Pro-Huckabee group goes up with anti-Romney ad

Trust Huckabee, the somewhat controversial pro-Huckabee 501(c)(4), has gone up on the air with a pro-Huckabee ad and launched an anti-Romney site.

No news yet about the size of the buy. It does strike me that, at this point, Mike Huckabee is more likely to lose votes to someone else than to Romney. Romney’s ads probably remove some votes from Huckabee and add them to someone other than either one of them. Similarly, these ads may not add votes to Huckabee, but they may tear down Romney.

It is unclear how big this buy is. Previous attacks on Romney have been press releases.

UPDATE: Bob Novak notes that, in a suspicious poll that puts Fred Thompson below 1%, John McCain is the 2nd choice of Huckabee and Romney supporters. If they tear each other up this week, does it mean that McCain rises? I doubt that you can come to any meaningful conclusion in an unpublished poll with silly answers. But something to ponder.

Romney cites his education as authority

The whole Mitt Romney/Martin Luther King thing just gets weirder and weirder. He told the Detroit Free Press:

"You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech."

This reminded me when he tried to weasel out of answering a question about whether abortion was murder by invoking being a lawyer:

I don’t want to use that term because it means different things to different people. … It is taking human life … Murder has — I used to go to law school — murder has malice of forethought and  all sorts of other things

You know, I don’t know any serious person who cites their college and graduate school education as authority when they talk. Experience, sure. That just strikes me as a weird, weird trait. And also note that it is ad hoc. He didn’t cite his lawyerly authority when he said "I’d have to ask my lawyers" about Iran.

Mitt’s Meet mistakes

It has turned out that Mitt Romney’s Meet the Press appearance appeared decent at the time, but mistakes seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Race 4 2008 has one write-up.

First, there was Romney’s lie about the NRA endorsement. He claimed that he had received it in 2002. He hadn’t. Just made it up.

Second, he claimed that "…every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as a Governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life." Fred Thompson’s campaign sent out a press release basically blowing that up.

Third, Jen Rubin at the Spectator drills down and finds Romney’s statements on taxes totally lacking. Key quotes:

On the subject of fees and taxes a pre-The Note Rick Klein reported in 2003: "A survey of states grappling with spending crises has found that Massachusetts imposed more fee hikes than any other state in the nation this year – at least $500 million. … ‘These are just indiscriminate, broad-based fee increases because of a reluctance to raise taxes,’ said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. ‘It’s been disingenuous to say there’s no new taxes, in the sense that there’s very little connection to the fee increases and the cost of services that the fees are supposed to represent.’" Groups like Citizens for Limited Taxation at the time were similarly suspicion about the distinction.

And fourth, Romney "I was an independent in the time of Reagan/Bush" and "I voted for Paul Tsongas" said:

OK, Tim, let’s go back and let’s, let’s–I’m going to reject the premise, to begin with because, when I ran against Ted Kennedy, I realized the shot was a long shot, to beat Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.  But I was tired of his liberal policies.  And as you’ll recall, I fought for the death penalty, I said secure the borders, I said at the same time we’re going to completely redo our welfare system and get rid of the old welfare system.  I ran as a Republican and a conservative.  And when I ran for governor in Massachusetts, you were there.  First question you asked me in the debate, "Tell me about the death penalty." I was for the death penalty.  I was for English immersion in our schools.  I said, I said…

Yeah. Whatever dude. Again, Jen Rubin whips out the quotes:

“I Am A Fiscal Conservative And A Social Moderate.” (2002)

“I Was An Independent During The Time Of Reagan-Bush.  I’m Not Trying To Return To Reagan-Bush.” (1994)

"I don’t know that the world is pining for a progressive-on-social-issues governor of Massachusetts." (2002)

Then there’s my personal favorite "my R doesn’t so much stand for Republican as Reform."

I just can’t wait for the video mashup of the 2007 statements against his actual record.

Overtones of VA GOP’s position on “Statement of Intent”

Last night the Virginia GOP passed a resolution:

The Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee yesterday evening passed a motion requesting the Virginia State Board of Elections withdraw the “statement of intent” requirement before participating in the 2008 Republican presidential primary contest.

While the committee did request the Virginia State Board of Elections to withdraw the requirement to sign a statement of intent for the 2008 primary, State Central re-emphasized their commitment to closed primaries by passing a resolution supporting party registration in Virginia.

The "statement of intent" would have required that voters in the Republican primary pledge to support the Republican nominee.

Anyone who has been following VA GOP politics gets the irony in this. I suspect that what really happened is that pro-lifers revolted. They refuse to pledge to support Rudy who they see as a likely or probably winner of the VA GOP primary. The irony is that these are the same groups that are trying to close the primary, reiterated above. As a side note, the VA GOP wants party registration because it makes campaigning much easier.

NRLC goes with Fred Thompson

This is a shocker to me. Apparently tomorrow the National Right to Life Committee will endorse Fred Thompson. I have confirmation from a member of the committee. And, apparently, they are moving quickly to try to stop Rudy Giuliani.

There are several frames to look at this through:

  • What this means for the pro-life movement in the US.
  • The politics of the conservative movement.
  • The mechanics of implementing the endorsement

Last week, Fred Thompson appeared to have messed up pretty-badly with the pro-life movement. He came out in opposition to the Human Life Amendment. He didn’t score any of the big social conservative/religious right endorsements last week. But tomorrow, he gets NRLC. My understanding is that the internal debate revolved around (1) stopping Rudy and (2) whether Mike Huckabee was an acceptable endorsement either together or separately. My understanding is, additionally, that John McCain and Mitt Romney were deemed not acceptable because of their positions on stem cell research. But it is news in its own right that an anti-HLA candidate is NRLC material.

There are several very important things to realize about a NRLC endorsement: First, it comes with juice. They have money. They have bodies. They do mail. They do phones. They do election-day volunteers. They will electioneer, and they will electioneer to win. If they are endorsing Fred Thompson, it means that they actually intend him to win the nomination.

To win, they have a problem. Fred is in 3rd or 4th or 5th in Iowa. He is in single-digits in New Hampshire. NRLC is going to have to rip through a whole bunch of people above him. And, unlike most conservative, groups, they don’t just attack on their issue. In 2000, they attacked McCain over campaign finance, even though he was, arguably, more pro-life than George Bush.

It has been conventional wisdom for a while that Romney and Thompson are fighting over the same voters. You can expect the mailboxes and phones of those voters to light up with detailed explanations of why Mitt Romney is not the right man to be president, or at least our nominee. From a very credible outside group. I have long asked who is actually going to attack Romney. We have our answer. In the end, this will move numbers.

On a deeper level, though, one wonders if this is a split in the conservative movement. With so many people going so many different ways, a shatter seems inevitable. There are a number of endorsements left, but you almost wonder if this is a direct challenge to James Dobson. Does Dobson dare to come out now, challenging NRLC and setting up a deep split? After all, Dobson actually can move votes and money, as can NRLC. But if the ultimate goal is to stop Rudy, then perhaps they need, at least, implicit agreement.

The other question is what happens if Romney really fights for this turf. Can he undermine the interest groups? Can he go back to his pragmatic self after his strange rightward lurch.

How this plays out will be interesting.

Brownback endorsement: Rudy and Romney

Last week, Sam Brownback met with Rudy Giuliani. Deal Hudson has an account that concurs with what I have heard from Brownback associates and with what Brownback’s people have told outside groups:

Brownback caused a controversy by accepting an invitation from Rudy Giuliani to discuss life issues following the Senator’s decision to drop out of the presidential race. 

Giuliani had called Brownback the day after his announcement to ask for his endorsement.  Brownback started to say "no" when Giuliani asked him if at least he would come by and talk about it.

Brownback accepted the invitation, had the chat, but, as expected, did not issue an endorsement. 

A rumor rushed around the Internet that Brownback had "compromised" his principles, etc.

Jim Bopp, Jr., general counsel of National Right to Life said some pretty ugly things about Brownback.  The management of NRTL had to dissavow Bopp’s comments in a press statement issued later that same day.

Very messy.  And all because Brownback was willing to listen to what Giuliani had to say, like any civilized person ought to do. 

Brownback listened, concluded Giuliani was not willing to change his positions, stepped in front of the cameras with the Mayor and said, basically, that they agreed to disagree.

There has also been some speculation that Mitt Romney will get Brownback’s endorsement. However, Romney and Brownback have been unable to schedule a meeting. When I asked a Brownback associate about the possibility of an endorsement I was told, "It is typical Romney. He says nice things while his campaign is attacking us and lying about our supporters." Followup questions revealed that he was referring to the Jim Bopp letter mentioned above, and the Romney campaign’s claim to have picked up the endorsement of "Michigan Brownback Campaign Leaders." It turned out that the "leaders" were unknown to the Brownback campaign and hadn’t endorsed Brownback anyways.

NRLC disavows Bopp’s Brownback statements

Yesterday, Jim Bopp, a supporter of Mitt Romney and former General Counsel (they actually spend text clarifying that he is the former)  to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) attacked Sam Brownback for saying something nice about Rudy Giuliani.

Turns out that he was nasty enough that NRLC disavowed his statements. I have obtained a copy of a letter that NRLC’s President, Executive Director, and Legislative Director, they apologized for Bopp’s statements. The choice bits:

Mr. Bopp’s remarks quoted above, if accurately reported, do not represent National Right to Life, and we disagree with them …

We reject most emphatically anyone’s suggestion that you have sacrificed or would sacrifice the interests of the unborn in order to garner some "personal political benefit."

In January, 2007, the National Right to Life Board of Directors adopted a resolution urging that no NRLC state affiliate, no executive staff member of any state affiliate, and no NRLC Board member should endorse any candidate for President of the United States until an endorsement is adopted by the Board as a whole. Staff employees of the National Right to Life Committee are also barred from doing so. However, Mr. Bopp is neither a director nor an employee of NRLC. Mr. Bopp has served as NRLC’s general counsel for many years, but he is not an in-house general counsel;

In other words, Bopp was attacking Brownback, not because he was right, but because the Romney campaign asked him to. I wonder if it also means that NRLC is willing to play nice if that’s what it comes to.

Update: The American Spectator’s Washington Prowler drills down on this also:

But Bopp is now facing the same kind questions that were raised by conservatives when respected conservatives like Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo supported the nomination of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to a seat on the Supreme Court, when most conservatives were opposing the nomination.

Bopp is now in the eye of a storm after criticizing Sen. Sam Brownback for meeting with Giuliani, a meeting, sources say, that Giuliani asked for. Romney and Brownback had a scheduled meeting for this week, but it was abruptly canceled after Bopp’s public criticism of Brownback, who ended his presidential run last week.

"Bopp is losing a great deal of credibility by attacking Brownback," says a longtime Washington-based pro-life conservative activist. "We know that Romney is at the very least a squish on abortion. But Bopp seems to ignore years of on-the-record statements and expects us to believe him and Romney’s ‘conversion’ because he says we should believe a man who has done nothing for the [right to life] movement. Nothing."

Full text of the letter after the jump. Continue reading

Republican primary voters still unaware Giuliani is pro-choice?

In what can only be described as a hit-job, the NYT ran a story about Rudy Giuliani in the presidential race… on 9-11? Part of the story was a poll.

This poll puts Rudy at 27% with Fred Thompson at 22%, John "Not Dead Yet" McCain at 18%, and Mitt Romney at 14%. So a clear majority.

But it also reports that only about 19% of Republicans know of any major issue that they disagree with the Mayor on. And 8% of that is abortion. 80% do not know of anything that they disagree with him on.

And 49% do not know that he is pro-choice.

Now, that’s not good news. Rudy’s margins in the polls have fallen sharply, and people still don’t know his positions on things like abortion.  Assuming that someone educates those voters at some point, his numbers will fall. And someone will pick those up. The question is who? And if Thompson is in second, I suspect that he picks them up.

UPDATE: Deal Hudson sees another problem.