Keeping Up With the Romneys: Ann Romney turned heads by claiming it was the media’s fault Mitt lost the election. Are the Romneys inching their way back into the political limelight?
Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stands with his wife Ann, and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., right, stands with his wife Janna after Romney’s concession speech at his election night rally in Boston last November. Photo by: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) discusses Democratic accomplishments during the legislative session as well as pending legislation during a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried (D-NV) at the US Capitol in 2007. Photo by Andy Nelson/ The Christian Science Monitor
You Asked, We Decoded: DC Decoder on post-election power grabs
Cathy McMorris Rodgers rises to the No. 4 position in the House GOP leadership, which saw a net add of one woman to its roster. But the party lags badly in having women among its ranks in Congress.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s curt rejoinder to Mitt Romney’s comments that President Obama won because of ‘gifts’ to key constituencies could position him as the GOP’s ‘big tent’ candidate in 2016.
The GOP is claiming a mandate for its policy positions because it retained control of the House of Representatives. But Democrats actually won more votes than Republicans did for House seats.
Some on the right are concerned that the petitions to secede, posted on a White House website by angry voters, are setting conservatives up as easy targets for the mockery of liberals.
Mitt Romney has suggested putting a cap on income-tax deductions. Would the GOP back it? That’s uncertain, but it would generate a lot of money and hit only the wealthiest Americans.
Tomorrow’s contests in Mississippi and Alabama could have a big impact on the GOP race if either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum wins convincingly. If Romney has a strong showing in one or both states, it could put the nail in the coffin for his opponents, by showing the conservative base is at last coalescing around his candidacy. On the other hand, if Santorum wins handily, it would serve as perhaps the sharpest signal yet about the depth of resistance to Romney’s candidacy - and suggest that conservatives are digging in their heels.
Of course, right now neither scenario seems likely. Based on the polling available in those two states - which has been pretty all over the map - the most likely outcome seems like a virtual three-way tie. And the candidate best poised to squeak out wins might actually be Newt Gingrich.
Although Gingrich has been trying to dampen expectations somewhat, suggesting he will do well but not promising any wins, some polling has shown the former House Speaker gaining ground in recent days. This may be a reflection of the “$2.50 gas” message Gingrich has been driving, hammering his plan (which critics have called unrealistic) to lower the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon, at a time when consumers are feeling increasingly pinched at the pump.
More likely, though, Gingrich’s gain is coming mostly at Santorum’s expense (in one set of polls by Alabama State University, Santorum lost six points in a week, while Gingrich gained seven). That’s not all that surprising given that Santorum has once again come under withering attack from the Romney Super PAC, which has spent somewhere between $2 and 3 million attacking Santorum in both states.
And if Gingrich is the victor tomorrow, it won’t do much to change the overall dynamics of the race. Santorum would take a bit of a hit - since those states present one of the best opportunities for him to pick up delegates and momentum on the calendar going forward. But he could also continue to argue that it’s Gingrich’s presence in the race that’s preventing conservatives from coalescing around his own candidacy.
In Romney’s case, while he’d obviously love to take one or both states himself, the more critical priority is denying Santorum the wins. Losing two more Southern states would perpetuate talk about Romney’s troubles with the base, but losing them to Gingrich rather than Santorum would allow Romney to argue there’s still no viable alternative to his candidacy. The Groundhog Day campaign seems likely to continue.
— Liz Marlantes
Ron Paul has earned - and trumpeted - the endorsements from smaller players, shall we say, in the national political scene.
There are the slew of low-level state party operatives and elected officials, of course, but then there’s his list of somewhat more colorful endorsers including a current offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns (Tony Pashos) and even a nephew to former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
Now, Ron Paul has racked up some of the most coveted (if a bit whacky) endorsers of all: people with the last name Romney.
In two releases sent earlier today, the Paul campaign champions
five six members of the Romney clan who have endorsed his candidacy. (After an initial release touting five Romney backers, a second release noted a sixth, previously unaccounted for Romney.) Three of those will speak as surrogates for the Paul campaign as Idaho voters go to the polls on Super Tuesday. One is “currently phone banking” at Congressman Paul’s Boise, Idaho headquarters.
Among the group, one endorser is a second cousin once removed, two are first cousins to Romney’s father George, one has a father who is Romney’s second cousin, one shares “common ancestry,” and one’s relationship to Romney is unclear beyond having the same last name.
Paul’s campaign suggests the endorsements are part of a powerful pattern: Ron Paul can win Mormon voters.
Concerning the active “Latter-day Saints for Ron Paul” coalition, this announcement follows the high-profile endorsements of Overstock.com President Jonathan Johnson, prominent author and chair of the Utah Tenth Amendment Center Connor Boyack, and that of Utah Republican Liberty Caucus Chair Darcy Van Orden.
All such announcements help present Ron Paul as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and demonstrate that no presidential candidate has a monopoly on this crucial western states voter segment or even, for that matter, the Romney family.
Who has endorsed Mitt Romney recently, you might ask? How about House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia. Romney and Paul go head-to-head in Virginia on Super Tuesday because the other candidates failed to qualify for the ballot - and Romney is crushing Paul in the Old Dominion.
Elsewhere, Romney picked up Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma’s nod as well. In Oklahoma, Romney likewise has a commanding lead over Paul but trails Santorum.
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks to supporters Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Fairbanks, Alaska. (AP Photo/Sam Harrel)
Yesterday, Mitt Romney righted his campaign ship with wins in Arizona and Michigan, restoring the overall sense that he will almost certainly be the Republican nominee (regardless of how long it takes). But while Romney’s dual wins may have put the kibosh on calls for a new candidate to jump into the race - and may have mortally wounded his top challenger, Rick Santorum - he still has his work cut out for him when it comes to reassuring nervous Republicans about his chances against President Obama in the fall.
And Romney’s biggest problem right now is the lack of a compelling message.
Yesterday provided one of the most clear-cut contrasts of the campaign cycle so far. Both Romney and Obama gave high-profile speeches: Obama to the United Auto Workers, Romney to Michigan supporters after his hard-won victory.
Let’s put aside the question of delivery - we’ve known all along that Romney faces an uphill battle there, since he will never have the president’s oratorical skills. But to Decoder’s ears, there was an equally big contrast in content. Specifically, Obama’s speech had a definite message - voters may or may not agree with it, but it came through loud and clear - while Romney’s really did not.
Here is the president yesterday, talking about his support for the auto industry bailout:
“You know why I knew this rescue would succeed? … It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet on the American worker…. This notion that we should have let the auto industry die, that we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that unions like yours will buckle and unravel - that’s part of that same old ‘you are on your own’ philosophy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves; let the most powerful do whatever they please.”
The speech fit exactly into the larger narrative Obama’s campaign has been hammering for months now about leveling the economic playing field - creating an America where the rules work for everyone. It is a message that has been reinforced concretely by his tax proposals, his healthcare law, the Wall Street regulations he supported. As the president summed it up yesterday: ”I’m not going to settle for a country where just a few do really well and everybody else is struggling to get by. We’re fighting for an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, where everybody does their fair share, where everybody plays by the same set of rules.”
Now look at Romney’s remarks from last night. The line that perhaps came closest to offering a rationale for his campaign was this:
“Our campaign, as you know, is about restoring the promise of America. Last week, I unveiled a very bold economic plan that’s going to jumpstart the economy, and it’s going to get Michiganders back to work. It’s going to get Americans more jobs they’re crying out for. And we’re going to have less debt and smaller government. And I’m going to deliver on more jobs, less debt and smaller government. We’re going to hear that day in and day out.”
Somehow, it just felt like a collection of standard GOP talking points - not a specific message that gives voters a strong sense of who he is and what he stands for. It underscored one of the biggest criticisms of Romney - that he seems to want to be all things to all people, and is unwilling to take clear stands that might alienate a group of potential supporters. The economic plan he referenced, for example, was a nod to tax-cutters on the right - but it also tried to offer specific breaks for the middle class, and in totality raised questions about how much he means it when he talks about cutting the debt.
If Romney wants to present himself as first and foremost a job creator, then he needs to zero in on that subject with an intensity and specificity that convinces voters he is passionate, knows what he’s talking about - and could actually do it. His main selling point is that he’s not a politician, so his message on the stump has to be more than a rehash of GOP political platitudes.
Telling voters his campaign “is about more than just replacing a president; it’s about restoring America’s promise” won’t be enough.
— Liz Marlantes
One point being made repeatedly in the media of late is that Super PACs are changing the usual dynamics of the presidential nominating process by allowing underdog candidates to remain in the race. Without Sheldon Adelson’s millions, Newt Gingrich might well have been forced off the stage by now for lack of funds. The same is often said about Rick Santorum, on whose behalf the Red, White, and Blue Fund has spent more than $3 million so far. Santorum is set to speak at a fundraiser for the Super PAC this Thursday in Dallas.
But Paul Goldman and Mark Rozell argue in an interesting op-ed in USA Today that in Santorum’s case, the Super PAC could eventually wind up doing more harm than good. Specifically, they say that by embracing Super PAC support, Santorum is blowing a big opportunity to carve out a pure - and unique - populist identity for himself in this race:
“By giving up the high ground easily attainable by going the other way — telling the Santorum Super PAC to cease and desist while calling on opponents to put the little people, not the big donors, first — the former senator dives all in to the wrong pool…. By legitimizing the growing role of hordes of mystery cash raised from the biggest special interests, Santorum gives away his best potential asset.”
Moreover, they add:
“Whatever legitimate criticisms there might be of Sarah Palin as the mouth that roared, the former Alaska governor is the one Republican leader who gets it. The best chance the GOP has this year to defeat Obama is to nominate someone willing to “go rogue” against the GOP establishment as a prelude to challenging the Washington Establishment. You can’t take their money and then have any credibility as a reformer. And it will take a major populist reformer, not a conventional politician, to defeat the president.”
Decoder agrees that Santorum’s fighting-for-the-little-guy image is absolutely his best weapon in this campaign - both against Mitt Romney and, should he somehow win the nomination, against President Obama. And accepting money from a Super PAC largely funded by one wealthy (and now, thanks to last week’s comments about birth control, controversial) mutual-fund magnate certainly dilutes Santorum’s “purity” in claiming to represent the little guy against entrenched elites.
Still, it’s hard to say whether Santorum would even be in this race at all without Super PAC money. And while, on the one hand, the travails of the Romney campaign have delineated the limits of what big money can buy, the reach of said money has also been on breathtaking display. As The New York Times reports, the Super PAC supporting Romney raised $6.6 million in January and spent close to $14 million, much of it on TV ads attacking Gingrich in Iowa and Florida.
Santorum’s best shot at mortally wounding Romney is coming up in Michigan, which votes one week from today - and where, Politico reports, the pro-Santorum Red, White, and Blue Fund spent nearly $700,000 last week, and is about to book fresh airtime today. That makes the Super PAC essentially the sole factor keeping the airwaves competitive for Santorum there.
Santorum clearly decided (like Obama, and every other candidate) that he could better afford to take a hit on the issue of Super PAC money than to turn down the money itself. We’ll see if it was worth it.
— Liz Marlantes
Watch the top Republican candidates face off in the CNN Republican Presidential debate live from Arizona! Wednesday night at 8ET on CNN (Sponsored message).
There’s plenty of buzz about campaign fundraising today, as a Federal Election Commission deadline Monday night drove forth a trove of data from the campaigns about their January goings-on. What do you need to know about the state of the campaign money game? Here are five things to note.
1. Show me the money - by state.
MapLight put together the above chart showing that two out of every three dollars raised by Super PACs - the groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for presidential candidates without coordinating with said candidates - have come from just four states and Washington, D.C. Mitt Romney has raised the most Super PAC cash in each of those locations, but you can slice and dice the numbers for yourself here.
2. How much mud would a Super PAC chuck if a Super PAC could chuck mud?
Answer: A lot more than last time around, that’s for sure. In the last GOP presidential tilt, just 6 percent of campaign advertising was an attack on other candidates, the Washington Post writes. During this cycle, that number has shot up to more than 50 percent. Nearly three quarters of Super PAC ads have been negative compared with 27 percent of ads from the campaigns themselves.
3. How do the GOP candidates compare to each other?
See this super helpful ABC News chart for the numeric breakdown, but here are Decoder’s takeaways. Mitt Romney had the biggest fundraising haul of the Republican bunch - but he put $6.5 million in the tank versus $4.5 million to $5.5 million for each of his rivals.
What’s really amazing is how much Mitt Romney spent - $18.78 million. The New York Times’ Nate Silver thinks Romney’s “burn rate” - fundraising minus spending - of negative $12.2 million might be the worst January ever. Santorum saw his cash on hand grow by about $1 million while Paul and Gingrich had losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Romney’s burn rate looks even worse when you add in the net negative $7 million hit his Super PAC took in January. Still, his $24 million in cash between Super PAC and his campaign dwarf the other candidates’ combined holdings.
Which would be great, except that Rick Santorum is breathing down his neck in two states that everybody thought were Romney shoo-ins - Arizona and Michigan.
4. How do the GOP candidates compare to Barack Obama?
The longer the GOP primary goes, the bigger Obama’s cash advantage grows.
As the Washington Post’s Morning Fix points out, the four GOP candidates have $13 million in cash - combined. President Obama has nearly six times that amount at $76 million. While the President’s Super PAC had a dreadful month of under $100,000 raised, Obama has since reversed his willingness for his campaign to seek Super PAC fundraising and so that number is almost certainly to rise - it can’t go down much farther.
Obama actually had a negative burn rate during the month of around $6 million. However, the president is getting to invest in staff, technology and organization more than television advertisements. It’s not as if the GOP candidates aren’t getting to do this, but the emphasis is different - and likely offers a better springboard to the general election.
5. What’s next on the fundraising trail?
After Santorum’s mid-January sweep of Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, Decoder wrote that he’d have to up his fundraising game. He has. The next two weeks, however, will move at warp speed. First up are the Arizona and Michigan primaries, followed shortly thereafter by Washington and then the explosion of delegates available on “Super Tuesday,” March 6.
With Newt Gingrich backer Sheldon Adelson promising another $10 million for the former House speaker, Ron Paul steady as ever and Santorum showing he can put money in the bank, its putting campaign treasure to its best use that will be at a premium before the next set of campaign disclosures appears.
— David Grant / @DW_Grant
Watch the top Republican candidates face off in the CNN Republican Presidential debate live from Arizona! Wednesday night at 8ET on CNN (Sponsored message).
UPDATED: Friess, on his website, apologized for his comments:
Today on Andrea Mitchell’s show, my aspirin joke bombed as many didn’t recognize it as a joke but thought it was my prescription for today’s birth control practices. In fact, the only positive comments I got were from folks who remembered it from 50 years back. Birth control pills weren’t yet available, so everyone laughed at the silliness on how an aspirin could become a birth control pill.
Foster Friess, the billionaire pumping plenty of cash into Rick Santorum’s Super PAC, went on Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC show this afternoon and had the following exchange, which you can watch above. (Decoder originally saw this at BuzzFeed.)
“I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed, we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think that says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s such inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
Followed by two beats of silence, Mitchell’s response says it all: “Um, Mr. Friess, I’m trying to catch my breath from that, frankly. Let’s change the subject.”
But Friess’ frankly weird remark just capped off a truly weird day in sexual politics in the nation’s capital. First, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was zinging one liners all over the place. Huffington Post reports thus:
“I think it’s really curiouser and curiouser that as we get further into this debate, the Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it’s appropriate to have a hearing on the subject of women’s health and can purposely exclude women from the panel,” Pelosi said during a press conference. “What else do you need to know about the subject?”
“If you need to know more, tune in, I may, I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.”
What panel was Pelosi speaking of? Well, the House Oversight Commitee held a hearing Thursday entitled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” that had the following panelists during its first session:
Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, CTChairman Ad Hoc Committee for Religious LibertyUnited States Conference of Catholic BishopsPresidentThe Lutheran Church - Missouri SynodGraves Professor of Moral PhilosophyUnion UniversityDirector of the Straus Center for Torah and Western ThoughtYeshiva UniversityAssociate RabbiCongregation Kehilath JeshurunAssociate Professor of EthicsChair of the Ethics DepartmentAssociate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural EngagementSouthwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
As you can see, there are no women on that panel. In protest, then, three Democratic members of the committee - Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D.C.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.) - walked out in protest.
“What I want to know is, where are the women?” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Issa before walking out of the hearing after the first panel. “I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?”
(There were two women scheduled for part II of the panel - administrators from Oklahoma Christian University and Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Michigan).
Friess, a mega donor to Santorum’s Red, White and Blue PAC, hasn’t offered any further perspective on his earlier comments. We’ll keep you posted.
— David Grant / @DW_Grant
It’s been widely noted that Rick Santorum’s rise in the GOP nominating contest has coincided with a shift in focus away from economic matters that have (arguably) favored Mitt Romney, and toward social issues that play to the former Pennsylvania senator’s strengths among conservatives. In particular, as the spotlight turned in recent weeks to the administration’s battle with the Catholic Church over mandated contraception coverage under the new healthcare law, it seemed to create a real opening for Santorum - who has long been calling Romney “uniquely unqualified” to challenge President Obama on hot-button conservative bete noires like Obamacare.
But looking back over the landscape of the past few weeks, we think there was another factor that was absolutely pivotal in propelling Santorum to where he is today: The much-covered (and thankfully brief) hospitalization of his daughter, Isabella. As you may recall, Santorum left the campaign trail just days before the Florida primary to be with his 3 year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and had been hospitalized with pneumonia. The coverage was, understandably, strongly sympathetic, and it brought fresh attention to Santorum, who was then struggling in the shadow of the Romney-Gingrich slugfest.
At the time, there was a smattering of speculation about whether Santorum might get a “Bella Bounce” in Florida. But while that never materialized in the Sunshine State (where Santorum lost badly), it seems over the longer term, all the attention paid to Santorum’s daughter was clearly beneficial to his campaign.
For one thing, the focus helped soften the impact of what were actually quite emphatic losses. In the wake of both Florida and Nevada, nearly every interview Santorum gave began with a discussion of Bella’s condition, rather than the usual “why are you still in this race?” questions.
And the crisis helped humanize Santorum. It softened the edges of a persona that had, up until then, most often been painted in the media as (to quote Mitt Romney) “severely” conservative and not necessarily all that likable (sweater vests notwithstanding). It also gave real credence to his argument that he understood the struggles of average Americans. In doing so, it gave Santorum a sudden - and extremely potent - edge over Romney, who has struggled all along on the likability and authenticity fronts.
Santorum’s experience raising Bella has also allowed him to make the case that his crusade against the Obama administration’s healthcare law is personal. As he told Fox host Bill O’Reilly, for example:
“She is the joy of our lives. She is the most pleasant, sweet little girl you would ever want to meet. And she is sort of the center of the family. And I miss her terribly when I’m on the road but in many respects one of the reasons I’m out here is because, you know, fighting for little kids like Bella who in many respects are, I think are going to be left behind whether it’s Obamacare or whether it’s a system where government is going to start to evaluate people not based on who they are or what they are but what they can do. And that to me is a world that I don’t want to be a part of and I’m going to fight to make sure it never happens.”
“Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable.”