POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/24

Romney Recruits New Debate Coach

With a crucial debate  last night and another one on Thursday, the New York Times reports Mitt Romney has recruited Brett O’Donnell, who served as one of Michele Bachmann’s top strategists during her short-lived presidential campaign, as his new  debate coach.

“O’Donnell is a veteran of presidential debates, having served as a top debate coach to Senator John McCain of Arizona during the 2008 campaign. In that role, he helped prepare Mr. McCain for debates against Mr. Romney and brings those insights to the current sessions.”

 

Romney’s Inauthenticity

Jonah Goldberg: “As I’ve been writing for a very long time, Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem. In other words, he seems like he’s faking things even when he’s not. He may take positions he doesn’t hold in his heart, but all politicians do that. The problem is that the vast majority of the time he’s no more passionate or convincing about the positions he almost surely does hold in his heart.”

“More to the point, fair doesn’t have anything to do with it. Politics is about persuasion and he’s simply not persuasive. I’m rapidly losing confidence that as a general election candidate he would be able to win over the crucial voters he would need to seal the deal.”

 

Calming the GOP Establishment

Wall Street Journal editorial tries to settle down Republicans after Newt Gingrich’s trouncing of Mitt Romney in South Carolina:

“As for the GOP establishment, such as it still is, Mr. Gingrich’s re-emergence is likely to cause a panic attack. They don’t believe he is electable. Our advice would be to relax and let the voters decide. If Mr. Romney can’t marshal the wit and nerve to defeat the speaker, then he isn’t likely to defeat Mr. Obama.”

Mark Halperin: “It seems the Republican Establishment is waiting until after Florida for any panic, hoping Romney can set the universe back in order then. Of course, it will be (even) harder to stop Newt if he wins Florida.”

 

Romney’s National Lead Collapses

The latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows Mitt Romney’s once formidable national lead over his Republican presidential rivals has completely collapsed. Romney now barely edges Newt Gingrich, 29% to 28%. They are followed by Ron Paul at 13% and Rick Santorum at 11%.

More potential bad news for Romney: The tracking survey is a five day rolling average and reflects just one day of polling since Gingrich’s blow out primary victory in South Carolina.

 

Deal to Keep Super PACs Out of Senate Race

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and his likely Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren have reached a deal to keep super PACs out of their race, reports The Hill, marking “the first attempt by candidates to wrest control of their races back from groups over whom they have no direct control.”

“The pact signed by Warren and Brown on Monday imposes a financial penalty whenever an outside group intrudes on the race. If an outside group places a television or Internet ad supporting a candidate, the candidate would be required to donate 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity of the opponent’s choosing within three days. Negative attack ads would also trigger the penalty, with the candidate whose rival is attacked being forced to forfeit half the cost.”

Meanwhile, Greg Sargent notes Karl Rove’s Super PAC already appears to be signalingthat it may not honor the deal.

 

Paul Detained After Refusing Airport Pat Down

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “was stopped by security at the Nashville airport Monday when a scanner set off an alarm and targeted his knee, although the senator said he has no screws or medical hardware around the joint,” the Lexington Herald Leader reports.

Paul refused to submit to a pat down by airport security and said he was “detained” at a small cubicle and couldn’t make his flight to Washington for a Senate vote scheduled later in the day.

“A TSA official speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal screening policies said Paul was never detained.”

 

Bonus Quote of the Day

“We could see an October surprise once a day from Newt Gingrich.”

— Mitt Romney, quoted by Slate, on what might happen if Newt Gingrich wins the GOP nomination.

 

Why the GOP Establishment Fears Gingrich

Michael Crowley: “To the extent Newt threatens the Establishment, it’s because of his electability-or lack thereof. The GOP’s mandarins see Gingrich’s nomination as a sure way to blow their chance of deposing Barack Obama. They see Gingrich as the political equivalent of a Fukushima nuclear plant worker, with polls showing him to be lethally irradiated by his negative approval ratings. Whereas Mitt Romney is running about even with Barack Obama in head-to-head polling, Newt loses by double-digit margins. Sure, those numbers could change if Gingrich beats Romney and wins the nomination, with all the accolades it entails. On the other hand, his grandiosity syndrome may kick in, as it has before, and render him a laughing stock. Hence the many Establishment Republicans now saying things like, ‘Newt means losing 45 states.'”

 

Walker Claims Both Balanced Budget and Deficit

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) administration “has touted for months its efforts to balance the state budget, but now it also has acknowledged a significant way in which the budget isn’t balanced,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

“To keep the possibility alive of making further cuts to state health programs, the Walker administration quietly certified to the federal government on Dec. 29 that the state had a deficit. Federal law allows the state to drop tens of thousands of adults to save money on health care costs if the state can show it has a deficit. Walker has said he wants to cut health care spending in other ways, but hasn’t ruled out dropping those 53,000 adults if the other methods aren’t approved by the federal government.”

 

State of the Campaign Address?

As President Obama prepares to give his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, The Hill looks at the efforts to balance the policy and politics of an election year address.

“The White House has said in no uncertain terms that Obama’s path to another term will be cleared by open conflict with a Republican-controlled House that is deeply unpopular with voters, so observers expect a pugnacious Obama to take the lectern… While there might be some finger-wagging, don’t expect a trash-talking president. After all, you can’t exactly walk into someone else’s house, sit on the living room couch and drop some insults… At the same time, the White House has pushed back at suggestions the State of the Union will be Obama’s first major stump speech of his reelection bid, insisting Obama will focus on policy in the address.”

 

When Perry Comes Home

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) wraps up his failed presidential bid and heads home to continue governing his state, Time reports that he “returns bruised and diminished, taking his place among a gallery of strong talkin’, wide-steppin’ Texas politicos who have ventured across the Red River only to return with their tails between their legs.”

“Many Texans must feel that the governor is returning as damaged goods with lots of self-inflicted political wounds which he will have to heal fast to be able to be effective at governing the state… Texas has no term limits and Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said following the drop out announcement that the governor would not rule out another term… But there are other strong Republicans standing in the queue for the top job in Texas, including Attorney General Greg Abbott. Meanwhile, a few Republicans are beginning to question Perry’s policies and approach, some even agreeing to go on the record.”

 

Facilitator of Change

Ryan Lizza notes that although many hoped Barack Obama would be someone “who reshapes public opinion and the political landscape with his charisma and his powers of persuasion.”

“Instead, Obama has turned out to be… ‘a facilitator of change.’ The facilitator is acutely aware of the constraints of public opinion and Congress. He is not foolish enough to believe that one man, even one invested with the powers of the Presidency, can alter the fundamentals of politics… Directors are more like revolutionaries. Facilitators are more like tacticians. Directors change the system. Facilitators work the system. Obama’s first three years as President are the story of his realization of the limits of his office, his frustration with those constraints, and, ultimately, his education in how to successfully operate within them. A close look at the choices Obama made on domestic policy, based on a review of hundreds of pages of internal White House documents, reveals someone who is canny and tough–but who is not the President his most idealistic supporters thought they had elected.”

 

Romney’s Bain Problem

“The verdict is in: Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital problem is real,” Politico reports.

“Of all the forces that converged to doom Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, none may be as disconcerting for Republicans as the attacks on Romney’s private equity work — an offensive that caught Romney off-guard and triggered a damaging conversation about his vast personal wealth.”

 

Gingrich Surges in Florida

Coming off his big win in South Carolina, a new InsiderAdvantage poll in Florida shows Newt Gingrich surging into the lead of the GOP presidential race with 34%, followed by Mitt Romney at 26%, Ron Paul at 13% and Rick Santorum at 11%.

Meanwhile, in the first night of polling Florida, Public Policy Polling finds Gingrich and Romney “neck and neck.”

 

Quote of the Day

“We’re not choosing a talk show host. We’re choosing the person who should be leader of the free world.”

— Mitt Romney, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, alluding to his Newt Gingrich’s strong debate performances that helped shift momentum in the GOP presidential race.

 

Romney on the Attack

Speaking in Florida, Mitt Romney “deviated from his standard remarks early, looking to define the candidate who mauled him in South Carolina in a different light by bringing up the tumultuous end of Gingrich’s tenure as speaker of the House of Representatives,” NBC News reports.

Said Romney: “So I’ve had the experience of leadership. Now Speaker Gingrich has also been a leader. He was a leader for four years as speaker of the House. And at the end of four years it was proven he was a failed leader. And he had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know if you knew that. He actually resigned after four years in disgrace. He was investigated under an ethics panel and had to make a payment associated with that and then his fellow Republicans, 88 percent of Republicans, voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.”

“Direct assaults like this from Romney on the stump are rare enough to be startling to those who hear him speak daily, but Romney didn’t stop there, also tying Gingrich to the housing crisis in a state where the collapse in home values has been acutely felt.”

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