as a House member -- Mr. Griffith starred in a TV-movie titled "Salvage." The Internet Movie Database describes the plot of the movie, the pilot for a short-lived TV series:
Griffith stars as a junkyard owner who builds a space ship from his scrap pile in order to retreive valuable parts left on the moon by American Astronauts.

Crossroads and Unions

CNN reports:
Are American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS comparable to labor unions and Democratic activists scoff at the question. But Steven Law, Crossroads' CEO, says yes.
"American Crossroads was conceived as an answer to the hundreds of millions of dollars that unions and and other groups on the left have been spending for years to support Democrats," Law said.
"So we started American Crossroads because we thought there ought to be a way for us to try and level the playing field."
Adam Ruben, political director for, says it's a fundamentally different approach to political engagement.
Labor union representatives argue that the two Crossroads groups spend their money overwhelmingly on ads, not on get-out-the-vote efforts and advocating for safer work environments, which, union representatives argue, enhance democracy.
Representatives from Crossroads say they are experimenting with new ways to get out the vote online and through technology but acknowledge that it doesn't approach the boots-on-the-ground power the unions have. GPS also spends money supporting other groups that share its less-regulation/lower-tax agenda, which they believe also contributes to society but from a different political perspective.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Romney Wins a Debate

Molly Ball writes at The Atlantic:
There was only one question going into Thursday night's Republican debate in Jacksonville, Fla.: Would Newt Gingrich win, or would he lose?
He lost. And even worse for Gingrich, Mitt Romney won.
Anything less than the type of bring-down-the-house blowout that's kept Gingrich's candidacy afloat would have been a disappointment, and Gingrich fell far short of the mark he'd set for himself.
Romney got Gingrich off-balance from the start by stealing two of the former speaker's favorite tricks: feigned offense and getting the crowd riled up.
AP reports:
Even with the sound turned off, Romney would have stolen Newt Gingrich's debate thunder with a surprisingly commanding and aggressive performance in the latest Florida faceoff, body language experts said Friday....
It was a marked change for Romney, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an expert in political communication at the University of Pennsylvania. "All his nonverbal cues suggested directness," she said. "The halting delivery was gone. He didn't hesitate before responding. The indecisiveness disappeared."
The former Massachusetts governor also showed flashes of temperament, unafraid to display real anger at Gingrich's calling him, in an ad, an "anti-immigrant" candidate.
"Mr. Speaker, I'm not anti-immigrant!" he retorted. "The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive. Don't use a term like that."
The anger came off as both real and controlled, said body language coach Patti Wood, which was important because it projected the sense that Romney wouldn't be carried away by his emotions as president.
Where did the new Romney technique come from? Both Jamieson and Wood say it was clear the candidate had been well coached. Indeed, Romney has been working with a new coach — Brett O'Donnell, formerly with Michele Bachmann's campaign.
"You don't make that kind of change without practice," says Jamieson.
Members of Newt Gingrich's campaign accused Mitt Romney's campaign of packing the audience for the Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., with its own supporters to ensure that the dynamics would be favorable to Romney.
"They definitely packed the room," Kevin Kellems, one of Gingrich's senior advisers, told The Huffington Post early Friday morning. "The problem for them is their candidate, at several junctures, couldn't remember what he had said before on an issue or what the fundamental truth is on a given topic. TV viewers tend to notice and remember things like that."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GOP Gaps

Jonathan Martin notes a class gap:

Mitt Romney’s crowds look like something out of the president’s suite at a University of Florida football game — prosperous, trim, Tattersall-clad, and supportive but not rowdy.

Newt Gingrich supporters, with their spray-painted signs, American flag tees, flip-flops and fanny packs, more closely resemble a group that would fit in nicely playing a few bucks at the dog track.

Exit poll data and unmistakable anecdotal evidence from their events reflects an unfolding campaign in which Romney does best with voters that are a lot like him — wealthy, well-educated and lukewarm about the populist tea party movement. Gingrich is appealing most to Republicans who earn under six figures, make up the core of the middle-class and are worried about their economic prospects and furious at the establishment.
It’s the Tea Party and the cocktail party.
Many conservative writers and activists are lining up against Gingrich, as Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen report:
A top conservative media figure said the flood of attacks reflects a “Holy crap, it could happen” moment in the movement, as Republican leaders began to realize after Gingrich’s South Carolina victory that he could become the nominee, the global face and voice of their party and theology.
“It could happen, and it would be a disaster,” said the conservative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect private conversations. “All of us who were around and saw how he operated as speaker — there’s no one who’s not appalled by the prospect of what could happen. He thinks he embodies conservatism and if he wakes up one day and has a grandiose thought, he is going to expect all of us to fall in line behind him.
At Talking Points Memo, Sahil Kapur quotes a particularly biting line:
A GOP aide piled on: “Newt’s problem is his open marriage with conservatism. He has a long history of straying from his limited government vows. He spent much of the 1990s in bed with big government Republicans and lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist.”

Republicans Like a Lower Rate on Capital Gains

A New York Times poll shows that Americans tend to disapprove of the lower tax rate on capital gains, which allowed Mitt Romney to pay less tax than other millionaires.  Other data suggest why the issue may not be fatal in the nomination race:
But there’s a partisan divide, with just more than half of Republicans approving of the lower tax rate on capital gains, but about two-thirds of Democrats saying capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the same rate as income from work. More than half of independents – an important swing group in the presidential election — also say the tax rates should be similar. And most Americans say that what they themselves pay in taxes is about right, but that people with high incomes pay too little in taxes.
A little more than half say the tax rate they pay is about right, while about 4 in 10 say they pay more than their fair share. Seven in 10 Democrats say wealthy Americans pay less than their fair share in taxes, while Republicans are divided.
Nearly 4 in 10 Republicans say that the rich pay less than their fair share, and about the same number say the amount wealthy people pay is about right. Nearly 2 in 10 Republicans say the rich pay more than their fair share.
And 58 percent of independents also say the rich are not contributing their fair share to the nation’s coffers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gingrich Surge, Romney Slump

Gallup reports:
Newt Gingrich has all but erased Mitt Romney's 23-percentage-point lead of a week ago among Republican voters nationally, and the two candidates are now essentially tied, at 29% for Romney and 28% for Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have significantly lower levels of support, at 13% and 11%, respectively.
Jon Cohen writes at The Washington Post:
The number of Americans with negative views of Mitt Romney has spiked in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, compounding the former Massachusetts governor’s challenges as he tries to rally from Saturday’s big loss in South Carolina.
 Among independents, Romney’s unfavorable rating now tops 50 percent — albeit by a single point — a first in Post-ABC polling back to 2006. Just two weeks ago, more independents had favorable than unfavorable views of Romney; now, it’s 2 to 1 negative.
Romney’s losses since a Post-ABC poll conducted between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are not limited to independents. The number of Democrats viewing him unfavorably is up 10 percentage points, and among his fellow Republicans, negative ratings have jumped from 18 to 32 percent. (Prior to his Iowa performance, Romney’s unfavorable number had been higher than 18, but hadn’t been in the 30s among Republicans since early 2008.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Romney and Gingrich

Romney goes after Gingrich over Freddie Mac:


Fred Thompson, who came to hate Romney during the 2008 campaign, endorses Gingrich:


Crossroads: MA Senate Race & State of the Union

The Boston Herald reports:
A conservative group linked to GOP mastermind Karl Rove ripped a pledge between U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to keep special interest-funded attack ads out of their race, saying the deal doesn’t go far enough.
American Crossroads, a group affiliated with Rove that has already been running anti-Warren ads, said the pact leaves gaping “loopholes” that will allow the Harvard professor to benefit from her strong union backing.
“Because the agreement allows union phone banks, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote drives — all union core specialties — Warren’s latest agreement has loopholes the Teamsters could drive a truck through, the longshoremen could steer a ship through, the machinists could fly a plane through and government unions could drive forklifts of paperwork through,” said American Crossroads CEO Steven Law.

Meanwhile, Law writes to supporters that the State of the Union provides the president's critics with an opportunity to highlight his record on the middle class.  A video drives home the point:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crossroads, Coordination and Funding

Jessica Yellin reports at CNN:
Crossroads GPS also doubles as something of a venture capital fund for organizations that support its policy goals. In 2010 it gave $4 million to Grover Norquists' Americans for Tax Reform -- now famous for the no taxes pledge -- and $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, which is leading the challenge to the President's health care law in the courts.
"We provide financing to them to do the issue work that they do very effectively," explains Law.
This makes Crossroads a hub for a growing network of organizations on the right.
That's troublesome to some Democrats, who are outraged by the apparent coordination with other outside spending groups.
They point to Carl Forti, the political director of American Crossroads. "Why doesn't the media expose Carl Forti?" more than one Democrat has asked. Forti, wears another hat, overseeing Mitt Romney's Super PAC, Restore Our Future. Some Democrats call this an obvious conflict of interest.
Law says not at all. "It's totally appropriate" for independent Super PACs to communicate. In fact, he says, coordinating with "other independent groups that are active on the center right" is "an important part of our model." The only prohibited activity is coordinating with the candidates and their staffs....
[Spokesman Jonathan] Collegio says the people behind American Crossroads hope it becomes an enduring force. "There was always a desire to be a permanent fixture on the center right."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gingrich on Laws Against Adultery

In A Nation Like No Other (p. 154), Newt Gingrich condemns the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws.
But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was more explicit in a concurring opinion, arguing that “[m]oral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate governmental interest, and equating "moral disapproval" of a group with a "bare desire to harm the group." This was a radical assertion with enormous consequences for American jurisprudence.  As Justice Scalia pointed out in dissent, “This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation,” including “criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.”
So here's a question for Newt Gingrich involving not his personal life, but his own comment on a public policy question:  

Should states be able to make adultery a criminal offense?

How Newt Won SC

Terence Jeffrey writes at
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has defeated the national media in South Carolina by a margin of 54 percent to 14 percent, according to a survey conducted by a Democratic polling firm.
The poll, conducted by Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling (PPP), interviewed 1,540 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20. It showed that 54 percent of those voters said they had a favorable opinion of Gingrich while 37 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him.
At the same time, only 14 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the media, while 77 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of the media.
Andrew Grossman writes at The Wall Street Journal:
South Carolinians placed an even higher priority on beating President Obama than did their counterparts in Iowa and New Hampshire. About one-third of voters in each of the other two early states told pollsters that the ability to defeat Mr. Obama was the most important candidate quality. In South Carolina, 45% said that was their highest priority, according to exit poll data released by CNN. Half of them voted for Mr. Gingrich, while fewer than four in 10 voted for Mr. Romney.
Similarly, a far larger proportion of South Carolina voters said the economy was the most important issue than did their counterparts in Iowa and New Hampshire. If South Carolinians had followed the pattern of voters in previous states on which candidate they favored on the economy, that would have meant a big win for Mr. Romney. But they didn't. Four in 10 of those voters backed Mr. Gingrich Saturday, while one-third backed Mr. Romney.
Byron York in The Washington Examiner:
For one thing, all the talk about Romney having a hugely superior ground organization turned out not to be true. "They did not do the retail politics that a Santorum and a Gingrich have done over time," said Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. (Thomas was neutral in the race.) "I think Newt's people, they had more on-the-ground staff, and they worked." There were a lot of them, too; after Gingrich's strong showing in the debates, said Susan Meyers, Gingrich's media coordinator for the Southeast, "We have so many volunteers, our phones are melting right now."
Gingrich's campaign was also faster and more nimble than the Romney battleship. "There is a very strong contrast between the two campaign organizations," said Gingrich adviser (and former George W. Bush administration official) Kevin Kellems. "In military terms, it's speed versus mass. Newt Gingrich's operation, and Newt Gingrich as a man, has a great deal of speed -- intellectual speed, decisiveness. The Romney campaign is much more about money and size, having hired half of Washington D.C. And sometimes, speed beats mass."
Romney stages perfect events ...  in every sense but engaging with the voters....In this primary race, voters are hungry for substance, and Romney didn't give them much.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt's Prospects in the General Election

Conn Carroll writes at The Washington Examiner:
Unlike Mitt Romney, who occasionally beats President Obama in general election poll match ups, Newt Gingrich trails far behind President Obama in every survey. But just how bad are Gingrich's unfavorable among the general public compared to Obama and Romney?
Not every poll releases their full results, so here are the most recent favorability results I could find for Obama, Romney, and Newt.
Fox News, 1/12-1/14:Obama, fav/unfav, 51%/46%, +5Romney, fav/unfav, 45%/38%, +7Gingrich, fav/unfav, 27%/56%, -29
CBS/NYT, 1/12-1/17:Obama, fav/unfav, 38%/45%, -7Romney, fav/unfav, 21%/35%, -14Gingrich, fav/unfav, 17%/49%, -32
PPP, 1/13-1/17:Obama, app/dis, 47%/50%, -3Romney, fav/unfav, 35%/53%, -18Gingrich, fav/unfav, 26%/60%, -34
America does not love Romney, but boy do they hate Newt.
But he'd triumph in the debates, right?  At The American Thinker, John Ziegler says no.
This scenario, is not just some risk-free fantasy, it is as dangerous as the kid on the top of a building who thinks he can fly because he is wearing a fancy cape. Newt Gingrich would not only fail to crush Obama in a debate, he instantaneously would eliminate any doubt as to the inevitability of the president's reelection.
First of all, there is absolutely zero chance that Obama would agree to the debate format which Newt pretends he could somehow force the sitting president to accept. The only way to dictate the terms of such an event is to be ahead in the polls and to have the media take up your cause to pressure the other side. Newt has about as much chance of either of those things being reality as he does getting his second wife to tape a campaign ad for him.
Quite simply, that isn't happening, and yet absolutely no one ever even bothers to point this out.
Once forced to combat the president in a clash of 60-second sound bites refereed by Obama's politically-correct buddies, Newt's supposedly great debating strengths will backfire badly. In a Republican primary, his haymakers draw cheers from the partisan crowd and the commentators marvel at what a crafty street brawler he is. In a general election debate, the crowd of "independents" will boo and the very same "news" people will suddenly he horrified by the bull who just smashed their china shop to bits.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gingrich Scores by Hitting Media

In the South Carolina debate, John King gave Gingrich yet another chance to gain cheers by hitting the media:

Earlier this week, he did the same to Juan Williams:


 And in the fall to Maria Bartiromo:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Very Eventful Day

The Washington Post reports that Santorum won Iowa, sorta:
Former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) officially won the Iowa caucuses Thursday — 16 days after the last vote was cast — when state GOP officials said a final count showed him 34 votes ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
That was a shift from the preliminary results announced after the Jan. 3 caucuses, which showed Romney winning Iowa by eight votes.
State officials said they still had not received any results from eight of the state’s 1,774 precincts. But now, they said, it was too late for the missing votes to count....
State GOP officials Thursday even seemed to cast doubt on their own final results: in a statement announcing the vote totals, state party chairman Matt Strawn avoided using the word “winner.” Instead, he simply “congratulated” Santorum and Romney “on a hard-fought effort during the closest contest in caucus history.”
CNN reports:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry suspended his struggling presidential campaign Thursday and threw his support to Newt Gingrich, a development that could alter the dynamics of the Republican race just two days before the tightening South Carolina primary.
"I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country. We've had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?" Perry said at a press conference in Charleston, South Carolina.
It would have been a good day for Newt, except that his ex-wife filled in the details on the "not perfect" part. Brian Ross reports at ABC:
Newt Gingrich lacks the moral character to serve as President, his second ex-wife Marianne told ABC News, saying his campaign positions on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values do not square with what she saw during their 18 years of marriage.
In her first television interview since the 1999 divorce, to be broadcast tonight on Nightline, Marianne Gingrich, a self-described conservative Republican, said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about Gingrich.
CLICK HERE to see a preview of ABC News' exclusive broadcast interview with Marianne Gingrich and then catch the full interview tonight on ABC News' Nightline at 11:35 p.m. ET.
More from James Grimaldi at The Washington Post:
Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in 1999 asked his second wife for an “open marriage” or a divorce at the same time he was giving speeches around the country on family and religious values, his former wife, Marianne, told The Washington Post on Thursday.
Marianne Gingrich said she first heard from the former speaker about the divorce request as she was waiting in the home of her mother on May 11, 1999, her mother’s 84th birthday. Over the phone, as she was having dinner with her mother, Newt Gingrich said, “I want a divorce.”
Shocked, Marianne Gingrich replied: “Is there anybody else?” she recalled. “He was quiet. Within two seconds, when he didn’t immediately answer, I knew.”
The next day, Newt Gingrich gave a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to the Republican Women Leaders Forum in Erie, Pa., extolling the virtues of the founding fathers and criticizing liberal politicians for supporting tax increases, saying they hurt families and children.
“When a liberal talks about values, will he or she actually like us to teach American history?” Newt Gingrich told the women’s group. “Will they actually like young people to learn that George Washington was an ethical man? A man of standards, a man who earned the right to be father of this country?”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Palin Sorta Endorses Gingrich

At USA Today, David Jackson writes:
Newt Gingrich has a semi-endorsement from a prominent Republican: Sarah Palin.

The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee told Fox News host Sean Hannity last night that she would vote for Gingrich, if only to prolong the Republican presidential race.

"If I had to vote in South Carolina -- in order to keep this thing going -- I'd vote for Newt and I would want this to continue," Palin said.

Palin did not mention the the name of front-runner Mitt Romney, who will get a strong push toward the Republican nomination if he wins the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

But the former Alaska governor did say the Republican candidates need more vetting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gingrich: Relentless Innovator

Frank Gregorsky has web-published a draft book chapter in pdf form. Based on his working with Newt Gingrich during 1978-83 and again in 1993-94, he distills Gingrich's method of operation and contends that it has never changed. You'll find nothing about religion or marital status -- instead, the profile is of a lifelong "political animal" who moves faster than he thinks. Pages 37 to 41 are a very helpful list of sources.

Full disclosure: I have known Frank since my own Capitol Hill days and he quotes me three or four times.

Gingrich at the Myrtle Beach Debate

Newt Gingrich got a rare standing ovation at the Fox News debate at Myrtle Beach last night.Conservative Rich Lowry writes:
A night that was supposed to be all about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital ended up being defined by an exchange between our own Juan Williams and Newt Gingrich.
Williams challenged Gingrich for his statements calling President Obama a "food stamp president" and advocating that kids learn the work ethic by doing, for instance, janitorial work at schools. Gingrich has thrived throughout the debate season on combat with moderators and Williams was straying into his wheelhouse.
A righteously ticked Gingrich referred to Williams as "Juan," and proceeded to light up the auditorium in the most memorable moment of the night.
On the hiring kids to work odd jobs at school, Gingrich explained that it's practical and good for the kids, thundering: "Only the elites despise earning money."
He noted that the use of food stamps has spiked under President Obama. "I know among the politically correct," Gingrich jabbed, "you aren't supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable."
He ended with a ringing endorsement of the promise of the Declaration of Independence for all people and vowed to continue to come up with ideas to help people "learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn someday to own the job." Bret Baier could barely be heard going to the break over the sustained standing ovation.
At Salon, Joan Walsh gives the liberal perspective:
The Fox News debate began auspiciously, with moderator Bret Baier noting that it was our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then his actual question had nothing to do with Dr. King. But those of us who feared the debate would duck racial issues worried for naught. The night climaxed with the South Carolina crowd giving Newt Gingrich a standing ovation for smacking down Fox’s leading black contributor, Juan Williams, for his impertinent questions about race.

Williams asked for it, of course. What was he thinking making tough racial queries at a GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.? First, he asked Romney how he squared his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric with his own family’s story of moving to and then from Mexico seeking religious freedom. He asked Rick Santorum, who purports to care about poverty, what he would do about high African American poverty rates. He asked Ron Paul whether he thought the nation’s harsh drug laws were bad for black people. Then he made the mistake of asking Newt Gingrich about his comments that poor urban children came from communities that lacked a “work ethic,” and his calling Barack Obama “the food stamp president.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Huntsman Pulls Out, Revises Website

Jon Huntsman has withdrawn from the race and endorsed Mitt Romney. Hours before the formal statement, Michael Shear reported at The New York Times:
But Mr. Huntsman’s campaign, which struggled to raise money for expensive television ads, put many of his harshest attacks against Mr. Romney into clever and biting online videos that he posted to his campaign’s Web site and a corresponding YouTube channel.
Those videos (and a few television commercials) are now mostly gone, quickly yanked from public view as Mr. Huntsman prepares for an 11 a.m. endorsement of Mr. Romney.
A spokesman for the campaign, who asked not to be identified, said only that “we’ve removed a substantial amount of content from the Web, as campaigns often do when they end.”
But what was notable about Mr. Huntsman’s actions was the speed with which his operation moved.
It was also notable for the impact it very quickly had on news Web sites and blogs. Because many sites — including The New York Times — regularly embed videos hosted by campaigns directly on their Web sites, the Huntsman videos on those sites vanished, too.
That could provide an object lesson for news organizations hoping to create a permanent record of the back-and-forth of a campaign. If they want the videos to last, they must host them on their own servers.
But just in case, there’s always the other party — in this case, the Democrats — who will be eager to remind the public what was once there.
At 11:33 p.m. Sunday, the Democratic National Committee’s Rapid Response unit sent out a long list of Mr. Huntsman’s most vitriolic comments about Mr. Romney — lest anyone forget.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


At Slate, Sasha Issenberg writes about Rayid Ghani, an Obama campaign adviser who has noted that microtargeting helps identify candidate preferences and propensity to vote, but does not cast much light on the structure of issue opinions.  He is trying to mine such data from voters' own stories.
Campaigns do, however, take in plenty of information about what voters believe, information that is not gathered in the form of a poll. It comes in voters’ own words, often registered onto the clipboards of canvassers, during a call-center phone conversation, in an online signup sequence or a stunt like “share your story.” As part of the Dreamcatcher project, Obama campaign officials have already set out to redesign the “notes” field on individual records in the database they use to track voters so that it sits visibly at the top of the screen—encouraging volunteers to gather and enter that information. And they’ve made the field large enough to include the “stories” submitted online. (One story was 60,000 text characters long.)

What can the campaign do with this blizzard of text snippets? Theoretically, Ghani could isolate keywords and context, then use statistical patterns gleaned from the examples of millions of voters to discern meaning. Say someone prattles on about “the auto bailout” to a volunteer canvasser: Is he lauding a signature domestic-policy achievement or is he a Tea Party sympathizer who should be excluded from Obama’s future outreach efforts? An algorithm able to interpret that voter’s actual words and sort them into categories might be able to make an educated guess. “They’re trying to tease out a lot more nuanced inferences about what people care about,” says a Democratic consultant who worked closely with Obama’s data team in 2008.

Obama’s campaign has boasted that one of their priorities this year is something they’ve described only as “microlistening,” but would officially not discuss how they intend to deploy insights gleaned from their new research into text analytics. “We have no plans to read out our data/analytics/voter contact strategy,” spokesman Ben LaBolt writes by email. “That just telegraphs to the other guys what we're up to.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crossroads GPS Issue Agenda

Chris Frates writes at National Journal that Crossroads GPS  plans a "New Majority Agenda" of six issues:
--"Craft a lean, pro-growth tax system"--"Clean up Washington's 'downgraded' finances"--"Ensure quality health care for seniors and families"--"Restore America's energy leadership"--"Break the regulatory chokehold on economic recovery'--"Make America a respected global leader again"
He quotes CEO Steven Law that election-year advocacy influences policy in the next year.
For instance, Law said, the group's polling and focus groups showed that President Obama's health care law remains generally unpopular. But, people don't feel an imminent need to change it because they don't know how it will affect them.

Crossroads GPS, Law said, plans to start "communicating to people in much more specificity about how the law works and how it impacts them in order to build a foundation for dismantling it in 2013. If that case isn't made before then, it will be hard to build the momentum to do so if we're in a position in the White House and Congress to."

Another issue ripe for definition, he said, is corporate tax reform and the role of taxes in general.
The effort is an exact analogue to the 2008 campaign Law ran to derail the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier for unions to organize. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce effort successfully defined card check as extreme legislation and a sop to labor that ultimately helped kill its chances of passing a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House.

Or, as Law put it, "We've made it radioactive by the time the new Congress was seated."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bain Attack #Fail

Rick Klein writes at ABC:

We all know that conservatives are skeptical of Mitt Romney, he of the shifting positions on social issues and infamous proclamations of not wanting to return to Reagan-Bush.
 But if you need evidence that the attacks on Romney’s record at Bain have backfired, and may be doing more to unite conservatives behind Romney more than anything Romney himself could have done, consider this partial list of those who are defending him — and chastising Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for their “vulture capitalist” attacks:
Rush Limbaugh
Sean Hannity
Laura Ingraham
Jim DeMint
Karl Rove
Mike Huckabee
Rudy Giuliani
The US Chamber of Commerce
The Club for Growth
The Wall Street Journal editorial page
Peter Landers writes at The Wall Street Journal:

Newt Gingrich is calling on a political group backing his campaign to revise or withdraw a documentary attacking Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital.
The political action committee Winning Our Future created the 28-minute documentary, “King of Bain,” and is running ads based on it in South Carolina ahead of that state’s Jan. 21 primary.
The Gingrich statement came after Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler this morning gave “King of Bain” his four-Pinocchio rating. Mr. Kessler accused the film makers of using “manipulative interviews” and other tactics to create a “highly misleading portrayal of Romney’s years at Bain Capital.”

Gingrich, LaHaye, and Catholicism

The Gingrich campaign has announced:
Pastor Tim LaHaye has endorsed Newt Gingrich for president, and will be joining his Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as a national co-chair.
In a letter to South Carolina pastors, LaHaye urged them to vote for Gingrich because he is in the best “strategic position” to improve America.
“It seems apparent the Republican candidates have come down to two possible winners,” LaHaye said. “As my friend, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell told me personally, ‘Speaker Newt Gingrich is the most qualified man in America to run as president of the United States”… We agree!’” 
"I am honored to have Tim's endorsement. His work as both a minister and author is truly unmatched," said Gingrich. "Tim will be a terrific partner for the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as we work to combat the influence of radical secularism and activist judges."
This development is odd.  Gingrich converted to Catholicism some time back, but LaHaye is notorious for his anti-Catholicism.  At Catholic Answers, a lay Catholic website, Jimmy Akin writes:
In 1987 Jack Kemp named Tim LaHaye as national co-chair of his presidential campaign, but LaHaye resigned days later when newspapers published anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic remarks he had made. These included references to Catholicism as "a false religion" and to Jews being responsible for the death of Christ. Subsequently it came to light that, during the 1970s, LaHaye’s church had funded Mission to Catholics, a virulently anti-Catholic ministry run by former Carmelite priest Bart Brewer.
Since then, LaHaye has coauthored the Left Behind series.  Akin continues:
The Left Behind series also involves a more direct attack on the faith of Catholics. Many passages—particularly in the second volume (Tribulation Force)—are directly anti-Catholic. It is not a particularly skillful anti-Catholicism, for the authors betray a fundamental lack of knowledge concerning the Church, but it is anti-Catholic nonetheless.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

American Crossroads v. Kerrey

Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey is mulling a run to replace retiring Ben Nelson.  American Crossroads is making a preemptive strike against Kerrey:
WASHINGTON – As carpetbagger Bob Kerrey returns to Nebraska from his New York City home to consider a U.S. Senate campaign, American Crossroads has launched a radio ad to remind voters of Kerrey’s far-left record of supporting Obamacare, voting for the largest tax hike in history, and leading a university the New York Times called a “liberal haven.”
The statewide radio buy, which totals $30,000, started Wednesday night and will continue through Sunday.  You can listen to the spot here: 
“Bob Kerrey thinks if he can survive for a decade in New York City then he can make it anywhere, but Nebraskans are inclined to disagree,” said Nate Hodson, American Crossroads director of state and regional media relations.  “For example, Bob Kerrey’s proud support of Obamacare might win him friends in Greenwich Village but it will destroy him in Nebraska – just as it did Ben Nelson.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mitt the Acceptable

Mitt Romney is the now the only candidate that a majority of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans nationwide see as an "acceptable" GOP nominee for president. Conservative Republicans are more likely to say Romney would be an acceptable nominee than either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum....Fifty-nine percent of all Republicans nationwide perceive that Romney is an acceptable GOP nominee for president, the only candidate with majority support on this measure. Slightly less than half say Gingrich (46%) or Santorum (45%) would be acceptable, while a majority of Republicans say that the three remaining candidates -- Perry, Paul, and Huntsman -- would be unacceptable as their party's nominee.
Jay Cost finds a similar result in the New Hampshire exit poll:
Romney is now the running away favorite to win the GOP nomination, and not just because of momentum. The following was the most startling set of numbers from the exit poll in New Hampshire:
We have heard a lot over the last couple months about the anti-Romney sentiment in the Republican party. However, this statistic suggests that, in New Hampshire at any rate, Romney is the only candidate with whom a majority of the party is satisfied. The rest of the candidates seem to have alienated more than half of the GOP.
That is Romney’s biggest advantage, far and away.

Microtargeting and New Hampshire

An earlier post discussed Romney's success with micro-targeting in Iowa.  He did it again last night in New Hampshire. Maeve Reston writes at The Los Angeles Times:
A central factor in Mitt Romney's impressive win in New Hampshire was a sophisticated and relentless voter contact program that locked in supporters early and turned them out to the polls.
Flush with cash as other rivals limped through the summer and fall, the Romney team poured resources into data: Operatives mined reams of consumer information — from the number of purchases voters made at Williams-Sonoma to their range of financial investments — to build a model that would allow them to find and identify potential supporters.
Michael Meyers, one of Romney's micro-targeting gurus and the president of the Alexandria, Va.-based TargetPoint Consulting, noted that because more data are now collected online, the campaign has been able to cull up to 300 pieces of information about a voter, compared with fewer than two dozen in 2008.
The practice is a cost-effective way to reach high-value voters, especially in states where heavy retail politicking is impractical.
"The larger the state is, the harder it is to do effective voter contact — because there's more people to contact, identify and recontact," said Charlie Black, a strategist for 2008 GOP nominee John McCain who has informally offered advice to Romney from time to time this cycle. "The underdog candidates, even if they got hot and won a primary, don't have time to develop and install this kind of system in a matter of weeks.

"It's expensive. It's part of having a sophisticated national campaign that's well-funded," Black said, "and they're really the only such campaign out there this time."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Romney in Debate

At CNN, debate coach Todd Graham appraises Romney's performance in the weekend debates.
There is a simple debating strategy when answering attacks: "Backward-step-pivot-forward." First, put up a robust defense -- defend your positions thoroughly (backward-step). And second, figure out how to turn your potential weakness into strength. In other words, start with defense and then attempt to make that same issue part of your offense (pivot-forward).

Who accomplished that in the first debate? Mitt Romney. He is especially good at the "pivot-forward" part of this formula. On the topic of jobs and the private sector, Romney was attacked in the debate on two counts. First, rivals said being a "manager" is not the same as being the commander in chief and running a country. However, Romney answered by stating that business leaders are not just managers. They are leaders. (Notice the pivot?)

At the beginning of the [second] debate, it looked as though everyone had taken advice to be more aggressive toward Romney. There was a unified focus by Santorum, Paul, and Newt Gingrich to hammer away at Romney and not let him off the hook.

For a while, it was effective (especially on Romney being a career politician), and I thought Romney would be in real trouble. Remember, this was Romney's best point in the first debate (his private sector leadership) and the other candidates were not going to let him score on that point again.

But then they lost steam. After the first series of questions, the challenges to Romney disappeared. Why? Either the other candidates stopped the direct attacks because they were worried about overcorrecting, appearing rude, and alienating voters (Gingrich came close when he told Romney to "drop the pious baloney") -- or in the heat of the moment, they forgot their coaching once the second debate was under way (which I can assure you from experience happens way too often).