Republican nomination

Gingrich builds on lead in Iowa, South Carolina

With less than a month to go until the Iowa caucus, a new poll from ABC News and the Washington Post shows him opening his lead on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul among likely caucus-goers:

Gingrich, according to the survey, has advantages that extend well beyond the horse race that put him in an enviable position in the final weeks before the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses, which serve as the formal start of the long nominating season. On electability, empathy and handling the economy, he does as well as or better than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has long been described as the nominal front-runner for the nomination, or Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.).
With 33 percent support among likely caucus-goers in the new poll, Gingrich runs well ahead of his two main rivals, Romney and Paul, a libertarian whose passionate following and anti-government rhetoric have made him a durable force in the race. Both are at 18 percent.

But Iowa Republicans are far from decided. More than six in 10 potential caucus-goers say they could change their minds, and even among the likeliest attendees, fewer than half say they have definitely chosen a candidate.

Of the top three, Paul’s supporters are the most solid, followed by Gingrich’s and Romney’s.

Here are the full results of the poll:

Cain is done, but who knows his next move?

The question of what Herman Cain will do in the coming days, whether he will stay in the race or exit to focus on healing the wounds that have no doubt been created in recent weeks, is something that observers and pundits are dwelling on. What he does could, obviously, have a significant impact on the race.

For his part Cain and his campaign have, as usual, given mixed message. At first they said that Cain could leave the race. That changed as the day went along, after Cain gave a firey speech in Ohio. However, by the end of the day it appeared that Cain was still weighing all of his options, and said that no decision would be made until he spoke with his wife.

Many Republicans are saying that Cain needs to get out of the race for various different reasons, from him now serving a distraction to the feeling that he nees to focus on his family. Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a tea party favorite, is among them:

“Beyond reassessing his campaign, he probably needs to understand that he is a distracter for what’s going on right now and we should move on,” West told WMAL’s radio show “Morning Majority.”

Gallup: Gingrich, Romney in statistical tie

As was noted in yesterday’s GOP Presidential Power Rankings, Newt Gingrich is coming on strong as he appears to be latest anti-Romney emerge from the pack. The latest numbers in the race from Gallup only serve to emphasize that point.

Here is how the field looks right now:

  • Newt Gingrich: 22%
  • Mitt Romney: 21%
  • Herman Cain: 16%
  • Ron Paul: 9%
  • Rick Perry: 8%
  • Michele Bachmann: 4%
  • Jon Huntsman: 1%
  • Rick Santorum: 1%
  • Other: 1%
  • None/No opinion: 18%

As you can see in the chart Gallup provided in their report of the poll numbers, this has been anything but a normal primary as the GOP electorate — though primarily tea party influenced and more conservative voters — moved back and forth between whatever Flavor of the Month has been put before them.

Unlikely Bachmann and Perry, Cain isn’t dropping off very far; despite the recently surfaced allegations of sexual harrassment. Most Republican voters aren’t bothered by those stories. They should, however, be very concerned at how his campaign has handled them and the frequent gaffes and lack of knowledge on policy issues that would come before him in the White House.

Another reason Cain has managed to hang on is due to some distrust of Gingrich among conservatives and tea partyers, which is understandable.

Gary Johnson’s campaign continues to struggle

Gary Johnson’s campaign is in complete disarray. An initial report stated that all five of Johnson’s New Hampshire staff members had quit, but that story has been amended, claiming that one remained though he has apparently been “let go”:

Matt Simon, who joined the Johnson campaign early on, said he was the first to leave, but he was followed by the four other paid New Hampshire staffers, including State Coordinator Brinck Slattery.

Grant Huihui, Johnson’s campaign scheduler, said in an interview this morning that all of Johnson’s New Hampshire staffers were “let go” in late October, but Simon said that is inaccurate.

“It’s more accurate to say everybody quit,” Simon said. “We don’t want a big public thing like the (Michele) Bachmann campaign had, but definitely the New Hampshire staff quit out of frustration with the national campaign.”

Simon said he personally was frustrated with the lack of organization and the lack of money that was being put into the campaign in New Hampshire.

“They just weren’t giving us the resources needed to execute the plan,” said Simon. “We drew up a plan back in April or May to do well in the New Hampshire Primary. But there was just a lack of resources – not being able to hire people, not being able to get things like yard signs until September when we needed them in May. A lot of people meet Gary Johnson and like him, but they see he doesn’t have a campaign so they’re not going to go out of their way to support him. It’s too bad.”

Romney not backing down from RomneyCare

It certainly seems like Mitt Romney is going to do everything he can to make conservatives and tea partyers completely detest him. While the man has literally distanced himself from nearly every position he has taken in the past on issues close to the hearts of conservative, Romney continues to defend and stand by RomneyCare, which served as the blueprint of ObamaCare:

Don’t expect Mitt Romney to backtrack on his Massachusetts health-care plan at any point this election cycle.

“I am sure there are many people who have calculated, and perhaps correctly, that the healthcare plan I put in place in Massachusetts is not good for me politically, and if I want to encourage my political future, I should say it was a mistake and walk away from it,” Romney told Fox News host Neil Cavuto in an interview set to air later tonight.

“You have seen a lot of candidates look at their biggest vulnerability, call it a mistake, and ask for forgiveness,” Romney continued. “In my case that wouldn’t be honest.”

He affirmed that he believes the health-care program was the “right thing” for Massachusetts then, although he conceded that it hasn’t “worked perfectly.”

“If it hurts me politically, it’s a consequence of the truth,” Romney added. “I am not going to walk away from that. It’s right for states to come up with their own solutions. I doubt other people are going try and follow the one we put together. Maybe learn from our experience. Maybe come up with something better. But the wrong course is to have the federal government impose its will on the entire nation.”

Conservatives supporting Gingrich are being played

Newt Gingrich is the lastest Flavor of the Month for the conservative movement, which is feverishly looking for an anti-Romney candidate. But the former Speaker of the House has been forced to fight back against accusations that he lobbied for Freddie Mac, the government-created housing giant:

As he tried to leverage his recent rise in national polls into a full-fledged bid for the Republican nomination, Newt Gingrich was badly knocked off message on Wednesday by repeated inquiries about the more than $1.6 million he got in consulting fees from the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which had a role in the housing collapse in recent years.

At a campaign event, Gingrich said that he characterized his work for the mortgage-finance entity as offering “strategic advice” and not as lobbying. He said he provided “strategic advice for a long period of time” after he resigned as speaker of the House in early 1999. The federally backed mortgage lender has been the target of a backlash since the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market and the deep recession in the housing market.

Gingrich said his lucrative association with Freddie Mac as a consultant – he has also said he was paid for his knowledge as an historian – should not trouble voters, he told reporters on Wednesday. “It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington,” he said. “We just tried four years of amateur ignorance, and it didn’t work very well. So, having someone who actually knows Washington might be a really good thing.”

Ranking of Republican Primary Candidates – Another take

In response to Jason’s post indicating where he ranks the GOP candidates, which was followed by the CNBC economy debate, I decided to have some fun and create two lists from before and after the debate. First, Jason’s List:

  1. Gary Johnson
  2. Ron Paul
  3. Jon Huntsman
  4. Rick Perry
  5. Newt Gingrich
  6. Mitt Romney
  7. Michele Bachmann
  8. Herman Cain
  9. Rick Santorum

Here is my list BEFORE the debate:

  1. Gary Johnson
  2. Ron Paul
  3. Jon Huntsman
  4. Newt Gingrich
  5. Mitt Romney
  6. Rick Perry (Perry and Romney tied)
  7. Herman Cain
  8. Michele Bachmann
  9. Rick Santorum

And here is my updated list after last night’s debate with comments:

1. Gary Johnson: Honestly, this is the first time I remember agreeing with literally everything a candidate for any office says. If I have one disagreement, it would featuring Marijuana legalization as a top issue. Johnson was never taken seriously by the GOP mainstream because he was immediately tabbed as “the pot guy”. In the uptight GOP base, it immediately disqualified him.

My preferences for the GOP nomination

We do a regular feature here, a “power ranking” of the GOP presidential candidates. It’s similar to what commentators post for football or other sports. But during a chat with a friend a couple of days ago, I was asked to list my preference for the Republican nomination for president. I explained that there weren’t many real options for me, as a libertarian, given that the candidates are very anti-libertarian outside of Gary Johnson and Ron Paul.

But my friend encouraged me to “give it a whirl anyway.” So while I’m indulging my friend here, the reality is if Johnson wasn’t running, I’d vote for Paul. If neither were in the race, I’d stay home. So anyway, here goes my list:

- Gary Johnson: Easily the most traditionally libertarian on the issues. Unfortunately, Johnson isn’t receiving due attention, despite his impressive fiscal record as a two-term Governor. I realize that when I vote for Johnson, I realize I’ll be casting a ballot for someone with no chance of winning the GOP nomination; and I’m OK with that.

- Ron Paul: I still have some issues with Ron Paul, but he has run better campaign this time around and has influenced politics in the GOP. That in and of itself is a win.

- Jon Huntsman: There are some positions that Huntsman has taken that I’m not fond of, but his tax plan is the best I’ve seen in the field.

- Rick Perry: Many conservatives abandoned Perry over the immigration issue. I thought that was the best thing about him. His tax plan is also a good start, but is a bit watered down to be called a “flat tax.”

GOP Presidential Power Rankings

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last round of the GOP Presidential Power Rankings. Rick Perry has dropped off dramatically, though his fundraising is very solid, and Herman Cain has risen substantiall in the polls. Mitt Romney’s support has remained steady, but that’s not exactly a promising sign. But we’ll get to that in a minute…

The News

Christie endorses Romney

In what some see at the Republicans beginning to coalesce around the eventual nominee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who decided against a bid for the GOP nomination last week, endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he is backing Mitt Romney for president as “the man we need to lead America” and said attacks on his Mormon religion are “beneath the office of the president of the United States.”

Christie announced his endorsement at a surprise appearance in New Hampshire with the former Massachusetts governor on Tuesday.
A senior Romney adviser told NBC News that Romney secured the endorsement on Saturday when he and his wife, Ann, met with Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, at the Christie home.

Romney described Christie as an “American hero” who has battled to “rein in the excesses of government in New Jersey.”

Christie’s support — which was considered to be coveted among the GOP field — could come with his network of donors and admirers.

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of this endorsement; but, was anyone actually surprised by this? It was obvious that Christie wasn’t going to get behind Rick Perry. Jon Huntsman, the only other candidate that would be up his alley, is doing terribly in the polls and the other candidates in the race seem are too far out there for him. Not to mention that a prominent Christie fundraiser immediately went to Romney after his guy opted against a run.

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