Illegal Romney/DeMint phone calls in SC?

Well folks, it is January 23rd. If the current schedule holds, the South Carolina primary (for Dems) is exactly 53 weeks from today. And we have the first allegation of illegal automated advocacy calls.

South Carolina’s Faith In the Sound News has the story. The allegation is that a Mitt Romney authorized robocall of a Jim DeMint endorsement was being placed to South Carolina residents. Apparently, South Carolina law requires robocalls to hang up when a person answers the phone. Didn’t happen this time, apparently. (easy mistake to make, especially if you are using an out-of-state vendor)

Is it true?

More thoughts on Diageo/Hotline poll: Security

A couple of days I wrote on the results of the Diageo/Hotline poll. Most people have focused on the Presidential results. BlogPI has written about McCain’s credibility on security with Republicans. I started looking at how GOPers prioritize issues, and thought it had some interesting presidential implications. So here’s the data:

Issue % Issue %
Oppose Iraq 19 Fear 6
Support Iraq 18 Illegal Immigration 6
Terrorism 10 Religious and Family decline 5
Moral Values 7 Healthcare 4

For 47% of self-identified GOPers, national security is the highest priority. Add in "Fear" and you get 53%, a majority. Simply put, that is why Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are the frontrunners. It is not just name ID. Their credibility with voters is precisely on the issues that the GOP electorate most cares about. It will be interesting to see how the other candidates break through this wall.

By coming out against the Surge, Sam Brownback is trying to shoot for that 19% that are opposed to the war. One could imagine that a group of those voters, combined with a good chunk of the 7% moral values and 5% religious/moral/family decline voters, could be a powerful voting block. Furthermore, an anti-surge GOP Presidential nominee will get a lot of free media as the issue moves through Congress.

You can also see how Mitt Romney is trying to put together a coalition. He will try to split the moral values and conservative voters with Brownback. He is the only major candidate (unless you really count Newt) who has expressed opposition to President Bush’s guest working plan, giving him a credible shot with those voters (6%). (although you have to wonder if Tancredo entering will have much of an impact in western Iowa on this issue. To make it more fun, Tancredo even looks like the local congressman, Steve King, who is equally outspoken as Tancredo on almost all these issues). Romney can also talk to a lot of the healthcare crowd (4%), although one wonders how much of that is doctors. I don’t know where they come down on Romney’s healthcare plan. It also highlights why Romney has to get more international credibility through speeche, like he did earlier this week. (one is left to wonder what Romney would have done if George Allen was in the race. Where would he have gone for votes?)

Of course, voters vote based on a lot of things other than issues. But voters are one important way that candidates reach out to voters.

Romney playing DC insider game … well!

Mitt Romney’s announcement of former Speaker Denny Hastert’s support points out something that I’ve been thinking for a while. Mitt Romney is running an insider campaign in Washington, and this has a bunch of interesting implications. This is actually part of a series in which I’ll look at how the campaigns are playing out in each of the states (for which I have good information)

First, let’s look at the dynamics. DC is very conventional-wisdom and money oriented. Therefore, DC money goes to the frontrunner or frontrunners. In addition, I would argue that McCain’s positions — and ways of expressing them — on campaign finance reform, pork, and ethics reform have all significantly alienated a number of lobbyists and (self-imagined?) kingmakers in Washington. In general, Washington could well be more anti-McCain than the rest of the country. If for that alone, the list of Lobbyists for Mitt will be much longer than Lobbyists for McCain. Furthermore, one of Romney’s most important advisors is DC-based super-lobbyist Ron Kaufman, who is also the National Committeeman of the Massachusetts. A friend (and reporter) recently told me that "Ron K. could kill almost any man with his thumbs". I agree.

Now look at Romney’s House people. First, there is Hastert, who, Matt Lewis has pointed out, has hated McCain for a long time. Romney will acquire a lot of support for that reason. Second, he has Jim McCrery, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee. In that position, McCrery is the House GOP’s Deputy Earmarker-in-Chief, behind Jerry Lewis. In general, many of the people on the "powerful" (= good fundraising and lobbyist contact) exclusive committees will end up with Romney. I would use a similar analysis with Rep. Dave Camp. In addition, Camp has been around Michigan long enough to have strong links to the Romney family. Other significant pickups have personal connections of some sort such as Tom Feeney (was Jeb Bush’s 1994 running mate and a significant part of the Jeb Bush operation appears to be lining up with Romney) and Buck McKeon (a fellow Mormon).

I expect that McCain will find many of his Congressional allies in the fiscally-conservative part of the Republican Study Committee and some Republican Main Street members. Arizonan RSCers John Shadegg and Jeff Flake, who Boehner recently kicked off a presitigious committee for "bad behavior", are likely more typical of the support McCain is likely to get. While they are rarely called mavericks, they share McCain’s tendency to stick fingers in the eyes of leadership (Boehner, Hastert, etc.) for ideological reasons. And on a number of fiscal issues they have worked quite closely with McCain. I also expect that McCain will get significant support from Main Street, whose members McCain has worked with in the past also.

One of the most interesting questions will be how the social conservatives break. Senator Brownback takes a leading role in the Senate’s Values Action Team and his House allies may just support him if they don’t believe Romney.

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.