Pratt–Romney family

So It Begins

The 2012 Republican nomination has been defined as much by what it lacks as its actual substance. At the start of the year, it was about a lack of any official candidates. Unlike the last presidential election, when Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy just after Thanksgiving 2006, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running by February 2007, no one wanted to take the early plunge this year. Gary Johnson was the first to officially enter the field in April this year, and most candidates didn't file their paper work until May or June. Then the story was about all the candidates that lacked the requisite ambition to enter the field, as everyone from good on paper candidates (John Thune or Mitch Daniels) to media celebrities (Sarah Palin or Chris Christie) all ignored their pleading supporters and took a pass. The fall was primarily defined by the absence of a real challenger to Mitt Romney. Republican voters cycled between various flavors of the month before settling on Newt...

Today in Smackdowns

Mitt Romney, speaking to the editorial board of the Washington Examiner : I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically . That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. [Emphasis mine] President Obama, speaking to reporters following a Republican filibuster of his nominee for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray: Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of–30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that. [Emphasis mine] Something tells me that Romney’s “appeaser” attack won’t work well in a general election.

Why Conservatives Love Newt Gingrich

Yesterday saw Mitt Romney launch his first major attack on Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign with an ad that highlights one big distinction between the former Massachusetts governor and the former House Speaker — their personal lives: There’s no doubt that this is a swipe against Gingrich for his long history of adultery, as well as his recent conversion to Catholicism. What’s more, Romney has followed up this ad with attacks from two campaign surrogates, former senators Jim Talent and John Sunnunu: “If the nominee is Newt Gingrich, then the election is going to be about the Republican nominee, which is exactly what the Democrats want,” Talent said, per Reid Epstein. “If they can make it about the Republican nominee, then the president is going to win.” […] “For Newt Gingrich in an effort of self-aggrandizement to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to make him sound a little smarter than the conservative leadership,” Sununu said. “Gingrich’s...

Romney's Career-Politician Problem

Earlier this year, when Texas Governor Rick Perry was the threat du jour to Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner, the former Massachusetts governor unveiled a new attack against Perry and everyone else in the GOP presidential field—he wasn’t a career politician. “I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney declared while in Texas this summer. “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.” The problem, of course, is that absence from politics was not for lack of trying . Over the last 20 years, Romney has run for office four times, including his current run for president—a 1994 bid for Senate in Massachusetts, his 2002 bid for governor, and his 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In addition, he served as president of the Republican Governors Association from 2005 to 2007. Insofar that Romney isn’t a career politician, it’s because he has spent so much time losing...

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

Gingrich Leads Confused Iowans

The Des Moines Register released its well-regarded Iowa Poll over the weekend. Newt Gingrich topped off the field with 25 percent support a month out from the Iowa caucuses. It's a complete turnaround from his performance in the first two Register polls this year—one in June and another just a little over a month ago—in which the candidate only notched seven percent. Ron Paul comes in second with 18 percent, a sizable jump from his standing in the previous two polls. The seemingly infallible 20 percent support for Mitt Romney might not be as rock solid as predicted; he dropped six percentage points down to 16 percent, though that is still a strong third over the rest of the field. Gingrich would appear to be in strong shape with such little time remaining until Iowa Republicans vote for their preferred presidential candidate. But the poll likely indicates that early state voters will remain fickle right up until voting day. Only 28 percent of those sampled said that they have fully...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

Ted Widmer's op-ed on the difficulty of being in the third-year of a presidential administration is beautifully-written, chockfull of wonkalicious presidential history, and very smart. If you're going to read one article before the weekend, make it this one. If you have time to read only two things before the weekend, make this one your second. A member of the one percent refuses the label of job creator, and instead bestows it upon the middle class, and he has a good argument as for why everyone should agree with him. Newt Gingrich may be the current frontrunner, but he hasn’t been raking in many endorsements, which have been shown to be a better predictor of victory than polls. How the primary unfolds will be a good test of this political theory. Women for Herman Cain also like nannies and South African sugar. If he really wanted to salvage his campaign, he obviously should have used one of these images. Things Newt Gingrich likes: being in the lead, old people, the word...

When Endorsements Hurt a Campaign

Mitt Romney is rolling out an endorsement today that, in a more sensible world, would be a major boon to his Iowa. Longtime former Republican Governor Robert Ray is set to announce his support for the campaign on the same day that Romney begins airing his first TV ad in Iowa. Ray served as Iowa's chief executive from 1969 through 1983 and is remembered fondly by most Iowans for his moderate governance, though not all segments of the state's population share that reverence. If any of Iowa's social conservatives were still going to support Romney (the small handful they might be), Ray will drive them further away. The campaign last fall against three Supreme Court judges who legalized same-sex marriage has become a galvanizing force for conservative voters this year. Ray was literally the voice for the weak-willed opposition campaign last fall, speaking on a radio ad that served as the only paid media for the pro-judge groups. "We'll never agree with every call, but you shouldn't fire...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

Have the Curtains Closed for Herman Cain?

Yesterday, Herman Cain suffered another setback to his book tour cum presidential campaign when he announced that he’s been accused of carrying on a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Cain denounced the accusations, but he couldn’t mitigate the damage; at this point, support for his campaign has dwindled to where it was before his surge in October. As a result of this—and the earlier accusations of sexual harassment—the Cain campaign has opted to “reassess” its decision to go forward in the Republican presidential primary. National Review ’s Robert Costas provides the scoop: "When the previous two accusations, false accusations, came about, we made another assessment. The way we handled those was, we continued on with our schedule. We made an assessment about what was going to happen to our support. But our supporters, and even some folks that we didn’t have as supporters, they stood with us, and they showed it not only in terms of their verbal support, they showed it in terms of their...

Mitt Romney's Brand Takes a Hit

I’m not the biggest fan of Richard Cohen, but you should read his attack on Mitt Romney’s character, or lack thereof, in today’s Washington Post . In a few sentences, he gets to the heart of Romney’s persona — a mercenary politician who treats principles as a means to greater power: Mitt Romney runs for president with the eye of a venture capitalist. He sees the profit in certain positions, discards those that are no longer profitable and moves on. He was pro-choice when it did him some good, instituted a health insurance plan that he now denounces and once supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants. Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. Romney offers his principles for some votes in Iowa. Ideological flexibility is par for the course in politicians, and there’s nothing wrong with it — success in politics depends on a willingness to compromise, bend principle, and take deals when you can make them. Romney’s core problem is that he takes this to its reductio ad absurdum . It’...

Mitt vs. Mitt

The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad targeting Mitt Romney for his ideological…flexibility. The 30 second clip will run on cable and broadcast stations in several swing states – Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania – as well as Wisconsin. Here it is: There is a longer, 4-minute web-only version that’s equally devastating in outlining Romney’s willingness to change positions for narrow political gain. Given the extent to which the “flip-flopper” image harmed both Al Gore and John Kerry, I don’t think that you can say that these efforts are useless , especially if the media opts to define Romney in these terms as well. But – as with all things in presidential campaigns – the utility of this strategy depends on the economy; under poor economic conditions, few people will care that Romney is devoid of core political convictions.

Not All Endorsements Are Created Equal

Slate 's Dave Weigel takes The Washington Post to task for running an inane article listing the "big six 2012 endorsements." As a general rule, I'm opposed to these types of lists, which are typically desperate exercises reporters turn to when they have a deadline staring them down and no new ideas. But while he's right to criticize the lazy idea, Weigel takes it a little too far when he uses Chris Christie's support for Mitt Romney as evidence that endorsements play no role: That endorsement mattered. Romney went from the mid-twenties in national polls to... the mid-twenties in national polls. In Iowa, he went from the low twenties to the low twenties. In New Hampshire, he went from a twenty-point lead to a twenty-point lead. All the stuff about money and insider loyalty is true, but the Christie endorsement has done nothing yet to rally the sort of voters who wanted Christie to run. Sure, Christie's endorsement of Romney didn't sway the polls, but that's a poor example to expand...

The Lying Lies of Mitt Romney

With a little more than a month before the New Hampshire Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has released his first ad of the campaign, a blistering attack on President Obama’s economic record: The ad hinges on a quip from Obama’s 2008 campaign, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The problem, of course, is that Obama was quoting the words of a McCain strategist. At best, Romney’s choice to put them in the mouth of Obama is disingenuous; at worst, it’s an outright lie. And given the extent to which the rest of the ad relies on various distortions -– Romney decries the high foreclosure rate despite his preference for a process that keeps homeowners underwater -– “lying” is a fair way to describe his rhetoric. This isn’t the first instance of dishonesty from the Romney campaign, and it won’t be the last. To wit, after the Obama campaign attacked this ad as “ deceitful ,” Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho responded with this rejoinder: The...

Rick Perry Signs Controversial Pledge

Rick Perry's campaign is increasingly on the ropes. His poll numbers hover in the single digits, and it looks like his funders have fled , robbing him of his primary hope to propel himself past the crowded field of anti-Romney candidates. His one last option to maintain relevancy: Appeal to the radical Christian right that cannot fathom voting for a Mormon who was governor of the first state with gay marriage. Over the weekend, Perry joined a select group of fringe presidential candidates when he signed The Family Leader's presidential pledge. The "Marriage Vow" puts Perry down on paper as endorsing a host of the most extreme elements of social conservatism. It was written by Bob Vander Plaats, a ringleader of Iowa's Christian right. Signers of the pledge vow to push a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, add new restrictions to make divorce more difficult, and fight for the "humane protection of women" from "all forms of pornography." One clause drew the most attention...

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