Tags: Michele Bachmann

Needed: Conservative Leaders in for the Long Haul


Sarah Palin chose to resign as governor of Alaska in 2009, and then declined to pursue a 2012 presidential bid.

After the 2012 election, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina stepped down as senator to head up the Heritage Foundation.

In Florida, Allen West lost his bid for reelection to Congress in 2012, and he now serves as “Director of Next Generation Programming” at PJ Media and is a contributor to Fox News.

Now Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has decided to retire from Congress.

Joe Scarborough cites Palin, West, Bachmann, and Hermain Cain and argues that their ascents and declines illustrate how “flamboyance” rarely translates into a lasting political impact.

Of course, flamboyance doesn’t necessarily mean political doom. Congress and the governors’ mansions still include plenty of Republicans who are hardly shrinking violets: Senators ;Rand Paul, Tom Coburn, and Tim Scott, Representatives Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz, and Steve King, Governors Nikki Haley, Scott Walker, and Bobby Jindal. Virginia’s attorney general and GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli might fit that bill.

But the conservative movement probably ought to examine why some of their most prominent leaders elected to high office voluntarily depart the scene when they would seem to still have a lot of metaphorical gas left in the tank. Running for reelection is difficult — particularly difficult, as West learned, when the district lines shift, or if one’s state or district isn’t as certain in its embrace of conservatism as you are. Being a leader outside of office, giving paid speeches, doing media appearances, writing books . . . that’s much easier on the officeholder, his or her personal finances, and their family.

It’s hard to blame someone for wanting the less difficult path. And yet, it’s much harder for the conservative movement to move the ball forward if its leaders depart after a while.

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Allen West , Sarah Palin , Jim DeMint , Herman Cain

Fred Thompson: Like Heck I Stayed in the Race to Hurt Huckabee!


It seems strange to relitigate a fight from the 2008 GOP presidential primary, but perhaps many Republicans’ minds are on the notion of multiple conservative candidates dividing the vote in South Carolina, leaving the “Establishment” choice a path to victory.

Mike Huckabee said on Fox News yesterday that John McCain asked Fred Thompson to stay in the race in South Carolina, in order to divide the conservative vote. McCain beat Huckabee in South Carolina by 3 percentage points.

“John certainly encouraged Fred to stay in,” Huckabee said. “I think everyone understood, Fred knew he wasn’t going to get the nomination . . . Many people in the McCain camp have since confirmed, he said, ‘please stay in, I need you in South Carolina,’ primarily in the upstate where I had my strength, but you know, that’s politics. That’s what happens.”

McCain vehemently denied the story yesterday; this morning Fred Thompson appeared on Fox News to address it.

“Minding my own business, having my second cup of coffee, contemplating the election in general terms and the future, and Mike wanted to revisit the campaign last time,” Thompson said, smiling. “What Mike said is fine, except for one thing: there’s not one shred of truth to it! Senator McCain and I never had a conversation about staying in the race, staying out of the race . . . Mike’s been around long enough to know not to inhale that stuff too deeply . . . It’s just a little rewriting of history that’s unnecessary.”

When Huckabee made his charge, he said it without any visible bitterness. Perhaps believing this claim is part of how Huckabee made his peace with the experience of running for president, enjoying some early victories, and then falling short. Even for the most thick-skinned and confident candidate, an electoral defeat must be an intensely personal rejection. After all, the name on the ballot isn’t your campaign manager, your advertising director, your press secretary, or anyone around you; it’s your name. So it’s not surprising that a candidate might look for some explanation that would shift the cause of the defeat from their own mistakes, missteps, or overall inability to persuade voters to some outside force or confluence of events.

People in politics, like people everywhere, often choose to believe conclusions that are convenient or reassuring and tend to ignore inconvenient facts and harder truths. The candidates who fail to win the Republican nomination in 2012 may very well conclude that their bid was unfairly impeded by the collusion of their foes. (Quite a few times on Twitter, I’ve seen Michele Bachmann referred to as a stalking horse for Mitt Romney, a surrogate attack dog who takes on the unpopular duties in exchange for reward later. But if she were an agent of the Romney campaign, why would she drop out so early? Why wouldn’t Romney keep her in the mix to attack his rivals to South Carolina and beyond?)

Tags: Fred Thompson , John McCain , Michele Bachmann , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney

Rick Perry: Perhaps Not Out of This Race Yet!


Last night, I wondered if four of the “Not Romneys” would “have the self-control to stop hitting the other Not Romneys and focus on Romney?” For much of this morning, it appeared there would be two fewer of them, with indications that Perry and Bachmann would depart the race.

But now, perhaps not; Perry’s personal Twitter account just chirped, “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State . . . Here we come South Carolina!!!” It featured this photo:

A race without Perry or Bachmann would be a surprisingly good development for Rick Santorum, as he has a solid chance to win over most of the potentially adrift Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann fans. Of course, this won’t be a big factor in the next contests; in New Hampshire Bachmann’s at 4 percent and Perry’s at 2.5 percent. In South Carolina, Bachmann’s at 7 percent and Perry is at 6 percent. In Florida, Perry is at 4 percent and Bachmann is at 3.5 percent. But after a seven-vote margin in Iowa, who could scoff at any additional votes?

But the biggest remaining challenge for Santorum’s rise to the status of the Ultimate Anti-Mitt is Newt Gingrich, and perhaps the cycle’s biggest clash of the titans will be the battle between Gingrich’s desire to hurt Romney by dropping out and Gingrich’s intense desire to be the nominee.

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rick Perry , Rick Santorum

Iowa’s Big Winner Santorum . . . the Huckabee of 2012?


Presuming the final results are similar to what we see at this hour, it is a mildly disappointing result for Romney, since he and his supporters sounded like they expected a solid win tonight. His percentage of the vote and vote total are likely to be below his final totals for the 2008 campaign, when he finished well behind Mike Huckabee. Having said that, very little that happened tonight is going to impact his lead in New Hampshire, and so a week from tonight he should be celebrating a big win in New Hampshire to go with a finish that is either first or a close second or (increasingly unlikely) a still-close third.

The night’s big winner is Rick Santorum. But the experience of Huckabee should be something of a warning sign to Santorum. Iowa’s caucusgoers, as a group, are different from Republican primary voters in most states. They’re more heavily focused on social issues, and they reward enormous time and effort in the state. Obviously, Santorum can’t replicate his Iowa effort in many other states.

A big question about Santorum has been whether he can assemble a campaign infrastructure in all the states to come, but somehow I suspect that the considerable number of anybody-but-Romney Republicans will eagerly step forward and help assemble that infrastructure. If the race comes down to Romney and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator will have access to funds from the grassroots. Perhaps not enough to go toe-to-toe with Romney, but enough to make it competitive.

Ron Paul . . . how do you evaluate a candidate like Ron Paul? According to the entrance polls, 38 percent of caucusgoers had never voted in a GOP caucus before; of those, by far the largest share, 37 percent, voted for Ron Paul. Among the registered so-called independents who took part in the caucus, 48 percent voted for Ron Paul, way ahead of anyone else. Next-highest was Romney with 16 percent. He’s a Republican candidate for those who hate all of the other Republican candidates. With no Democratic presidential primary to compete for the anti-war vote, he should do well in every open primary from here on out.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann all had bad nights. There will be talk of Bachmann dropping out, but as I have noted, we have seen a state with just under 1 percent of the U.S. population vote. Why should she deny 99 percent of the country the chance to vote? Having said that, if she can’t get more than a few percentage points in Iowa, where would she break out?

Oh, and the Ames Straw Poll should be ignored forevermore.

Tags: Iowa Caucuses , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Santorum , Ron Paul

Can the ‘Not Romney’ Candidates Resist Fighting Among Themselves?


We could see some surprises, but if the pre-caucus polling is accurate, tonight’s results are likely to cause the biggest headaches for Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann. As Byron York reports, a new “campaign ad study found that only 20 percent of ads have targeted [Mitt Romney], and even those mostly hit several candidates, with Romney being just one of a group.”

With intense competition to be the anti-Romney, everyone forgot to hit Romney.

How likely is it that this dynamic will change in subsequent states? Undoubtedly, Jon Huntsman will go after Romney in New Hampshire. Santorum is quick to insist he’s not going to concede New Hampshire, and so he’ll be eager to swing at the frontrunner there. But among Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann, the desire to knock out the others — or to try to dislodge Santorum as the preeminent social conservative in the race — will be intense. Will they have the self-control to stop hitting the other Not Romneys and focus on Romney?

It’s a bit like the prisoner’s dilemma. The conservatives running against Romney have the best shot of defeating him by putting their limited resources towards hitting him. But they have the best shot of being the strongest rival to Romney by attacking each other first. And the longer they fight each other, the more Romney has a relatively easy road to piling up wins. (If Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire, there will be a widespread perception — erroneous, but widespread — that he has the nomination all wrapped up.)

Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, and Bachmann need the other three to drop out quickly. But right now, none of them have much incentive to drop out. Barring some abysmal and embarrassing performance tonight, none of them will have much incentive to quit the race until after South Carolina.

UPDATE: Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer put it rather succinctly on CNN a moment ago: “Mitt Romney doesn’t want anyone to drop out [of the race]; Rick Santorum wants everybody to drop out.”

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rick Perry

Newt Gingrich, America’s Sixth-Most-Admired Man?


The good news for Newt Gingrich, from his campaign:

Newt Gingrich was named the 6th Most Admired Man in 2011 today in USA Today/Gallup’s annual survey of Americans. Gingrich is the only GOP presidential candidate to make the top ten in the Most Admired Man, 2011 list. GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann made the top ten list for Most Admired Woman, 2011.

The bit that his campaign didn’t mention in their release: He was named by all of . . . 1 percent.

President Obama was named by 17 percent; George W. Bush was named by 3 percent. Four percent named Sarah Palin as the woman they most admire, behind Michelle Obama at 5 percent, Oprah Winfrey at 7 percent, and Hillary Clinton at 17 percent.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michele Bachmann , Newt Gingrich , Sarah Palin

Bachmann: I’m in a Statistical Dead Heat, a.k.a. Fourth Place!


Michele Bachmann e-mails me (and everyone else on her campaign e-mail list):

Dear Fellow Conservative,

As one of my most loyal supporters I wanted you to be the first to know this exciting news. In a We Ask America poll just released today, our campaign is only four points behind Ron Paul for first place in Iowa!

We are in a statistical dead heat for the Iowa caucuses and I need your immediate support to push my campaign over the top!

I know with your support and prayers our campaign can prove victorious in January. Iowa is where Barack Obama’s campaign began and it is where it will end- when our campaign wins the first-in-the-nation caucuses!

Maybe “We Ask America” is ahead of the curve, but other recent polls have shown Bachmann nowhere near a “statistical dead heat”.

The first three polls were conducted at the beginning of the week; the KCRG one was conducted over ten days with a fairly small sample. So perhaps Bachmann really is starting to climb.

However, her “statistical dead heat” still has her in fourth place in the We Ask America results. She’s at 15 percent, Gingrich is at 16 percent, Romney is at 18 percent and Paul is at 19 percent.

I guess for those trailing, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to good news.

Tags: Michele Bachmann

It’s Been a While Since Mitt or Newt Won a General Election


Recent general-election wins don’t seem to count much in the GOP presidential primary this cycle. Three of the contenders won last year, and while Ron Paul has a shot at winning Iowa, he’s certainly far from being the frontrunner; the other two candidates who won last year, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, will be in considerable trouble with disappointing finishes in Iowa.

It has been roughly a decade since either of the recent frontrunners won a general election, and Romney’s 2002 win in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race was his only general-election win of his career.

Candidates in order of most-recent general election win:

Michele Bachmann: 2010

Ron Paul: 2010

Rick Perry: 2010

Jon Huntsman: 2008

Mitt Romney: 2002

Rick Santorum: 2000

Newt Gingrich: 1998

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Rick Perry , Ron Paul

The Republican Candidates’ Holiday Special


In the final Jolt of the week, a roundup of reactions to the final debate . . . until the next one.

Super Debate XVI!

Thursday night’s debate — the 16th of the year, and the final one before the Iowa caucuses — felt like one of those “clip episodes” that a lot of television shows tend to run around this time of year, to save time and money. Hey, Ron Paul doesn’t think that the Iranian regime represents much of a threat! Hey, Rick Santorum thinks that viewpoint is naïve and bonkers! Hey, haven’t we seen this plenty of times before?

Two solid hours, my friends. With 16 debates and one and a half to two hours each, we’ve probably seen nearly 30 hours of debates so far. This has turned these events into something of an ordeal; Nancy Wright declared at the conclusion, “I feel like I just had a root canal.”

Tonight was grand finale for some candidates, Jake Tapper observes: “Doubt there will be 7 candidates on stage for the next debate.”

Robert George assessed, “Winners: Romney steadied himself after last ‘bet’ debate; Newt solid, except for Fannie/Freddie; Bachmann sharp vs. Newt.”

Jazz Shaw: “For once I won’t wait until tomorrow. There was only one winner tonight. Bachmann. Biggest loser? Fox.” Neil Cavuto, Charles Krauthammer, Chris Wallace and Megan Kelly all said that Michele Bachmann proved to be an effective attacker, particularly against Gingrich, but everyone seemed to think that Gingrich held his own — a good night if you’re a frontrunner.

When she tore into Gingrich, accusing him of campaigning for Republicans who supported partial-birth abortion, John McCormick quipped, “Bachmann just pulled out Gingrich’s beating heart. How pro-life is that?”

For what it’s worth, Frank Luntz suggested that his focus groups didn’t like to see attacks, so it is possible that Bachmann will generate a backlash. “It helps solidify her vote, but it doesn’t help her gain more of the vote.”

One rare voice who saw trouble for Gingrich was Alex Castellanos: “Newt had to win tonight. Romney only needed a tie. Newt did not get what he needed. The negative ad barrage will wear him down.”

Ken Spain, formerly of the NRCC, also believes that the race is now a spending competition: “Debates are over. Question is who is spending how much and where? Watch candidate surges and free falls parallel to their ad spending.”

Rick Perry got to enjoy the much-anticipated question about Fast and Furious, and if it was a softball, he still hit the cover off it by denouncing Eric Holder’s mismanagement so thoroughly.

The delightful Tabitha Hale admits, “Not gonna lie, I applauded in my living room.” Katie Pavlich — the person you should be watching for the latest on Fast and Furious — declared Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly the debate winners for finally putting Fast and Furious front and center.

S. E. Cupp: “Perry had the best debate of his life. If he could repeat tonight over and over, he’d be the candidate people wanted him to be.” Derek Hunter is unconvinced: “Question to people saying Perry did much better tonight: Is that really an accomplishment if there was nowhere to go but up?”

Studying the candidate’s hand gestures, Mike Murphy observes, “Huntsman is always shaking an invisible watermelon when he speaks.”

Tags: Debates , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich

We’ve Been Warned: Some Won’t Survive Iowa!


If your patience is waning, and you think you can’t stand one more discussion of who will win Iowa, be cautious — the state itself can be fatal, according to this headline and opening paragraph from Ken Rudin on NPR:

Not Everyone Will Survive Iowa

 Dec 12, 2011 — A change in the primary delegate rules may extend the battle for the Republican nomination into the spring. But, if history is a guide, some candidates may not survive the Iowa caucuses.

Hypothermia would be my bet.

Oh, wait, he didn’t mean literally.

But while there is reason to hope that the Republican contest next year may extend into the spring months, there is a near certainty that some of the candidates may be gone from the race soon after the Iowa caucus results are in on Jan. 3, just over three weeks from now.

Someone asked if I was available for an event on the afternoon of January 4, and I said that based on past history, I’ll probably be covering somebody’s campaign coming to an end.

Rudin writes, “If I were a betting man — and certainly not on the scale with Mitt Romney— I would think that the candidacies of both Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the most precarious in Iowa. The two have probably put more hours into the state than any other Republican candidate. But neither is especially well-funded, neither is in double digits in the polls, and neither has gotten the kind of media air and ink time their rivals have. They also don’t have much going in New Hampshire (Jan. 10 primary), which makes Iowa that more crucial.”

Could the Ames Straw Poll winner end up not winning the Iowa caucus? That hasn’t happened since... 2008… and 1996… and 1988.

A reader wrote to me back in 2007, “As someone who worked on the [Phil] Gramm presidential campaign, I can say winning the Iowa staw poll doesn’t mean squat.  I know it happens every cycle — pundits and people who love politics inflate false events because there’s nothing else to do and then the people vote.  But, only one of those events matters.  (As I am sure you remember, Gramm tied Dole in the straw poll and then was rewarded with a fifth place finish in the actual voting.)”

Tags: Ames Straw Poll , Iowa , Michele Bachmann

Iowa: Newt Leads, Then Mitt, Then Ron Paul


According to Marist, 9 percent of Iowa caucusgoers listed their top choice as Herman Cain in their most recent survey. That’s a significant chunk that is now up for grabs.

Newt Gingrich leads at 26 percent, Mitt Romney is at 18 percent, and Ron Paul is just behind him at 17 percent. Rick Perry is also at 9 percent, and “undecided” is at 9 percent.

(Heh. If you listed Cain, Perry and Undecided together, you get “9-9-9.”)

Some had wondered if Iowa could be a springboard for Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum, but right now, both are at 5 percent.

Could a bad performance in Iowa January 3 mean the end of one or both of their campaigns by January 4, and an endorsement some days later?

Jon Huntsman is at 2 percent, and his folks would be the first to tell you that they’re not putting much time or energy into Iowa, focusing on New Hampshire instead.

UPDATE: Hey, remember when this was the year that the Republican field was going to break away from pandering on ethanol? Remember how this year was going to be the year that fury over runaway spending was going to overtake the usual pandering to primary state constituencies?

Yeah, not so much. Recall from January of this year:

The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we’ve ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that “the big-city attacks” on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that “Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it’s working, and you wonder, ‘What are their values?’”

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum

Will There Ever Be a Consensus ‘Not-Mitt’ Candidate?


From the midweek Morning Jolt . . .

The Only Thing That Stopped the Pawlenty Momentum Was Tim Pawlenty

Poor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty-mania kicks in, roughly two months after he leaves the race.

First, from Jonah: “Looking back on the events of 2011, who do you think has more regrets for his bad decisions, Hosni Mubarak or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty? . . . All Pawlenty did was blow his entirely plausible shot at the presidency. Let’s hop into the way-back machine. Pawlenty’s plan was to be the alternative to Mitt Romney. He launched a huge political operation, perhaps to scare off other candidates, which required an equally huge fundraising effort to sustain it. In order to justify the money he was asking of donors, he had to do well in the Iowa straw poll in August. He came in third to Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. Pawlenty quit the race the next day. Tactically, Pawlenty’s mistakes are too numerous to count. But strategically, Pawlenty had the right idea: Be the most electable candidate to the right of Romney.”

. . . I don’t think we can argue that he really didn’t get a chance to shine, or enough time in the debates, or that somehow Republicans didn’t take a good enough look at him.

We scoff at Romney’s ironclad twenty-something percent in primary polls, but you notice that to the remaining seventy to eighty percent, there is no real consensus on who the alternative to Romney ought to be. Even when you go down the list of alternatives who didn’t run — Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie — the anti-Mitt crowd splits.

I realize blogging means you get a skewed perspective of the political world from your feedback. The folks who write in aren’t representative of the public as a whole or Republicans as a whole or even necessarily of NRO readers as a whole. They’re the ones who feel most motivated to write in and tell me how much I stink helpfully suggest flaws in my thinking. So I preface this observation with the recognition that perhaps I end up with an incomplete view of the thinking of the majority of Republican primary voters. But right now, the Anybody But Mitt crowd to me looks like a mix of Perry fans who can’t believe any conservative could seriously support those jokers Cain and Bachmann, Cain fans who can’t believe anybody could back that loser Perry and that loon Bachmann, Bachmann fans who can’t believe everybody’s jumped off the bandwagon of the one true conservative fighter, Newt fans who can’t believe everybody makes such a big deal of his marital difficulties, and so on. I’m not sure anybody has much of a second choice right now, much less a potential consensus choice. I exaggerate slightly, but right now, it doesn’t seem like many primary voters see many of the options as “pretty good.” The field is simply “their guy” versus a bunch of laughingstocks who deserve to be booed off the stage.

My theory is that in the On Demand Era, with movies and television shows available on demand, news sites updated 24-7, our iPods and MP3 players playing only the music we want, our Facebook pages giving us just the updates from the particular friends we want, etc., a certain segment of the public has now become conditioned to expect the On Demand candidate. They want someone who holds their position on Obamacare AND illegal immigration AND climate change AND TARP AND abortion AND every other significant issue, and when a potential Republican president deviates from it, they toss them into the “reject” pile.

Tags: Herman Cain , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Perry , Tim Pawlenty

A Virginia Mailer that Features Rick Perry! Sort of . . .


One bit of “good” news for Rick Perry . . . for Virginia’s Democrats, he has now reached the “bogeyman” status of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. This flyer, paid for by the Democratic party of Virginia, just arrived in my mailbox.

(Allow firearms on Virginia college campuses? Gee, the current ban proved so effective at Virginia Tech.)

The ad is attacking Republican Miller Baker, who seeks to unseat incumbent Democrat state senator George Barker.

In Quinnipiac’s latest poll of Virginia, 22 percent of northern Virginians had a favorable impression of Perry, 52 percent had an unfavorable impression, and 24 percent hadn’t heard enough about him to have an opinion. My “Yuppie Acres” neighborhood of Alexandria is heavily Democratic and probably follows national politics more closely than other parts of the state.

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Rick Perry , Sarah Palin , Virginia

If You Want to Beat Mitt Romney, Try Beating Mitt Romney


A reader writes in, furiously asserting that “the talentless hacks at National Review” are responsible for Mitt Romney’s hard-to-dislodge frontrunner or near-frontrunner status.

As much as I’d like to believe that the magazine and website alone can determine the Republican nominee, I’d note that the magazine featured a rather positive profile of Tim Pawlenty in the March 7 issue, just five months before he withdrew from the race. Sometimes the cover features Marco Rubio and declares, “Yes, He Can.” Sometimes the cover features Howard Dean and begs, “Democrats: Please Nominate This Man.” (Ted Cruz must be hoping we’re due for another Rubio moment.)

My angry reader asserts that “if the cocktail party crowd in NY and DC weren’t enamored of his important hair and pants crease, he wouldn’t be leading right now.” Except that the cocktail-party crowd in New York and Washington don’t make up 20-something percent of Republican voters. And that’s the level of support that Romney has enjoyed with remarkable consistency.

One possibility is that it seems every non-Mitt candidate has decided that they need to eliminate the other non-Romney options first before going after Romney, which may be a strategic error.

Tim Pawlenty hesitated on “Obamneycare” but certainly didn’t hesitate to go after Michele Bachmann in subsequent debates. Bachmann has torn into Rick Perry on immigration and the Gardasil decision. Rick Santorum has gone after almost everyone, but seems to have delivered his toughest attacks on Perry and most recently on Cain (asking the audience how many felt the national sales tax would remain 9 percent for long).

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich appears to see his Republican rivals as distractions from his true hated target — whoever is moderating that night — and cheery Herman Cain rarely attacks any of his rivals — probably a big element of his appeal.

Jon Huntsman certainly is trying to hit Romney, but its hard for the most leftward candidate in the race to score points in this area, and Huntsman is in low single digits in most states. Perry certainly tried to go after Romney, but got tongue-tied two debates ago and is now focused on the surging Cain, pointing out what he sees as the flaws in the 9-9-9 Plan.

Perhaps it’s time for a revised strategy. If you want to be the leading anti-Romney candidate, go after Romney. If you become the most thorough and effective critic of Romney’s record and stances, you won’t have to worry about all of the other ones.

Another possibility is that some folks in the field find Romney’s odds of becoming the nominee so favorable that they don’t want to alienate him, and want to preserve their viability as a running mate or future cabinet secretary, etc.

Tags: Herman Cain , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Perry

Barney Frank: The Community Reinvestment Act Was a ‘Republican Failure’


In today’s Wall Street Journal:

Asked who was to blame for the 2008 financial crisis and whether any bankers should have been prosecuted, Mrs. Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich put the onus on the federal government, with Mr. Gingrich suggesting that former Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, should both be jailed.

“It was the federal government that pushed the subprime loans . . . that pushed the community reinvestment act,” said Mrs. Bachmann, citing what she considered the causes of the housing meltdown.

Mr. Frank released an emailed statement in response: “In fact, Chris Dodd and I were in the minority from 1995 until 2006, so Gingrich is blaming us for Republican failures.”

So panicked is the response from Congressman “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing” Frank that he forgets that from May 2001 to the end of 2002, Democrats controlled the Senate and Dodd was the second-ranking Democrat on the committee after chairman Paul Sarbanes.

It is also revealing that Frank believes that Bush-administration assent to policies he supported means that the consequences of those policies are, ipso facto, “Republican failures.” As Peter Wallison lays out on the Journal’s op-ed page, you can blame Wall Street for reckless gambling on mortgage-backed securities all you want, but the risk of the mortgage-backed securities never takes off unless the federal government starts pushing lenders to lower their standards for worthy borrowers. Sure, the big-bank investors never should have gone dancing in the minefield, but the minefield was set up by federal policies that encouraged massive loans to “borrowers with blemished credit, or were loans with no or low down payments, no documentation, or required only interest payments.”

It is rather amazing that with laughably inaccurate defenses like this, Frank is still considered a significant voice in the Democratic party today.

Tags: Barney Frank , Chris Dodd , Michele Bachmann , Newt Gingrich

The Perry Bandwagon, Looking a Little Lighter These Days


The new Washington Post–ABC News poll suggests that it’s been a rapid rise, and a rapid slide, for Rick Perry:

After a quick rise in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has experienced an almost equally dramatic decline, losing about half of his support over the past month, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Perry’s slide, which comes after several uneven performances in candidate debates, has allowed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to resurface atop the GOP field. But the most direct beneficiary of the disenchantment with Perry is businessman Herman Cain, who is now tied for second place. Perry also faces opposition to one of his signature immigration policies in Texas, the survey shows.

Although not fully satisfied with their choices, Republicans are optimistic about their chances of winning the election. More than eight in 10 say the eventual GOP nominee is likely to beat President Obama next year. In the new poll, Obama’s approval remained at a low point in his presidency.

Among announced candidates — without Christie or Palin in the race — Romney leads with 25 percent, which is identical to his support from a month ago. Perry and Cain are tied for second with 16 percent, numbers representing a 13-point drop for Perry and a 12-point rise for Cain since early September.

Theory: There are a certain number of Republican primary voters who just want a winner, and who will gravitate to whichever candidate looks like a “winner” — an admittedly subjective criterion. When Perry was best known as a tough-talking Texan with a terrific record on jobs, this segment of primary voters was eager to jump on the bandwagon. After the debates, the vaccine answers, the “heartless” comment, etc., they’re jumping off the bandwagon and looking elsewhere — and perhaps it’s Herman Cain’s turn to be flavor of the month.

In this survey, at least, there’s limited appetite for a late entry from Chris Christie or Sarah Palin:

Christie is feverishly assessing whether to do so, with a decision expected this week. But the Post-ABC poll finds only modest public support for a Christie candidacy. About 42 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say they would like to see the New Jersey governor join the race. Thirty-four percent say no, with the rest offering no opinion.

That finding is far more positive than the receptivity to a candidacy by Sarah Palin. Two-thirds of Republicans say they do not want the former Alaska governor to seek the party’s nomination.

Remember when Michele Bachmann was a strong second or third in this race? In today’s survey, she’s at 7 percent.

Tags: Herman Cain , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Perry

Bachmann to Perry: We Have Heart. And I Hope They’ll Donate to Me.


Michele Bachmann begins fundraising off of Rick Perry’s “have a heart” comment:

Dear Friend, If you oppose illegal immigration and don’t believe illegal immigrants should be given taxpayer subsidized tuition benefits over American’s children… than according to Rick Perry you don’t have a heart. 

You see, Rick Perry was the first governor in America to give in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants and said to America that if you disagree… You don’t have a heart. 

Friend, our nation is trillions of dollars in debt, millions of Americans are without a job, yet Rick Perry sees it fit to offer in-state tuition benefits to people who are not here legally…It just doesn’t add up. 

Immigration is one of the most important issues facing the United States, and we need a president who will enforce our laws and our borders. For too long, Washington has turned a blind eye to immigration and as President I will put an end to that. 

It’s time to make the tough choices and make the spending cuts necessary to balance our budget. Every four years, conservatives are told that we have to settle, and anybody would be better than Obama. That’s what we’re hearing this year, and it isn’t true.The time for settling is over. I am running for President of the United States to restore our constitutional conservative values to government and put our nation back on a path towards prosperity. 

I am proud of the United States of America and firmly believe that our best days remain ahead of us, which is why I will not simply sit back and allow the Obama Administration and Washington Democrats to hold our nation back. Below, I’ve included some informative articles about the past week, and some great ways for you to get involved with our campaign.

After reading them, I hope that you will consider making a contribution of $25, $50, $100, or any amount up to the legal limit to help spread us our conservative message. 

Sincerely, Michele Bachmann

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Rick Perry

Tonight’s Debate: Starting to Approach Crunch Time...


Believe it or not, it’s debate night again, 9 p.m. kickoff, on Fox News Channel, live from Orlando. Yesterday I taped some discussion of the outlook for the debate with Fox Business News, and excerpts of that interview are airing throughout the day.

To quote Yogi Berra, “It gets late early out there,” in that despite the fact that we’re in late September, and have about five weeks to the filing deadline in South Carolina (which would officially set the field) and about four months and change until the Iowa caucuses (though that could change), the window of opportunity is closing for most of the candidates in the field.

In most polls, both nationally and in the early key primary states, it is a two-man race between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Before the last debate, the conventional wisdom was that Michele Bachmann needed to have a dramatic, aggressive performance to get the spotlight back on herself and to take Perry down a peg. Her tough criticism of Perry’s Gardasil decision and stance on illegal immigration appeared to do that . . . until her infamous suggestion later in the evening that Gardasil could cause mental retardation, which may have done irreparable damage to her candidacy. As recently as August 9, she was less than two percentage points behind Rick Perry in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Today she has slipped behind Ron Paul, trails Mitt Romney by about 13 percentage points, and trails Perry by more than 20 percentage points.

Tonight, she faces the same challenge, with the bar set even higher: she needs to crack the foundation of Perry’s support while avoiding any criticism or charge that makes her appear loose with the facts, reckless, or out of the mainstream.

Perry’s past debate performances haven’t been bad enough to hurt him significantly, but he’s actually lost a little ground in the polls in the past two weeks. Some have wondered if Perry’s back surgery from the summer has left him with lingering fatigue issues; his performances in the debates’ first halves have been significantly better than his second halves.

Perry can serve up red meat with the best of them, but the question is what else he can do, and whether he seems like a man capable of building a national consensus to move national policies in a conservative direction. As Rich put it, “to become president of the United States, he’ll have to reach persuadables who don’t value outrageousness for its own sake. If he’s never willing to back down, he’ll have to go — should he win the nomination — all the way to November 2012 defending the notion that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is possibly guilty of treason.” From what the Texas governor has shown so far, a Perry presidency would leave the country with the cultural standoff of the Bush years — much whining and carping from the usual corners about the reckless, dumb cowboy Texan running roughshod in the White House. While many Republicans would like their nominee to wear that criticism as a badge of honor, others would prefer a nominee who can demonstrate a style of national leadership distinct from Bush’s. What’s more, Perry may face more criticism on Gardasil and will almost certainly face withering criticism that his policies amount to amnesty, and perhaps that too many of the jobs created in Texas during Perry’s reign have gone to illegal immigrants.

Romney finds himself in a position that ordinarily would cause some candidates to panic, but he and his team seem pretty confident that they’re playing the long game the right way. He still leads New Hampshire by a wide margin, is a strong second everywhere, and still matches up quite well against Obama in the head-to-head polling. From this, Romney may try to argue that Perry isn’t electable, but it’s not so clear that a lot of Republican primary voters want to hear that message this early. With Obama looking so weak at the moment, the argument that “your proposals are right on the merits but don’t poll well” won’t fly with grassroots conservatives eager to see the government shift dramatically to the right on January 20, 2013.

For former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, tonight is a big night, with his national television debut.* He brings a more libertarian view on most issues, and will likely echo Ron Paul on foreign policy and drug legalization if the topic is raised. Johnson might be an interesting test of whether the collection of views we might call “Ron Paul-ism” works better or worse without Ron Paul himself.

For everyone else, the opportunities to break out of the background are diminishing. Newt Gingrich will probably pound the moderators and make some good arguments, but his energetic, pugnacious debate performances just haven’t translated into poll strength or even donations, it would seem. Herman Cain has won a lot of fans with his affable performance in past debates, but he appears to have seen his breakout moment come and go. (For one, brief, shining moment, Cain was second in the RealClearPolitics average: June 27, 2011.) Rick Santorum, too, has shown occasional moments of energy and passion in the debates, but he’s still struggling to hit 5 percent in Iowa, a state that should be his bread-and-butter. Jon Huntsman had an awful appearance in the last debate, and would be well advised to avoid the corny jokes or trying-too-hard cultural references. With 10 percent in New Hampshire, it’s not unthinkable that Huntsman could end up having a bigger impact on this race in the near future, but he still faces a steep uphill climb.

* UPDATE: In the comments, a reader contends that Johnson’s inclusion in the Greenville, South Carolina, debate back on May 5 constitutes his “debut,” although that debate featured a very limited field of Tim Pawlenty, Paul, Santorum, Cain and Johnson — no Romney, no Bachmann, no Perry, no Gingrich. (At the time, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels were also being mentioned as likely candidates).

That debate had 3.2 million viewers; by contrast, the debate on Fox News Channel in August had 5.1 million viewers. For perspective, last night Bill O’Reilly had 3.26 million viewers.

Tags: Debates , Michele Bachmann , Mitt Romney , Rick Perry

Rollins Overcomes Health Issues to Downplay Chances of Former Employer


As Katrina Trinko mentioned in the Corner, former Michele Bachmann campaign manager Ed Rollins is back on MSNBC talking about the candidate he worked for as recently as September 5. You may recall he stepped down for “health reasons” and that he was to continue on as a “senior adviser.”

Part of coming out of the House of Representatives is that it’s a different environment than running statewide as a governor does. Her entire political career has been in one area of Minnesota, where she was elected to the State Senate and elected to Congress. It’s a very big arena, and there’s a scrutiny in the media… sometimes you say things that are not appropriate, and that you shouldn’t say, and I think that’s been part of her history.

He also appeared to put blame on her remaining staff for her vaccine comment: “What we had tried to always do was vet everything that was ever told to her,” Rollins told Andrea Mitchell. “We sort of tried to put a system in play, that, if someone walks up and gives you a good idea or a good concept, you basically vet it; that obviously wasn’t vetted.”

Then Rollins concludes, “She doesn’t have the ability or resources to go beyond Iowa at this time.”

The scenario of Rollins hurting the candidate was, perhaps, not quite that difficult to imagine. Back on June 8, in Campaign Spot:

As noted in the Jolt, we shouldn’t be stunned that Ed Rollins has made headlines within days of joining Team Michele Bachmann; this is what he does.

Obviously, candidates like Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann keep hiring Rollins, so he must do something that reassures them a great deal. Even after he attributed Christie Todd Whitman’s 1993 gubernatorial win to giving “walking around money” to African-American ministers. Even after he shocked Republicans by signing on with the presidential campaign of H. Ross Perot on June 3, 1992; even after he shocked the Perot folks by quitting on July 15, 1992. Even after he trashed former client Katherine Harris after quitting her campaign six months before Election Day. Even after he wrote a June 2007 Washington Post op-ed where he practically begged New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg to run for president in a third-party bid, declaring the mayor “one of the nation’s most popular and effective politicians.” (Bloomberg had just officially departed the GOP.)

I found this still-relevant quote from a 1992 New York Times profile of Rollins:

“One thing I respect about Ed is that he doesn’t leak,” said James Lake, a Washington lawyer and longtime associate who is advising the Bush re-election team. “He does more damage on the record than any leaker that I’ve ever seen.”

This is just Rollins being Rollins. Whatever his health issues, he’s still hale and hearty enough to wield a shiv.

Tags: Ed Rollins , Michele Bachmann

Last Night, Perry Couldn’t Inoculate Himself From Attacks


I think the story of last night’s debate is that Rick Perry entered two very predictable fights on his Gardasil vaccination policy and illegal immigration and didn’t quite give a through, detailed, convincing defense on either issue.

A quick summary of the Gardasil controversy from last month:

Religious conservatives in Texas were stunned in 2007 when Republican Rick Perry became the first governor in the country to order young girls to get a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The vaccine would encourage promiscuity, according to many conservatives, who had long supported Perry’s views against abortion and same-sex marriage.

It soon emerged that Perry was close to one of the lobbyists who was pushing for the order and who worked for the vaccine’s New Jersey-based manufacturer. That lobbyist, Mike Toomey, had served as Perry’s chief of staff and has since helped found a super PAC aimed at boosting Perry’s bid for the presidency.

Now Perry, who long defended the vaccine mandate, has reversed his position on the issue as he launches his GOP presidential bid, calling the order “a mistake” and saying he agrees with the Texas legislature’s decision to overturn it.

“The fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” Perry told reporters on the campaign trail over the weekend.

…The federal government approved Gardasil in June 2006, and medical authorities began recommending that all girls get the shots at ages 11 and 12, before they are likely to be sexually active. Boys have since been added to the recommendations as well.

Merck launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying and marketing effort to encourage that the vaccine — priced at about $360 for an entire treatment — be made mandatory for schoolgirls. But anti-vaccination groups and many religious conservatives pushed back, citing health and morality concerns, while Merck came under fire for its aggressive tactics.

I’m not quite so sure that the main objection was the concern that the vaccine would prompt promiscuity than concerns about parental consent and side effects of a new drug being used on every schoolgirl in Texas. As RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan laid out:

Perry’s attempt to frame his action as both an urgent public health necessity and the work of a “pro-life” politician failed to dissuade those who felt he had shoved this vaccine down the throats of the public without a full airing of the potential benefits, costs and long-term health implications of the drug…

In fact, two years later the National Vaccine Information Center issued a report raisingserious questions over the harmful side effects of the drug. A few months after that, an editorial on Gardasil in the Journal of the American Medical Association declared that “serious questions regarding the overall effectiveness of the vaccine” needed to be answered and that more long-term studies were called for.

When pressed on this issue, Perry keeps returning to his noble goals. He probably had the very best of intentions in pursuing this policy. But we all know which road is paved with those.

In the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

When they discussed Rick Perry’s regretted and repealed policy on mandatory vaccines for HPV, [Bachmann] came alive and ripped into the Texas Governor, and seemed to have the crowd on her side:

“To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just wrong,” Bachmann said. “Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan.”

The Minnesota congresswoman went even further, accusing Perry of handing out favors to a company, Merck, represented by his former top aide, Mike Toomey.

“There was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate,” Bachmann said. “The governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company.”

Perry pushed back hard against Bachmann, but seemed flustered as the attacks on HPV intensified.

“At the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer,” Perry said. “At the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life.”

When Bachmann suggested he mandated the vaccine as a favor to a campaign contributor, Perry responded: “I raised $30 million and if you’re saying I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

Bachmann shot back: “I’m offended for all the little girls and parents who didn’t have a choice.”

After the last debate, I wrote:

Perry’s decision — quickly rescinded — to mandate the vaccination of Texas schoolgirls for HPV, a decision which came up Wednesday night, appears to be an epic mental pratfall. We all have them, but it’s worrisome to have one in a decision that strikes such an emotional chord and that seems so basic in its relation to civil liberties. Another comment by Perry — that he’ll do “whatever it takes to preserve human life” — feels a little too casual in its dismissal of balancing the costs and benefits. A 45-mile-per-hour speed limit would help preserve human life. So would confiscating every steak knife in the country. 

Like I said, at the debate site, it looked like the crowd was with Bachmann (and Santorum jumped in as well). If my Twitter feed reflects the rest of the Republicans watching (and it may very well be skewed in one way or the other), the party splits almost evenly on whether Perry was just momentarily misguided, and his rivals are making a mountain out of a molehill, or whether he completely botched a basic issue of parents rights.

Maybe I’ll feel completely different by midday Tuesday, but my initial impression is that Perry suffered some damage Monday night. On vaccines, Bachmann hit him; on immigration, his policy in Texas sounds awfully similar to the DREAM Act supported by President Obama.

Byron York saw it too: “In the hours before the Republican debate in Tampa Monday night, political insiders asked just two questions. Would Rick Perry knock out Mitt Romney?  Or would Mitt Romney knock out Rick Perry?  As it turned out, the question they should have asked was, What if Romney and Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich got together to gang up on Perry?  That’s exactly what happened onstage at the Florida Fairgrounds, with the candidates hitting Perry hard on Social Security, his jobs record in Texas, his decision to mandate a vaccination for young girls, and immigration.  When it was over, Perry had not been knocked out, but he was definitely wobbly on his feet… After blows from all around [on illegal immigration], Perry was reduced to saying, “The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way.” It wasn’t a popular line in the room. By that point, Perry had become a candidate the voters did not see in last week’s debate at the Reagan Library. He was at times hesitant, forced off his game by Romney, Bachmann, Paul, and Santorum, and perhaps in need of more preparation.  It’s likely he’ll do a little more studying for the next debate, presented by Fox News, on September 22.”

Like I said, at least half of my feed seemed incredulous that Perry’s frontrunner status could be jeopardized by a four-year-old decision about a vaccine. But clearly, something about that issue hits a chord with a lot of voters, and if Perry wants to run strong from here on out, he’ll need a comprehensive and definitive way to explain his decisions on this beyond how much he wants to fight cancer.

Tags: Michele Bachmann , Rick Perry


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