POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/12

Obama’s Running Mate

With Mitt Romney scheduled to give a speech explaining his position on health care, the Wall Street Journal takes a hammer to his candidacy over the issue.

“For a potential President whose core argument is that he knows how to revive free market economic growth, this amounts to a fatal flaw… More immediately for his Republican candidacy, the debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.”

Top Alabama Democrat Says Party Has Message Problem

The new chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party Mark Kennedy laid out his plan to revive the once-dominant party to the Mobile Press-Register after Republicans swept every statewide office and took control of the state Legislature in 2010. His top priority? Define the message.

“Kennedy said Republicans can rattle off their core issues by rote — ‘low taxes, less government, strong military, more patriotic, on and on.’ And, he said, they have a powerful vehicle to communicate their message: ‘The worst thing going for Democrats in America is Fox News. How many times have you gone in the drug store or the dentist, and they have it on? They’ve got their talking points down pat, and they are being broadcast all over the country every day. What we’re not doing in Alabama — and I can’t really talk about nationally — we don’t have that same five-finger test. We don’t have a strong, understandable message.'”

Did Florida Accidently Ban Sex?

Southern Fried Scientist says a poorly-worded law “recently passed in Florida, which presumably was designed to prevent bestiality and promote animal welfare, but which has actually made it illegal, effective October 1, 2011, for anyone to have sex in Florida.”

Finally, Gingrich is a Candidate

“This time, there’s no ambiguity: Newt Gingrich is running for president,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“Gingrich’s announcement comes after a few awkward fits and starts to his bid. In March, national media arrived in Atlanta when Gingrich met privately with Deal. It was expected that Gingrich would announce his campaign from Deal’s Capitol office, but instead, he said he was only exploring a bid. Monday, Gingrich told his Twitter and Facebook followers that he would speak to Sean Hannity on Wednesday about ‘my run’ for the White House, but his spokesman said that was not an official announcement.”

He finally made his official announcement this afternoon on Twitter and on hiswebsite.

Deer in the Headlights

The book jacket for Levi Johnston’s Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs was just released. Oh my.

Ben Smith: “Bringing him onto that convention stage really has to rate, in retrospect, as one of the worst decisions in recent political history.”

Very Close Race in Virginia

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race shows a very tight race with Tim Kaine (D) barely edging George Allen (R), 46% to 44%.

“With both candidates having their parties largely united behind them Kaine has the slight overall lead because of a 45-40 advantage with independents.

Kennedy No Longer Working on Memoir

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) says he’s no longer writing a memoir that had been scheduled for release in November, the AP reports.

Last year, Kennedy said would write a bookComing Clean, which was described as “an intimate portrait focusing on Kennedy, his famous family and his struggles with addiction.”

Raid Seized Osama Bin Laden’s Journal

Osama bin Laden kept a hand-written journal that U.S. forces seized in last week’s raid, the AP reports.

National Journal reports the journal “was mainly professional observations about al-Qaida aims and future operations and targets… At the same time, it is clear from the journal and other material recovered that bin Laden was still actively involved in operational planning and ‘this was not the rambling of an old retired jihadi. There were concrete ideas for the way forward, that he also put into correspondence with other al-Qaida leaders.'”

Flashback Quote of the Day

“I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words…”

— Newt Gingrich, in a 1978 address to College Republicans.

For more, Mother Jones has a guide to Newt Gingrich’s “greatest (or worst) hits of the past 33 years.”

McCotter’s Campaign Manifesto?

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has a new book out, Seize Freedom!: American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age, so he must be running for president.

Obama Holds Wide Leads Over Huckabee, Romney

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds President Obama has a wide lead over potential Republican rivals for the presidential election in 2012. He leads Mike Huckabee by 51% to 39%, and Mitt Romney by 51% to 38%.

The president’s approval rating is at 49% — a three point increase since last month — “amounting to only a modest bounce after the May 2 bin Laden operation. Other surveys have given him a slightly larger post-bin Laden boost.”

However, a warning sign: Only 34% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the economy — his lowest approval on that issue since he took office in January 2009.

Meanwhile, a new Public Policy Polling survey finds Obama “hasn’t received a big increase in his reelection margins, but he is still in a healthy position against his potential Republican opponents.”

Christie Says He’s Still Not Running

NBC News reports that when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was asked today if he will run for president — given the news he’s being pressured by Iowa Republicans — he rolled his eyes and said, emphatically, “No, I’m NOT running for president.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I like to do the right thing and help people. But when people are disloyal to me — I have a couple of instances of well-known people, where I’d help them out, but when I needed a favor, not a big favor in this one case, this guy didn’t want to do it. That’s 15 years ago. I haven’t spoken to him since. He died. He’s dead mentally. In other words, for me, they don’t exist. I hold a grudge. I have the longest memory. I always kick back. I believe in that.”

— Donald Trump, in an interview with Rolling Stone.

Cartoon of the Day

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An Opening for Bachmann?

Jonathan Chait notes that Donald Trump’s meltdown in the polls “leaves a huge opportunity on the Republican right. Trump was a horribly, horribly flawed messenger — his past was filled with support for Democratic politicians, causes like single-payer health insurance, and he horrified Republicans in his high profile first speech in Las Vegas by dropping a series of f-bombs. But Trump’s message itself was deeply powerful. There remains a powerful demand for a candidate to fill it.”

“Meanwhile, the moderate wing of the GOP primary electorate is being over-serviced… That leaves a lot of demand for a fire-breather, and it isn’t being met. Rick Santorum or Herman Cain might catch fire, I suppose. But it sure looks wide open for Michelle Bachmann. If she can just keep a lid on her crazy side, she has enough high-profile support to avoid the kind of marginalization that Trump endured when the party elite ganged up on him.”

Why Trump Imploded

Karl Rove: “He made his campaign all about an issue which was not at the center of the political debate; namely, the allegation that Barack Obama was somehow not born in the United States. That got blown up, but I also think observers have made the point — and I agree with it — that his swearing epitaph-laden speech in Las Vegas turned off a lot of voters.”

The Filter Bubble

An important book out tomorrow: The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser.

From the author: “I’ve always believed the Internet could connect us all together and help create a better, more democratic world… But that more democratic society has yet to emerge, and I think it’s partly because while the Internet is very good at helping groups of people with like interests band together (like MoveOn), it’s not so hot at introducing people to different people and ideas. Democracy requires discourse and personalization is making that more and more elusive.”

Same Sex Marriage and 2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has positioned himself as a centrist in the early days of his term but Democratic consultant Bob Shrum tells Ben Smith he’s also “put himself in position to wow liberal Democratic voters in 2016 by being the candidate most fully committed to same-sex marriage, and the one who got it done.”

Said Shrum: “I don’t want to take anything away from the sincerity of his conviction on this and I assume it’s real, but if he’s thinking about a national campaign somehwere down the road, he is in exactly the right place for a Democrat right now. If he actually gets this done in a big state like New York, it’ll be historic, it’ll be a landmark, and not only strengthen him with the gay constituency — which is important in Democratic politics — but also for younger voters.”

Huntsman Insists He Wasn’t Planning Bid

Jon Huntsman tells the St. Petersburg Times he wasn’t planning a presidential bid while serving as U.S. Ambassador to China and insisted that the campaign structure had been put together without his input.

Said Huntsman: “There was no gearing up for a campaign, whatsoever… I didn’t even know these people. I did not know them until I got off the plane. … These are all new friends.”

Nonetheless, an embassy official who worked closely with Huntsman in Beijing tells the Daily Beast “that the last few months of the ambassador’s tenure were marked by friction with the White House.”

Boehner’s Unreality Check on the Debt

Bloomberg says House Speaker John Boehner’s speech on raising the national debt built “on several assertions that are contradicted by market indicators and government reports.”

“Boehner’s statement in his Wall Street speech that government spending ‘is crowding out private investment and threatening the availability of capital’ runs counter to the behavior of credit markets… Boehner also said the 2009 stimulus program ‘hampered job creation in our country,’ a view at odds with the Congressional Budget Office’s findings last August. The stimulus package increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million and cut unemployment by between 0.7 percentage point and 1.8 percentage point, according to CBO.”

Ruth Marcus: “Even more alarming, because it has consequences beyond the debt-ceiling debate, is the incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy undergirding Boehner’s remarks.”

Quote of the Day

“We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement… They said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat.  Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.”

— President Obama, in a speech yesterday on immigration reform.

Even Flawed Candidates Can Win

While many pundits mention the flawed field of Republican presidential candidates — highlighted today by Newt Gingrich’s entrance into the race — few note it’s very possible for flawed candidates to win.

First Read: “The winner in 1992 (Bill Clinton) was the governor of a small state who had a, well, colorful past. The winner in 2000 (George W. Bush) overcame doubts about his knowledge of world affairs, as well as booming economy under a Democratic administration. And the winner in 2008 (Barack Obama) triumphed despite questions about his experience and his worldview. What matters in presidential campaigns — and we’ll witness this over the next year and a half — is how the candidates conquer, exploit, or side-step their flaws. Nobody is perfect, especially in politics. But what counts is how they take a punch and respond. In many ways, a presidential primary campaign is a test to see who can BEST overcome obstacles.”

Meanwhile, Brian Montopoli ranks the GOP candidates by their flaws.

Palin’s Choice

John Podhoretz: “In some ways, the story of Palin is a story of temptation. Rather than sticking to her guns and deepening her political credentials and her knowledge base, she embraced her celebrity instead. And in doing so, she didn’t defeat her critics and enemies; she capitulated to them. Listen, it’s her life and her fortune and she is free to do what she wishes with it. And there’s no telling what the future holds for anyone in America. But she had and has more raw political talent than anyone I’ve ever seen, and, alas, as phenoms go, it looks like she is headed for a Darryl Strawberry-like playing career.”

Gingrich Will Run National Campaign

“Unlike some of his likely rivals, who are looking to downplay or even flat out skip some states on the primary calendar,” Newt Gingrich “is headed down a different path, a more traditional route in which he competes aggressively all across the early-state map and among all blocs within the party,” Politico reports.

“Gingrich isn’t pinning his hopes on any single state, believing instead that, for those who can’t fund their own campaigns, the drawn-out contest will require a prudent use of resources spread across the board.”

Said a Gingrich adviser: “Newt’s a national candidate. He has a national brand; he’s a national leader.”

Mr. Speaker!

Just published: Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster by James Grant.

Jon Karl notes the book calls Reed the “architect” of the modern American state, “the Republican who made big government possible. That wasn’t his goal — Czar Reed, as he came to be known — simply set out to fix an inept House paralyzed by its own rules. But the explosive growth in the size and power of the federal government would not have been possible without the changes that Reed single-handedly forced on Congress.”

Obama to Renew Muslim Outreach

President Obama “is preparing a fresh outreach to the Muslim world in coming days,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “one that will ask those in the Middle East and beyond to reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and embrace a new era of relations with the U.S.”

In a speech as early as next week, Obama “intends to argue that bin Laden’s death, paired with popular uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, signal that the time has come to an end when al Qaeda could claim to speak for Muslim aspirations.”

Obama Approval Highest in Two Years

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds President Obama’s approval rating has hit 60% — its highest point in two years.

“In worrisome signs for Republicans, the president’s standing improved not just on foreign policy but also on the economy, and independent Americans — a key voting bloc in the November 2012 presidential election — caused the overall uptick in support by sliding back to Obama after fleeing for much of the past two years.”

IRS Moves Hit Anonymous Groups

The Internal Revenue Service “appears to have begun to enforce a tax on gifts to the non-profit organizations that were a key vehicle for anonymous politics in the last five years and had promised to play a large role in the presidential cycle, a move which could reshape the place of money in politics in 2012,” Ben Smith reports.

Impact: “Now the Republican donors who gave generously to Crossroads GPS and other groups last cycle may find themselves on the hook for substantial back taxes.”

Iowa GOP Leaders Expect Bachmann to Run

Iowa Republican leaders believe that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will announce a presidential bid at a May 26 fundraiser with the Polk County GOP, after which she is scheduled to spend five days in the state, the Daily Caller reports.

Hints of a run: “In recent months, Bachmann has met with Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad at least twice. She has also made Iowa appearances on several occasions and even has two Iowans lined up to spearhead a campaign.”

It’s all still speculation: “But rumors of an announcement have swirled before. In March, observers speculated that Bachmann would make an announcement prior to the first debate in Greenville, S.C. That, of course, never happened.”

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