Romney Holds Double-Digit Lead in Florida

A new SurveyUSA poll in Florida shows very similar results to this morning’s Quinnipiac poll:

Mitt Romney leads with 36%, followed by Newt Gingrich at 25%, Rick Santorum at 17% and Ron Paul at 7%.

Huntsman, Paul Battle for Second in New Hampshire

A new American Research Group poll in New Hampshire finds Mitt Romney way ahead of the GOP presidential field with 37%, followed by Jon Huntsman at 18%, Ron Paul at 17%, Rick Santorum at 11%, Newt Gingrich at 10% and Rick Perry at 1%.

Romney Struggles to Handle Confrontation

Chris Cillizza: “We’ve long believed — based on direct observation of Romney and conversations with those who know him well — that the former governor’s success in a campaign setting is directly proportional to the number of rules that govern it. So, in debates and big speeches — both of which are very rule-heavy, Romney excels because he can master the rules of engagement and then execute against them. On the other end of the spectrum is stumping on the campaign trail. There is no blueprint for how to interact with voters in a diner in New Hampshire… To be clear, Romney’s struggle with confrontations hasn’t hurt him much — if at all — in the primary race to date… But you can be sure the Obama team has taken note of these Mitt-frontations and will do everything they can to poke at Romney if and when he becomes the Republican nominee.”

Time is Not on Huntsman’s Side

Nate Silver: “Mr. Santorum’s surge in the polls became apparent about 6 days before the Iowa caucuses, giving it time to become self-reinforcing. Although we were detecting a few indications of momentum for Mr. Huntsman over the weekend, it is really just now — less than 24 hours before the voting begins in Dixville Notch — that the signs of it are fairly unambiguous. Were the New Hampshire primary to take place on Friday rather than Tuesday, then Mr. Huntsman’s favorable trend might be extremely interesting, but it will probably be too little and too late.”

Pious Baloney

Newt Gingrich has a new video celebrating his memorable line from Sunday’s GOP presidential debate.

See more…

Why Romney’s Gaffe is So Damaging

Of course, Mitt Romney’s comment — “I like being able to fire people” — was taken out of context. But Brad Phillips argues it doesn’t matter.

“Gaffes that reinforce an existing narrative about a candidate are almost always the most harmful ones, and Gov. Romney is already enduring increasing attacks from opponents and Democrats alike for being more of a job ‘cremator’ than job creator during his tenure at Bain Capital.”

As Michael Kinsley once said, a “gaffe” is when a politician tells the truth.

Romney’s comment is actually quite similar to John Kerry’s, “I voted for it before I voted against it.” The context didn’t matter and the damage was done.

GOP Voters Still Not Excited About Candidates

A new Pew Research survey finds 51% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say the GOP candidates are excellent or good, while 44% say they are only fair or poor.

The percentage expressing positive views is largely unchanged over the last six months.

Key findings: “In 2008, both Democrats and Republicans grew increasingly satisfied with the quality of the candidates for their party’s nomination as the campaign progressed. By contrast, the continued lackluster ratings offered by Republicans this year track more closely with how Democrats viewed their options in early 2004.”

Fenway Park in the Cold

Two years ago, while locked in a tight race to fill the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Martha Coakley (D) defended her hands-off campaign style: “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?”

The quote epitomized how she managed to lose Kennedy’s seat to Republican Scott Brown. President Obama called it one of the “great gaffes in modern American politics.”

Over the weekend, Mother Jones reports that Elizabeth Warren (D), the leading Democrat to challenge Brown this fall, tweeted a photo of her shaking hands at Fenway Park in the cold.

Todd Palin Backs Gingrich

Sarah Palin’s husband will endorse Newt Gingrich for president, Todd Palin told ABC News.

But he said his wife has yet to decide “who is best able to go up against Barack Obama.”

The Real Danger of Super PACs

Rick Hasen: “Given the expected vast spending by presidential candidates and parties in the general election, I am not very concerned that Super PAC spending will influence the outcome of the presidential election, though it might. I am not even that concerned about Super PAC negative advertising, which can serve to educate the public and mobilize some voters to become more politically engaged.”

“But I am concerned that Super PAC spending will influence the outcome of close Senate and congressional races. And I am greatly concerned that when Election Day is over and the public will stop hearing about Super PACs, contributions to these groups will skew public policy away from the public interest and toward the interest of the new fat cats of campaign finance, as members of the House and Senate thank their friends and look over their shoulder at potential new enemies.”

Romney Still Slipping in New Hampshire

For the fifth day in a row, the Suffolk University tracking poll finds Mitt Romney has lost ground in New Hampshire, but “lack of movement by second place Ron Paul has insulated a likely Romney victory.”

Romney leads with 33%, followed by Paul at 20%, Jon Huntsman at 13%, Newt Gingrich at 11%, Rick Santorum at 10% while Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer combined for 3%.

Said pollster David Paleologos: “Mitt Romney’s biggest asset is the large number of candidates in this group that are dividing up the remainder of the vote. With just a 33 percent stake, he can control his destiny, so long as the others in his group co

When Mitt Romney Came to Town

scathing new video will be shown on South Carolina television attacking Mitt Romney “as a predatory capitalist who destroyed jobs and communities, a full-scale Republican assault on Mr. Romney’s business background,” the New York Times reports.

“The Bain-centered campaign strikes at the heart of Mr. Romney’s argument for his qualifications as president — that as a successful executive in the private sector, he learned how to create jobs — and advances an argument that President Obama’s re-election campaign has signaled it will employ aggressively against Mr. Romney.”

The video is financed by a Super PAC opposed to Romney’s presidential candidacy.

See more…

How Team Obama Views Romney

Dan Balz: “Obama’s advisers view Romney through two prisms. Through one they see a formidable opponent who can make the economic argument against the president more effectively than any of the other Republicans running and who has been disciplined in the way he has carried himself so far. Through the other, they see someone whose career in the private sector has left him vulnerable to questions about whether he can truly connect with the independent, middle-class voters who will decide the November election.”

Gingrich Rips Romney’s Business Record

In a Today Show interview, Newt Gingrich stepped up his attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record at Bain Capital.

Said Gingrich: “They apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars. Look, I’m for capitalism, I’m for people who go in to save a company… if somebody comes in takes all the money out of your company, and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism.”

We Have as Much as We Owe

“The soaring national debt has reached a symbolic tipping point: It’s now as big as the entire U.S. economy,” according to USA Today.

“The amount of money the federal government owes to its creditors, combined with IOUs to government retirement and other programs, now tops $15.23 trillion. That’s roughly equal to the value of all goods and services the U.S. economy produces in one year: $15.17 trillion as of September, the latest estimate. Private projections show the economy likely grew to about $15.3 trillion by December — a level the debt is likely to surpass this month.”

Why Does Santorum Blink So Much?

Smart Politics analysis of non-verbal communication patterns during Saturday’s GOP presidential debate finds that Rick Santorum blinks at a rate of 61 times per minute while speaking, which is more than twice the average rate of the remaining five members in the field.

Examining Romney’s Business Record

The Wall Street Journal examined 77 businesses Mitt Romney invested in while running Bain Capital from its 1984 start until early 1999, to see how they fared during Bain’s involvement and shortly afterward.

“Among the findings: 22% either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses. An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost. Another finding was that Bain produced stellar returns for its investors — yet the bulk of these came from just a small number of its investments. Ten deals produced more than 70% of the dollar gains.”

The Most Boring New Hampshire Primary Ever

Walter Shapiro: “A Romney campaign appearance invites flights of fancy — not because of the poetry of the candidate’s words but because of the vacuity of the play-it-safe event… Romney’s stump speech includes a patriotic reading of stanzas from America, the Beautiful, ostensibly to prove that no one (certainly not that Europe-emulating president named Obama) can match his star-spangled patriotism. Listening to Romney, though, I was mostly inspired to recall the great Senate filibusters of yore, when exhausted legislators would read aloud fragments of poetry and pot-liquor recipes to run out the clock.”

“The sad thing — for those of us who love the spirited competition and hairpin turns of traditional New Hampshire primaries — is that Romney almost certainly will get away with his evasiveness. As a reporter chronicling his ninth New Hampshire primary (dating back to the days when George Bush boasted that he was “up for the Eighties”), I can recall no contested race in either party this devoid of energy. It feels like the primary is being conducted underwater, with every movement slow and exaggerated.”

More Independents Than Ever Before

Gallup finds that a record-high 40% of Americans identified as political independents in 2011, while 31% said they were Democrats and 27% said they were Republicans.

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