Mitt Romney was the first to announce earlier this afternoon he’ll skip the March 1 CNN Georgia debate:
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul emails over to confirm, “Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate. We have participated in 20 debates, including 8 from CNN.”
Considering the attacks Sheldon Adelson funded against Mitt Romney – a candidate he reportedly likes – just imagine how he treats candidates he disagrees with:
In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.
If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election. …
Mr. Adelson doesn’t oppose Mr. Santorum, but he doesn’t share the former Pennsylvania senator’s socially conservative positions, including his strong anti-abortion views, associates said. Mr. Santorum was one of only two Republicans who didn’t meet with Mr. Adelson in October around the time of a candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Via the Washington Examiner, Newt Gingrich declines to take the National Review’s friendly advice to drop out of the race and endorse Rick Santorum:
“The National Review wanted me to drop out in June,” Gingrich said to reporters last night, calling such speculation, “silly.”
“You guys go around and pick up the same people that said that I was dead in June, that said that I was dead after Iowa, you know, twice I lead in the Gallup poll, ok?” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said that he had no plans to drop out before Super Tuesday and boasted that his campaign was still competitive.
There were some in the Mitt Romney camp who spent the last two days downplaying a Public Policy Polling survey that showed their candidate trailing Rick Santorum by a wide margin among Republican voters nationwide. Because PPP is a Democratic-leaning firm, they argued the stunning 38-23 percentage point lead given Santorum in that poll was unreliable. But with the release of three other national polls in the last day, there can be no doubt Santorum has, at the very least, caught up to Romney.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Santorum with a 30-27 point lead over Romney with Ron Paul in third with 12 percent and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with only 10 percent. A just-published Pew Research Center for the People and Press poll shows a nearly identical spread for the two leaders with Santorum leading Romney 30-28, though it differs over the second tier candidates as its results give Gingrich 17 percent and Paul 12 percent. The latest Gallup tracking poll provides somewhat better news for Romney. It shows him still ahead by a slender 32-30 margin with Gingrich at 16 percent and Paul at 8 percent. These three polls provide solid proof that Santorum and Romney are now in a statistical dead heat. But no matter how you spin these numbers, it’s all bad news for Romney. The polls show him losing support among the independents who made him more electable in a November match-up against Barack Obama and show him trailing Santorum among the Tea Partiers, social conservatives and the political conservatives who make up the base of the Republican Party.
Newt Gingrich’s arguments for telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the presidential race last month are starting to boomerang on him. The National Review wonders whether it would be better for the Republican Party if Gingrich hung it up and endorsed Santorum:
It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.
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.
After a week in which he lost contests in three states and had taken a severe beating about his ability to close the deal with Republicans, Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding on Saturday with victories in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll. Romney has tremendous advantages over his rivals and must still be considered the overwhelming favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. If his shocking losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri demolished the idea that he would easily cruise through the next weeks and months, then Maine and CPAC were reminders the former Massachusetts governor still has the money and the organization to bulldoze his way through some relatively insignificant contests.
But no one should be deceived by Romney’s ability to squeak out wins in a non-binding caucus (where he was nearly beaten by libertarian outlier Ron Paul) that attracted few Republican voters and a straw poll that was more a measure of the competence of the candidate’s organization. The frontrunner is still confronted with some serious problems that complicate his effort to nail down the nomination and to win the general election. The Republican base is still not sold on him, and his struggles to win his party and occasional gaffes are also eroding the notion that he is the most electable Republican.
A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.
As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.
In his interview with Scott Hennen, Newt Gingrich was asked what he thought about the “good Newt” versus “bad Newt” narrative. Gingrich responded this way: “I think it’s a foolish narrative. I mean, when you are drowning in being outspent 5 to 1 with negative ads, there’s a tendency to want to respond to them. Now I don’t know if that is bad Newt. Does that mean that there is a bad Mitt and a good Mitt? I mean, give me a break.”
But Gingrich went beyond that to say, “But I can tell you is that, if you look at my whole career, and Scott you’ve known me for many years, you look at the 24 books we’ve written, you look at the 7 movies we’ve made, you know, I like ideas, I like being a candidate of ideas and that’s far and away what I prefer to do and I think if people go to Newt.org and look at all the positive things we have there — just our 54-page paper on how to rebalance the judiciary and force the judges back within the Constitution. Just that one paper would frankly justify the campaign because it is the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime.”
It seems like every time I declare Mitt Romney to be in the catbird seat, he does everything in his power to disprove me. But last night, the former Massachusetts governor outdid himself, having been swept by Rick Santorum in contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. And it isn’t simply the fact that Romney lost; it’s the magnitude of his losses. Governor Romney finished third in Minnesota with 17 percent of the vote total, behind both Ron Paul (27 percent) and Santorum (45 percent). In Missouri, Romney lost to Santorum by a staggering 30 points (55 percent v. 25 percent). And in Colorado, a state Romney won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, Santorum bested him by five points (40 percent v. 35 percent).
Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner points out that in both Missouri and Minnesota, a state Romney won in 2008, he did not win a single county. (There are 114 counties in Missouri.)
Rick Santorum’s stunning sweep of the Tuesday primary/caucus schedule has altered a race many of us thought had finally and irrevocably swung the way of Mitt Romney after his big wins in Florida and Nevada. Romney’s camp will try to spin his defeats in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado as just a momentary bump on the road to Tampa, and there are good reasons to believe he will still eventually win. But Santorum’s hat trick comes at a moment when even conservatives were starting to buy into the idea that the former Massachusetts governor was the inevitable nominee. Moreover, the reason why Romney lost undermines the basic rationale of his candidacy.
While Romney’s comment on CNN last week about not wanting to help the poor was taken out of context, it still betrayed the candidate’s inability to connect with ordinary voters. He not only doesn’t talk like a conservative. He comes across as out of touch with their concerns and those of everyday citizens. Romney’s technocratic approach to problem solving may seem to be ideal to help fix an economic downturn, but a man who makes such gaffes cannot be said to be a lock to beat a Democratic incumbent who will ruthlessly demagogue the Republicans via class warfare tactics. Because Romney’s number one asset is his electability, the remark about the poor, which came at a moment when the national economic statistics seemed to brighten, made him look like the wrong man at the wrong moment. Yesterday’s results must leave Republicans wondering whether Santorum has the ability to take advantage of his wins and if Romney’s strengths are sufficient to overcome this setback.
The final results from Tuesday’s voting are not in yet, but it’s already clear it’s been a great night for Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator has won the “beauty contest” in Missouri as well as the Minnesota caucus. Even if that turns out to be balanced by a win for Mitt Romney in the Colorado caucus, the day will still be judged a big win for Santorum. This will give him a big leg up over Newt Gingrich in the competition to be the leading “non Romney” in the GOP race. But if this means the beginning of the end for Gingrich, it may also concentrate the frontrunner’s attention on his surging conservative rival. If so, that may lead to a new round of ads and statements from the Romney campaign blasting Santorum.
But the assumption that a Romney “carpet bombing” of Santorum would achieve the same result as the attacks on Gingrich that have helped derail the former speaker’s presidential hopes is mistaken. Going negative on Gingrich merely reinforced the public’s doubts of the speaker’s character and record. To try and do the same thing against a candidate who has come across as the nicest guy left in the race might boomerang on Romney.
Once again, Newt Gingrich vowed tonight on CNN to take the Republican presidential race to the convention in Tampa. To back up his vow, he compared this contest to the GOP race in 1976 when the Ronald Reagan insurgency against incumbent President Gerald Ford took the fight to that convention and came close to winning. But Gingrich’s comparison is ridiculous for a number of reasons.
First of all, that battle was a two-man race between Reagan and Ford. The current GOP race involves four candidates. But, of course, the conceit of Gingrich’s comparison is that of the candidates. He’s casting Mitt Romney in the role of Ford and himself as the new Gipper. Romney may deserve the Ford comparison, as he is a relative moderate and the choice of most of the party establishment to the extent that one actually exists. But the big difference is Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.
The Republican presidential race is still at the stage where it is possible to spin theories about how frontrunner Mitt Romney can be toppled. Those scenarios aren’t particularly likely, but if there’s any credence to them at all, a couple of things are going to have to happen today to put a dent in the frontrunner’s armor. Newt Gingrich’s southern strategy requires him to survive a long wait until the next GOP debate scheduled for February 22 and to win big on Super Tuesday on March 6. But that’s a fairy tale for another day. Today’s long shot involves a Rick Santorum win in Minnesota and/or Missouri in order to elevate the former Pennsylvania senator to the position of the leading “non-Romney” as well as the standard bearer for conservatives in the race. But unlike Gingrich’s plans, which are undermined by the former speaker’s open hatred for Romney, the Santorum opening today is no fantasy.
The Minnesota caucus appears to be Santorum’s for the taking with the only current published poll of the state showing him with a narrow lead. And the Pennsylvanian has a real chance of knocking off Romney in the non-binding primary in Missouri. Though Romney is set to roll to a big win in Colorado, if Santorum can pull off upsets in at least one and possibly two of the other two states to vote today, it may not stop Romney but it could put a spike in Gingrich and enable Santorum to emerge as his main challenger.
With Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in Nevada– he won just over 50 percent of the vote –the former Massachusetts governor has secured three double-digit wins in the Northeast (New Hampshire), the West (Nevada), and the South (Florida). He remains in the catbird seat. For him to lose the nomination would require an epic collapse. I rather doubt we’ll see it.
What makes this week marginally interesting is whether Rick Santorum supplants Newt Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” to Romney. That depends on how Santorum does tomorrow in Colorado and Minnesota, the next states that hold GOP nominating contests, as well as Missouri, which holds a “beauty contest” (the state’s official nominating process takes place later in the year). It seems to me, and increasingly to others, that Santorum is a far better figure for conservatives to rally behind than Gingrich, whose weaknesses I have dealt with at length in the past. I’ll only add that at his press conference on Saturday Gingrich looked to be seething with rage for Romney, and he demonstrated, one more time, that he simply doesn’t have the emotional balance and temperamental traits that one looks for in a president. There’s something a bit sad in watching Gingrich, who has done a great deal for the conservative cause in his life, burn up like this.
Talking Points Memo flags this “austerity” criticism from Newt Gingrich as a sign the speaker is out of touch with the rest of the Republican Party:
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate was asked by NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet The Press” whether his hopes for a U.S. colony on the moon fly in the face of the GOP’s fiscal responsibility mantra. Gingrich responded with some choice words about austerity itself before defending his lunar ambitions.
“First of all, David, I don’t think you’ll ever find me talking about an age of austerity. I don’t think that’s the right solution,” Gingrich said. “I am a pro-growth Republican. I’m a pro-growth conservative. I think the answer is to grow the economy, not to punish the American people with austerity.”
Maureen Dowd has a new piece out on Callista Gingrich this week, and while it devolves into unnecessary nastiness at the end, this part about the contrast between Newt’s and Mitt’s wives is worth noting:
Ann Romney often introduces her husband, chatting warmly about his uxorious virtues, and then disappears offstage or to the back of the stage while he talks. But the 45-year-old Callista has created an entirely new model for a spouse, standing mute in her primary color suits and triple-strand pearls looking at the 68-year-old Newt for the whole event, her platinum carapace inclined deferentially toward his shaggy gray mane. …
That may be why she has a largely nonspeaking role in the campaign, as silent as the slender heroine of “The Artist,” even though Newt relays that she has described herself as a hybrid of Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Jackie Kennedy. The campaign does not want to remind voters that the relationship, portrayed as so redemptive, was born in sin and hypocrisy.
Newt Gingrich’s week started out badly for him with a crushing loss in the Nevada caucuses that was followed by a press conference in which the former speaker demonstrated anew that his candidacy is driven as much by personal hatred of frontrunner Mitt Romney as it is by his own ambition. But things got worse for him today with the release of fresh polling data in two of the states to hold caucuses on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling’s latest findings on the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota show him trailing not only Romney but also Rick Santorum.
In Colorado, Romney is poised for another big win, with PPP showing him leading with 40 percent of the vote. But rather than Gingrich, it is Rick Santorum who is in second place there with 26 percent. Gingrich is in third with 18 percent while Ron Paul is in last with 12 percent. Even more alarming for the speaker is that Santorum is in the lead in Minnesota edging Romney 29 to 27 percent with Gingrich in third trailing behind with 22 percent. What this means is though Gingrich’s strategy may be to hold on until the Super Tuesday primaries, by then it may be clear it is Santorum who is the only viable “non-Romney” left in the race.
Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:
Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.
The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”
As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”
There were rumors flying around the blogosphere on Saturday night as the Nevada caucus returns were being tabulated that Newt Gingrich would use his press conference to adopt a new, more positive strategy going forward. But after watching Gingrich’s bizarre 11 pm presser, it would appear that the new positive Newt bears a strange resemblance to the old nasty Newt. Gingrich spent most of his session with the press venting his bitterness at Mitt Romney. While vowing to continue his presidential campaign, the main focus of his remarks was not his differences with President Obama but the anger he feels toward the GOP frontrunner.
As he did after losing in Florida, Gingrich again failed to congratulate Romney for winning in Nevada. But, if anything, his rage about being beaten in the pre-Florida primary debates has only grown. Calling Romney a liar, Gingrich piled on the abuse, trying to link him to leftist financier George Soros. Listening to Gingrich, it was clear his campaign was being driven as much by his animus for Romney as it was by his own burning ambition for the presidency. But the question for Gingrich’s main financial backers today has to be whether they are interested in continuing to subsidize an effort that seems more focused on damaging the likely Republican standard bearer than on beating the incumbent.