Is Chris Christie Preparing to Endorse Mitt Romney for President?

Bookmark and Share New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hosted a Monday evening dinner meeting with a mix of advisers and GOP state Party leaders and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

A spokesman for Governor Christie would not comment on the gathering and Romney aides have not elaborated on it either. Several different sources reportedly deny that any specifics regarding an endorsement in New Jerseys Republican presidential primary were discussed.

But Romney has viewed New Jersey as fertile territory. In 2008 presidential campaign, the former Governor paid a decent amount of attention to the state as he made several trips to the Garden State and worked Republican grass root activists aggressively. At the time, his state campaign chairman was Monmouth County State Senator Joe Kyrillos, a former state Party chairman. Kyrillos most recently served as Governor Chris Christies state campaign chairman.

Over the past few years, Romney has been devoting a great deal of time and making an equally great amount of financial contributions to the campaign efforts of many high level and targeted Republicans. In 2009 he took sides in Chris Christies gubernatorial primary and endorsed the then U.S. District Attorney over his opponent Steve Lonegan.

Now, it looks like Romney is beginning to try to collect on his generous devotion of time and money by seeking the endorsements of those he supported since he ended his pursuit of the 2008 presidential nomination. That year, John McCain received the bulk of New Jerseys Republican establishments support, including that of the State GOP Chairman. The states Governor at the time was Democrat Jon Corzine and he was busy backing Barack Obama. Obama wound up winning New Jerseys Democrat Primary and on the Republican side McCain won with 55% of the vote with Romney coming in a distant second with 28% of the vote.

This time around, Chris Christie reigns supreme and with his high national profile and popularity, the Christie endorsement is one which any candidate for President would relish and not just for the delegate count that he could bring to them from Jersey. For Romney, having Chris Christie return the favor of an endorsement will be a prominent conservative feather to stick in his hat, a feather that Romney is going to a need lot of he wants to make past New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, in the South, Newt Gingrich received an endorsement of his own.

Georgia Governor and Gingrich friend, Nathan Deal respond to reporters questions about Gingrich by saying that if Newt ran for the Republican for the Republican presidential nomination, he would endorse him.

With 29 states now controlled by Republican governors, they will all play pivotal roles in the Republican presidential nominating process. Some like Christie though may play a bigger role than others.

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New Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire Make Nothing Very Clear

Bookmark and Share Two new Strategic National polls offer results from Iowa and New Hampshire that mirror other similar surveys.

Of 410 Iowans who are described as typical caucus voters, former Governor Mike Huckabee is ahead of his closest possible rival, Mitt Romney, by 9.02%.

Complete poll results were as follows:

  1. Mike Huckabee 27.56%
  2. Mitt Romney 18.54%
  3. Undecided 17.56%
  4. Sarah Palin 12.44%
  5. Newt Gingrich 12.20%
  6. Tim Pawlenty 4.39%
  7. Michele Bachmann 3.66%
  8. John Thune 1.95%
  9. Rick Santorum 0.98%
  10. Other/Undecided 0.49%
  11. Haley Barbour 0.24%

In New Hampshire a random sample of 940 Republican primary voters offered a result that was almost as equally lopsided between the first and second place finishers as Iowa’s results were, but here it is Romney who takes the lead. The New Hampshire poll played out like this:

  1. Mitt Romney 33.51%
  2. Mike Huckabee 13.83%
  3. Sarah Palin 12.77%
  4. Newt Gingrich 8.62%
  5. Tim Pawlenty 5.21%
  6. Mitch Daniels 1.60%
  7. Rick Santorum 1.28%
  8. Haley Barbour 0.96%
  9. John Thune 0.21%
  10. Other/Undecided 22.02%

Both polls do little more than confirm what we already knew. What we don’t know though is who Iowa and New Hampshire voters will actually be splitting their votes between when it is time to vote and caucus. While we are more than certain that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty will be running, and pretty sure people like Fred Karger and Rick Santorum are running, we do not know with any certainty if Mike Huckabee or any of the other often mentioned names are running. Furthermore, given the countless number of variables, including who will or wont be in the race and the great potential that the campaigns of many potential candidates have, it would be naive to assume that anyone who is a frontrunner at this moment, will be the winner a year from now.

However, when it comes to New Hampshire and Iowa and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, a combination of name recognition from their 2008 presidential runs and demographics, Romney and Huckabee are where they should be in New Hampshire and Iowa and are naturals to win those state respectively.

If they did win in these tow states, the Republican presidential nomination contest is likely to be wide open well into the primary and caucus season.

Following Iowa and New Hampshire are Nevada and South Carolina. Here too a split decision is as natural as it is in the results of Iowa and New Hampshire. Demographics and established name recognition make Nevada a natural for Romney to win and South Carolina a natural for Huckabee to take. Of course with South Carolina being more of a sign of how the South goes than Nevada is of the way the West goes, Huckabee’s win in South Carolina would put him in a much better position for him than Romney.

South Carolina is where Romney has to draw his wall of fire. It is where he has to establish the “Big Mo” that George H. W. Bush thought he had behind him in the 1980 primaries against Ronald Reagan.

Of course as noted in previous White House 2012 posts, if enough candidates who are attractive to the evangelical vote, jump into the race, Romney could be the beneficiary and have the chance to walk right up the middle.

For now though, it really is too early to base any wagers on any of these polls. None of the potential candidates campaigns can be underestimated and there are so many possible players at the moment that it is too difficult to predict which way any one demographic or state will fall.

If Newt Gingrich were to run, not only will his command of the issues be undeniably impressive, but between the unique and numerous ideas he brings to the table, combined with a personality that will surprise many and the ability to reshape his image, he could quickly become an appealing figure to many, including evangelicals and TEA Party energized people.

If Sarah Palin were to run, her ability to campaign in a way that can broaden her base should not be underestimated and given the enthusiastic support that she already has from a loyal base of voters, such an expansion of her base could effect the primaries and caucuses profoundly.

But many other names also have the potential to establish powerfully effective campaigns that can attract the attention and support of any combination of influential wings of the G.O.P.. Texas Governor Rick Perry is building a solid foundation for a possible campaign that highlights states rights which appeals to TEA Party priorities. He has also built a record around anti-abortion measures and other social issues that are attractive to evangelicals and social conservatives. And on economic issues, his tax cuts, spending cuts and jobs record in the Lone Star State, appeal to all wings of the Republican Party.

Indiana’s Mitch Daniel’s is another figure whom could take the Party by storm. His American Heartland appeal and economic prowess will shine brighter than most. The entry of Mississippi’s Haley Barbour could quickly round up a large portion of the G.O.P. inner circle, raise oodles of money, count on many favors owed to him, significantly coalesce Southern support and dilute Huckabee’s Southern strength, while also surprising people with his own strategic abilities and appeal to conservatives in all four corners of the country.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota will be force to a contend with if he runs. While the addition of his name in to the field may not initially turn the race on its ear, he will quickly gain steam. Then there are other names like Rick Santorum and Mike Pence. All of these names will sharply divide the conservative vote, thereby give people like Tim Pawlenty, as well as Mitt Romney and maybe even Rudy Giuliani a better shot at racking high delegate counts.

And through it all may also be the likes of libertarians Ron Paul and former new Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as well as those dark horse candidates, such as Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and maybe even Donald Trump.

Right now, all that we can be sure of is that while some names like Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and outsider Fred Karger have all but made their campaigns official, everyone else is watching what each of the other names are doing. And until people like Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, John Thune and Sarah Palin, make up their minds, people like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman and more, will be waiting to make up their own minds.

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Romney Leads in Latest Poll. Palin and Huckabee Follow Close Behind

Bookmark and Share A new national survey of likely Republican primary voters, taken by Rasmussen, gives former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a slight but encouraging lead over other potential rivals for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
  1. Mitt Romney -24%
  2. Sarah Palin -19%
  3. Mike Huckabee -17%.
  4. Newt Gingrich -11%
  5. Tim Pawlenty -6%
  6. Ron Paul -4%
  7. Mitch Daniels -3%
  8. Other -6%
  9. Undecided -10%

The poll was taken among a pool of Republican and Independents who are likely to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses. According to Rasmussen, there is little if any differences of opinion about the candidates among women and female voters but of those who consider themselves a part of the TEA Party movement, Sarah Palin is preferred by 28%.

A further breakdown indicates that Romney is the preferred choice of 32% of those who consider themselves TEA Party members, and leads among married and unmarried primary voters. Among those who consider themselves very conservative, Romney, Palin and Huckabee are about evenly split, while those who are self-described as somewhat conservative and moderate/liberal, largely prefer Romney. Romney also leads among Protestants, Catholics and other religions, with the exception of evangelical Christians.Their preference is evenly split between Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

Another notable result of the poll is Ron Pauls low, single digit numbers. While Paul has a persistent, loyal band of followers, he continues to fail to broaden that base of support in a way that translates in to greater numbers at the voting booth.And if people like Palin run, as well as people like libertarian style former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, radio talk show host and Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain, along with several others, the same appealing message and thinking that Ron Paul offers may come from several different quarters and further hamper his ability to increase his base of support.

Meanwhile, Romney seems to have a slight advantage at the moment but it is an advantage that can quickly slip away if he does not sure up his conservative credentials and better connect with the TEA Party movement.

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Mitt Romney’s TEA Problem

Bookmark and Share A mixed message came out of the recent straw poll of New Hampshire Republican Party power players. While Romney won the poll and defeated a field of more than 20 names by surpassing his closest rival by as much as 24%, the same people who voted in that poll also elected a TEA Party candidate as the Chairman of the New Hampshire G.O.P.. The election of TEA Party backed Jack Kimball over the establishment candidate was a clear signal that conservative outsiders were increasing their influence and beginning to dominate over moderate political insiders.

The initial wins of Romney in the straw poll and Jack Kimball in the election for Party chair, may on the surface seem related and an indication that the former Governor of Massachusetts is fairing well among TEA Party voters. However a closer look reveals that only a bit more than half of those who voted for Kimball in the election for Chairman, voted in the straw poll. And of those with TEA Party sentiments, their vote was divided between a number of favorites, including second place finisher Ron Paul, fourth place finisher Sarah Palin, followed by Michelle Bachmann-5th place, Jim DeMInt-6th place, Herman Cain-7th place, and arguably Gary Johnson-16th place. Their combined total percentage was one point shy of Mitt Romneys 35% share of the vote.

This begs the question, if the TEA Party got behind one candidate, could they pick the winner of the New Hampshire presidential primary, just as they did the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Party?

This is a question which Mitt Romney must look at closely. Up to now, Romney has seemingly had a bad taste for TEA Party politics.

The Boston Globe reports that Mitt Romney has kept Tea Party activists at arms length. And while some like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and even Haley Barbour seem to be going out of their way to court influential TEA Party leaders, the chairman of New Hampshires TEA Party influenced Republican Liberty Caucus, Andrew Hemingway, claims Romney for the most part is inaccessible,” and adds. Pawlenty, I could call him right now and say, Let’s have coffee.’ ”

An advisor to Romney suggested that Romneys issues are the TEA Partys issues when told the Boston Globes Matt Viser I would hope the kind of issues the Tea Party cares about are issues he can address and will address,”.

The answer is a sensible one but it does not address the politics behind the politics. Part of that game is perception. In fact politics is all about perception and currently, in this atmosphere of pro anti-establishment sentiments, Mitt Romney is rapidly being perceived as an establishment candidate, a position that will not be to his benefit in the long run.

By all rights, Mitt Romney should be a clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. In many aspects he is, but only by the most tentative of definitions. Part of the reason for that is distrust among conservatives who are not convinced that his right-to-life conversion from his pro-choice stance is genuine and another part is widespread dissatisfaction with the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney created a state version of Obamacare before Obamacare ever came to fruition. This has Romney entering the race for the Republican nomination as a flip-flopping, big government Republican. Is that an accurate description? In truth, it isnt. But unless Mitt Romney embraces the strongest elements of the thriving, decisive, small government TEA Party wing of the G.O.P., he will not have a snowballs chance in hell of changing that perception.

Romney could be trying to keep the TEA Party at arms length because he fears that being linked too closely to them will hurt his chances in the general election. For that reason he could be wanting to distinguish himself from others like Sarah Palin, who risk being perceived as too extreme. Rudy Giuliani recently revealed that as his own strategy in a potential bid for the G.O.P. nomination. Romney could also be hoping that just as was the case in the New Hampshire straw poll, maybe a crowded field of TEA Party favorites like Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, and others, could split the TEA movement vote and allow him to walk right up the middle.

If that is his strategy, he needs to plot a new one.

He should take a lesson from John McCains failed campaign and realize that the same people whoRomney is keeping at a distance, are the same people who were not thrilled by John McCain as our nominee and the same people who sat on their hands in the general election. He should also realize that for many Republicans, Sarah Palin was the only thing that energized McCains candidacy. In other words, Romney can not become President without embracing the TEA movement and without the TEA movement embracing him.

It’s time to talk TEA Mitt. You may not want to start campaigning too early, but you have a lot of repairs to make before you let the train leave the station and now is as good a time as any to start fixing them.

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