A remarkable success by Santorum – a devastating night for Team Romney

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum claimed a remarkable trifecta of wins and massive surge of momentum by sweeping Mitt Romney in all three contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

Santorum’s victories are all the more remarkable considering Romney’s advantage in financing and organization. Tuesday’s results included losses in two states – Colorado and Minnesota – that he won in his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Minnesota also became the first state where Romney did not end up in first or second place despite having the support of former presidential candidate and State Governor Tim Pawlenty.

The stunning results by Santorum have raised fresh doubts about whether establishment favourite and perceived frontrunner Romney, can in fact win a General election or even the nomination itself after struggling to get support from the party’s conservative base.

Santorum has now finished first in four of the first eight primaries and caucuses, after his narrow victory over Romney in Iowa’s caucuses on January 3.

The former senator said his campaign was already bringing in more donations, an important consideration for a candidate who trails far behind Romney in the fund-raising race.

As he has before, Romney had seemed on track to win the nomination after big wins in Nevada and Florida last week. He had been expected to win easily in Colorado and did little campaigning in Minnesota and Missouri.

In Minnesota’s caucuses, Santorum won with 45 percent of the vote. But the state became the first this year in which Romney did not finish first or second. Congressman Ron Paul was in second place with 27 percent and Romney was third at 17 percent.

Santorum trounced Romney by 30 percentage points in Missouri, 55 percent to 25 percent. That vote was a non-binding primary, but has symbolic value as a measure of support in a big Midwestern state.

The race was closer in Colorado where Santorum won by 5 percentage points over Romney, 40 percent to 35 percent.

Santorum in his victory speech also appeared more presidential then before, setting up a contrast between himself and President Obama as more of the aloof and arrogant policies from a person out of touch with the American people, or a true conservative alternative who will listen to the voice of the people. Santorum essentially positioned himself as the champion of the American people, economic policy, social values, and defender of the constitution and first amendment in particular. It was a passionate and heartfelt speech that connected with the audience.

“I don’t stand here to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama,” Santorum said. On health care, cap and trade and the Wall Street bailout, he charged, “Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama.”

Romney addressing his supporters said, “This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Senator Santorum and wish him the very best. We’ll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help.”

I asked the question in a recent article about Mitt Romney – What does he stand for? (worldviewtonight.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/romney-florida-an-expected-success-can-he-stand-up-to-the-obama-machine/)

The reason I asked the question was not out of any dislike for Romney, I admire a lot about Governor Romney and his business success in particular. The reason I asked the question was that Team Romney were very effective at attacking President Obama and Newt Gingrich with his powerful advertising spending however; I honestly didn’t know what his vision for America was and where he stood on the key issues of the day.

Team Romney will need to have a very detailed reassessment of their strategy going forward. The tried and tested approach of going negative on his opponents, and touting his business experience combined with large rallies, has left voters and supporters devoid of enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Romney’s speech last night was almost parrot fashion repetition of his talking points from the last week. He is failing to connect with the ordinary voter and too often has appeared rehearsed and uncomfortable when put in personal one to one interviews. Romney will need to throw off the consultant shackles and be more energetic, more personal and more natural on the campaign trail or face certain defeat.

Ironically, despite his poor showing in contests which he barely contested, Santorum’s victories may also be good news for former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Team Romney will now need to develop a strategy to attack Santorum and need Gingrich to stay in the race. The longer Gingrich stays in the race, the longer it will split the conservative vote. Three weeks out of the cross hairs for Gingrich may enable him to lay the ground work for a series of victories himself on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

The Romney strategy was based on spending massive early to knock-out his rivals and claim the nomination early before turning his attention towards President Obama. Last night’s remarkable series of wins by Santorum, now appears to have changed the GOP race into a near certain long drawn out affair, and even if Romney prevails as the nominee, his chances of defeating President Obama in the race for the White House in November have been damaged.

There are three winners from last night’s results. Santorum’s victories give him the momentum he needs going forward and hopefully an injection of much needed financial support. They give President Obama renewed confidence that former Governor Romney is not as strong an opponent as initially believed and the longer the race GOP race on, the more damaged he will become. Finally, it gives Gingrich hope and time to re-organise his campaign and ground work ahead of Super Tuesday to deliver a series of southern victories himself.

A bad night for Romney.

You’re the Nominee – “The Donald” endorses Mitt

Dynamic Businessman – Donald Trump turned the Republican presidential race into a scene resembling one of his Apprentice shows by keeping everyone guessing on whom he would endorse for president. The rumours had been back and forth that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, then it was leaked that he would endorse Mitt Romney however, in true Trump fashion, he kept everyone waiting until the end before confirming his support behind Mitt Romney.

The Romney campaign did not release their public schedule until Thursday morning in an unusual move for them and even then their 20:30hrs GMT slot stood vague, offering only: “Romney for President Event. TBD Location. Las Vegas, Nevada.” Mr. Romney will appear with Mr. Trump at his Trump International Hotel & Tower.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Trump have not always enjoyed the strongest of relationships with Romney as recent as December, referring to Trump as a real estate mogul and reality television star and declined an invitation to attend a Republican debate, which “The Donald” had planned to host, but was later cancelled after other candidates pulled out and included a very public spat with Jon Huntsman.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump suggested the Romney camp would be releasing an official statement soon, and in manner typical of Trump showmanship, said, “I strongly suggest you be there no matter what.”

Trump is a controversial figure and the world’s greatest self-promoter however, like him or loath him, he brings considerable media attention where ever he speaks and when he speaks. Trump did toy with the idea of entering the race last year himself and actually led the polls prior to pulling out with catchy sound bites on U.S. trade policy being weak towards China and regarding Iran. Trump has been one of the most vocal critics of President Obama and his economic record as president. He has made no secret of his concern about the direction and future of America under another four year Obama term and has also criticised the president on the polarising approach to his presidency and his failure to unite American’s in a common cause.

Trump promised to “push our president and the country’s policy makers to address the dire challenges arising from our unsustainable debt structure and increasing lack of global competitiveness.” Following his announcement last May, that he would not be a candidate for the GOP nomination, Trump welcomed other hopefuls to his office at Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue for strategy sessions. Romney made the trek, as did former candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry. Gingrich visited in December when he was topping polls in Iowa and nationally.

Trump’s weeks of will-he-or-won’t-he run last year, stole the media coverage and his decision to question the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate, caused such a news media firestorm that the White House was forced to publicly release the document. A feat even Hillary Clinton her campaign team had failed to achieve during the heated Democratic primary campaign four years ago.

Many will question the impact of a Trump endorsement, I believe it will not have a considerable impact on Republican voters, but most certainly on Independent voters where Romney has an increasing negativity rating in recent weeks, due to his attack ads in Iowa and Florida against Gingrich. Trump will be able to command a media audience and spotlight that no other previous endorser of Romney could hope to deliver. The media love “The Donald” and he equally loves them.

Trump said he made the decision after getting to know Romney after meeting with him several times in the past few months and it was his real honour to endorse Mitt Romney. He said Mitt was tough, his smart and he’s sharp and he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to the country. Trump also cited Romney’s performances in presidential debates and his tough stance on China and OPEC as reasons for his support.

It is certain that Trump’s announcement has all but ruled out a third-party run for the White House which he threatened if the wrong GOP candidate was selected to run as the nominee. One would also have to say that with Trump’s ability to command a media audience and great communication ability, Speaker Gingrich’s hopes of winning the nomination appear to be dwindling by the day now. It will come down to his performance in the Lone Star state of Texas on 3 April, 2012. A poor showing by Gingrich in Texas will effectively finish his campaign and hand Romney the nomination.

Santorum Shines, Paul Respected

The only thing worse than endless political ads is political ads being tossed back and forth in a debate format with no fact checker.  Well, almost no fact checker.  Romney himself got caught when he tried to famously disavow any political negativity coming from his side only to discover that he had indeed approved an attack ad against Gingrich.

What was lost in the mix was serious debate.  The average listener might think that Romney and Gingrich’s stance on immigration actually differed.  What we discovered instead is that they really are basically the same, making their attacks on each others immigration policy pretty funny.  In fact, they all seemed to have the same view on illegal immigration except for Ron Paul who seemed to be saying that the problem is we have a bad economy and if we had a good economy we would all want illegal immigrants to come here and take the jobs Americans won’t.

Of course, with Paul sometimes it is difficult to differentiate his “this is what I would do as President” with his “this is the way things ought to be” with his “this is the way things are” rhetoric.  It keeps him safe with both the radical constitutionalists and the ignorant populists in his base.  Of course, I myself am a radical constitutionalist, but most of Paul’s constitutional rhetoric falls under the “this is the way things ought to be” column.  I couldn’t have any alcohol last night because of an early morning medical procedure Friday morning, but if I had a drinking game it would have been how many times Paul redirected a question by making his answer about the war, how bad the fed has made the economy, or how small a constitutional government should be.  The immigration question got both the war and the economy.

Paul did receive a great deal of respect from the other candidates.  It was the sort of respect Romney showed to Bachmann early on in the race.  It was that sort of “you have no shot of winning, but I would really like your supporters to like me down the road so I’ll smile and pat you on the back” respect.

Gingrich fell into a trap that I warned about a few months ago.  He has big ideas, but he has also become more and more of a states rights conservative.  Gingrich’s problem is communication in small soundbites.  I understood that he was speaking about encouraging private ventures to establish a moon colony, but the three candidates up there either willingly or ignorantly seemed to think he was talking about NASA doing it.

Gingrich also dropped the ball on something he has done very well at in previous debates, not taking media bait.  Blitzer played Romney and Gingrich all night long.  In fact, it was Rick Santorum who had to bring the debate back to the issues.  Unlike the early debates where Gingrich ran the show and the other candidates followed his lead, this time it was Santorum who reminded the other candidates what the debates and this whole process is all about.  Because of it, Santorum shined last night.

Mitt Romney has hired Bachmann’s former debate coach and it shows.  He laid down persistent attacks, mostly inaccurate, and was distracted from the issues all night.  Newt attempted to rebut, but his responses were too involved for the average American viewer.  Romney easily turned Gingrich’s responses on their head.  A good example was when Newt brought up Romney’s investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  I think Newt’s point was that Romney shouldn’t be attacking him for doing consulting work for Freddie Mac when in fact Romney himself is making money on Freddie Mac stock.  In the end though, both sides lost that debate and viewers were left with a disgusting taste in their mouth.

I said that Jacksonville, Florida would be the most important debate of this election if one candidate could shine like Gingrich has in the past debates.  In the end, Gingrich saw his shadow and this primary will continue far beyond Florida.  And unfortunately, it will continue to get nastier.  The candidates have already said many things about each other that they will not be able to take back in the general election.  So in the end, Santorum won the debate, but the Republican party was the big loser.

 

Is Bachmann’s Immigration Stance Electable?

One of the keys to winning the Social Conservative vote is electability.  Many voters out there aren’t asking which candidate has the best ideas.  They are asking which candidate can beat Barack Obama.  On the Social Conservative side, they are asking which candidate can beat Mitt Romney first.

Bachmann has chosen not only to level questionable attacks against Newt Gingrich for his immigration policy, but she has also taken the hardline stance that as President 11.2 million illegal aliens should be deported no matter how long they have been here, their other legal history, or their family and community ties.  With the intensity that Bachmann has attacked Gingrich, I would be comfortable assuming that this would be a national priority for her.

Mitt Romney tried to come down hard on Gingrich in the debate, but admitted himself that there must be exceptions to the rule for mass deportations.  Bachmann, who has played the role of attack dog against more than one candidate, was far more rigid in her approach.  But can a zero tolerance, deport them all approach to Illegal Immigration win in 2012?

Amnesty was a big loser for Republicans in the past.  McCain’s involvement in a potential bill to grant a path to citizenship for illegal aliens nearly ended his career.  But far too often this complex issue is reduced to a soundbite, or single word (such as “amnesty”).  What would happen in a debate between Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama where Bachmann was asked if she would make deporting 11.2 million illegal aliens a national priority and how she planned on doing that?

This issue is a loser all around for Conservatives.  Not because they are wrong, but because like so many other issues there is no easy solution, but they are willing to try.

So far, Mitt Romney has dodged a huge bullet.  No one seems to have noticed his exception caveat to his immigration hardline.  Bachmann has managed to stay on the attack, but it won’t take the media forever for someone to ask her how she plans on deporting 11.2 million illegal immigrants.  For now though, Gingrich is taking the heat just as he predicted in the debate.  As far as what Conservatives actually want, many want Michele Bachmann’s hardline and may stay home if they see weakness in a candidate on this issue.  Others will see Bachmann’s stance as making her unelectable and will avoid her because of it.  Either way, the best thing for the GOP right now is for this issue to run its course in the media cycle and go away soon.  With Bachmann’s perceived chance at spoiling another rival’s campaign, don’t count on it.

Gingrich’s risky departure on immigration could be the tonic for party and nation

As predicted, following his bold statement on immigration and really the first candidate to speak seriously on the issue during the GOP CNN debate on Tuesday night last, former Speaker Newt Gingrich has come under fire in recent days from both sides of the aisle.

Some social conservatives have even gone as far as calling him a RINO (Republican in name only) however, the former Speaker’s is the first candidate on stage that specifically addresses the illegal alien population living in the US. His bold plan is drawing criticism.

Living in Europe where immigration has long been an issue with the expansion of the European Union, the former speaker is absolutely correct in taking the issue on in a substantive and progressive way, The Republican’s for far too long have been viewed as the anti-Hispanic party and perhaps the rise of such stars like Marco Rubio within the GOP is finally bringing about a serious need to engage objectively and constructively with the Hispanic community.  Gingrich’s assessment of the current illegal status of many in America is correct and factually accurate. It is fundamentally impossible, economically risky and ethically wrong to pursue the deportation of all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in America as a policy going into a national election and beyond.

Gingrich said that ultimately, the United States will have to find a system where, after securing the border with Mexico and launching a guest worker program to fill jobs that Americans won’t take, “you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.”

“If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich has been attacked for saying his proposal is an amnesty, in fact it isn’t what he proposing at all, he is advancing a debate on how to finally tackle the issue, one which would not result in citizenship for people who have lived in this American for long periods, but offering them a way to obtain legal status in the country. Gingrich’s plan includes securing the border, updating the visa system and legal guest worker program, as well as creating an earned path to citizenship for the millions currently in the U.S.

This move by Gingrich has been badly needed and is brave considering he just hit the front runner status over the last week. You cannot have one of the major party’s involved in national politics ignoring a large section of America society, and adopting a totalitarian approach on the immigration issue.

I think Speaker Gingrich’s willingness to open up the debate within his party and a national stage was long overdue and very badly needed. The Republican’s for the sake of the future of their own party need to engage and involve one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in America. Making the bold statement that he did and being prepared to demonstrate he is willing to make tough choices at a personal cost, doesn’t hinder Gingrich, it elevates his standing as a potential president in waiting.

The President of the United States cannot represent 260 million American’s; he or she needs to be able to be the president for all 310 million American’s. The American-Hispanic population is now hovering around the 50 million mark. Gingrich should stand his ground and be firm on the issue, it may cost him in the short term however, GOP supporters need to recognise that Gingrich’s ability to lead and bring people from both sides together may not only lead him to the White House in 2012, it may also represent the very future survival of the party with current population growth and trends.

Gingrich’s bold departure is contrary to the long held and common viewpoint held within his own party and among the other candidates. American’s should not confuse border security with the immigration issue, they are both serious and contentious issues however, an honest and open debate needs to be undertaken with both.

Gingrich has been courageous and I advocate his stance on both issues. He is acutely aware that the biggest security risk to the United States is the integrity of the southern border. Gingrich is committed to doing everything within his power if elected, to secure this.

Once the border is properly secured, then he can bring both party’s into the fold and have a meaningful discussion on how to advance his proposals for immigration. Both party’s owe it to the Hispanic community to undertake such a commitment and if they ignore it or are unwilling to enter into any such debate, they do so at their own party’s peril.

American’s should recognise that Gingrich in his long political career does indeed have his flaws however; he can never be accused on one particular flaw, a lack of leadership. Gingrich’s step into the unknown demonstrates the type of president he could be, a real strong leader prepared and willing to put the good of the national interest ahead of his own and party’s interests.

American’s need to be prepared for new departures to get this once mighty nation back to a position of strength and respect after all, Gingrich perhaps recognises what many others may choose to forget, America after all was founded by immigrants and made the great nation it became by immigrants.

I commend former Speaker Gingrich for his bravery and above all, his willingness and preparedness to lead and restore the powerful and much admired American exceptionalism.

Foreign Policy Reveals Different Strengths

Whether or not you think the GOP has a strong field, one thing is for sure.  Any of these candidates would be better than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.  That came across clearly from more moderate voices like Jon Huntsman in addition to the two front runners.  Overall it was a great performance by all the candidates.  The contrast between the GOP field, including Ron Paul, and Barack Obama was clear.  So, here are the winners and losers:

Mitt Romney won the debate because of his smooth ability to introduce ambiguity on some issues to give all Conservatives a cushion of comfort.  See Newt’s performance below.  Mitt also took on Ron Paul and I think Mitt won that debate.  It seems pretty clear that Al Qaida terrorists and Timothy McVeigh do not represent the same sort of threat.  In fact, I would argue that lumping McVeigh, a disgruntled anti-American government citizen attacking the system, in with the 9/11 hijackers, foreign terrorists attacking and targeting United States civilians, is a very dangerous way of looking at foreign and domestic terrorism.  I sure hope we would treat a foreign terrorist crossing our border illegally differently than a citizen radical trying to build a bomb in their basement because the IRS just sent them another tax notice.

Jon Huntsman demonstrated his firm control of foreign policy issues.  I think he overcame some fears when he affirmed our strong relationship with Israel.  Huntsman also expressed sentiments on Afghanistan that have been felt by many Conservatives who were mislabeled as “neo-cons” over the last decade.  Many Conservatives supported both wars, but do not support something for nothing nation building in nations that don’t respect us and don’t appreciate the sacrifices we have made.  Huntsman turned again and again to the economy and the failures of Obama and Congress to solve the problem.  Huntsman’s point on how we leave North Korea alone because they have a nuke, but invaded Libya after they gave up their nuclear ambitions is a great diagnosis of the inconsistency in America’s position towards nuclear ambitious countries.

Newt had a great, issue free performance.  Here is the problem.  Newt comes across hawkish, and he is far too honest.  In the end, Mitt agreed with him on long-time illegal immigrants, but Mitt said it in such a way that will be taken better by anti-illegal alien Conservatives.  Newt also hurt himself by endorsing and calling for an expansion of the Patriot act.  This could help guarantee that Ron Paulites stay home and let Obama get re-elected in 2012.  What Newt should have said was that he supported the Patriot Act, but recommends examining it for things that could be eliminated or added.  I think Newt is too straight forward on a subject that honestly Americans would prefer some ambiguity on.  Same with covert operations.  His answer regarding opening our oil resources is not new, but continues to be a very strong point for him.

Ron Paul continued to solidify his base and add some fringe Conservatives who are weary enough of the wars to want to radically change America’s relationship with the world.  For these people, Paul’s angry old man persona, scoffing and reacting to opponents’ answers, and idea that if we leave terrorists alone, they will realize the error of their ways and leave us alone, will not affect his support.  Still, Paul would make a better foreign policy President than Obama.  At least his disengagement would be total, not mixed with war hawkishness like Obama’s.

Rick Perry’s substance earned him a higher spot after this debate.  I still think his idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aid resonates with Americans.  His refusal to dabble in hypotheticals about illegals who have been here more than a quarter century is going to help him as people weed out Romney and Gingrich’s immigration comments and discover the softness there.

Herman Cain did well not to hurt himself in this debate.  He has come across as unknowledgeable on foreign policy.  In this debate he showed he has a recognizable set of foreign policy principles, although he kept things pretty vague.  He didn’t hurt himself and that is a victory for him on foreign policy.

Rick Santorum comes across as a neo-con.   This debate didn’t really change that, and only a change in that perception would cause his status to change as a result of this debate.  No mistakes, but also no movement for him after this debate.  He continues to maintain that we should be paying Pakistan for friendship.

Michele Bachmann is either a career politician or has issues with comprehension.  On multiple occasions she seemed to not be able to grasp her opponent’s position.  A glaring example was when she interpreted Newt’s soft approach to long-time established illegals as some sort of call for general amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.  She played the same role in Rick Perry’s demise, but now it seems more like a desperate cry for relevance.  Rising and falling as the Social Conservative choice at this point will require superiority on the issues, not loud misunderstanding of opponents, even though that usually produces success with the general electorate.

No matter who the nominee is, what is clear from last night is that we cannot afford four more years of Obama’s foreign policy.

CPAC a Clash of Ideologies

Legalize marijuana? Cancel the fence? Withdraw the troops? Lose in Iraq and Afghanistan and don’t look back? If you only listened to every other speech from CPAC, you might forget where you were. Pollster Tony Fabrizio was jeered for downplaying Ron Paul’s second consecutive straw poll win, but his comments were spot on. The consensus at CPAC is that government is too big. That may have been the only consensus.

Herman Cain also nailed it when he said the reason Obama is President is because too many conservatives stayed home rather than vote for a less than perfect candidate.

Ron Paul’s victory should not be ignored by the Republican Party. While he certainly does not represent mainstream Republicanism, his supporters could represent the difference between a Republican win in 2012 and four more years of Obama.

On the other hand, Paul needs to understand the influence he holds and the responsibility he has to promote conservatism to whatever degree he can. Ron Paul is so infatuated with individualism that I doubt he would call out his supporters for their shameful, liberal-like behavior when Cheney and Rumsfield were on the stage. Paul could learn a lesson or two from his son about how to defeat the left and build bridges with conservatives. Such reconciliation is his only path out of the peanut gallery.

Gary Johnson eliminated himself from the mainstream 2012 Republican primary with his libertarian views on drugs and immigration. However, he too represents a very significant part of not just Republicans, but the conservative constitutional movement. If Republicans truly want to return to the constitution, then federal drug prohibitions, international relations, and other differences appearing from CPAC must be dealt with and debated in a civil manner.

It would be far from fair to portray the libertarian wing of conservatism to be the only division, especially when Politico reports that Palin, Huckabee, and DeMint skipped the conference this year because of the presence of a gay conservative group at CPAC. Perhaps they could learn a lesson from Ann Coulter, a notoriously right wing radical Christian who keynoted a recent GOProud homosexual conservative conference and spoke about the gay conservative movement at CPAC.

I doubt even Paul’s supporters believe the straw poll is representative of the majority of conservative Republicans in the country. But if the various factions of conservatives cannot come together against the Democrat candidate after the 2012 primary, Herman Cain’s history lesson will repeat itself.

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