POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/25

Former Ensign Aide Indicted

Doug Hampton’s efforts to bring down Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) — who admitted to having an affair with Hampton’s wife — have apparently backfired as Hampton was indicted “for allegedly violating criminal conflict of interest laws,” the AP reports.

Ensign’s former top aide is charged with illegally lobbying the senator’s staff on behalf of a Las Vegas airline company and an energy company.

Gingrich Keeps Trying

“There’s almost a conspiracy of silence, if it’s an anti-American government. If you’re the Iranians, if you are the Libyans, for that matter, if you’re the Chinese, you are able to suppress your people and the American government stays quiet.”

— Newt Gingrich, on Fox News on Feb. 22, explaining why the Obama administration was weak on Libya.

“Prior to March 3, I would have strongly recommended an Eisenhower-Reagan model… you should have said nothing. Be very quiet. Condemn the violence. Do everything you can covertly.”

— Gingrich, quoted by the Washington Post today on Libya. Hat tip: Dave Weigel.

DeMint Will Not Make Presidential Bid

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) “has ruled out a run for president in 2012, choosing instead to focus his growing political power on helping to elect more conservatives to the Senate next November,” the Washington Post reports.

The biggest implication for the presidential race is that South Carolina will be a meaningful primary state with no favorite son candidate.

Flashback Quote of the Day

“You can’t flip-flop and be commander-in-chief.”

— Newt Gingrich, speaking on Fox News on September 17, 2004. Of course, Gingrich made an epic flip-flop yesterday and another one today on Libya.

 

Good for the Media, Bad for the Republicans

GOP consultant Mike Murphy weighs in on the newest likely presidential candidate: “As per a Michele Bachmann candidacy, this is good news for the media and bad news for the GOP. The press will be delighted, with a new gaff-prone carnival candidacy to snicker at. It is pure gold for the writers’ room at Saturday Night Live.”

“But for the Republican party? A headache, pure and simple. President Obama can be defeated in 2012, but it will not be easy and the election will not in any way be about the tiny sliver of voters that a Bachmann for President campaign would appeal to. Instead the vital swing voters who will decide the 2012 election will look at Michele Bachmann on the campaign trail and howl like villagers getting their first torch-lit glimpse of Frankenstein’s monster. They will stampede quickly in the opposite direction, away from the GOP.”

It’s also probably good for Democrats.

Mack Will Run for Senate in Florida

All signs are suggesting that Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL) will formally enter Florida’s Senate contest Friday morning, Roll Call reports, joining what will likely be a crowded and powerful Republican field fighting for the chance to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in 2012.

Mack will make a “major announcement regarding the U.S. Senate race” Friday morning.

United States Now 16% Hispanic

“The Hispanic population surged 43% in the last decade and Hispanics now make up more than 16% of the nation’s population,” National Journal reports.

“The near doubling of Hispanics’ share of the population, represents a larger surge than demographers initially had expected and underscores the growing importance of the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group in national — and local — politics.”

Fed Chairman Will Hold Press Briefings

Fed Chairman Bernanke will hold four public news conferences each year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The break from tradition is the Fed’s latest move to boost transparency and improve communications after its policies came under attack.This year, Bernanke will hold press briefings after each meeting of the Fed’s policy-setting body in which the central bank updates its economic forecasts.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I think Dennis Kucinich is one of the most irresponsible, fringe members of Congress and hardly anyone in the Democratic party, let alone the Congress listens to him.”

— Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), in an interview on WLS Radio.

White House Faces Messaging Crisis on Libya

President Obama is facing a “political storm” over U.S. involvement in military operations against Muammar Qadhaffi’s Libya as “military leaders hedged on when the U.S. would transition leadership to its allies,” according to The Hill.

House Speaker John Boehner’s “tough words are expected to foreshadow a week of hearings and scrutiny of the administration’s plans for Libya when Congress resumes next week. Obama’s return to Washington several days before Congress ends its recess gives the White House an opportunity to retake control of the story of the Libyan campaign.”

Meanwhile, First Read notes that jokes about “Libya and a perceived mixed message, his overseas travel, and, yes, Obama’s basketball bracket have all made it into the comedy mainstream,” an ominous sign of how swing voters perceive recent events.

Approval for Libya Military Action Lowest Ever

A new Gallup survey finds 47% of Americans approving of the military action against Libya — the lowest approval number for any U.S. military campaign over the past four decades.

Barbour Flew State Plane to Deliver Cost-Cutting Message

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, his wife and three aides flew in a luxury jet to Washington in February “for a weekend of politicking, including an appearance on Fox News Sunday and a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference,”Time reports.

He told the gathering: “Our problem is not that we tax too little. It’s that we spend too much.”

However, it appears Mississippi taxpayers “paid the tab for Barbour’s first-class travel. State documents obtained by Time show that Mississippi shelled out $7,020 to shuttle Barbour and his entourage to and from D.C. on its Cessna Citation, a cost that Barbour says is justified by state work he did in D.C. over the same weekend.”

Obama Locked Out

President Obama was locked out of the Oval Office after returning from a five-day trip to Latin America, WEWS-TV reports.

A video “shows the president strolling up to french doors at the White House and trying the handle on a locked door. He appeared to be whistling as he made his way down to another set of doors that were open. White House staff was apparently not informed that the President was coming back to work before his arrival.”

The Money Race is On

Mitt Romney “has quietly launched a 15-city push to secure financial commitments from big-money ‘bundlers,’ hoping to reveal a fund-raising network that would establish him as the prohibitive frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Romney and top aides will meet Thursday in New York with nearly 100 donors — many from Wall Street — at the Harvard Club. Attendees are being asked to raise between $25,000 and $50,000 for Mr. Romney within 90 days, in an effort to post large fund-raising totals quickly, one person familiar with events said.”

The candidates with the potential to put up a big challenge to Romney: Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile, Ben Smith reports an aide to Tim Pawlenty “explicitly asked donors on a conference call Monday not to give money until April, to avoid the impression that the former Minnesota governor had tried and failed to produce a big number by the end of March.”

Bachmann to Form Exploratory Committee

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will form a presidential exploratory committee, CNNreports.

“The Minnesota Republican plans to file papers for the committee in early June, with an announcement likely around that same time. But a source close to the congresswoman said that Bachmann could form the exploratory committee even earlier than June so that she could participate in early Republican presidential debates.”

Bachmann tells the Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Straw Poll I think will be a key for us. That will be a focal point. And so we’ll have to make the decision so we can meaningfully participate in the Iowa Straw Poll.”

Newt’s Missing Tweets

Vanity Fair finds that although Newt Gingrich has written more than 2,300 tweets on Twitter, those composed before July 22, 2010 are unable to be found.

Quote of the Day

“My opponent’s been going around saying I hung somebody in the park two years ago. Well, we have a city ordinance against that and I’m sure the police would have put me in jail if I would have done that.”

— Former KKK leader John Paul Rogers (D) and Lake Wales, FL mayoral candidate, quoted by WTSP-TV.

Brown in Good Shape for Re-Election in Ohio

A new Quinnipiac poll in Ohio finds Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in decent shape with registered voters, who prefer Brown over an unnamed GOP challenger 45% to 29%. Voters also say 45% to 30% that he deserves a second term in the U.S. Senate.

Said pollster Peter Brown: “Brown is in decent shape heading into 2012. While he doesn’t have large numbers of voters massed against him, his re-elect number, 45 percent, is short of the 50 percent threshold that generally signals an incumbent’s likely re-election.”

Bachmann Looks Likely to Run

Unlike Sarah Palin, all signs point to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) running for the Republican presidential nomination later this year. She even told ABC News, “I’m in.”

Said Bachmann: “I’m in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President Obama only serves one term, not two, because I want to make sure that we get someone who’s going to be making the country work again. That’s what I’m in for. But I haven’t made a decision yet to announce, obviously, if I’m a candidate or not, but I’m in for the conversation.”

Does Obama Have a Rhetoric Problem?

While President Obama is renowned for his oratory and rhetorical skills, former presidential speechwriter Michael Waldman argues that Obama has yet to master to bully pulpit afforded him by the presidency.

“At times, Obama displayed a surer feel for presidential atmospherics when running for the office than he does while holding it. The Barack Obama who stood in front of those much mocked columns at the Democratic Convention in Denver wouldn’t hesitate to give a big address to the country about what military action he ordered, and why… It isn’t time for some overblown Obama Doctrine. But a clear talk can help steer policy when the next crisis arises, next week or next year.”

 

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