Despite the Democratic Party’s determined efforts to paint Republicans as out-of-touch with the mainstream (particularly on contraception issues, women’s rights and foreign policy), President Obama’s numbers are sliding in general election matchups with the GOP candidates, according to the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post-ABC News polls.
Rasmussen found that Obama is now trailing Mitt Romney by five points, while WaPo/ABC found him tied with both Romney and Santorum.
Yesterday, Newt Gingrich, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, said, “The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican frontrunner since Leonard Wood in 1920. Yes, he’s the frontrunner, but he’s not a very strong frontrunner, nearly all conservatives are opposed to him. In places where no one else can compete … he does fine.” (Leonard Wood was an Army General who lost the GOP nomination to Warren Harding in 1920.)
How weak or how strong a frontrunner Mitt Romney is will be determined by future events. But we do know several things. The first is that against this “weakest Republican frontrunner since … 1920,” Gingrich has won precisely two primaries–South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. Which makes Gingrich 2-26 in all the primary and caucus elections held to date– a winning percentage of less than 0.08 percent (versus better than 60 percent for Romney). So if Romney is the weakest frontrunner since 1920, does that make Gingrich the weakest challenger since the pre-Civil War era?
The biggest prize in the assortment of various states and territories up for grabs in the Republican presidential contests this weekend went to Rick Santorum, who took Kansas with another smashing victory. The former senator got more than 51 percent of the vote, with Mitt Romney placing a distant second and barely eclipsing the 20 percent mark that was necessary for him to win some delegates there. But while another showing in which evangelical support led to a victory bolstered Santorum, the delegate math wasn’t altered much by the results. Santorum got 33 of Kansas’ delegates to the Republican National Convention with Romney picking up just 7. But while Santorum was winning Kansas, Romney cleaned up in Wyoming as well as in Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, nearly offsetting the Pennsylvanian’s advantage. When the dust settles, Romney will still have more delegates than all of his GOP rivals combined.
Romney is clearly on track to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination at the Tampa convention, but he will do so without sweeping the GOP board as conservatives continue to rally around Santorum as not only the leading “not Romney” but also as their standard-bearer on social issues. Far from being discouraged, the Pennsylvanian’s backers are doubling down on their determination to fight Romney all the way to the convention while also seeking to find some way to persuade Newt Gingrich to leave the race and thus allow Santorum the opportunity for a one-on-one battle with the frontrunner. Though the ultimate outcome is not much in doubt, Republicans appear set to spend the next few months in engaging in a long drown-out struggle that will leave the victor in a weakened state to face off against President Obama in the fall.
Jonathan makes a persuasive case that Newt Gingrich will stick around for the long haul, but in the event that the former speaker does decide to drop out, how much would that boost Rick Santorum’s chances of winning the nomination? Nate Silver does the math, and finds the benefit could be significant:
Mr. Santorum would have carried four states that he actually lost. The first two are the ones Mr. Gingrich won originally, South Carolina and Georgia, although his margin would have been very small in South Carolina. His share of the Gingrich vote would also have been enough to push him past Mr. Romney in Ohio and Alaska. He would not have won Michigan — Mr. Gingrich received very few votes there so there was little marginal benefit to Mr. Santorum — although it would have flipped one congressional district and therefore given him the majority of delegates in the state. …
With those qualifications in mind, this general result should hold: Mr. Romney would still be significantly ahead in the delegate count. I have him with 404 delegates versus 264 for Mr. Santorum and 71 for Mr. Paul.
In the wake of the Super Tuesday results that saw Newt Gingrich get beaten badly in every state but Georgia, more conservatives are talking about the necessity of the former House speaker dropping out of the presidential race if Mitt Romney is to be prevented from becoming the Republican nominee. Because Rick Santorum’s support was a multiple of his in every state but Georgia, the argument goes that it is incumbent on Gingrich to withdraw and allow Santorum to face Romney in a one-on-one battle in which the more conservative Pennsylvanian might be favored to win. Indeed, it can be argued that Gingrich’s presence on the ballot was the only reason why Santorum lost narrowly in both Michigan and Ohio in the last two weeks. If the sole object of conservatives is to nominate someone other than Romney, then Gingrich’s withdrawal appears to be not only logical but an imperative. However, the assumption that Gingrich will bow to these arguments ignores everything we know about him. Here are seven reasons why Newt isn’t likely to heed the call to withdraw:
1. He’s still holding on to hope of winning in other southern states. Gingrich’s camp is claiming he lost Tennessee because he’s concentrating on winning Alabama and Mississippi next week. But we were also told he was passing on some February contests to concentrate on Ohio where he turned out to be a non-factor this week. If there are any states where Gingrich does have a chance, it is in the Deep South, but given Santorum’s strength among evangelicals, the odds of him prevailing in either or both are dwindling. After another round of defeats, this excuse won’t hold much water.
As Rick Santorum tries to elbow Newt Gingrich out of the race, and Mitt Romney attempts to pressure them both to throw in the towel, the Daily Beast reports that none of the three candidates – not even Romney – have a clear path to the nomination at this point. Here’s the latest on Romney’s thorny delegate math.
Even if Mitt somehow won every delegate in every coming contest, he still wouldn’t clinch the nomination until Oregon’s primary on May 15.
And if Romney musters only 40 percent of the proportional delegates going forward—equivalent to his share of the popular vote total to date—it would mean the first Republican race undecided when the convention opened in a generation. …
Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul individually have no real path to winning the delegate fight—but collectively they are positioned to deny the nomination to Romney and kick the contest to the convention in Tampa, where all delegates are released after the first ballot.
This afternoon, Newt Gingrich’s Twitter account linked to a video with the following teaser, “Take a look at some interesting delegate math. The race is far from over and we will win this nomination.” The video, uploaded to Newt’s YouTube account, is of one of his senior advisers outlining how it’s possible for Gingrich to clinch the Republican nomination, despite only having won the states of South Carolina and Georgia to date. It appears that Gingrich’s camp is relying on states that assign their delegates as late as May and early June, hoping to win large winner-take-all states like Texas to clinch the nomination.
Strangely, the video uploaded by Gingrich’s own staff also include Karl Rove’s immediate and stinging rebuke, where he explains that the Gingrich campaign cannot stay alive until May to compete in Texas when most states where Gingrich could be competitive proportionally allocate their delegates. Rove states,
You cannot win the nomination if like in tonight, in Virginia, where Mitt Romney got 41 delegates, at minimum, to zero for Gingrich and Santorum. So, you know, it’s plausible to say ‘stay alive til Texas’ and ‘win in Texas in the end.’ But between now and then you got to close the gap and you can’t close the gap a delegate, or two or three or four at a time. Particularly when you ran third in Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Despite Mitt Romney’s less-than-exceptional performance last night, neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum has a viable path to the nomination from here. At Frontloading HQ, Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that while it’s not mathematically impossible for either candidate to get to the 1144 delegates needed to win, the chances are so low that it might as well be.
For Santorum, the possibility is more likely if Gingrich – who has been trailing in the race, but still siphoning off potential Santorum supporters – drops out. The Wall Street Journaldescribes the impact this had on the primaries last night:
Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich effectively split the southern states in Tuesday’s contest: The former Pennsylvania senator won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and the former House speaker claimed the richest delegate prize in his home state of Georgia. Mr. Santorum also claimed North Dakota. Both men used the results to argue they were the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. …
Mr. Gingrich has siphoned off just enough votes in key states to cost Mr. Santorum wins and delegates, [campaign strategist] Mr. Brabender said. In last week’s Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum lost to Mr. Romney by 3 percentage points.
It was not the easiest of nights for Mitt Romney, who spent much of the evening on Super Tuesday watching Rick Santorum pile up unexpected victories in three states while taking an early lead in the big prize of Ohio. Yet when the dust had settled, Romney wound up squeaking out a 10,000-vote win in Ohio and could claim triumph in six of the ten states that held elections. This allowed him to pad his already large lead in delegates. Just as important, Newt Gingrich’s win in his home state of Georgia gave the former speaker an excuse to stay in the race and therefore deny Santorum the opportunity to go head-to-head with Romney as the sole conservative in the race.
Santorum can claim to have exceeded expectations and to have held his own across the nation despite the grave financial and organizational advantages Romney holds over him. That Romney is a weak frontrunner who will continue to be damaged by a lengthy and nasty race cannot be denied. But unless Santorum can get Gingrich to drop out almost immediately — something that is not going to happen — the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from a long evening of watching results from around the country is that Romney is still the only one of the GOP quartet who has a path to the nomination.
Mitt Romney may well emerge from Super Tuesday with an enlarged delegate lead as well as the biggest prize if he holds onto his slim lead in Ohio. But the evening will be no blowout for the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum winning in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich taking his home state of Georgia, there’s no doubt the race will go on for some time, with both conservative underdogs continuing to drain Romney’s resources and undermine his chances of uniting his party.
No matter what would have happened tonight, it’s doubtful that either Santorum or Gingrich would have dropped out. Yet, by preventing Romney from sweeping the map, the pair has ensured the outcome of the GOP contest is, if not exactly in doubt, still to be determined. The only unalloyed good news for Romney is that the victory of a bitter and resentful Gingrich in Georgia guarantees he will continue to benefit from a split conservative field.
In a year in which the Republican Party’s proportional delegate allocation rules have ruled out a quick end to the presidential race, it isn’t possible for any candidate to use this week’s Super Tuesday primaries to lock up the GOP nomination. With new polls showing he has either caught or surpassed Rick Santorum in the crucial Ohio and Tennessee primaries, Mitt Romney can take a crucial step toward the nomination in tomorrow’s 10-state showdown. If Romney wins in both of those states, that may mean Santorum could end the day without a single triumph to his name. With the fading Newt Gingrich ahead in his adopted home state of Georgia, a Super Tuesday shutout might be a telling blow to Santorum. By tomorrow night, Santorum’s February surge may well be replaced by a March collapse.
The reason for Romney’s growing strength isn’t hard to discern. The frontrunner’s problems have not gone away. He still has trouble connecting with voters and conservatives have yet to accept him as one of their own. But the continued presence of two weak conservative rivals in the field have nevertheless put Mitt Romney in position to solidify his delegate lead as well as strengthen the impression he is the inevitable Republican standard bearer.
Proving once again how fluid the GOP race is, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum by 16 percent nationally, according to Rasmussen. Just two weeks ago, Santorum was beating Romney in the same poll.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, coming off his primary wins in Arizona and Michigan, has jumped to a 16-point lead over Rick Santorum in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters shows Romney with 40 percent support to 24 percent for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. This is Romney’s biggest lead to date and the highest level of support any GOP candidate has earned in regular surveying of the race. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum 39 percent, Romney 27 percent.
Newt Gingrich is way off-base in his criticism of President Obama’s response to the Koran-burning controversy in Afghanistan. The president sent an entirely proper letter of apology for the insensitive actions of American personnel who improperly disposed of Korans in a way that offends Muslim sensitivities. President Karzai responded properly too, criticizing the American actions but then accepting the American apology and trying to tamp down protests which have turned violent. For these actions, both men have gotten a double-barreled blast from the former House speaker and current presidential candidate. Politico quotes him as follows:
“It is an outrage that President Obama is the one apologizing to Afghan President Karzai on the same day two American troops were murdered and four others injured by an Afghan soldier,” the Republican candidate said in a statement. “It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around.”
The former House speaker continued his attack at a campaign rally in Spokane, Wash., charging that Obama had “surrendered twice” in one day, and demanded that the president request an apology from the Afghan government.
“Candidly, if Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn’t feel like apologizing then we should say good bye and good luck, we don’t need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn’t care,” Gingrich said.
Last night’s debate was not among the best we’ve seen, but there was one particularly memorable moment. It came to us courtesy of Newt Gingrich.
When the candidates were asked (from a pre-selected e-mail) about their views on contraception, Gingrich responded by saying, “I want to make two quick points, John [King]. The first is: There is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. But I just want to point out — not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide.”
After nine months on the periphery of the Republican race, tonight’s debate in Mesa, Arizona, was Rick Santorum’s opportunity to show he deserved to be considered a frontrunner. But instead of using the occasion to build on the surge that led him to the top of the national polls, the former senator flopped as Mitt Romney and Ron Paul pounded him unmercifully from the start of the evening to its finish. By the end of the night, the grim look on his face betrayed the effect of having to explain his stands on issues such as earmarks, being a “team player” in the Senate and his support for Arlen Specter and “No Child Left Behind.” Whereas in previous debates, he had been on the attack pointing out Romney’s inconsistencies, in Mesa, it was his turn to be on the defensive.
Though Romney was far from brilliant and took his own lumps over his own hypocritical positions on earmarks and healthcare, there was little question he emerged the victor if only because Santorum came across as both long-winded and surly. If recent polls in Michigan showed the Pennsylvanian’s momentum was slowing, this debate may have put a period on his brief moment in the lead. A good night for Santorum might have helped put him over the top in Michigan and maybe even in Arizona next week and done irreparable harm to Romney’s hopes. But we may look back at this night and say this moment was not only when Santorum began to fade but also when Romney salted away the nomination.
Leave it to Chris Christie to say what all the other Republican politicians are thinking, but don’t have the guts to say about Warren Buffett:
Piers Morgan: Warren Buffett keeps screaming to be taxed more.
Chris Christie: Yeah, well, he should just write a check and shut up. Really. And just contribute. Okay? I mean, the fact of the matter is, that I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he has the ability to write a check. Go ahead and write it.
Tonight’s presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, is rightly be touted as a crucial moment in the Republican race. Much has changed in the weeks since the GOP candidates were brought together in front of the television cameras. Rick Santorum, whose strong showings in the Florida debates were not thought to signify any real hope of his being the nominee, is now leading in the national polls. Mitt Romney, who was hoping to create an aura of inevitability, is now struggling to stay ahead of Santorum in his home state of Michigan, and Newt Gingrich has sunk to last place in some surveys and must fight the belief he no longer has a ghost of a chance of victory.
But while Santorum will enjoy being in the center of the stage rather, as up until now he has been relegated to the sides, he will also have to cope with being the object of attacks from both Romney and Gingrich in a way that he has never had to deal with in the many debates that have preceded this one. While all the participants, save Ron Paul, have something to prove tonight, the outcome may turn largely on one question: which Rick Santorum shows up in Mesa? Will it be the confident, relaxed and personable Santorum who has done so well in the previous encounters and whose image is as a caring father and clean politician who is not willing to engage in mudslinging? Or will it be the angry culture warrior whose obsessions with gays, contraception and abortion have become the liberal caricature of conservatism in the last week?
The Washington Post has a fascinating story based on an examination of papers collected over nearly three decades, documents compiled by a former Newt Gingrich aide and archived at the University of West Georgia, where Gingrich was an assistant professor in the 1970s. What they reveal, according to the Post, is “a politician of moderate-to-liberal beginnings, a product of the civil rights era who moved to the right with an eye on political expediency — and privately savaged Republicans he was praising in public. Even as he gained a reputation as a conservative firebrand, the documents show Gingrich was viewed by his staff primarily as a tactician — the ‘tent evangelist’ of the conservative movement, one staffer said — with little ideological core.”
There’s a lot to sort through, but two things in particular stood out to me. One is that Gingrich’s chief of staff in 1983, Frank Gregorsky, said (according to a transcript of a staff meeting) that Gingrich “assumed that he’s the whole Republican Party. He knows more than the president [Ronald Reagan], the president’s people, [Robert H.] Michel, [James] Baker. He calls them stupid all the time, and I think that’s going to get him into big trouble someday.”
In a Republican presidential race in which no candidate has ever been able to hold onto a lead for more than a couple of weeks, it has been difficult to tell whether Rick Santorum’s recent surge would last until next week’s crucial Michigan primary. Santorum’s star has been rising ever since he swept the February 7 trifecta in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. But after a few days in which his hard line stands on social issues started to become the focus of mainstream media attention, what happens in the next week will tell us a lot about whether the Pennsylvanian has what it takes to become his party’s presidential nominee. The first indication that the Santorum tide may be ebbing a bit came yesterday with a Public Policy Polling survey that shows his lead in Michigan might be slipping.
PPP’s previous Michigan poll was an outlier in that it gave Santorum a 15-point lead in Romney’s birthplace, far more than others taken in the state (though all had Santorum ahead in the race). So Romney’s camp may take heart from the Democratic-leaning firm’s latest effort that shows him down by only a 37 to 33 percentage-point margin. Though PPP’s breakdown of the numbers doesn’t seem to show much leakage for Santorum because of the abuse he’s been taking about his views on religion and sex, Romney’s intensive campaigning in Michigan seems to have improved his numbers there. The question for Santorum is whether he can maintain his momentum now that he, rather than his opponent, is in the glare of the spotlight.
Last Thursday, Jim Geraghty speculated at National Review that Sheldon Adelson might have a business motive for his preferences in the Republican presidential race. Adelson has donated more than $10 million to keep Newt Gingrich’s campaign alive and has seemed to indicate he will support Mitt Romney if and when Gingrich throws in the towel. But Adelson doesn’t appear to be at all interested in Rick Santorum, the Republican who is currently leading in the national polls. That caused Geraghty to ponder whether Santorum’s opposition to gambling may be causing the casino mogul to want to keep Gingrich in the race so as to ensure that Santorum can’t beat Romney.
Given that Adelson’s priority is ensuring a strong pro-Israel alternative to President Obama and that Santorum is as solid a supporter of the Jewish state as Gingrich and Romney, Geraghty’s notion seemed logical. But this morning COMMENTARY received an e-mail letter-to-the-editor from Adelson’s office (in response to posts by Alana and myself on the subject of Santorum’s stand on gambling) that should debunk this thesis. It reads:
Regarding your February 16th article: “Santorum wants to ban gambling?”
I agree with Rick Santorum. I am in favor of the comment he made about destination casinos and I am, as he is, against any type of gaming on the Internet. You might also know I am not against Rick Santorum. I am in favor of Newt Gingrich.