Presidential Enthusiasm Gap Swings To GOP But Swing State Independents Will Be Key

The vast enthusiasm gap that swept President Barack Obama into office in 2008 is turning against him. The key for the enventual Republican presidential nominee will be to capture independents in the 2012 swing states. USA Today's Susan Page has more:

[T]he "enthusiasm gap" that helped fuel a Democratic victory last time has turned into a Republican asset. Sixty-one percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president next year, compared with 47% of Democrats.

Among the most enthusiastic are some of the GOP's core voters: conservatives, middle-aged men and those 50 to 64 years old. Those who are least enthused include core Democratic groups that were critical to Obama's election in 2008, including minorities and younger voters.

In swing states, Obama trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among registered voters by 5 points, 43% vs. 48%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 3, 45% vs. 48%.

This is the second in a series of surveys that USA TODAY and Gallup will be taking through the 2012 campaign focused on 12 swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Most other states and the District of Columbia are all but guaranteed to be won by one party or the other, giving Obama a likely base of 196 electoral votes and the Republican nominee a base of 191. A candidate needs 270 to win the White House.

The decline in the number of voters who identify themselves as Democrats — and the rise in those who call themselves independents — complicates the president's re-election strategy.

In the swing states, the number of self-identified Democrats (not including those who lean Democratic) fell from 35% to 30% since 2008. The number of independents rose 7 points, 35% to 42%.

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Is Romney 2012: The Hillary Clinton Of 2008?

From the outset, Mitt Romney has been the front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Now the former Massachusetts Governor finds himself entangled in a real dog fight with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Could Romney trip like Hilary Clinton did in 2008? Politico's Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman weigh in:

For Mitt Romney this December, it’s beginning to look a lot like Clinton.

Like the great, fallen front-runner of 2008, here is another well-funded, Establishment-blessed, presumptive nominee whose supposedly firm hold on his party’s greatest prize seems to be slip-sliding away.

There are differences to be sure, most centrally that Romney has yet to face a Barack Obama-like, central foe (though Newt Gingrich is now auditioning convincingly for that role) but instead has fought a series of rear-guard actions against a series of candidates-of-the-moment.

But the similarities, particularly to veterans of Hillaryland circa 2008, are remarkable.

Romney may have had to fight off frontal assaults from a series of foes - Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich - but he has not had to counter what the Clinton team came to view as the Kennedyesque, once-in-a-generation political skills of Obama.

Romney may well be the Clinton of 2012 – but allies argue that Clinton would have beaten a candidate with Gingrich’s organization, a boast that may bode well for the former Massachusetts governor.

“What failed for Hillary still might work for Mitt,” said one former Clinton supporter. “The GOP race in 2012 is far more volatile, and Gingrich is especially prone to self-destruction, so Mitt’s ‘Last Man Standing’ strategy might work. There was never a realistic chance that Obama would self-destruct: nothing in his record or rhetoric or background or temperament. Newt is the opposite.”

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Romney: Gingrich Is GOP Presidential Front-Runner

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is invoking a new campaign tactic - he is portraying himself as the underdog in the battle for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Politico's Mike Allen has more:

Mitt Romney, who just a month ago had hoped to seal the GOP presidential nomination with Florida’s primary on Jan. 31, tells POLITICO that he now foresees an epic fight with Newt Gingrich that could last through the California primary on June 5.

Asked if the former House speaker is the front-runner, Romney replied bluntly: “He is right now.”

Romney made it clear that he would rather lose than make incendiary charges about Gingrich that could help President Barack Obama in the general election. And the former Massachusetts governor said the nomination “is not going to be decided in just a couple of contests” and “could go for months and months.”

“It’s a very fluid electorate. I think I’ll get the nomination. I can’t predict when. … I’ve got — what? — five or six more months to go to make that a reality.”

Romney said he thinks he “would be more successful in posting up against Barack Obama” than Gingrich, but did not rule out the possibility that Gingrich could beat Obama.

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U.S. Unemployment Rate At 11 Percent

If the GOP is able to effectively message this analysis by the Financial Times' Ed Luce on the "actual" unemployment rate, President Obama could find his re-election bid in real trouble at the ballot box in 2012. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein chimes in:

In particular, it's this sentence by the Financial Times' Ed Luce, who writes, "According to government statistics, if the same number of people were seeking work today as in 2007, the jobless rate would be 11 percent."

Remember that the unemployment rate is not "how many people don't have jobs?", but "how many people don't have jobs and are actively looking for them?" Let's say you've been looking fruitlessly for five months and realize you've exhausted every job listing in your area. Discouraged, you stop looking, at least for the moment. According to the government, you're no longer unemployed. Congratulations?

Since 2007, the percent of the population that either has a job or is actively looking for one has fallen from 62.7 percent to 58.5 percent. That's millions of workers leaving the workforce, and it's not because they've become sick or old or infirm. It's because they can't find a job, and so they've stopped trying. That's where Luce's calculation comes from. If 62.7 percent of the country was still counted as in the workforce, unemployment would be 11 percent. In that sense, the real unemployment rate -- the apples-to-apples unemployment rate -- is probably 11 percent. And the real un- and underemployed rate -- the so-called "U6" -- is near 20 percent.

There were some celebrations when the unemployment rate dropped last month. But much of that drop was people leaving the labor force. The surprising truth is that when the labor market really recovers, the unemployment rate will actually rise, albeit only temporarily, as discouraged workers start searching for jobs again.

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Newt Gingrich May Endure - If He Survives Critics

Newt Gingrich the history professor could teach a semester-long course on the improbable fall and rise of Newt Gingrich the presidential candidate, who is leading the polls in Iowa and key early primary states like South Carolina and Florida.

The midterm exam assignment would focus on the next few days - three weeks ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses - to see if the former House speaker survives the recent barrage of attacks by everyone from San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi to conservative former George H.W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu, a supporter of rival Mitt Romney.

If Gingrich survives the attacks - and his own propensity for self-immolation - analysts say he could have more staying power than the past few Republican flavors-of-the-month who have all melted under the front-runner's spotlight.

Even though Gingrich raised less money than all but one of his GOP rivals through September, analysts say if he performs well in the early states he could get enough of a fundraising bump to compete in the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

But first he must survive December.

And while Gingrich enjoys a healthy lead in Iowa, two-thirds of the likely GOP caucus voters in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll said they hadn't made up their minds yet.

Unlike past years, when social issues were the top concern in the GOP caucus, this year it is the economy, the poll found. And on that score, voters were evenly divided over who would serve them best, Gingrich or Romney.

"But Romney still hasn't made his case to voters," said Ford O'Connell, a national Republican strategist who is unaffiliated in this campaign.

Read more from Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Romney Attack On Gingrich Effective?

The Tin Man actually has a pulse. To be perfectly honest, Mitt Romney has shown more enthusiasm in his attacks on Newt Gingrich than he has on all other issues combined in this campaign cycle. If Romney can successfully triangulate this new found emotion to other issues, he will be well positioned to win the GOP presidential nomination.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Politics And The Social Web

Re-Posted From Campaigns & Elections magazine

2012 promises to be a banner year for money, mudslinging and media frenzy. Unless you are Barack Obama or the last candidate standing at the end of the GOP nominating process, you aren’t likely to be the one dominating media coverage next year. Add in the money that will be flowing through independent expenditure groups and other organizations pushing their own thousand points of view and your chances of getting heard above the din are as good as former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer getting invited to participate in a Republican presidential debate.

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Why Mitt Romney Is Like Jan From 'The Brady Bunch'

Re-Posted From

Less than one month until the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, Mitt Romney finds himself again in the uncomfortable position of looking over his shoulder at the candidate with momentum.

In 2008, that candidate was Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) and now it is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).This time, though, Team Romney should be scared.

Counting on Gingrich to self-destruct, like the other candidates who preceded him, is not a sound campaign strategy if Romney wants to eventually garner the necessary support needed to win the nomination.

Having spent the better part of the last half-decade campaigning for the Oval Office with relentlessness and a single-minded focus, one would think that Mitt Romney would be hitting his stride right about now.

However, although Romney has significant advantages over the rest of the GOP presidential field in terms of fundraising and campaign operations, this is simply just not the case.

Nowhere was this more evident than last week's interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. In the exchanges between Romney and Baier, the former Massachusetts governor became angry and increasingly uncomfortable as Baier asked direct, but pertinent questions about his record, particularly RomneyCare.

When Romney quipped, "This is an unusual interview," and broke out into an awkward laugher, it was quite clear that Romney was failing to hide his contempt for being asked about his own record. At that moment, he was uncomfortable in his own skin and it showed.

If Romney wants to win the nomination, he will need to do more than just continually tout that he is the best-positioned candidate in the GOP field to take on President Obama.

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Time For Mitt Romney To Take On Newt Gingrich?

To attack more forcefully or not? That’s the dilemma former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surges in polls and threatens Mr. Romney’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination.

Four weeks before the first nominating contest – the Iowa caucuses – differing views are emerging. Some Romney supporters quoted in the media say it’s time for the mild-mannered Romney to get more aggressive. He can’t count on Mr. Gingrich to self-destruct or on other candidates to take Gingrich down for him, the thinking goes.

He needs to show he’s a fighter, because that will demonstrate he’s up for the task ahead: taking on President Obama in what will surely be an epic battle against a highly organized incumbent.

But others suggest Romney has to be careful. He has kept his message focused on the economy, his strong point as a former businessman, and he doesn’t want to take his eye off the ball. He also doesn’t want to bathe himself in negativity right as many GOP voters are beginning to pay attention to the race in earnest.

When asked Tuesday whether it’s time for Romney to attack Gingrich, one Romney adviser said no. “I don’t think that he fundamentally changes his strategy in the direction of an attack on Newt,” former Rep. Vin Weber (R) of Minnesota told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. “He’s building a campaign capable of defeating President Obama.”

In particular, Gingrich’s rocky personal past – marital infidelities, two messy divorces – is best left for others to discuss, says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

For Romney to go there “lowers him a notch in the eyes of voters,” says Mr. Wayne. “He’s got an economic focus going against Obama, and he should stay on that route. The moment people turn from the economy to social conservatism or other issues, Romney loses his advantage.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell agrees that Romney has to be careful.

“Romney’s caught between a rock and a hard place,” says Mr. O’Connell, head of the CivicForumPAC. “He can’t rely on Newt being Newt. But if he goes after him, he looks like a whiner and out of character. He’s got to hope another person or organization comes up with information on Gingrich.”

Romney surrogates have also made polite attacks on Gingrich, without getting too deep into the weeds on Gingrich’s professional past.

Mr. O’Connell suggests that it matters how new information comes out on Gingrich. If it comes from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi or a pro-Romney super political action committee, voters are likely to discount it.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena On Herman Cain's Primary Exit

Herman Cain should be applauded for the outsider enthusiasm he brought to the GOP presidential primary and to the issue of tax code reform, but Cain's: “I am innocent until you have proof” shtick was wearing thin with Republican voters. Mr. Cain will have an extremely lucrative career as a television talking head. I wish him and his family the best.

Read more from Ford O'Connell At Politico's "The Arena"

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