POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/16

Trump’s Show Back for Another Season

NBC’s primetime television schedule for next season includes Donald Trump’s The Celebrity ApprenticeVariety reports.

The network is hoping that Trump “will be back for another season, which would mean he wouldn’t be running for president. That said, NBC is prepared to continue the franchise without him should he declare his candidacy.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“The second a political consultant tries to play dirty tricks, it will backfire and it will hurt that candidate. And so my warning to every candidate coming into South Carolina is come in, talk about the issues, that’s what we want to hear about, but the distractions are not welcome in South Carolina.”

— South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), in an interview on ABC’s This Week, warning GOP presidential candidates.

Inside the World of Conspiracy Theorists

The New York Times reviews Among the Truthers noting it is “a remarkable book, not least because its author, Jonathan Kay, appears to have emerged with his sanity intact after immersing himself for several years in the wilder precincts of conspiracy theories about everything from President Obama’s birthplace to 9/11 to vaccines.”

“Like a modern-day Gulliver, he has traveled widely and conducted numerous interviews to map what seems like every nook and cranny of the conspiracist universe. Yet Kay, an editor and columnist at the conservative Canadian newspaper The National Post, has not written a Swiftian satire on the foibles of humanity. Rather, he sounds alarms about what he depicts as a mounting paranoia inspired by an invisible and nefarious oligarchy.”

How Can Romney Still Win?

Rich Lowry: “The same implausible, by-the-skin-of-his-teeth way John McCain did in 2008. His situation is comparable to McCain’s in some crucial respects: a weak next-in-line candidate who got caught out on a position that had some conservative support but became a big loser as the party shifted right on it (the individual mandate in Romney’s case, immigration in McCain’s). After blowing up his primary campaign, McCain basically cried uncle and slowly recovered. Romney, in contrast, has now foolishly cast defending his Massachusetts mandate as a matter of personal integrity-making eventual retreat much harder. Nonetheless, Romney could still prevail if none of the other candidates attain critical mass and everything breaks exactly right for him. It’s not a comfortable path to the nomination by any means and it looks harder after his speech this week than before, but it’s not an impossibility.”

Gates Praises Obama

Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells 60 Minutes that President Obama’s decision to go ahead with the operation that killed Osama bin Laden was “one of the most courageous” decisions he has ever seen a president make.

Said Gates: “Frankly, my heart was in my mouth… There was a lot of uncertainty about whether he was there. This was a very risky operation. So, I was very concerned. So was the President… I worked for a lot of these guys and this is one of the most courageous calls — decisions — that I think I’ve ever seen a president make.”

Who Benefits with Huckabee Not Running?

It had seemed unlikely for months, but Mike Huckabee confirmed last night that he’s not running for president in 2012.

Mark Halperin: “In his Saturday night announcement, Huckabee went through an extended, proud litany of his strengths (such as his poll standing), but in fact he was a more formidable candidate than he even suggested. He had a clear path to the nomination and a level of support at the grassroots that almost no one in the race — or poised to enter — can match. One thing’s for sure: Huckabee will do what he can to make certain that his nemesis, current frontrunner Mitt Romney, is not the party’s nominee. What actions that will lead him to take are no more clear than Huckabee’s explanation of why he decided not to run.”

Ben Smith notes the other candidates are already seeking Huckabee’s endorsement, noting he “won’t bring much money, much organization, or fanatically loyal followers. But he’s widely liked by the party’s base and the value of his endorsement will peak about 10 days before the Iowa Caucuses. And the leading candidates — save Romney, whom Huckabee loathes — made their opening bids this evening.”

Kathie Obradovich: “The big question in Iowa, of course, is which candidate benefits the most by Huckabee’s decision. Huckabee and Mitt Romney have led most polls of Iowa Republicans, but I don’t think there’s a lot of cross-pollination between those two candidates. Just about everybody else who has been campaigning in Iowa stands to gain in some way.”

Maloney to Face Tomblin for West Virginia Governor

In just three months, businessman Bill Maloney (R) went from political unknown to the Republican Party’s nominee in the special election for West Virginia’s governor, the Charleston Gazette reports.

Maloney handily defeated seven challengers in Saturday’s special primary election, including the presumptive early favorite, former secretary of state Betty Ireland (R).

He’ll face Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in an Oct. 4 special election to serve what will be the remaining 14 months in the unexpired term of ex-Gov. Joe Manchin, who stepped down Nov. 15 to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans Don’t Like Their Candidates

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 45% of Republicans say they’re dissatisfied with the GOP presidential candidates who have declared or are thought to be serious about running, up from 33% two months ago.

Just 41% are satisfied with the likely Republican field, down from 52%.

Did Gingrich Really Dump His Cancer-Stricken Wife?

Jackie Gingrich Cushman has decided to revisit a legendary and damaging anecdote of from father’s political career: that Newt Gingrich tried to finalize a divorce from his first wife while she was in a hospital bed for cancer surgery.

Cushman says the incident is false, but as Salon notes, her account “is directly at odds with the testimony of her mother from just a few years after the 1980 incident.”

Clinton Had No Advance Knowledge of Operation

Former President Clinton told CNBC he had no advance knowledge of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, despite his wife’s role in the effort.

Said Clinton: “I have no inside information… I, like all Americans, knew nothing about the bin Laden operation, which had been debated in the administration in a tiny number of hands for months, until the president called and told me. I placed two calls to my wife on that day, and all I was told is, ‘She’s at the White House and can’t talk to you.'”

Economy More Pressing Issue than Terrorism

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds voters are much more concerned about the economy than they are about the war on terrorism.

Key findings: 74% say the economy is a more important issue to them than the war, which is more important to only 10%. Similarly, 61% say they care more about gas prices, and only 23% about the war. This sentiment is shared almost equally across the partisan spectrum.

Not Interested in Biden

ProPublica notes Osama bin Laden’s journal seized in the raid of his Pakistan compound discusses “his strategic goal of carrying out attacks that would prevent President Obama from being re-elected.”

Said one counterterror official: “He talks about targeting priorities. He says the president is of course the top target if you could get a shot at him. Also the military chiefs like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the defense secretary, top military people. There is a note indicating that the vice president is not an important target because that position has less weight.”

Professor Romney

The following is a guest post from David Meadvin, president of Inkwell Strategies

As a professional speechwriter, I often tell my clients that there’s no better way to sink a speech than to build it around a PowerPoint presentation. Watching Mitt Romney’s much-hyped health care speech only confirmed that theory. The Republican presidential candidate was once again trying to loosen up by going tieless, but that wasn’t Romney’s biggest misstep. Standing in a lecture hall at the University of Michigan, this potential Commander-in-Chief looked anything but commanding as he read and summarized 25 informational slides from his laptop to the audience.

A Bad Romance Novel

Reviews of the Senate Ethics Committee report on former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) are in:

The Las Vegas Sun notes it “reads like a juicy drugstore paperback. It chronicles the slow implosion of Ensign and his inner circle through lusts indulged, friendships betrayed and cover-up conspiracies wrought as he carried on an affair with campaign staffer Cynthia Hampton, and then tried to shuttle her and her husband, Doug Hampton, the highest-ranking staffer in his Senate office and Ensign’s best friend, into jobs that would get them out the door.”

The Washington Post says it “reads like a bad romance novel — albeit a page-turner.”

Las Vegas Review Journal: “Six of the 68 pages in the report are focused on the affair and read like a dime-store novel. It portrays Ensign as a sexual predator who took advantage of Hampton and would not leave her alone until she agreed to cheat on her husband, and keep cheating after they were caught several times.”

Washington Flips to Caucuses

Washington state has implemented a one-time suspension of its 2012 primary election and will instead use a “precinct caucus-convention system,” the method used by Iowa to nominate national convention delegates, to save $10 million from the state budget, reports Reuters.

While Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and Secretary of State Sam Reed stated that they “absolutely prefer the presidential primary to the old caucus system,” the move is not without precedent. Washington, along with a number of states, cancelled their primaries in 2004.

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