In GOP Race, Iowa And New Hampshire Aren't What They Used To Be

The 2012 caucuses and primaries are finally upon us, and now it can be said: Iowa and New Hampshire may be a thing of the past.

What's fading is not their place in the celestial order as hosts of the first nominating contests, but rather their outsize role in personally sizing up Republican nominees.

An obscure Democratic governor named Jimmy Carterset the paradigm in 1975, when he essentially took up residence in Iowa and shook countless hands on his way to becoming the top named vote-getter in the 1976 caucuses. The Georgia governor's upset victory set him on a path to the presidency.

When Iowa Republicans caucus on Jan. 3, chances are the voters will know more about the candidates from nationally televised debates and interviews than from personal interaction. Ditto the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10.

"If the protester is Time's person of the year, then the debate is the primaries' theme of the year," says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor



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Rumors Swirl Again About Jeb Bush And Presidential Race

Republican dissatisfaction over the field of GOP 2012 presidential candidates has again thrust former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush into the rumormill.

After Bush wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal about the importance of capitalism in America, the rumors swirled that Bush was going to make a last-minute bid to take on President Barack Obama in 2012.

Bush stopped the chatter quickly with an email to Politico stating simply: “not running.”

It’s at least the second time since October Bush has had to shoot down rumors that he is angling for a White House run.

Republican political consultant Ford O’Connell said the recent two-day non-story shows just how the current field has failed to ignite the enthusiasm among the core Republican voters.

“With the Republican base there is some worry that whoever they nominate can’t beat Barack Obama,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said Bush is the perfect candidate because he has elected experience, yet has been in private business, too.

Bush may insist he is out for 2012, but O’Connell said if Obama wins re-election, Bush will be at the top of the list as GOP contenders for 2016.

“He is the Republican front runner for 2016,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune


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Speaker Boehner Bows To Pressure On Tax Deal

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday caved in to a growing chorus of criticism from both within and outside his Republican party and agreed to a short-term deal to extend a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

In a major reversal that appeared to end a standoff with Democrats, Boehner told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he would set a vote in the House on a Senate-passed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.

The Republicans' about-face contrasts with a year of dominance in Congress, in which their staunch opposition to higher taxes and spending has yielded a string of political successes. Their backpedalling this time handed a rare victory to President Barack Obama and Democrats.

"We have fought the good fight. Why not do the right thing for the American people even though it's not exactly what we want," Boehner told a news conference.

Republican leaders feared fierce backlash from voters in the 2012 elections and many Republican lawmakers were already getting an earful from constituents back home. Had the deal failed to materialize, they were looking at an effective $1,000-a-year tax increase on the average worker starting on January 1.

"If they had continued to dig in on this they risked losing the Senate in 2012 and handing President Obama the election without even having a fight," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.

That said, Republicans will be back at the negotiating table in the first two months of the year - in the middle of the Republican primaries for 2012.

Read more from Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan at Reuters

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Ron Paul Can't Be Allowed To Win Iowa

Congressman Paul is extremely dangerous and his candidacy for president should not be taken lightly. He cannot be allowed to gain momentum in Iowa, either within the Republican field or in preparation for a third-party general election run. Our country’s future literally hangs in the balance. Helping Paul win a victory in Iowa will not only be a wasted vote, but it will likely challenge the party’s wisdom of permitting the Hawkeye State to hold the first nominating contest in the future.


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Analysis: Republicans Risk Backlash In 2012

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, also expressed frustration that despite his party's spending victories this year, they enter 2012 risking a voter backlash.

"The White House is winning the spin wars," O'Connell said. "The White House message that Republicans are the party of Wall Street and the rich is gaining more ground than any message the Republicans have.

"I think it is going to be more difficult for the Republican Party than the Democratic Party next year because the spin coming out of the White House is that the Republicans are unwilling to compromise. If the Republicans don't sharpen their message, they could suffer at the ballot box."

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Special Report: Tea Party Grassroots Army Readies For Battle

"Republicans are not sure yet they can beat Obama, so they're focusing on the Senate," said Republican strategist and CivicForumPAC chairman Ford O'Connell. Last year his PAC supported the successful campaigns of Florida Governor Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey.

Now, in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, conservative donors are waiting to see if Tea Party groups can coordinate their efforts, O'Connell said.

"If they can unify behind viable candidates, more money will flow to those candidates," O'Connell said. "The big question is, can they get there?"

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A Ron Paul Third Party Bid Would Doom GOP Presidential Nominee

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is not going to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. But as a third party candidate, he would likely doom the eventual Republican nominee's chances of defeat President Obama in next year's general election. The Washington Post's Scott Clement weighs in:

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) is gaining steam in his race for the GOP nomination, up to his highest level yet — 15 percent — in the new Washington Post-ABC News national poll. He trails President Obama by a mere five points among registered voters in a possible general election matchup. But should Paul fall short of winning his party’s nod and opt to run as a third-party candidate, the survey finds he could seriously shake up the 2012 political calculus, largely to Obama’s benefit.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ties Obama at 47 percent among registered voters in the poll, but fully 21 percent of all voters say they’d pick Paul as an independent candidate over either Romney or the president. Obama would win such a three-way match-up by 10 percentage points. The potential damage is less obvious for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who trails Obama by eight points in a two-way contest and 11 points with Paul in the mix.

As a third-party contender, Paul would draw heavily on Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, and less so from Democratic ranks. As a result, Obama takes a smaller (albeit significant) hit in a three-way race than either of the two leading Republicans.

Would he actually stage a third-party run? Paul refused to rule out the possibility earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying he’s “not even thinking about it.” Nevertheless, Paul refused to endorse John McCain in 2008 and held a rally coinciding with the Republican national convention that year. His heightened national support and still loyal base of supporters could make an independent run more tempting this time around.

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PPP: Mitt Romney Leads President Obama

Two weeks out from the 2012 Iowa caucuses, this is a positive sign for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as he works to bolster his electability argument among GOP primary voters. Unfortunately if a reputable third party candidate enters the general election battle for president, the eventual Republican nominee could find himself or herself at a real disadvantage. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has more:

For the first time in PPP's monthly national polling since July 2010 Mitt Romney's taken a lead, albeit a small one, over Barack Obama.  He's up 47-45. 

Romney has two main things going for him. He leads the President 45-36 with independents. And he's also benefiting from a much more unified party with 88% of Republicans committed to voting for him while only 83% of Democrats say they'll vote for Obama.

Our national survey confirms the wide electability gap between Romney and the rest of the Republican candidate field. Obama leads both Newt Gingrich (49-44) and Ron Paul (46-41) by 5 points, Michele Bachmann (50-41) by 9, and Rick Perry (50-40) by 10.  It continues to look like if GOP voters really want to defeat Obama they pretty much have to nominate Romney.

One thing that could confound Romney's prospects is if a strong third party candidate entered the race. 

The strongest potential independent candidate we tested is Donald Trump who gets 19% in a three way contest with Obama at 45% and Romney at 31%.

The only other potential independent we tested who registers in double digits is Jon Huntsman at 11%. Obama gets 43% and Romney 37% in that three way contest. 

It's clear there's a lot more desire for a third party candidate from conservative voters than Obama supporters.

The big picture on our national poll remains the same: Obama/Romney is a toss up, Obama has an advantage on the rest of the Republican field, and a third party candidate could pave the way for Obama's reelection.


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PoliFact Calls Out Dems For 2011 Political Lie Of Year

Skewering the truth is nothing new in politics. But for most of 2011, Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration and their surrogates have been completely disingenuous with regard to Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan. Bill Adair at PoliFact has more:

PolitiFact editors chose the Democratic line that Republicans voted "to end Medicare" as the 2011 Lie of the Year.

We define the Lie of the Year as the most significant falsehood, the one that had the most impact on the political discourse.

We discussed each of the other finalists and concluded that while clearly false, they failed to be as significant as the Medicare claim, which ignored the fact that people 55 and older would remain on traditional Medicare and that even with the privatized system under Ryan's bill, younger people would still receive a guarantee of care.

And more than any of our other finalists, the Medicare claim had staying power. The Democrats launched it just four days after the House vote in April and then repeated it many times all year. It was the latest chapter in a long-running "Mediscare" strategy to frighten senior citizens that their benefits are in jeopardy if they support Republicans.

As we were concluding our reporting for our Lie of the Year story last week, Ryan announced that he was altering his plan and would retain an option for people to stay in traditional Medicare if they want.

His announcement of a bipartisan effort with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., changes the dynamic in the polarized debate and could increase the likelihood that Congress adopts his approach.

Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, wrote that Ryan "has plausibly inoculated his party against a full-frontal Mediscare campaign. Or at least he gives Republicans a credible rebuttal to neutralize it."

But Ryan's latest tactic doesn't affect our decision on Lie of the Year. The statements made about his original plan were clearly inaccurate, they were repeated by many Democrats and they perpetuated a 60-year tactic in using false claims to scare seniors.

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Under Fire, Gingrich Targets Judges

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich threatened on Sunday to have U.S. judges arrested if they disagreed with his policies as president, ratcheting up his attacks on the judiciary as he tries to halt a slide in his campaign.

"I got into this originally because of two things: the steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a non-religious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president's commander-in-chief powers, which is enormously dangerous," Gingrich said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Gingrich has said that, as president, he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflicted with his powers as commander in chief. He said on "Face the Nation" he would subpoena a judge if the jurist disagreed with him, and send police "if you had to or you'd instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshall" if necessary to bring the judge in.

The tough line against judges may please conservatives who rail against an "activist" judiciary over issues such as allowing gay marriage rights or limiting prayer in schools. But it could also work against Gingrich since voters already are angry over constant battling in Washington between the White House and Congress.

"That's not going to sit well in a seven-second soundbite," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "When people hear that, that becomes divisive. And what are people most concerned about now? Divisiveness in Washington."

Gingrich reached the top of the Republican field last month as the favored conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But his front-runner status has prompted withering attacks from rivals that he is an unreliable conservative and influence peddler, particularly over fat fees he earned from Freddie Mac, a mortgage giant tied to the economic recession.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle at Reuters

 

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