Republican nomination

Newt Gingrich has a Marco Rubio problem

Since taking on Charlie Crist in the the Florida Senate race last year, Marco Rubio, who would go on to win the general election, has been regarded as a rock star in the conservative movement. With that comes a lot of influence, particularly among conservatives in his home state given that he could boost his party’s ticket.

So if you’re a candidate running in his state, you’d probably want to stay on his good side; but there is a right and wrong way to go about that. Apparently, Newt Gingrich is learning this lesson the hard way.

Gingrich, who is leading in most polls out of Florida, has been comparing himself to Rubio and Mitt Romney to Crist as a way to further peg his opponent as an anti-conservative. Rubio is apparently unhappy with what he see as an inaccurate comparison, as Jennifer Rubin explains:

Gingrich, Romney in a tight race in South Carolina

With just a couple of days to go until the South Carolina Republican primary, we’re seeing some movement of the anti-Romney vote in the state back to Newt Gingrich as Rick Santorum falls back to earth.

This is reflected in several surveys, but to show you the numbers, here is a look at the last four polls out of South Carolina conducted by Rasmussen, who has done the most frequent polling in the state.

PollRomneyGingrichSantorumPaulPerry
1/1831%33%
11%
15%
2%
1/1635%21%16%16%
5%
1/1228%28%
16%16%
6%
1/527%27%24%11%
5%

What is exactly is happening to cause this second Gingrich surge? While Romney benefited from a fractured conservative base and many Republican voters accepting the “inevitably” of his nomination, recent strong debate performances and questions about Santorum’s fiscal conservatism and electability are bringing anti-Romney vote back into a one camp.

Gingrich will no doubt be aided by Perry’s withdrawal and endorsement even though his numbers weren’t all that great. The fiasco in Iowa, a state that Santorum seems to have now won — though some ballots have been lost, has showed us that every vote matters in this election. As I noted earlier, Perry’s supporters may just be what pushes Gingrich over the top in South Carolina.

Perry to drop out, endorse Gingrich

CNN is reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will drop out of the race for the Republican nomination today, just a couple of days ahead of the South Carolina primary, and endorse Newt Gingrich:

Rick Perry is telling supporters that he will drop his bid Thursday for the Republican presidential nomination, two sources familiar with his plans told CNN.

The Texas governor will make the announcement before the CNN debate in South Carolina, the sources said.

It was incredibly unlikely, given his poor debate performances and gaffes, that Perry would be able to make a comeback in the race. Perry had hoped for a decent showing in South Carolina, but polls there had showed him at the bottom of the pack.

Many influential conservatives had been calling on Perry to drop out of the race so the anti-Romney vote could coalesce behind Gingrich, who has been surging in South Carolina in recent days (I’ll have more on that later today).

Given Perry’s numbers may not be significant, but it could be just enough to put Gingrich over the top on Saturday.

DeMint will not endorse before South Carolina’s primary

In recent days, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), an outspoken fiscal conservative, has defended Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), noting that Republicans should embrace some libertarian ideas. DeMint also sees the risk many Republican take in their public criticism of Paul, who has an incredibly dedicated group of followers, many of whom are young.

This led to rumors of an endorsement yesterday on Twitter and Facebook before the all important South Carolina primary. But DeMint, keeping with a statement he made a couple of months ago, has said he will not endorse:

One of the most sought-after South Carolina politicians said Monday he would not endorse a candidate ahead of the Palmetto State’s primary.

Sen. Jim DeMint, who has offered praise to all of the candidates in the field, said in a statement, “I do not have a favorite in this race and I will not endorse a candidate.”

DeMint said his stance reflected the view of many voters in South Carolina.

“I’ve gotten to know each of the candidates over the past year and they are all far superior to Obama,” DeMint said. “My view reflects what I’ve heard from Republican voters across South Carolina who remain divided in this race.”

DeMint would have been a big get for any candidate in the GOP field, given his high regard among conservative voters. Many of the contenders have met with the senator in person, looking to gain his backing.

Jon Huntsman drops out of race, will endorse Mitt Romney

Despite the confident tone of his concession speech in New Hampshire and receiving a glowing endorsement from an influential South Carolina newspaper, Jon Huntsman has decided to end his bid for the Republican nomination and endorse Mitt Romney:

Jon Huntsman will drop out of the Republican presidential race  on Monday, a campaign spokesman told ABC News.

A source close to the Huntsman campaign said the former ambassador to China and Utah governor was “proud of the race that he ran” but “did not want to stand in the way” of rival Mitt Romney, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination.

Huntsman plans to endorse Romney at an 11 a.m. press conference Monday in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

After a disappointing third place finish in New Hampshire — a contest on which he had staked his candidacy — Huntsman vowed to fight on. In his concession speech in New Hampshire, he told his supporters:  “I say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentleman! Hello, South Carolina!”
[…]
A Huntsman aide tells ABC News that the decision came in the wake of the results of the New Hampshire primary.

“He has been discussing with his family after they woke up after a successful evening in New Hampshire. They felt good about their performance in New Hampshire, but he and his family had a discussion and this is the decision they came to,” the aide said. “At the end of the day he decided he did not want to hurt the best chance of beating Barack Obama and that’s Mitt Romney. By continuing into South Carolina and Florida, that’s what he would have been doing.”

Moving on from New Hamphire

In my brief primer yesterday on the New Hampshire primary, I noted that Mitt Romney needed at least 40% of the vote in order for his “win” not to be considered a “loss.” By that I mean that conservatives in the anti-Romney faction of the GOP were going to point to that as a “proof” that Romney winning the nomination isn’t inevitable.

With 98% of precincts reporting, Romney won 39.3% of the vote — a slightly higher percentage that John McCain took in 2008. While it’s not quite 40%, based on what I’m hearing and reading this more from many anti-Romney conservatives (many of whom where firmly behind him four years ago), it’s close for them to read the writing on the wall.

So what does this mean? I suspect that we’re about to see things get very nasty with Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich stepping up their attacks Romney. Rick Perry will probably wind up attacking everyone, particularly Gingrich and Romney.

Huntsman’s has a ceiling. If he doesn’t catch fire in the next two or three weeks, he’ll have a tough time justifying sticking around until Super Tuesday. That’s just reality. You may say, “Well, he finished third in New Hampshire. That counts for something.” No, it doesn’t. Huntsman based in campaign there. That’s why his poor showing in Iowa didn’t matter.

For Huntsman, a third place finish in New Hampshire is no better than finishing last since Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum weren’t really contesting the state. Those three have their eyes set on South Carolina, where Huntsman isn’t going to be nearly as competitive. He will, at best, cut into Romney’s numbers and possibly hand the state to Santorum or Gingrich.

New Hampshire Primary Live Blog

We’ll begin coverage on the returns this evening from New Hampshire within the next half hour or so. You can follow along via CNN or WMUR. You can read Jason’s primer on what to look for out of New Hampshire here.

Romney leads in South Carolina

As mentioned in today’s GOP Presidential Power Rankings, Mitt Romney now leads in South Carolina, an important early primary state, and Newt Gingrich has fallen to third thanks to a surging Rick Santorum.

Here are the results of the new Rasmussen poll:

  • Mitt Romney: 27%
  • Rick Santorum: 24%
  • Newt Gingrich: 18%
  • Ron Paul: 11%
  • Rick Perry: 5%
  • Jon Huntsman: 2%

Romney’s lead has also been confirmed by surveys conducted by Public Polling Polling and CNN/Time, and he’s outside of the margin of error in those polls. This is obviously good news for Romney, who may wind up with a clean sweep of the four January primaries. The bad news for Romney is that Gingrich still has time to impact the race in the two weeks between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primary.

Speaking of Santorum; yes, he has managed to receive a bump in the polls, but his numbers are really limited to social conservatives. Fiscal conservatives are rightfully skeptical of him and are largely staying with other candidates. That gives you the feeling that Santorum has reached ceiling.

Santorum has no credibility on entitlements

During debates and on the campaign trail, Rick Santorum has complained about entitlements. This is a good point, and one that many budget hawks have noted over the last several years. However, Santorum has taken these complaints to a new level by attacking Ronald Reagan, which is nearly an unforgivable sin among conservatives:

While addressing America’s entitlement crisis at his first New Hampshire event since his stunning near-victory in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, Santorum said Reagan contributed to the entitlement crisis by pushing Social Security’s sustainability issues down the road instead of dealing with them head-on in the 1983 bipartisan deal to fix Social Security.

“If Rick Santorum gets elected and we do what I said that we need to do, which is to deal with the entitlement programs now, not 10 to 20 years from now,” Santorum said.

“You’ll know — unlike Ronald Reagan who maybe was a better politician than me — you’ll know that it was Rick Santorum that worked together and got the American public to gather together to fix this problem. Why? Because it is our problem.”

Santorum was walking the audience through what he called the “ancient days of yesteryear” in a interminable and incredibly detailed response to a questioner. He explained that in the 1983 deal Reagan brokered with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil to fix Social Security, the retirement age was moved back to 67, but that change wasn’t slated to be enacted until the politicians responsible were out of office.

“This was the brilliance of the politicians that did this,” Santorum said sarcastically.

Romney leads by a wide margin in New Hampshire

With Iowa out of the way, our attention shifts to New Hampshire where, according to the latest poll from Suffolk University, shows Mitt Romney ahead by a wide margin over his rivals for the Republican nomination:

  • Mitt Romney: 41%
  • Ron Paul: 18%
  • Rick Santorum: 8%
  • Newt Gingrich: 7%
  • Jon Huntsman: 7%
  • Michele Bachmann: 1%
  • Buddy Romer: 1%
  • Rick Perry: 0%
  • Undecided: 17%

Other polls, as noted in this morning’s headlines, show Santorum gaining a bit more of a bump than Suffolk University, which is doing daily tracking of New Hampshire. However, New Hampshire really isn’t fertile ground for Santorum anyway. His next hurdle is South Carolina. Perry’s numbers, of lack thereof, in New Hampshire will be easy to shrug off since he is also focused on the Palmetto State.

Here are some details on the numbers:

Romney’s drop was driven by the three conservative counties of Belknap, Merrimack, and Strafford in central New Hampshire, where his 16 point advantage over Paul shrunk to just an 8 percent lead while Santorum grew to 10 percent there.

Paul is winning 24 percent of Independent voters, which is limiting Jon Huntsman’s ability to grow with Independents.  Despite improved strength, Paul still trails Romney by 13 percentage points among Independents.  Santorum is now winning 13 percent of conservatives and 13 percent of women ages 18-44 years as he sets his sights on Paul.

Huntsman has staked his campaign in New Hampshire, so a third place finish could make him rethink sticking around for Super Tuesday, which is too bad. Most of us, myself included, never really gave him a fair shake.

 
 


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