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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

About Last Night

Romney won big in Arizona, which had forfeited half its delegates in order to have a winner-take-all primary this early.

Michigan also lost half its delegates.  But more media attention focused less on the delegate count than on the popular vote, which Romney won narrowly.

Santorum got about half the votes of Democrats who voted in the Michigan GOP primary. So did "Operation Hilarity" have an effect? Maybe not as much as Kos would have liked. Aaron Blake explains at The Washington Post:

Exit polls showed 9 percent of voters identified themselves as Democrats and 12 percent identified themselves as strong opponents of the tea party — a dead giveaway that their sympathies probably don’t lie with the Republican Party.
That’s higher than in any contest in the presidential race so far. And among both of these groups, Santorum did well, taking about half of the vote.
But looking at it another way, that haul isn’t terribly novel.
First, the 9 percent of Democrats voting was just slightly more than it was in 2008. In that election, 7 percent of Republican primary voters self-identified as Democrats, even though there was a Democratic primary held the same day (though it should be noted thatPresident Obama wasn’t on the ballot)
Given that there was no competitive Democratic primary on Tuesday, it’s not surprising that more Democrats would take part in the GOP primary. But the difference isn’t even statistically significant compared to four years ago.
Second, the effort paled in comparison to the last time there was a real campaign to get Democrats to cross over.
While Democrats voting for Santorum comprised roughly 5 percent of the vote on Tuesday, in the 2000 race, Democrats supporting John McCain made up about 14 percent of voters overall.
At The Daily Beast, Peter Boyer observes:
But the most striking feature of Santorum’s double-header defeat Tuesday was his failure to win a majority of his fellow Catholic faithful, who went for the Mormon Romney by a 6-point margin in both Arizona and Michigan.

In Michigan’s open primary, four in 10 voters were self-described Democrats or independents, and Santorum attracted their votes by a wide margin. That helped to bring him close enough to be able to claim a moral victory. But Santorum lost the two cohorts he ought to have won if he hoped to emerge today as a credible threat to Romney—his fellow Catholics, and another key group in this primary season: voters describing themselves as Republicans.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Nonprofit Network

At Open Secrets, Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire write:
Several nonprofit organizations that don't disclose their donors but have been deeply involved in partisan politics during the last several years have received multimillion-dollar contributions from groups that are familiar players in Republican circles.
The GOP nonprofits -- American Action Network, which spent $26 million on ads in the 2010 mid-term elections; Crossroads GPS, which spent $16 million; and the American Future Fund, which laid out $9.6 million -- are all organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. They and the individuals who run them have strong ties to some of the same political networks, research by OpenSecrets Blog shows.
One of the previously unreported donor groups, according to forms filed by nonprofit groups with the Internal Revenue Service, is the Republican Jewish Coalition, which gave $4 million in 2010 to Crossroads GPS -- perhaps the most well-known of the outside spending groups that were running ads in the 2010 cycle, with ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove.

American Action Network also received a $4.5 million grant in 2010 from PhRMA, the brand-name pharmaceutical makers' trade group, IRS forms indicate, and PhRMA gave another $300,000 to the American Future Fund. The latter group continues to be very active, announcing a new anti-Obama ad today that it says it will spend $4 million to air in nine states.
American Future Fund also received a 2010 gift of $2.4 million from the American Justice Partnership, according to the IRS. AJP was established by the National Association of Manufacturers to "battle greedy trial lawyers' scam lawsuits and win legal reform fights in states all across the country," according to its website.

Operation Hilarity

Four years ago, Rush Limbaugh mounted "Operation Chaos" to encourage Republicans to support Hillary Clinton in Democratic primaries, with the goal of weakening the eventual Democratic candidate. Democrats are now returning the favor, as Michael Shear reports in The New York Times:
Rick Santorum’s campaign on Monday night began urging Democrats to vote against Mitt Romney in the Michigan Republican primary, apparently counting on cross-party support to win a close contest in the state on Tuesday.
With polls in Michigan suggesting a tight race between Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum, the victory could be determined in part by Democrats and union workers eager to cause mischief in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary....

The chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Mark Brewer, issued a press release last week reminding members of his party that they will still be able to participate in the Democratic caucus on May 5 if they vote as a Republican on Tuesday.

Markos Moulitsas, a liberal blogger, has called for “Operation Hilarity,” in which Democrats vote for Mr. Santorum. “Let’s keep the .G.O.P clown show going!” he said.

Mr. Moulitsas has gotten plenty of push-back from liberals who say the Democrats shouldn’t be playing such games. But he has called the idea a “no brainer,” saying that voting for Mr. Santorum would ensure that the Republican primary contest would be extended.

“The longer this thing drags out, the more unpopular the Republican presidential pretenders become,” he wrote on his blog, Daily Kos.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum v. JFK

At ABC, George Stephanopoulos reports on his Sunday interview with Santorum:
GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said today that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.”
“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum said.
“That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square,” he said.
To put it mildly, such remarks were politically imprudent. By more than a 2-1 margin, Republicans remember JFK favorably.  Moreover, Santorum could have made the same point without criticizing Kennedy.  Indeed, it would have been clever to quote Barack Obama's 2006 speech on religion and politics:
But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Non-coordination Coordination

Earlier posts describe how Super PACs coordinate among themselves and with campaigns while staying within the letter of the law. This New York Times story nicely illustrations the point:
When Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign needs advice on direct mail strategies for reaching voters, it looks to TargetPoint Consulting. And when the independent “super PAC” supporting him needs voter research, it, too, goes to TargetPoint.
Sharing a consultant would seem to be an embodiment of coordination between a candidate and an independent group, something prohibited under federal law. But TargetPoint is just one of a handful of interconnected firms in the same office suite in Alexandria, Va., working for either the Romney campaign or the super PAC Restore Our Future.

Elsewhere in the same suite is WWP Strategies, whose co-founder is married to TargetPoint’s chief executive and works for the Romney campaign. Across the conference room is the Black Rock Group, whose co-founder — a top Romney campaign official in 2008 — now helps run both Restore Our Future and American Crossroads, another independent group that spoke up in defense of Mr. Romney’s candidacy in January. Finally, there is Crossroads Media, a media placement firm that works for American Crossroads and other Republican groups.

The overlapping roles and relationships of the consultants in Suite 555 at 66 Canal Center Plaza offer a case study in the fluidity and ineffectual enforcement of rules intended to prevent candidates from coordinating their activities with outside groups. And there has been a rising debate over the ascendancy of super PACs, which operate free of the contribution limits imposed on the candidates but are supposed to remain independent of them.

Mitt's Michigan Muscle

CBS reports:
According to a new Rasmussen Poll, Romney has a six-point lead over Santorum in Michigan, 40-34 percent. That’s a complete reversal from a similar poll taken three days ago that showed Santorum withi a four-point lead. 
Another poll from Mitchell Research showed Romney had a three point lead in Michigan, which was significantly different from the nine point lead Santorum enjoyed just last week from the same polling operation.
AP reports from Muskegon, Michigan:
The standing-room-only crowd crammed into a Holiday Inn conference room in this industrial city roared with approval as Rick Santorum served up applause lines on why Michigan Republicans should choose him, not native-son Mitt Romney, as the GOP presidential nominee. Santorum's message, heavy on religious values and contempt for bailouts, was perfect for an audience in this stronghold of social conservatism and tea party sentiment.
But Santorum's campaign couldn't fully capitalize on the moment, revealing a shortcoming that Romney hopes will help him win Tuesday's primary despite the surging enthusiasm and favorable poll numbers for his chief opponent.
Santorum's campaign organization is so sparse in Michigan that no one was available to collect the names and email addresses of the people streaming out of the hall after the speech, a practice that's a staple of political organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts. By contrast, Romney has a deep and experienced organization working in every corner of the state. Seven of Michigan's nine Republican congressmen have tapped their campaign networks to help Romney put out calls, set up events and harvest donors.
"Mitt has a great advantage as far as having boots on the ground," said Jim Thienel, GOP chairman in Oakland County, an affluent area where virtually the entire Republican party apparatus is part of the Romney campaign

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super Money and Super PACs

Super PACs supporting presidential candidates continue to take in six- and seven-figure contributions from individuals who also have given the legal maximum to the candidate's campaign committee.

During 2011, the super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney pulled in contributions from 172 individuals who also gave the legal maximum to Romney's campaign -- 84 percent of Restore Our Future's 205 donors.

The double-givers included five individuals who gave $1 million to the super PAC: hedge fund titans Paul Singer, John Paulson and Julian Robertson, homebuilder Bob Perry and former Bain executive Edward Conard, according to a new analysis by Democracy 21, theCampaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics.

On the other side of the aisle, the figures were less dramatic: 15 of the 55 individuals who donated to Priorities USA Action, the pro-Barack Obama super PAC formed by two of his former aides, maxed out to Obama’s campaign committee. Those 15 include Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, who gave $2 million to Priorities USA Action. The number of people giving to both committees could increase now that Obama has given his blessing to the super PAC's efforts, reversing his earlier stance.
Meanwhile, the entertainment media ride to the rescue:
Comedian Bill Maher has pledged $1 million to a super PAC supporting President Obama's reelection bid, some welcome news for a group that has struggled to raise money compared with its conservative rivals.
The gift to Priorities USA Action comes after the PAC’s dismal fundraising month in January. It managed to bring in only $58,800 whileconservative super PACs are bringing in millions.
The host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" announced his donation Thursday during a webcast for a Yahoo! standup comedy series.
"Most important advice I ever got in show business, as true today as then: Always bring your wallet onstage," Maher said in a Twitter post.
Priorities USA Action sent its own tweet, thanking Maher for his “generous donation.”

Friday, February 24, 2012


At National Journal, Alex Roarty writes:
Calling the 2012 Republican presidential primary the most volatile for the GOP in generations isn't political hyperbole - it's empirical fact.
Since the start 2011, seven different candidates or potential contenders could claim to be the Republican race's front-runner, according to polling from Gallup. The list includes Mike Huckabee,Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. In at least one Gallup poll, each claimed at least a share of the lead in the GOP race. (Huckabee and Trump are the only two who never officially declared themselves a candidate.)
I wrote in October, when Cain's campaign was at its peak and before Gingrich's and Santorum's rise, how the contest had already seen the most upheaval since 1964. That year, four different people - Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Henry Cabot Lodge and Barry Goldwater -- were leading the race in at least one poll. A fifth man, William Scranton, surged to within a point of the lead two weeks before the party's convention.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Santorum's Bad Night

The Mesa debate did not go well for Santorum.

At NRO, Rich Lowry writes:
Rick Santorum’s night was defined by explaining why he voted for things he opposed (NCLB, Title X). He’s right that politics is a “team sport” (at least most of the time), but that’s not the best posture to be defending when you’re occupying his slot in a Republican presidential primary. He didn’t know when to let go on the earmark discussion, which he couldn’t possibly win. He gave the best possible defense of his Specter endorsement, but as Romney said it was convoluted. Again and again Santorum got tangled up in his Senate record. Overall, he was too defensive, too insider, too complicated.
The Huffington Post reports:
Rush Limbaugh said that he "cringed" when he heard GOP candidate Rick Santorum call himself a team player to defend a controversial mark on his record at Wednesday night's debate.

Santorum was apologizing for supporting former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation. He said that it had contradicted his personal beliefs, but took "one for the team" when he voted for it. When audience members booed, he added, "You know, politics is a team sports, folks, and sometimes you've got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn't a bad idea."
Mitt Romney quickly seized on his opponent's comment, while others have speculated whether it would damage Santorum's campaign.

On Thursday, Limbaugh lamented Santorum's blunder. “I cringed when I heard him say this. Santorum is getting creamed for the team player comment," he said. "I heard it, I looked at [my wife] Kathryn, and I said, 'There’s going to be hell to pay for that one,' because I knew that Santorum opponents, both from the left and right, were going to harp on it."
Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post that Specter is keeping another line alive for another news cycle:
Former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter said Thursday that Rick Santorum got his facts wrong when he said that he endorsed Specter only after securing a promise that Specter would support GOP Supreme Court nominees.
"I said will you support the president's nominees? We had a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate. He said, 'I'll support the president's nominees as chairman,'" Santorum said.
But Specter said on The Michael Smerconish Program on Thursday morning that that wasn't the case.
"He is not correct. I made no commitment to him about supporting judges," Specter said. "I made no deal."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Maxing for Mitt

The Campaign Finance Institute reports:
Mitt Romney continues to have a more top-heavy fundraising profile than his opponents. Romney has raised 81% of his money from donors who have given a total of $1,000 or more; 66% from donors who have given the maximum amount of $2,500 (see Table 3). These are not only much higher percentages than his current opponents’. They are higher than any the Campaign Finance Institute has calculated for major candidates since 2000 (see Table 4 for 2008). 
Potentially more troublesome politically is that 40% of Romney’s 40,011 itemized donors have given the legal maximum (see Table 5). They cannot give to the campaign again, which may help explain the tactical importance of the Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, Restoring Our Future. Super PACs may accept unlimited contributions but must remain independent of candidates. (See Table 6 for the major Super PACs associated with the leading presidential candidates.)

Super PACs: Donors and Ads

USA Today reports that just a few donors account for about a quarter of Super PAC money since January 1:
  • Harold Simmons "and his holding company, Contran, gave $12 million to American Crossroads, a super PAC affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. He donated $2.2 million more to three super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates."
  • In the No. 2 slot: [Sheldon] Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who gave $10 million to Winning Our Future, a super PAC aiding former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
  • "Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal, who donated $2.6 million to Endorse Liberty, a super PAC helping Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. ... Thiel is the single largest donor to Endorse Liberty, which has spent more than $3 million — mostly on Internet ads — to advance Paul's candidacy. "Men and women who want freedom and growth should take action," he said. "A good place to start is voting for Ron Paul."
  • "Houston home builder Bob Perry has donated $3.6 million to super PACs since Jan. 1, 2011, including $2.5 million to American Crossroads."

The article adds:

"Without the flow of super PAC money, the Republican race would be over," said Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert at Colby College in Maine. "Super PACs have become a vehicle for a very small number of millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend large sums in pursuit of their political agenda." 
The New York Times offers its take:
About two dozen individuals, couples or corporations have given $1 million or more to Republican super PACs this year, an exclusive club empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other rulings to pool their money into federal political committees and pour it directly into this year’s presidential campaign.

Collectively, their contributions have totaled more than $50 million this cycle, making them easily the most influential and powerful political donors in politics today. They have relatively few Democratic counterparts so far, with most of the leading liberal donors from past years giving relatively small amounts — or not at all — to the Democratic super PACs.

And unlike in past years, when wealthy donors of both parties donated chiefly to groups that were active in the general election campaign, the top Republican donors are contributing money far earlier, in contests that will determine the party’s presidential nominee.

“What unites them? They’re economic conservatives,” said Christopher J. LaCivita, a Republican strategist who helped advise Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a forerunner of this cycle’s super PACs, and who in 2008 co-founded another Republican advocacy group, the American Issues Project, that ran advertisements against President Obama.
An AP video on Super PAC advertising:


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More on the GOP Panic Virus

His ability to take mainstream conservative views (opposition to extreme environmentalism) and voice them in radical and intemperate rhetoric is essentially a model of “how to alienate skeptical voters.” If you accuse the president of having a “phony theology” you better be prepared to be taken for a religious zealot. And if he wants to play think tank scholar (in this case, talking about the secular substitution of various value systems in place of religion) he should get off the trail and speak much more precisely. (He often sounds like a man who’s read some smart conservative scholars but hasn’t the depth of understanding nor the finesse to express the ideas he’s read without sounding nutty.)
CNN reports:
"There is something called agenda control," said one unaffiliated GOP strategist. "Santorum does not have it. Instead of talking about the economy, he's been going down rabbit holes for the last four or five days."
Santorum's emphasis on cultural issues may intensify his conservative and evangelical support and help him win the nomination or at least differentiate himself from Newt Gingrich. The fear is he may also be narrowing his support in a general election population.
And Santorum's surging candidacy is not the only concern for senior Republicans. Mitt Romney's inability to close the deal has also raised eyebrows - and angst. And the anxiety will only intensify should Romney lose his home state of Michigan in the primary on February 28, several senior Republicans told CNN.
"Michigan is the whole shooting match," said one senior GOP strategist not aligned with a campaign. Says another: "If Romney loses Michigan, all hell breaks loose.
Given that real possibility, one knowledgeable GOP source confirms that some Republicans are circulating the deadlines and the basic math that would allow another candidate to get into the nomination fight and take it all the way to the convention. More than a half dozen states' filing deadlines have yet to pass. A majority of the delegates to the national convention are still up for grabs. One more factor to be considered: many states are choosing their delegates proportionally, which makes it easier for a candidate pick up delegates without outright winning a state.
At NRO, Daniel Foster quotes Karl Rove:
“This proves mental illness is transmittable by contact, personal contact. You’ve been talking to all these people and — look, let’s go. . . . Let’s take that list that you just threw up, and let’s add in one more big state just for the heck of it, Texas. . . . There are 554 delegates up in those states that you talked about, plus Texas; 222 of them awarded, winner take all; 332 of them awarded proportionately.
“So in other words, even if the candidate gets in and wins the big states with winner take all, and wins half of the states with proportional, wins half of those delegates, we’re talking about 350 out of over 2,000 delegates. And that may be enough to toss it into a convention that gets — that gets decided at the convention, but that is different than . . . brokering a convention.
The deadlock secnario is “remote as life on Pluto, ” said Rove. “We have got a nationwide, at least in the punditry class, a call of premature electionitis,” said Rove. “We have got 54 contest in this thing. And we concluded five of them.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Santorum and Softer Voices

A couple of ads from 2006 point to Santorum's potential strengths in a general election:

The GOP Panic Virus

CNN reports:
The latest results from Gallup's daily tracking poll indicate Rick Santorum has overtaken Mitt Romney nationwide and now leads the former Massachusetts governor by an eight-point margin.
According to the poll released Sunday, 36% of registered Republicans said they are backing Santorum, while 28% prefer Romney.
The new numbers represent a five-point drop for Romney since Wednesday, when the candidate was statistically tied with his opponent, 33% to 31%.
Meanwhile, Santorum has jumped five points in the same time period.
The survey was conducted Tuesday through Saturday, more than a week after Santorum snatched a trio of victories in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota. One day before he pulled the big upset on February 7, Santorum was in third place in the daily tracking poll with 16%.
From Politico:
There are growing calls for an alternative to Mitt Romney as the Republican standard-bearer, with the names of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie again being seen as the most likely saviors.
With concerns over Romney rising after a series of gaffes and polls showing him losing to Rick Santorum in Michigan — a state in which he was born and raised — and with a protracted primary fight ahead, some Republican activists are desperately looking for alternatives. Most concede that it’s late in the game and such a scenario is highly unlikely.
From The Boston Herald:
A slumping Mitt Romney must snap out of his malaise, show some fire and remind voters how he’ll rebuild America — or risk handing the nomination to Rick Santorum and jeopardizing the GOP’s White House chances, pundits told the Herald yesterday.
“He’s lost his mojo,” said Michael Dennehy, a senior political adviser to John McCain in 2008.
Byron York offers a smart take:
"If he's not on his social crusade, he's a really dangerous candidate," says a well-connected Democratic strategist of Rick Santorum. "When he talks about the importance of manufacturing in America, he's talking straight to Clinton Democrats.  But when he talks about states being able to outlaw contraception, he goes over the edge and he's too far gone."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Santorum and Romney in Michigan

At The Holland Sentinel, Lloyd Green writes:
A Santorum upset in Michigan would be huge. Romney did not just win the Michigan primary four years ago. His father was Michigan’s governor and headed up American Motors. Romney grew up in Bloomfield Hills and attended Cranbrook. Not surprisingly, Romney strongest support is in Oakland County, according to polls.
Santorum looks like he is connecting with Catholic voters who make up 30 percent of the Michigan GOP primary vote and with evangelical voters who cast nearly 40 percent of primary votes in 2008.
Going negative on Santorum will not necessarily help Romney. Santorum is not Newt Gingrich and he poses a smaller target for attacks.
Right now, Santorum is buoyed by high favorable ratings and is riding the wave of the culture wars moving to the campaign foreground.
The Obama administration’s family planning mandate on religiously affiliated hospitals and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling on same-sex marriage in California is catnip for Santorum. He has consistently targeted values voters.
Romney appears uncomfortable handling this cultural tsunami. His attempts to address social issues are complicated by his prior stances.
But Romney’s perceived inability to connect is not just about religion or culture. Up until now, Romney has not viscerally demonstrated that he “gets” popular concerns and fears. Working- and middle-class America is at the heart of the Republican Party. In 2008, white working-class voters favored John McCain by 19 points. Unemployment remains above 8 percent nationally and is 9.3 percent in Michigan.
Romney may be hamstrung by his demeanor, record and proposals. He has not sufficiently addressed the concerns of the GOP’s base, other than to say that he will grow the economy or claim that he is “severely conservative.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why 2012 May Be Different

Though the front-runner, Romney is in jeopardy and Santorum has at least an outside chance of winning the nomination.  Conventional wisdom said that such a thing would not happen, since the other candidates would fade out as the leading candidate took command.  What happened?  

At Bloomberg, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Tackett point to Super PACs and the tea party:
The strength of political parties is being undercut as the full impact of the U.S. Supreme Court (1000L) Citizens United case is being felt for the first time. The court held that the government can’t limit political spending, hastening the rise of a new class of political action committees dubbed super-PACs because they can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions.

Now a candidate’s run can be kept alive from a single wealthy individual as when Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino owner, sustained Newt Gingrich and Foster Friess, a fund manager based in Wyoming, helped do the same for Rick Santorum.

The decision has created “a countervailing force on the money side,” said Tom Rath, a former member of the Republican National Committee and Romney supporter.

“The great rule was that after a startup period and the politics of the day became clearer, it became harder and harder to raise money if you were under-performing politically,” he said. “The existence of super-PACs countermands that. You can have life beyond your quarterly filings.”

In addition, the rise of anti-tax, anti-government spending Tea Party activists who rely on social media and see their lack of a formal organization as a virtue has undercut the authority of more establishment groups.
Other tentative answers come to mind.

One is the de facto end of federal financing.  Under the "10 percent rule," a candidate who failed to get 10 percent of the vote in two consecutive primaries lost eligibility for the funds was was effectively out of the race. Now survival depends on contributors, who may stick with a candidate even after subpar showings.

Another is the calendar.  Initially, the backloaded schedule seemed to favor Romney, who had the money to compete all the way through.  Now it may be giving Santorum the gift of time.  Under frontloading, he would have had little chance to capitalize on early victories.  Now he has ample time to build up his warchest and organization.

A third is the growing significance of the social media and other Internet resources.   There has been a lot of cyber-hype about this element, but it does seem to have enhanced the importance of debates (as key moments '-- "Oops!" -- instantly reverberate on YouTube and Twitter) and provided underfunded candidates a way to communicate with followers.

Of course, nothing here rules out a Romney victory.  But even if he does win, his path to victory is already far more difficult than it would have been before these new developments.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Santorum, Gingrich, and Super PAC Spending

The Center for Responsive Politics reports:
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came roaring back from the brink of presidential extinction with a sweep of last week's Republican primary and caucus races in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri.

That may seem surprising, given the David and Goliath story playing out on the GOP fundraising front. Through the end of 2011, the Santorum campaign had raised a total of just under $2.2 million, putting him dead last in the current Republican field.

Most of that cash -- $916,928 -- came in the fourth quarter, according to research by theCenter for Responsive Politics. Meanwhile, the fundraising frontrunner among the Republicans, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, raked in $23.9 million in the fourth quarter alone. For the year, Romney had a 28-1 fundraising advantage over Santorum.

But while the candidate was cash-starved, the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fundwas able to lend a hand. The super PAC spent more than $240,000 in the days leading up to the Feb. 7 showdowns, pouring a majority of that money -- $137,549 -- into Minnesota, according to the Center's research. All of it went towards running pro-Santorum television ads in the week before the caucus.
CBS reports:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's faltering campaign is about to get another shot in the arm, CBS News has learned.
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson plans to give another $10 million to the outside group backing the former Georgia lawmaker who is running behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, a source close to Adelson told CBS News.
Adleson and his family have already given $11 million to "Winning our Future," the super PAC backing Gingrich. The group, which bombarded the airwaves in South Carolina last month ahead of the primary there, is largely credited with helping Gingrich win in the Palmetto state.
The latest $10 million cash injection would raise the Adelson family's contribution to $21 million, and a different source close to Adelson said he is prepared to drop another $4 million for a total of $25 million. The Huffington Post calculated that the billionaire casino owner earns about $3.3 million an hour.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Outside Groups in Congressional Races

At RealClearPolitics, Caitlin Huey-Burns writes that Super PACs and 501 groups are playing a big part in congressional races.  She gives the example of Crossroads GPS, which recently sent out a press release accusing several Democratic senators of embracing "the Washington insider culture."  Crossroads, she points out, is much leaner than the party committees, with just 16 paid staffers.
"What's basically happening is candidates and parties are losing control of messaging," says former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who served as National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. "It's the law of unintended consequences on steroids. It has heightened the ideological polarization of the parties."
"The super PACs are taking over; they are the parties," says Paul Wilson, whose firm, Wilson-Grand Communications, worked with American Crossroads in the 2010 cycle. "It is just far easier to be a super PAC and make the decision swiftly and decisively and early, and the traditional party structure is ill-equipped. . . . The system is just very strange right now."
She quotes Jonathan Collegio about the relationship of between the party committees and the outside groups. 
 "We can never be involved in the strategy for the campaign," says Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads who also spent some time on the official side as press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2006 cycle.
The prohibited coordination has caused both the official party committees and outside groups to be more transparent about their strategies, says one Republican operative. Last cycle, for example, Crossroads announced to the press that it was going to end its involvement in the Missouri Senate race, hoping to tip off the NRSC. "A lot of communication that had been done privately in years past now has to be done publicly though the news media. We were sending smoke signals," says Collegio.
"The best response to a negative ad is a response ad with the candidate talking to the camera, which is something that an outside group can never do," says Collegio.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A new ad attacks Romney for attacking Santorum:

"Mudsplat ads" have long been a staple of American campaigns. In 1974, Bob Dole ran such an spot in his tough Senate reelection race. In 1996, The New York Times recalled: 
 Known as the "mudslinger ad," it starts with a close-up of a Dole campaign poster. "Bill Roy says that Senator Bob Dole is against the farmer," the narrator intones, as a gob of mud splatters the poster. "Against cutting the Federal budget." More mud. "Against the school lunch program." Another gob. But none of these accusations are accurate, the narrator continues, as the mud flies off the poster. "All of which," he concludes, "makes Bob Dole look pretty good, and Bill Roy look like just another mudslinger."
In 1992, Russ Feingold did his own version of a mudsplat ad (click here and scroll down to "Stoop Gaining")

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Santorum Surges Again

Pew finds that Santorum leads Romney 30-28 percent among Republicans and leaners:
Rick Santorum's has pulled into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 8-12. Barack Obama holds sizable leads over Santorum, Romney and Newt Gingrich in general election match-ups.

Santorum is now the clear favorite of Republican and GOP-leaning voters who agree with the Tea Party, as well as white evangelical Republicans. Currently, 42% of Tea Party Republican voters favor Santorum, compared with just 23% who back Romney. Santorum holds an almost identical advantage among white evangelical Republican voters (41% to 23%).

Romney holds leads over Santorum among non-Tea Party Republicans (34% to 19%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (34% to 20%).
Gallup's findings are similar:
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are now statistically tied for the lead in Republican registered voters' preferences for the 2012 GOP nomination -- 32% to 30%, respectively. Newt Gingrich, who led the field as recently as late January, is now third, favored by 16%, while Ron Paul's support has dwindled to 8%, the lowest level yet seen for him in 2012.
Ditto CBS/New York Times.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Romney Bused Supporters to CPAC (Well, Duh...)

Jonathan Martin reports that Romney spent time and money on CPAC:
Mitt Romney's campaign, in need of a boost following a trio of losses last Tuesday, shelved their "no straw polls" policy and worked to win the CPAC vote.
A Republican source confirms to me that Romney's camp bought registrations at CPAC to ensure their victory at the straw poll. There was also a more visible presence. Two young men, one who identified himself as a staffer but declined to talk and another who said he was a volunteer, held up Romney signs Saturday morning near the entrance to the ballroom and urged attendees to vote for the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney's effort to win the vote was first reported by Jeff Zeleny, who wrote in the NYT Saturday that the campaign was "busing students from colleges along the Eastern Seaboard to show their support."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Santorum Super PAC Gets Evangelical & Catholic Money

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's brand of conservative Catholicism is not only helping rally a key part of the Republican base, but has proved an asset in drawing deep-pocketed Christian donors to an independent campaign supporting his presidential bid.
The majority of the money raised last year by the Red White and Blue Fund — a "super PAC" that has helped float his shoestring candidacy — came from evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics, according to an examination of campaign finance records.
The group says it is now enjoying a surge in donations following Santorum's surprise wins Tuesday in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. And Santorum's official campaign has brought in more than $1 million per day since the victories, according to spokesman Hogan Gidley.
The most prominent of the group's donors, Foster Friess, a retired mutual fund executive based in Wyoming, gave $330,000 to the super PAC in 2011 — half of its total proceeds. He contributed at least $250,000 more in the last month, saying Santorum is the best candidate of the field because he has a "servant's heart."...
The super PAC also received $250,000 from Dr. John Templeton Jr., a surgeon and born-again Christian who runs the John Templeton Foundation, which his late father established to promote the study of the intersection of science, philosophy and theology.
And the group got $20,000 from Frank Hanna III, a Georgia-based investor whose foundation, the Solidarity Assn., has supported Catholic philanthropic causes, including the establishment of three new Catholic schools.

Romney Takes CPAC & Maine, Santorum Leads PPP Poll

Jonathan Tobin writes at Commentary:
Mitt Romney’s narrow wins in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll changed the topic of conversation among Republicans — at least for a day — about Rick Santorum’s surge into contention in the GOP presidential race. But a Public Policy Polling survey released the same day ought to provide as much encouragement to Santorum’s backers as Romney’s fans took from Maine and CPAC. Feeding off his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri earlier in the week, the PPP poll showed Santorum taking an astounding 38-23 percentage point lead over Romney, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent.
National tracking polls have been volatile throughout the race, giving each of the various flavors of the month like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich their moments in the lead. So Santorum’s spike in popularity shouldn’t be taken as proof the Republican race has been fundamentally altered by recent events. Nevertheless, the poll does illustrate the willingness of Republicans to embrace an alterative to Romney even at this stage of the race. It also demonstrates that Santorum’s popularity and positive image — at least among GOP voters — could prove troublesome to the frontrunner.

Other polling data point in different directions. Gallup shows a 10-point lead for Romney, who also had a slight edge over Santorum in a Washington Times/CPAC telephone survey of conservatives nationwide.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Romney at CPAC, Severely

Byron York writes of Mitt Romney's appearance at CPAC:
First, Romney seemed to try too hard to remind the crowd that he is, in fact, a man of the Right; he used the word "conservative" or some variant 24 times in the speech. To some ears, it sounded as if Romney was trying to prove his credentials simply by calling himself a conservative over and over.

...Second, Romney's explanation of his path to conservatism had nothing specifically conservative about it. He began by joking that he never read Burke or Hayek in college. "When I was your age, you could have told me they were infielders for the Detroit Tigers," Romney told the students in the crowd. Instead, Romney said, "My path to conservatism came from my family, my faith, and my life's work."
But the problem with Romney's my-life-is-conservative argument is that there are liberal Democrats who also get married, stay married, have children and do well in business. One can do all those things and support higher taxes, a more intrusive government, and a weak foreign policy.
And then, as Jonathan Martin writes at Politico, the "severely" thing:
Mitt Romney wanted to use his CPAC speech Friday to allay concerns about his candidacy on the Republican right, but with one ad-libbed word he reinforced conservative fears that he’s not one of them.
“I was a severely conservative Republican governor,” Romney told the annual gathering.
The response was immediate.
“I have never heard anybody say, ‘I’m severely conservative,’” Rush Limbaugh noted on his show.
“That didn’t get a lot of applause,” firebrand Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) observed with a tight smile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Debate Data

The Pew Research Center reports:
When the survey was in the field in early January (Jan. 4-8), there had already been 13 debates among the GOP candidates, and another two occurred while the survey was taking place. Four-in-ten (40%) Americans say they have watched one or more of these debates.
By the end of 2007, Republican candidates had held a comparable number of debates, but only 33% of the public had watched. The Democratic debates drew more interest that year, with 40% saying they had watched any of those debates.
Nearly half (47%) of Republicans have seen a debate during the current campaign, up from 32% at the same point in the 2008 campaign. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party, fully 66% have seen a GOP debate.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Crossroads Groups as an Efficient and EffectiveInvestment

Peter Overby reports at NPR about American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS:
"They have the credibility. People trust them," says Saul Anuzis, a longtime Republican National Committee member from Michigan. "They know that none of them are strident or ideologues in that regard. They're party people."
As the two parties and their outside allies brace for the general election, Anuzis breaks down the financial battle this way: "A third of all the money spent on federal elections will come from candidates; a third will come from the parties and a third will come from these independent groups and superPACs."
American Crossroads with $15 million on hand as of Jan. 1 stands to be one of the central elements of the Republican effort.

The group's CEO, Steven Law, says it has just one goal.
"Groups like ours are not very interested in acquiring power," he says. "We're interested in influencing results."...
"On the policy side, we want to stop President Obama's agenda," Law says. "On the political side, we want to replace him as president."...
The RNC has high overhead, a national infrastructure and heavy debt from years past, which left it at the end of the year just $7 million in the black. So impressive were the GOP superPACs, in fact, that President Obama's campaign this week started urging donors to support a pro-Obama superPAC. [emphasis added]
Meanwhile Law says donors are more interested than ever in American Crossroads. He says the high-profile presidential superPACs have a lot to do with it, and disclosure doesn't seem as scary as it did.
"The truth of the matter is, if you're interested in direct political impact and election consequences, that's the most efficient way to invest your money," he says.