It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from TheNew 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.
The Des Moines Registerreleased 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
The country's shaky economic condition has dominated the Republican presidential primary conversation, but social issues will still rule the day for a portion of the GOP's base. This voting bloc may sway the outcome in two of the first three nominating states—Iowa and South Carolina—and poses the greatest threat to Mitt Romney's cakewalk path to gaining the nomination.
When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled it to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, the Tea Party was the focus of all the GOP's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier.
He's stumbled his way through nearly every debate, including one of the most uncomfortable moments ever seen in a modern debate. He started his campaign leading the polls, only to drop to the bottom of the field. He learned that religious moralizing doesn't forgive a slight divergence from the Tea Party line on immigration. Despite Mitt Romney's inability to win over social conservatives and the clownish makeup of the rest of the field, there is little reason to believe Rick Perry can still win the Republican nomination.
Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats are two Iowans who rarely find themselves in agreement. They faced off in a bitter gubernatorial primary last year, essentially dividing the states' Republican Party into two competing camps. Branstad won that primary and later the general election, while Vander Plaats turned to judicial politics and has now crafted himself into a conservative rabble-rouser for the 2012 caucuses.