Fred for real or a stalking horse?

Jen Rubin captures the most important dynamic leading into South Carolina:

Thompson gave himself an opening in South Carolina and gave conservatives a place to jump from the Romney leaking ship. He may have scuffed up Huckabee sufficiently to allow either himself or McCain to win SC. If the latter he ironically would have done his old friend the greatest of favors. (Perhaps one he might remember when it comes to filling VP slots should he get that far.)

Fred Thompson could be in a place to split the South Carolina conservative vote, especially with this nasty anti-Mike Huckabee ad running.

A John McCain win in Michigan, followed by Thompson knee-capping Huckabee in South Carolina could lead to a pretty positive place for McCain.

ARG, Fred, and Mitt

I normally don’t write about polls, especially ARG polls. But I was struck by two things in the most recent batch.

The first one, which lots of people have talked about is Mitt Romney’s rise in South Carolina. That’s new. Is it real? Is it TV moving numbers?

But the second thing is Fred Thompson. His collapse. In every state. What happened? Is that why Romney is rising? Are early state voters starting to really make up their minds?

Earth to Romney: We aren’t on the Human Rights Council

Today, Governor Mitt Romney called for the US to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council. According to the AP:

"The United Nations has been an extraordinary failure of late," Romney said in response to a question at a pancake house along the coast of early voting South Carolina. "We should withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council."

Turns out that we don’t actually have a seat on the Human Rights Council though:

Actually, the United States doesn’t have a seat on the human rights council, which it has been boycotting.

With that kind of knowledge, Romney may need to call in the lawyers after all…

It also turns out that he was just trying to keep up with the Joneses:

Romney was sharing the political attention in this state with GOP rival John McCain, who is on his second consecutive day of campaigning here.

McCain, in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, accused both Russia and China of causing gridlock in the U.N. Security Council and hindering the world body’s ability to sanction Iran or address pressing matters in Darfur, Burma and other trouble spots.

Difference was… John McCain knew what he was talking about.

PhoneyFred.org and other Romney astroturf

Yesterday, we learned that an anonymous attack website was linked to Mitt Romney’s South Carolina’s consultants.

The Romney campaign has thrown one of their consultants under the bus for it:

Sources are telling FITSNews that Mitt Romney’s South Carolina campaign organization has fired consultant Wesley Donehue in an effort to make him the scapegoat for yesterday’s PR disaster.

FITSNews continues with:

Romney’s spokesman also says Donehue is “not an employee of ours,” yet Donehue’s “On The Mark” direct mail firm received $81,225.02 from the Romney campaign during the second quarter of 2007, according to Federal Election Commission filings

So he’s not staff of the campaign. But his firm is. And, according to Palmetto Scoop, another SC blog:

Donehue runs the daily operations of their political consulting firm, Tompkins, Thompson and Sullivan, including direct mail efforts and a number of Web-based ventures.

He’s in charge of web-based ventures… Well, the Scoop has some more details:

Under the Power Lines is the “NetRoots base” for their clients, which includes Romney, and is led by Donehue and associate Tim Cameron. They have done websites with a look similar to the “Phoney Fred” site for Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Keith Kelley as well as state senate candidates Scott Talley and Shane Massey.

The same group also runs A Daily Shot, a pro-Romney blog covering South Carolina politics that has been particularly critical of Thompson lately. Of the last five posts on the site – as of 9:30 P.M. Monday – four dealt with Thompson.

And an allegedly "Independent" pro-Romney grassroots website:

UPDATE: The New York Times notes that palMITTostate.com, Romney’s “volunteer” South Carolina grassroots Web site, is listed on the same account as Phoney Fred and Under the Power Lines.

So it sounds like these phony websites are a Romney modus operandi. And they threw a staffer, a deputy, under the bus when he was just executing company policy. Seems like there’s a little more accountability for this, doesn’t it?

PhoneyFred.org: More Romney dirty politics

Earlier today, Jonathan Martin pointed out the new www.phoneyFred.org website:

Clearly, though, this is no amateur effort.   The volume of information and the way that it’s sourced reeks of a grasstops hit-job.   Repeatingly calling Thompson "Phoney Fred" in the on-message style of political operatives, the site offers up unflattering quotes with the standard attribution style of oppo everywhere.

Turns out it wasn’t amateur at all. According to WaPo, it was put together by Mitt Romney’s paid consultants:

Nowhere on the site does it indicate who is responsible for it. But a series of inquiries leads directly to the website of Under the Power Lines, the political consulting firm of Warren Tompkins, Romney’s lead consultant in South Carolina.

This is another in a long list of thuggery and illegality of Romney associates and campaign staff. Including Romney’s former Director of Operations Jay Garrity, Romney’s former national finance co-chair,  Romney’s other indicted former national finance co-chair, etc. And then the Romney campaign threatens voters if they do things like ask questions (note that in South Carolina, the Romney campaign doesn’t even allow that):

On Sept. 3, I attended a house party for Mitt Romney … a gentleman approached me and said if I started any trouble I would be thrown out of the event. … He reiterated I would be tossed out because my "kind" weren’t welcome at such an event. … All the while, he used his 6-foot frame to intimidate my 5-foot-4-inch body. He then introduced the grandson of the homeowner, the man running his New Hampshire campaign, the very same man who attempted to bully me into silence.

Thugs and illegality. If a guy surrounds himself with these kinds of people on the campaign, who is he going to surround himself with if he becomes President?

Romney attacked by grassroots for police escort

The South Carolina Citizens for Tax Reform sent out the following email to approximately 10,000 activists:

From: Jason Swanson [mailto:sctaxpayers@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 4:02 PM
To:
Subject: Petition for Romney to Return Tax Dollars

South Carolina Taxpayer:

Today former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney used taxpayer funded police escorts to speed him to various campaign events in our state.  Needless to say this is a waste of taxpayer dollars for any South Carolinian who does not support Romney’s campaign and he should apologize to all of us.

We have put together the "Return South Carolina Tax Dollars" petition to urge Mitt Romney to reimburse in-full the costs from this trip and apologize to the taxpayers of South Carolina for using our tax dollars and breaking our laws.  This reminds us all of the fake police troopers he used on his campaign in the past.

Please send an email to SCtaxpayers@gmail.com to add your name to the petition and please include your full name and address.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Attached news stories after the jump
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Romney acting a little too presidential?

Mitt Romney has gotten in some hot water because his "Director of Operations" seemed to be role-playing a secret service. Mitt Romney also said that "the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman," and so he ducked out of the YouTube debate.

You see, Mitt Romney thinks he’s better than everybody and doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else. Remember, his kids are serving their country by trying to elect him?

The most recent chapter is that he travels with full police escort, according to the AP:

The motorcade of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney exceeded speed limits and went through stop lights Friday as local law officers escorted him, blue lights flashing, to campaign events in two South Carolina counties.

Sheriff Jason Booth, a Romney supporter, led the candidate’s motor home and staff cars with his blue lights running from the Aiken County line through Saluda County to the Newberry city limits, according to an Associated Press reporter following the candidate.

The caravan traveled between 10 mph and 15 mph over posted speed limits. The posted speed limits were 45 mph and 55 mph.

The President travels by protected motorcade to protect him. Mitt Romney doesn’t need to be protected. And he doesn’t get to break the law because he is running late.

States will get full delegates

Somehow, I am not all that impressed by the fight over the national parties stripping delegates from state parties who will have primaries prior to Feb. 5th.

Last week, the story was Florida and the Democrats. This week, it appears to be the Republicans and Florida, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.

How long will it take for all the candidates to commit their delegates to voting for seating full delegations?

This is a problem in theory, but not in practice.

Iowa in December?

At least the weather will be better. But that’s what the WSJ is telling us:

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson will join with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner tomorrow morning to announce that both states are moving up their presidential primary dates earlier into January, according to a prominent South Carolina Republican who spoke with Dawson this week. That likely will force Iowa — always protective of its party caucuses as the first-in-the-nation nominating contests — to make good on its vow to move their date from next Jan. 14 into pre-Christmas December.

I’ve been saying this for a while. Details:

New Hampshire tentatively had planned to have its first-in-the-nation primaries on Jan. 22, eight days after Iowa’s caucuses. South Carolina Republicans had planned to hold primaries on Feb. 2. Dawson told his fellow Republican that South Carolina’s would be at least 10 days before Florida’s Jan. 29 primaries, but not on the same day as Nevada’s caucuses, which are Jan. 19, and 12 days after New Hampshire’s primary.

That suggests New Hampshire will be moving into the first week of January. Iowa would then be certain to move up from Jan. 14. To avoid getting caught in the holiday period, Iowans have said the caucuses would have to be in mid-December.

Rudy’s bad day

When the good news is that you lose your Iowa campaign chair to the OMB, you know you had a bad day. But how bad?

So bad that your South Carolina campaign chair is indicted for conspiring to peddle crack cocaine? (Another reason I’m happy I made phone calls in 2004 for DeMint. Imagine if this guy had won the nomination. A protectionist and a crack dealer…) Green Mountain Politics suggests that this might be a character flaw in how Rudy Giuliani picks the people around him. He’s also thinking about Kerik.

So bad you come in 2nd in your first poll of the cycle? (Ok, it is Rasmussen so it is junk, but…)

Wow and ouch.