Brownback and the March for Life

It had been clear from the press releases that came out that Sam Brownback was trying to set himself up as the pro-life candidate with the events that his campaign planned for the March for Life. So I thought that would be interesting, and I was around the Hill around the March. So I have some thoughts about this.

First, of all, Brownback literature and signs were getting passed out. No other campaign appeared to be present. While there were plenty of other things going on yesterday at the March, the Sam Brownback show was the main event. Afterwards at his reception at the Capitol Hill Club, he was signing up volunteers. At the Capitol South Metro, there was a huge Brownback for President banner, literature, reminders to go to the reception across the street, and abundant "thank yous" from staff. The March could be viewed as a Brownback campaign event.

Brownback appears to be trying to become the leader of the pro-life movement. He is trying to become the authoritative voice on the issue in the Presidential race, and the person by whom pro-life credentials are judged. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If he succeeds, he will become a force to be reckoned with in the GOP primary. Especially in Iowa and South Carolina. Not only is he trying to place himself to the right of everyone else (with immigration being his only problem), but he is trying to become the only acceptable candidate if social conservative issues are your highest priority. I am waiting to see how this works with voters, but I think that this could be a powerful message with activists, which would explain his successes in signing up people in Iowa and South Carolina.

Thoughts from the Hotline/Diageo poll: Mormonism

Between attending the RNC meeting, being sick, and busy, I hadn’t really had much time to pay attention to the recently released Hotline/Diaego poll. Blog PI brought it back to my attention with his great discussion of the war issue for McCain in it. I was struck by another set of numbers regarding the acceptance of Mormonism.

The discussion of the acceptance of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism tends to end up with a comparison to Kennedy. I’ve thought that that might not be a valid comparison because it never really asked the question: Who had a problem with Catholicism?  The people that opposed Catholics were often Republicans, which was the Protestant party. And the Catholics tended to be strongly Democrat and were a large part of the Democratic base. In other words, for the most part, the people that were scared away by Kennedy were already Republicans. And Kennedy’s religion might have helped drive turnout for an important part of the Democratic base. (Example from Theodore White’s book on the 1960 election: "In New York state, for example, in a recent year, of 62 counties in the state, the Democratic County Committeemen in 57 were Catholics. (Two of the other five were Jewish, 3 were Protestant)") Probably no big deal for Kennedy. In fact, Kennedy’s religion probably helped him win the nomination with the Catholic, machine-Democratic urban areas like Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, etc.

But that’s not how it works for Mormonism and Republicans. Who has a problem with Mormonism? Republicans. Big time. Check out how people view Mormonism:

  All GOP Ind Dem
Strongly favorable  7%  11%  5%  6%
Somewhat favorable  20%  17%  26%  21%
Somewhat unfavorable  22%  24%  17%  24%
Strongly unfavorable  17%  24%  9%  14%
Other  34%  24%  43%  35%

48% of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Mormonism. (Evangelical Christians??) Only 38% of Dems and 26% of Independents have an unfavorable view. Also, more Republicans have opinions (I won’t say "informed") on this (only 1/4 do not, versus 1/3 for Dems and almost 1/2 for Independents) Republicans have more negative and more defined views of Mormonism than anyone else. In other words, Romney’s problem is with his own party’s base in the primary. Independents just won’t care so much.

I’ll write more on some other issues in this poll as it applies to the 2008 election.

California moving up

This is big and complicated. California is strongly considering moving up to February 5th. This will have an enormous impact on the race. First, the money barrier to entry just got a lot bigger. A lot. California is really really big.

Second, the rules, on the Republican side, in California are quite strange and still in flux. California has a winner-take-all by-congressional-district system. Therefore, the guy that gets 20k votes in a hard Democratic district gets as many delegates as someone who gets 100k in a hard GOP one. So gaming out how to play in California will be quite complicated.

Third, the rules for the primary may be changed. There has been speculation in several directions. We really just won’t know until the California Republican Party convention in February.

And fourth, some background. What the LAT story does not tell you is that this is getting pushed by the legislature because there may be an attempt to repeal term limits. By making an early primary, like this, there will be an opportunity to put that question on the Feb 2008 ballot in time for legislators to file for their regular June primary if term limits are repealed.

So who gave money to Huckabee?

Earlier, I commented on the spin surrounding Mike Huckabee’s $500k fundraiser. As always happens with fundraising claims, the truth does come out:

About 27 people or entities accounted for roughly $450,000 of the total, At most 100 more people (and several couples were represented in that number) contributed the rest at $500 a head. This doesn’t strike fund-raisers I’ve spoken with as a broad or deep level of support from the hometown crowd.

But it gets worse for the "dark horse". If you look at the actual donors, they are broken down into a couple of categories. First, there are a couple of actual friends, like:

$5000 … from Mark Hammond, an Atlanta mortgage lender; from Don Houseworth, a Blytheville hotel owner; from Ed Ligon, owner of LR’s Orbit Valve;

$6,500 from Randall Sims, a Conway banker.

But most of them are people that Huckabee gave jobs to. For example:

$10,000 from Akin Industries of Monticello, headed by Mike Akin, who was appointed by Huckabee to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and later the UA Board; … from Jerry Halsey, developer Bruce Burrow’s partner (Burrow is another AEDC appointee and his wife is an Education Board appointee); … ; from Madison Murphy, a Huckabee highway commissioner; from Sheffield Nelson, a Huckabee Game and Fish commissioner;

That’s not a sustainable fundraising base.

Giuliani “revamps” campaign

Marc Ambinder at the Hotline spoke with the Giuliani campaign. It appears that they are already changing their strategy:

Political aides to ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) will reorganize his presidential exploratory efforts over the next two weeks, expanding his national finance team and adding staff in early primary states to try to transform the New York-centric operation into a credible national campaign.

The problem is that no one believes that Giuliani is really running. So donors and staff aren’t signing up:

Giuliani backers have run into resistance among major fundraisers and with activists in early primary states because these activists are not convinced that Giuliani actually intends to run, his aides said. In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Giuliani lags behind Sen. John McCain and Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney in recruiting staff.

And so there’s a shakeup of a sort:

“A revamping and a ramping up of the finance operation is occurring and will continue to unfold in the days and weeks to come,” a Giuliani insider said.

I have pointed out for a while that Giuliani is hiring communications staff and not field staff, the recent hire of IA GOP Gov. candidate Jim Nussle, notwithstanding.

Is hiring more fundraisers going to convince people he is serious? Or is Frank Keating right that the train has already left the station?

Why Keating isn’t running

This is really quite interesting. Keating said:

"First, the train is far down the track in terms of organization, and John McCain has done a brilliant job of doing that," Keating said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

Keating added that Romney has the ability to "write an exceedingly large check to himself."

"I have great respect for John McCain and Mitt Romney, and at this time I’m deciding where my loyalty will go," he said.

Remember that this is someone who did the work to figure out if he could put together a race. While the statement about Romney has been clear, the statement about McCain is perhaps surprising. So when McCain says:

"The reason why I lost in the year 2000 was because President Bush had a better political base, a better financial base and ran a better campaign," said McCain, the unannounced front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination who won another high-profile endorsement in this early voting state.

"I think we’ll run a better campaign in a variety of ways," including better finances and a stronger organization, McCain said.

Perhaps Keating experienced a little of this.

More endorsements

More endorsements:

  1. From The Fix. RGA Vice-Chair and MN Governor Tim Pawlenty for McCain. Lobbyist and former Congressman (also MN) Vin Webber to Romney.
  2. From Michigan Cooler. MI National Committeeman, Chuck Yob, and National Committeewoman, Holly Hughes, are for McCain. This is only sort of news.
  3. From The Shot. Brownback picks up two South Carolina social conservatives.

Romney retracts attack on conservative activist (update)

Update: The Romney campaign has put the article back up! They call it "a glitch". However, they have removed the article from the list of press releases or a list of "All News". I agree with Race42008, which called this, "Team Romney first big goof" and Rob Bluey says it may be a "flip-flopping on a flip-flop".

Last week, Mitt Romney attacked a "gadfly" conservative activist with a press release that Human Event’s Rob Bluey described as "Unpresidential". Now, silently, the press release has been pulled.

The full text of the press release is available at HotlineBlog. (Old link was here)

Romney’s attack had been criticized in a number of places (I did it here).

Not only do they make a dumb attack against a gadfly. They make a clumsy retraction after blogs beat them up. And the URL takes people to an error page. These are the new media guys?

And what does Mitt think? Or is the press release in the past? Mitt’s position has evolved in the last 3 days?

Was Romney’s Camenker attack a Forti mistake? (update)

Update: Whoever’s mistake it was, it has been pulled.

Mitt Romney’s attack on Brian Camenker has been criticized in a number of places (I did it here). However, National Journal’s Danny Glover has what might be the beginning of the explanation: Carl Forti doesn’t get the new media:

Yes, that’s right, the same Mitt Romney who earned endless kudos this week for being so smart about new media has hired as deputy campaign manager and political director the same man (Forti) who has been dismissive of blogs. While working as communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Forti pretty much ignored blogs and made it clear why: "A lot of times, you just don’t know how reliable the information on these things is. … Ninety percent of the time, we know more than they do."

Forti’s problem is that they have to find a way to respond. But do you respond to a whisper and blog campaign with a press release? Whatever you do attracts attention to it, validating it. For the campaign to go to these lengths, it appears that  "The Mitt Romney Deception" must really be making a difference.

In addition, however, Forti acted on a bad habit of his. He didn’t attack the substance of the attacks on Romney. Instead, he attacked the messenger. He did the same thing last year when Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg made ultimately correct predictions of the 2006 elections. Rothenberg details just how wrong and petty Forti’s response was:

Forti knows that control of the House is in jeopardy just as well as I do. He has the polling right in front of him. If I’m wrong in my general portrayal of the cycle or in my handicapping of individual contests, I’d certainly like to know about it. … and bashing the messenger is a petty way to deny the facts.

Glover continues his analysis with:

But if not, there may be some serious clashes between Romney’s online team and Forti, who, according to Hotline, will oversee the campaign’s politics and field desks.

Several people have pointed out to me that this mistake would combine two of Forti’s weaknesses. Matt Lewis describes plenty of ways that this could have been done much more gracefully .. by someone else:

If Camenker is so irrelevant, then why is Romney trying to take him down? Why not let someone else take down Camenker (heck, the AP is already doing the dirty work by calling him a gadfly)? Get a surrogate, for crying out loud, Gov. Romney, but don’t dirty your hands on this man …

A number of strongly Romney-friendly blogs could have done this. Or a conservative activist could have gone on Fox to disagree. But no. They use a press release.

I have heard that there are already some recriminations over this. And justifiably. Matt Lewis was told by someone from an opposing camp:

As a source close to one of Romney’s potential rivals told me, "This is the dumbest stunt by a tier one presidential candidate since George Romney claimed he had been brainwashed by the generals and diplomats."

As a side note, this comparison is vicious. There’s plenty of evidence that Romney’s unwillingness to deal with the press is grounded in his father’s implosion. Romney understands deeply what Conrad Burns said about himself:

"I can self-destruct in one sentence," he told supporters. "Sometimes in one word."

This really is poking Romney where it almost certainly hurts.