Elections

Gingrich Runs First Iowa Ad

Even though the Republican presidential nomination is set to kick off when Iowans head to their local schools and community centers for the caucuses in just 30 days, I'm skeptical of current polls. Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register found that 64 percent of likely caucus goers have yet to see any of the candidates in person. Besides the national debates, they haven't seen many on their TV screens either; Ron Paul was the only candidate with significant commercial buys earlier in the year, and the rest of the contenders are only now beginning to purchase airtime. Last time, 40 percent of Republican voters didn't make their final decision on whom they would support until the last week during a campaign that saw much heavier on-the-ground activity. The next few rounds of commercial buys—both positive ones and negative ads from opposing campaigns—could strongly sway perceptions of the candidates. Newly minted front-runner Newt Gingrich debuted his first Iowa commercial today. His...

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...

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...

Despite Previous Denials, Romney Is Competing in Iowa

Any lingering doubts on Romney's new commitment to winning the Iowa caucus can now be laid to rest. He's opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines, a campaign spokesperson said his " strategy is to win there," and starting tomorrow Romney will begin airing a new commercial, his first in Iowa since his 2008 presidential campaign: Even as Romney has hesitated to launch a full-fledged Iowa campaign, he's already light years ahead of his main competitors. The (likely temporary) surge of Newt Gingrich's campaign allowed him to open his state headquarters just this week and rehiring the staff members that had fled his campaign when money dried up over the summer. For all the handwringing about Romney's poor performance in 2008, he still finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Fred Thompson's third place vote. If current trends continue, there likely won't be any social conservative alternative who can capture the 34 percent that went to Mike Huckabee in...

Rick Perry's Last-Ditch Anti-Immigration Pitch

In hindsight, the likely failure of Rick Perry's presidential ambitions shouldn't have been all that surprising. Despite appeal among party elites, late-entry candidates like Wesley Clark in '04 and Fred Thompson in '08 have historically struggled to catch up to the rest of the field. The candidates in the race from the beginning have a chance to work out all the kinks before the spotlight glares at the debate stages, an experience that would have proved especially crucial in Perry's case. He's always been a loose-cannon campaigner with, shall we say, a less than thorough grasp on his material. It was a problem his campaign staff could mitigate by limiting his media exposure in Texas elections but couldn't avoid on a national stage. After just four debates during his decade as Texas' governor, Perry was bound to produce a series of gaffes during the tiring slog of presidential campaigning. None of that should have been a surprise. What has been shocking to watch is the process under...

Will Iowa Conservatives Sit Out the Election?

Iowa's much-vaunted evangelical conservative base is nowhere to be seen. After propelling Mike Huckabee to the top of the field in the last presidential nomination contest, the common assumption among political pundits has been that the state's Christian right would coalesce around a similar candidate again this year. But, less than five weeks out from the caucuses, all of Iowa's evangelical leaders are still holding off on making a decision. Just yesterday, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's president announced that the organization would not endorse any candidate for 2012. "I believe that it is the role of our members and supporters to endorse the candidate of their choice," Steve Scheffler wrote in a press release. "There are many strong conservative candidates running and while none of them are perfect, our October 22nd Banquet highlighted for me just how blessed we are to have so many strong pro-life, pro-family, pro-national security and pro-freedom candidates running for...

Wisconsin Dems On Track To Launch Recall

I was a little skeptical last week when Wisconsin Democrats released the first batch of signatures for their recall campaign against Governor Scott Walker. They'd gathered over 100,000 signatures in four days, an impressive haul no doubt, but the first batch of supporters were always going to be the easiest to bring around. State election law requires that the signatures exceed 25 percent of the ballots cast in the relevant election, totaling over 540,000 in Walker's case. After two weeks of campaigning, though, a recall election is now a near certainty. United Wisconsin—the group behind the recall effort— announced yesterday that they have collected 300,000 signatures over the course of 12 days, easily setting them on a path to gain the minimum number in the 60-day window for their campaign. This widespread eagerness among the base also augurs well for the recall election itself. Walker's poll numbers have bounced back after they tumbled during his showdown with labor last spring,...

Romney Takes On Iowa

After a recent visit to and a few robocalls in the state that derailed his 2008 campaign, Mitt Romney is now shifting fully into contesting the Iowa caucuses. "We're going to be in Iowa enough to show that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to take on President Obama … As for a strategy, our strategy is to win there," a Romney spokeswoman said according to the Huffington Post . "Our strategy is to—we're going to get people out to the caucuses." It's still unclear exactly what form this new engagement in Iowa will take, but he recently opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines and should begin airing TV commercials in the near future. Romney's strategy for 2012 until now has been to invest everything in New Hampshire, notch a dominating win there, and use that to steamroll past the other candidates as the contest widens in early March. So far, it seems to be working; Romney has held a comfortable lead in New Hampshire polls all year. But it's still a tenuous plan. That 18-point...

Republican Dream Map Dashed

Texas congressional hopefuls will begin filing the paper work for their House campaigns today after an eventful holiday weekend. On Saturday, a federal court in San Antonio court approved a new congressional map that overturned the one drawn up by the state's Republican legislature earlier this year, granting Democrats and the state's burgeoning Hispanic population a significantly better chance of picking up seats next year. Texas Republicans had a golden opportunity after the party increased on its already substantial legislative majority in the 2010 midterm elections. Results from the U.S. Census granted the state four new seats in the US House, and Texas Republicans used their majority to draw a new congressional map that would likely have made three of those seats a sure-win for Republicans. Of course, the 20.6 percent increase in population over the past decade didn't come from a swell in likely GOP voters. Minorities have accounted for 87 percent of the population growth over...

John Thune Endorses Romney

Mitt Romney is slowly becoming the consensus candidate for Republicans that took a pass at making their own 2012 runs. He's already been endorsed by former candidate Tim Pawlenty and and the much-hyped Chris Christie. Now South Dakota senator John Thune has thrown his support behind Romney as well. Thune—who looks like the Hollywood caricature of a president—had been contemplating a presidential run but ruled it out in February. At The New York Times , former Iowa reporter Jeff Zeleny speculates that Thune could prove to be an influential get for Romney success in Iowa. "While it remains an open question whether Mr. Thune’s endorsement will carry significant weight in Iowa, the northwest corner of the state that borders South Dakota is a critical area for Republican presidential candidates and Mr. Thune has strong name recognition there," Zeleny wrote this morning . I'm not so sure. It's true that the western edge of the state is the center of Iowa Republican politics, but geography...

Revenge of the Neocons

As much as Hope and Change defined Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, his success was a clear rebuke of the policies in the George W. Bush presidency. Bush's approval rating hung at 25 percent on the day Obama was elected, and John McCain did everything he could to distance himself from the incumbent Republican president. Bush's legacy was tarnished for a number of reasons, but none more so than his foolhardy foreign-policy agenda. When the Democratic candidate who rose to fame for his early opposition to Iraq won the presidency, it appeared the neo-con age had come to a close. Three years later, it's clear that wasn't the case. The Heritage Foundation and AEI cohosted the presidential debate last night; in addition to CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, audience members from the two conservative think tanks had the chance to quiz the roster of candidates. The list of attendees read like an all-star neo-conservatives from the Bush White House. Paul Wolfowitz served as a deputy Secretary of Defense...

A Rare Glimpse of Sanity

Yesterday's Republican presidential debate in Washington focused on national security, so of course the candidates readily took the opportunity to dive into the dangers of illegal immigration. "An insecure border is a national security threat… we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico," Herman Cain said. "As the President of the United States," Rick Perry said, making a now outlandish proposition, "I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure." It was all the same tried and not-so-true language from the previous debates, but then things took an unexpected turn when the question was directed at Newt Gingrich, who departed the conservative safe space for a rare moment of humanity. "If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. Period," he said. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

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...

Wisconsin Dems off to a Fast Start

Opposition to labor restrictions has galvanized Wisconsin Democrats over the past year, but they face a tough haul with their recall campaign against Republican Governor Scott Walker. A recall will only be triggered if the campaign manages to collect signatures totaling 25 percent of the ballots cast in the 2010 election. That equals more than 540,000 signatures, though they'll need to gather more than that to guard against any challenges. All the forms must be submitted to the state's election board within 60 days of the first day of the campaign last week. It's no easy task, but Wisconsin Democrats are already well on their way to gathering the required number less than a week into the campaign. Over the course of the first four days, United Wisconsin (as the recall group is known) secured 105,000 supporters. From a pure logistical viewpoint, that's an impressive haul, yet I'm not so sure it guarantees their success. They have been organizing this campaign since the summer and used...

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