Thursday Reads: Primary Season is Upon Us

Good Morning!!

It’s hard to believe, but the Iowa Caucuses are just a few days away, next Tuesday, January 3. The New Hampshire primary will be held on January 10. The South Carolina and Florida primaries will be on January 21 and 31 respectively.

I’ll be focusing on the Republican primary campaign this morning, but please do post links to other stories that interest you in the comments.

Unfortunately, there’s no primary contest on the Democratic side, so we’re reduced to watching the Republicans. The good news is that the Republican candidates are entertaining to watch–that is, if your taste in entertainment runs toward the bizarre, the ironic, and the surreal and if you enjoy black humor.

Yesterday morning’s PPP poll showed Ron Paul still leading in Iowa.

The last week and a half has brought little change in the standings for the Iowa Republican caucus: Ron Paul continues to lead Mitt Romney by a modest margin, 24-20. Newt Gingrich is in 3rd at 13% followed by Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum at 10%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.

Paul’s strength in Iowa continues to depend on a coalition of voters that’s pretty unusual for a Republican in the state. Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. GOP caucus voters tend to skew old, and Romney has a 34-12 advantage with seniors. But Paul’s candidacy looks like it’s going to attract an unusual number of younger voters to the caucus this year, and with those under 45 he has a 35-11 advantage on Romney. The independent/young voter combo worked for Barack Obama in securing an unexpectedly large victory on the Democratic side in 2008 and it may be Paul’s winning equation in 2012.

The poll showed that Paul’s supporters are much more “passionate” than Romney’s, and Romney’s approval rating with Iowa voters had dropped from 49 to 44 percent. Interestingly, Romney is doing well with Fox News watchers, while Paul does much better with voters who don’t watch Fox.

Later in the day yesterday, the CNN/Time/ORC poll showed Romney ahead of Paul with likely Caucus-goers 25 to 22 percent, with Gingrich continuing to lose support rapidly and Rick Santorum surging, as Gingrich supporters move to him.

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they’d most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they’d support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney’s three point margin is within the poll’s sampling error….

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich’s rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he’s come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.

Santorum’s increasing support is coming mostly from the right wing Christians.

“Most of Santorum’s gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

It certainly looks like Iowa tea party voters are still seeking an anti-Romney candidate to get behind. The CNN/Time/ORC poll also sampled New Hampshire voters and found Romney still leading there.

Establishment Republicans are rooting hard for Mitt Romney. Everyone on Morning Joe yesterday was confident that he would eventually take the nomination. At Politico, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Alexander Burns report that Romney is “within striking distance” of winning Iowa.

Even as he tried to keep talk about his prospects in check Tuesday, a slew of public and private polling and anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that Romney is within striking distance of a first-place finish in Iowa — especially as Ron Paul’s momentum spurt appears to have run into the reality of front-runners’ scrutiny.

Romney’s team is moving to make the most of it. The candidate launched a bus tour Tuesday and suggested on a conference call with Iowans this week that he’ll be in the state for New Year’s Eve. After a solid ad buy in Iowa for a month totaling more than $1.1 million, Romney’s camp has upped its spending in the Quad Cities market, sources familiar with the purchase told POLITICO. His team has dropped a collection of mail pieces, both positive about Romney and negative about the perceived closest alternative — Newt Gingrich.

In another clear sign he’s playing to win, he has quietly moved a handful of staffers from his headquarters in Boston and in other states earlier this month to give his skeleton Iowa staff a needed boost. And he’s cycling in a platoon of high-profile surrogates to rally around him in the state at stump stops and on talk radio, including Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Aaron Schock and former Sens. Norm Coleman and Jim Talent.

At Philly.com, blogger Erik Uliasz argues that Ron Paul will win in Iowa, because he has the best organization in the state.

The caucuses are not won by opinion polls alone. They’re won by the politician who can pack Iowa’s churches, libraries and community centers at 7 p.m. exactly on a frigid January Tuesday, and whose supporters won’t suddenly decide to back a different candidate during an hour’s worth of jawing, dealing and very public voting.

Unlike other “flavors of the week” of the GOP contest, Paul hasn’t surged into the lead all of a sudden — he’s grown his support gradually, earning supporters the hard way.

And that’s why Paul’s surge to first place has to be taken seriously. Alone among the candidates, he has built an organizational machine to recruit and identify caucus-goers and turn them out on Jan. 3. Paul’s rise in Iowa isn’t a bubble. It’s a mound, and it is rock solid….

Paul’s campaign has built a sophisticated voter turnout machine. With its intensely dedicated core of youthful followers recruiting non-party regulars to the caucus electorate, it is reminiscent of nothing so much as Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa campaign, which was his springboard to the Democratic nomination.

In addition, the fact that there are no candidates competing with Obama in the Democratic caucuses will help Paul. Much of his support comes from Democrats and Independents (see PPP poll results above), and they can attend the Republican caucuses.

At CNN though, Micah Sifry writes that “Paulbots,” who sound remarkably like the Obots of 2008, might “torpedo” his campaign by being too obnoxious and too up front about Paul’s real beliefs, as reflected in the recently released old newsletters. Sifry writes that

there’s a paradox buried inside Paul’s rise in the Republican field, a time bomb ticking away. Call it the curse of the “Paulbots.”

The more Paul rises, the more he needs to temper his rhetoric and fine-tune his message (especially given the kind of baggage he carries). And the more he needs a fine-tuned message, the more he has to control his fractious fans. But people who organize themselves online today are notoriously hard to control.

They sure do sound like Obots:

Recall how in 2007, the “Paulbots” were everywhere: running up the numbers on every online poll they could find, generating one-day fundraising records in a desperate bid for national attention (they coined the word “money-bomb”), and creating massive amounts of voter-generated media on his behalf. They made everything from viral videos to a Ron Paul blimp….

This year the Paulbots have been a bit calmer and more under the radar says Sifry.

But things are about to get a bit crazy. Paul’s late surge and possible win next week in Iowa are going to generate a huge burst of national media attention and plenty of hard-edged questions about his past and views. And the Paulbot base doesn’t handle criticism very well.

The other day, for example, my techPresident colleague Sarah Lai Stirland reported on a growing battle breaking out on the massive social news filtering site Reddit between Paul supporters and critics tired of their efforts to “spam” Redditors with slanted news favoring Paul. Vocal Paul supporters outnumber their critics on the site, but their language and tactics are often arrogant and ugly. Passion can power a campaign, but self-righteousness can also cripple it.

Here’s a little sample of the kinds of information the Paul people might not want spread far and wide in the national media. From Talking Points Memo:

Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising “the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.” But Kayser’s views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.

“Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just,” he argued. “But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before.”

Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals — including the death penalty — even if he didn’t see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul’s federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser’s own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.

And this is interesting: Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager has switched horses and joined the Ron Paul campaign.

In a surprise move, and a blunt reflection of the shifting fortunes of Republican presidential candidates ahead of the opening vote in the 2012 nominating contest, Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman defected Wednesday night to Ron Paul’s campaign.

State Sen. Kent Sorenson, a tea party favorite, was hired as a Bachmann staffer in Iowa even before she announced her candidacy. He helped lead her campaign to victory in the Ames straw poll in August. Ever since, however, Bachmann’s popularity has been in decline….

“It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do,” Sorenson said, announcing his decision before a crowd of several hundred at a Veterans for Ron Paul rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Sorenson predicted that Paul would be the object of attacks by the Republican establishment in the days ahead, and said he wanted to help defend him.

The Texas congressman welcomed his newest staffer in understated fashion, thanking Sorenson for “stopping by. That was very nice.”

So, there’s lots of intrigue in Iowa, and next week the focus will move to New Hampshire. If Ron Paul really does pull off a win or even a close second in Iowa, I would not be at all surprised to see him do very well or even win in New Hampshire. At least it might be fun to watch the Republican insiders squirm if that happens.

What do you think? And what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning! It has been dark and dreary here for weeks it seems. I know the sun has come out a few times, but most of the time it has been either raining or about to rain. I think I’m beginning to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Or maybe it’s just watching the 2012 presidential campaign. Either way, we’re talking dark and depressing.

On Tuesday Newt Gingrich told Larry Kudlow (yeah, I know) of CNBC that Obama is the “food stamp president,” and he (Gingrich) will be running against him as the “candidate of paychecks.”

“We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in the American history in Barack Obama and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks.”

The former House Speaker went on to say Obama represents a hard-left radicalism. He, on the other hand, wants big tax cuts and big cuts in the federal government.

LOL! Obama is the furthest thing from a radical, and I doubt if he gives a damn about food stamps. I don’t know how Gingrich gets away with this stuff. Oh yeah, the media sucks. He spewed more lies too:

Gingrich also reiterated his claim that he is not a lobbyist. While he’s been steadily rising in the polls, he’s also been under scrutiny for his consulting work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

“I do no lobbying; I’ve never done any lobbying. It’s written in our contracts that we do not do any lobbying of any kind. I offer strategic advice,” he said. “The advice I offered Freddie Mac was, in fact, aimed at how do you help people get into housing.”

Gingrich also referred to himself in the third person in talking about the sad ending of his career as Speaker of the House.

“The job of the Democrats was to get Newt Gingrich. They couldn’t beat any of our ideas so they decided to try to beat the messenger,” he said. “I think it actually will help people understand what happened in that period and how much of it was partisan.”

Poor Newt. He’s filthy rich, but he can’t stop obsessing about the paltry help poor and unemployed people get from food stamps. Last week he claimed that food stamp use has increased dramatically under Obama and that recipients use their food stamp money to take vacations in Hawaii. According to Politifact as reported in USA Today:

PolitiFact, a fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, noted in May that Bush made “more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits,” and new rules took effect to broaden eligibility for the assistance. At the time, PolitiFact said:

Gingrich oversimplifies when he suggests that Obama should be considered “the most successful food stamp president in American history,” because much — though probably not all — of the reason for the increase was a combination of the economic problems Obama inherited and a longstanding upward trend from policy changes. On balance, we rate Gingrich’s statement Half True.

As for Gingrich’s claim that food stamps can be used to go to Hawaii, the federal government has clear rules about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP). Basically, you can buy groceries or the seeds and plants from which you can grow your own food.

Right now Gingrich is the clear front runner for the Republican nomination. According to a new CNN poll, he has double-digit leads in three of the first four primaries, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. And he is catching up with Romney in New Hampshire. According to the poll, much of Gingrich’s support is coming from tea party types.

I wonder if these folks realize that when back in the day, when Newt was one of the most powerful people in DC, his fellow Conservatives worked hard to get rid of him? And some of them still don’t want him back in power.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trumpets his leadership skills in his quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a different picture of his stewardship emerges from some GOP lawmakers who served with him during a failed 1997 coup attempt against the controversial speaker.

Twenty disgruntled Republicans in the House of Representatives squeezed into then-Rep. Lindsey Graham’s office in July 1997 and rebelliously vented about Gingrich. They were tired of his chaotic management style, worried that he was caving in to then-President Bill Clinton, and sick of constantly having to defend him publicly on questions about his ethics or his latest bombastic statement.

“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

As Gingrich seeks to gain the world’s most powerful office, it’s worth recalling that when he once held great power in Washington, his own conservative Republican lieutenants rebelled against his rule less than four years after he led them to House majority status for the first time in 40 years. And their disaffection evidently helped persuade him to step down as speaker the next year and leave office.

King, for one, still believes that Gingrich’s widely disparaged egotistical complaining about the poor treatment he perceived from then-President Clinton on an Air Force One flight in 1995 is why Republicans suffered blame for federal government shutdowns later that year.

“Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline,” King said

Karl Rove has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he blasts Gingrich’s pathetic campaign organization.

In the short run, Mr. Gingrich must temper runaway expectations. For example, his lead in the RealClearPolitics average in Iowa is 12 points. But what happens on Jan. 3 if he doesn’t win Iowa, or comes in first with a smaller margin than people expect?

That could happen in part because Mr. Gingrich has little or no campaign organization in Iowa and most other states. He didn’t file a complete slate of New Hampshire delegates and alternates. He is the only candidate who didn’t qualify for the Missouri primary, and on Wednesday he failed to present enough signatures to get on the ballot in Ohio. Redistricting squabbles may lead the legislature to move the primary to a later date and re-open filing, but it’s still embarrassing to be so poorly organized.

That’s because Gingrich had no expectation of doing this well. He just entered the race so he could sell his books and his wife’s films. But it turns out Gingrich will be on the ballot in Ohio after all. As for Missouri, Gingrich claims he didn’t want to be on the ballot there because the primary is non-binding.

In a press conference in New York City today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that he never intended to qualify for the ballot in Missouri and that failing to meet the deadline was “a conscious decision, not an oversight.”

The primary is non-binding; it is followed a month later by caucuses where Missourians pick their convention delegates. But every other major candidate is participating in the primary, which gives the public an idea of where Show Me State voters stand.

“We have never participated in beauty contests,” Gingrich said when asked about his failure to qualify for the ballot. “We didnt participate in Ames [the Iowa straw poll], we didnt participate in P5 [a Florida straw poll].” ….

But failing to qualify for the ballot was widely seen as a sign of Gingrich’s lack of campaign organization.

Another sign is the papers he filed in New Hampshire. His papers were sloppily written in pen and he fell 13 short of the required 40 delegates.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think Romney should still win New Hampshire, but the question is how many Southern states he can carry. Of course I’d be enjoying watching the Republican primary mess a lot more if there were a liberal Democratic candidate to vote for.

Oh, Romney did come in first in one poll: the one that counted the number of jokes told about the Republican candidates on late night TV.

OK, I’ll let go of my obsession with Republican nomination campaign for now and give you some other things to read.

Last Friday, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters may have been the intended victim of a right wing James O’Keefe-type scam designed to make him look like hypocrite for writing in support of the Occupy movement.

It was the middle of the day on Friday, and Eric Boehlert heard a knock on the door. A senior fellow at Media Matters, a nonprofit watchdog that challenges conservative news outlets, Boehlert works from his Montclair, N.J., home.

A short, bearded man stood outside, holding a clipboard and wearing a Verizon uniform. He asked Boehlert if he’d be willing to take a customer survey. Verizon had, perhaps coincidentally, been at the house a week earlier to handle a downed wire. Boehlert quickly agreed and noted that a Verizon worker had actually failed to show up when he said he would.

But the interview questions got weird and then weirder. The man kept talking about Boehlert being rich and being able to work at home, Boehlert began to smell a ratf*ck.

“After he mentioned my salary and that I work from home, all the bells went off, and this is not who this guy says he is. Therefore, I kind of lost track of the exact wording of the question, but it definitely was like very accusatory of me and I’m a hypocrite and how do I have this supposedly cushy job while I’m writing about real workers and the people of the 99 percent,” said Boehlert.

“So there was this pause, and I said, ‘You work for Verizon?’ And he just sort of looks back at me and [says], ‘Will you answer the question? Will you answer the question?’ And I said, ‘Can I see your Verizon ID?’ And he wouldn’t produce any Verizon ID, and I think he asked me another time to answer the question. And basically I just said, ‘I’m done so you can leave now.'” ….

By now he [Boehlert] had realized that the man was likely pulling a political stunt, and James O’Keefe’s notorious “To Catch a Journalist” project came to mind as a possibility.

“The only sort of comical part was he forget which way he was supposed to run in case I started following. He ended up sort of in the road, and he sort of turned left and then right,” said Boehlert. “The last I saw him he was in a full sprint down my street running away from my house.”

In the Massachusetts Senate race, Elizabeth Warren is ahead of Scott Brown 49% to 42%, her biggest lead so far. But some people are *very concerned* because at a recent candidate’s event Warren was asked if she knew in which recent years the Red Sox had won the World Series, and she answered 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007. Horrors! Paul Waldman has a very funny piece about it in The American Prospect.

In today’s election news, a candidate for the World’s Most Deliberative Body is facing an earth-shattering scandal because she said “2008” when she should have said “2007,” demonstrating to all that she is utterly incapable of representing the interests of ordinary people. As the normally even-tempered Taegan Goddard indignantly described it, “Elizabeth Warren (D) and the rest of the Democratic field for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts couldn’t answer a simple question about the Boston Red Sox at a forum yesterday. Apparently, they learned nothing from Martha Coakley’s (D) defeat two years ago…”

Here’s what Waldman had to say about this nonsense:

I don’t think anyone in Massachusetts could in good conscience vote for someone who is unable to identify both the state’s fourth-largest city and its third most commonly spoken language. I mean, what are we supposed to do, send someone to the Senate who doesn’t have a command of all master of state-related trivia? The answer is clearly to amend the Constitution so 12-year-old winners of the state geography bee can become senators.

Reporters, I beg you: If you’re going to discuss this “gaffe” and others like it, do your audience a service and explain why this is supposed to matter. And I don’t mean just by saying, “This reminds people of when Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a Yankee fan, damaging her candidacy.” I mean explain specifically what exactly misremembering the Sox series victories as 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007 tells us about the kind of senator Elizabeth Warren would be. Does it mean that despite all the other evidence to the contrary, she really doesn’t care about ordinary people and will upon taking office immediately introduce legislation to make the purchase of brandy snifters and riding crops tax-deductible? Then what?

Yesterday a got an e-mail from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) about an attempted Republican takeover of the Detroit city government. Bloomberg had a piece about it yesterday.

Detroit has the highest concentration of blacks among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It will exhaust its cash by April and may run up a deficit topping $200 million by June.

Last week, Governor Rick Snyder, a white Republican, ordered a review that may lead to appointment of an emergency manager, rekindling rancor in a city scarred by race riots in 1967. Detroit lost one-quarter of its population since 2000 — much of it to largely white suburbs.

Four Michigan cities are controlled by emergency managers. All have populations that are mostly black. If Detroit joins them, 49.7 percent of the state’s black residents would live under city governments in which they have little say.

Michigan’s emergency managers have sweeping authority to nullify union contracts, sell assets and fire workers. Snyder has said he doesn’t want one for Detroit, though he called the city’s financial condition severe enough to warrant help.

Michigan citizens are currently collecting signatures to put repeal of the law on the ballot in 2012.

A maintenance man Ryan Brunn, 20,has been charged with the brutal sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Jorleys Rivera, who disappeared on Friday in Canton, GA.

Keenan said Brunn, who has no known criminal record, had keys to both the empty apartment and the trash compactor bin where Rivera’s body was placed.

“We are confident that Brunn is the killer and that is why he is in custody,” Keenan said, declining to detail what evidence investigators have against him….

Keenan said investigators focused on Brunn after receiving information from the public. Brunn had been under police surveillance since Tuesday night. Keenan said the investigation will continue for several months.

“This is a mammoth case,” Keenan told reporters at a news conference in Canton. “We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated, and we’ve recovered a lot of evidence.”

At least he was caught quickly. But another innocent young child is gone.

Yesterday the Obama administration overruled the decision of the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages.

Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

So if you’re under 17 and you’re raped, you’re going to have to figure out how to see a doctor and get a prescription. Isn’t that just ducky?

I’ll end with some better news for women. The FBI has decided to expand the definition of rape.

An October vote by the Advisory Policy Board’s UCR subcommittee recommended the board at-large change the definition of “rape” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Activists said the new definition was needed because the current one does not recognize that men can be raped, women can rape women, inanimate objects can be used to commit rape or that rapes can occur while the victim is unconscious.

Many local law enforcement agencies use a much broader definition of “rape” than the FBI, causing thousands of sex crimes to go unreported in federal statistics.

The FBI had been under pressure by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which launched an email drive urging the agency to update the definition.

Now let’s start doing more to protect women and children from rapists.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Manchester Union Leader Endorses Newt Gingrich

The ultra-conservative Manchester Union Leader, the largest and most influential newspaper in New Hampshire has endorsed Newt Gingrich in the New Hampshire Republican primary, which will be held on January 10.

America is at a crucial crossroads. It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.

He did so with the Contract with America. He did it in bringing in the first Republican House in 40 years and by forging balanced budgets and even a surplus despite the political challenge of dealing with a Democratic President. A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.

Interesting. The Union Leader gives credit to Gingrich for the surplus, implying that Bill Clinton fought against balancing the budget. They also don’t mention Gingrich’s ethics problems. Gingrich must be dancing a jig with Callista today. Steve Benen looked to see what the newspaper’s record is on picking primary winners.

Looking back, the track record is mixed:

1976: The paper endorsed Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford, but Reagan lost

1980: Reagan won the endorsement and the primary

1988: The Union Leader supported Pete du Pont, who finished fourth in the primary

1992: The paper supported Pat Buchanan, who finished a competitive second against an incumbent president

1996: The Union Leader again backed Buchanan, who this time won the primary

2000: Steve Forbes won the paper’s endorsement, in advance of a third-place showing

2008: The Union Leader supported John McCain, who won the state’s primary

While the endorsement doesn’t mean Gingrich will catch up with Romney, I don’t see how it can hurt. I’m sure the White House is celebrating today too. Gingrich would certainly be an easier opponent for Obama than Romney. And Bill Clinton basically confirmed that by praising Gingrich in an interview with Newsmax. [WARNING: wingnut site!]

Former President Bill Clinton praised his erstwhile nemesis former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, crediting Gingrich’s strong debate performances with propelling him into front-runner status for the GOP presidential nomination.

“It’s not any traditional charisma,” said Clinton, who discussed his new best-seller, “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV. Instead, Clinton believes Gingrich is emerging because “he thinks about this stuff all the time.”

The White House must be grateful to Clinton for heaping the following praise on Gingrich:

“He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem,” Clinton told Newsmax in the exclusive interview this week, by way of explaining the Gingrich resurgence. Gingrich holds frontrunner status in the race for the GOP nomination, as several polls have him surpassing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Clinton continued: “For example, I watched the national security debate last night. And Newt said two things that would make an independent voter say, ‘Well, I gotta consider that.’

“He said, ‘OK, I don’t want to legitimize immigrants who came here undocumented, illegally.’ On the other hand, a lot of those people have been here for years, they worked hard, they paid taxes, they’ve got kids in the schools, they’re not criminals, we’re going to have a hard time sending them all home, there’s millions of them. So, I’d like to have a process where they could be here legally but not have a path to citizenship. That sort of splits the difference between the immigration reforms proposed by President Bush and President Obama, which would give a path to citizenship, and would be a version of what President Reagan did.”

Newsmax notes that Clinton didn’t go so far as to predict Newt would be the Republican nominee.

And how are the losers in the endorsement race reacting? The Boston Globe:

Romney campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho declined to comment. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union this morning, Cain blamed his failure to secure the paper’s endorsement on “false accusations” of sexual harassment from his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association and confusion over his position on abortion.

“Obviously false accusations and confusion about some of my positions has contributed to it and that was to be expected,” Cain said. “Some people are heavily influenced by perception more so than reality. The good news is most of my supporters have stayed on the Cain train, as we say.”

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, on Fox News Sunday, shrugged off the impact.

“It once again proves how fluid and unpredictable New Hampshire is,” Huntsman said of the endorsement. “A month ago for Newt Gingrich to have been in the running to capture the Union Leader endorsement would be unthinkable.”

Cain blew it when he publicly snubbed the Union Leader by cancelling a planned candidate interview a couple of weeks ago and then rescheduled it a few days later. I imagine Romney is really grinding his teeth over this. I can’t imagine how he could win the nomination without taking the New Hampshire primary.