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Gallup Asks For My Opinion

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment


If I’m strutting around like a peacock a little more than usual today, it’s because my opinion suddenly mattered last night. I got questioned by the Gallup polling organization. Here’s a scary thought: If it’s a sample size of 2,000, not atypical for a national poll, that means I’m speaking for 150,000 people.

This was “the right track/wrong track” and “Obama approval numbers” poll. It’s a biggie. Based on what I saw on the Gallup web site, these results will be out tomorrow, so I suppose you can give me .05% of the blame if the findings are not to your liking on Tuesday.

Before they got to the Obama approval question they asked several about my level of support for “the national leadership.” I asked the guy, “What does that mean, exactly?” His response: “Uh, I don’t know.” They asked about the courts. They asked about Obama. They did not specifically ask about Congress. So I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what “the national leadership” means. That would explain my ”not sure” response.

There were a number of questions aimed at getting me to reveal how happy or miserable I am. Like “on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?” Hey, I’ve got a job and a nice apartment. Put me down for a “7.” They asked if I had health concerns. I thought about this joint pain I currently have in my left thumb. I recently had flu-like symptoms. And I get a little more heartburn than I used to. Could be worse. Put me down as “healthy.”

Then, I guess to see where I was really coming from, they asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate the quality of life of a 35 year old single woman, raising two children, with back pain and bringing in $4.000 a month?” Poor lady. That would be a “3.” They went on and on with various combinations of ages, genders, family circumstances, health problems and income levels. I figure that’s to see how my own, personal “7” stacks up to the ratings I was giving these other folks.

I’m not telling you how I rated Obama because that’s between me and my pollster. But I did vote for America headed “on the right track.” The economy is improving, slowly, but definitely in the right direction. We’ve had three consecutive months of falling unemployment and Wall Street (therefore my 401k and IRA’s) has been pretty decent lately. But I should have asked them to call me back if Greece and Italy go under because then we’re screwed and you can put me down as “wrong track.”

I did grade the nation’s current economic condition as only “fair,” so I feel I was realistic in my assessment on things.

Anyway, I shall wait anxiously for tomorrow’s poll results knowing that, for once, I actually had something to do with them. Back in the day, as a starving college student, I used to be the one asking the questions with a phone-bank full of fellow questioners. It always amazed me when people actually took the time to answer these questions. And I did last night, willingly, and fairly politely.

Put me down as “sucker!”

Newt Crushed by Coordinated GOP Establishment Assault

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

It was so much more than the last debate before the all-important Florida primary next Tuesday. It was a day-long, incredibly well-choreographed attack from all corners of the Republican “establishment.” It looked like a political version of the Normandy invasion.

Mitt Romney closed the deal with his strongest debate performance to date- turning into the Alpha Male before our very eyes. Either Newt Gingrich was off his game or it turns out he really has only one trick- attack the media- but not much else.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 started out with the Drudge Report in full battle-cry: Get Newt. Headline after screaming headline bashed the former Speaker of the House. In the afternoon, former GOP Presidential candidate, Bob Dole issued a scathing letter that pretty much described Newt’s tenure as leader of the party in the 1980’s as an unmitigated disaster.

On the ground in Florida, pro-Romney supporters, including Congressmen, attended Gingrich rallies and made themselves available to reporters to issue instant counter charges to whatever Newt had just attacked on.

Earlier in the week, Gingrich complained about an NBC debate that enforced a no-cheering rule and he threatened to boycott any debates in which the audience was silenced. Last night, CNN had no such rules but Newt forgot to pack the crowd. Every Romney supporter in three states showed up.

And then brilliantly coached by a new debate prep team, Mitt Romney counter-attacked effectively all night long. He finally got comfortable with his wealth and unapologetically defended his financial success.

Not that other candidates did not have a good night. Rick Santorum was articulate and scored points against both Romney and Gingrich. Ron Paul constantly charmed the audience with his humble humor. But neither Santorum or Paul are seriously contesting Florida. They’ve got little advertising and very few troops in the field.

The coordinated assault on Gingrich was born of fear. Deep concern that the former Speaker just might ruin it all for the GOP this November. Not just lose the White House, but maybe both the House and Senate. South Carolina sounded an alarm that wakened the sleeping giant. This race will go on for a few more months, but the dye is cast. It’s pretty clear Newt Gingrich will not be allowed to win the Republican nomination.

State of the Union and the Response: Two Speeches- Both Worked

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Ah- the race that could have been; President Obama and Mitch Daniels


The audience was tired, looking at their blackberries and I-phones, some seemingly sleeping- and the President’s speech was not particularly inspiring- but it suited its purpose- a tactical address that framed the choices Americans will be making at the polls in November.

Using the military as an example of how Americans can work together to get things done was pretty smart, in my view.  For one thing, it enabled President Obama to bring up the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden at both the beginning and end of his speech.  There are reports of focus groups with Republicans and independents last night that show the President has a very strong hand to play on his foreign policy and anti-terrorism successes.   

As if to underscore the point, the President was surely aware at the time he was giving his speech to the nation that U.S. Navy SEALS were pulling off yet another daring rescue mission, this time saving two hostages (one of them American) from the clutches of pirates in northern Somalia.

Meantime, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in the Republican response, delivered what I think was the best of these that I have ever heard.  It was an intelligent, well-written speech complete with grace notes offering a tip of the hat to the President’s foreign policy successes (bin Laden again) and even kudos to the Obama family for being a positive role model.  

Daniels even had words of criticism for his own party for having contributed to a divisive political atmosphere.   But he was tough in criticizing the President for “dividing” the country along class-lines.  Mostly, he articulated core conservative principles without any of the overblown hyperbole you hear from the likes of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich about Obama as a socialist destroyer of all that is good about America.

On MSNBC last night, Chris Matthews also liked Daniels’ speech and said he now gets why so many Republican party leaders wanted him to run for the White House.  He seems level-headed, gracious, intelligent and it looks like he understands it’s possible to vehemently disagree with President Obama’s policies without getting personal, without questioning his love of country or having to paint him as the evil, threatening “Other.”

A Daniels- Obama race would have been, I think, less dirt and more light.  It would have offered an important, honest debate about the kinds of choices we need to consider in regard to the nation’s future.

And while there is new polling that finds some 33% of Republicans would be in favor of a late entry into the GOP race- Daniels has definitively ruled himself out so it looks like we’re all going to have to endure what the poor voters of Florida are going through this week ahead of Tuesday’s primary there; Super-Pac, money-fueled, wall-to-wall mud fights and character attacks instead of honest policy debates.    

Absent the unlikely entrance of a class act like Daniels,  it would appear we’re heading for a nasty fall campaign filled with much of the same as we are seeing in the Sunshine State right now.

Newt’s CNN/ABC Takedown

January 20, 2012 4 comments

I’ve been wrong plenty of times in my life—but on the matter of Newt Gingrich versus the Mainstream Media, I could see this one coming down the tracks a good 12 hours ahead of time.

The Event

Newt played it perfectly in last night’s debate. It was like watching a power hitter connect flush with a fastball and knock the thing over the third deck and out into the street.

CNN’s John King started the debate with the question about ABC News’ interview with Gingrich’s ex-wife Marianne in which she says Newt wanted an open marriage.

I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

SMACK


Newt, one of the best politicians ever at the art of outraged indignation, channeled everything he’d ever been angry at in his whole life. And he was just getting warmed up.

Every person in here knows personal pain. To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

BOOM

The CNN debate moderator reels from the blow to his political solar plexus and stammers about how it was ABC’s interview with the ex-wife, not CNN’s. Cue Newt’s undiscovered, new, even deeper depths of scorn and derision.

John! John! It was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with that.

BAM

Game. Set. Match. The rest of the debate would never again reach those heights of electric drama. Later on CNN, former advisor to the Presidents, David Gergen, said he thought it was one of the most memorable debate moments in American history.

CNN

CNN did a nice job after the debate dealing directly with the explosive first question to Gingrich. John King took full personal responsibility for asking the question and making it the first of the debate – didn’t pawn it off on his staff and didn’t apologize for it. He noted, as have other journalists, that Newt had been asked the very same thing earlier in the day and there was none of the theatrical anger. But King seemed to understand Newt is very good at the art of the media smack-down and essentially said- I’m a big boy, I can take it.

And Newt- truly the consummate actor (I don’t say it disparagingly- it’s a wonderful skill for a politician to have) told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the post-debate spin room, that he thought John King did an excellent job as a moderator. It had the feel of hockey players who had just knocked each other’s teeth out- shaking hands and hugging after the game.

ABC

Over on Nightline, ABC aired the actual interview with Marianne Gingrich that contained what turned out to be the only semi- newsworthy moment- the stuff about Newt wanting an open marriage, which they had pre-released in the morning. This was no scoop. She had said the same thing last year in a print interview. But ABC went through all the “exclusive” motions.

But credit to ABC for a couple of things. They kind of downplayed it on the World News with Dianne Sawyer earlier in the evening, leading with good news about General Motors auto sales. Over at rival NBC, Brian Williams led with politics and they made a bigger deal of the Marianne interview than ABC did.

And then on the actual Nightline broadcast where the Brian Ross interview with Marianne Gingrich officially ran- they also included every second of Newt’s debate theatrics. It came off as a well-balanced broadcast.

The Newtster

I think he’s a much better politician than a lot of people give him credit for. He knows how the game is played. It’s no accident he answered the Marianne questions earlier in the day calmly and rationally. And certainly no accident that with a supportive crowd and millions watching- he would go calculatedly ballistic. And amazingly enough- how you can be calculated and still sincere at the same time- is truly a great political skill.

I’d be careful if I were Mitt Romney. This Georgia bull dog is not going down without a fight. He knows how to push the buttons and he’s got an impeccable sense of timing and grasp of the moment.

Mitt’s Really Bad Week: The Moment of Truth

January 19, 2012 2 comments

REUTERS/Brian Snyder


All presidential candidates are tested to the breaking point. Bill Clinton endured adultery accusations just days before the New Hampshire primary. Barack Obama, seemingly cruising after an Iowa victory four years ago, found himself losing to Hillary Clinton the very next week in New Hampshire. Both recovered.

Mitt Romney has had a nightmare of a week heading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary. At Monday’s debate, in addition to the little stuff, like confusing the big game he was hunting in Montana, he also gave one of the world’s longest and meandering and confused responses ever about the release of his tax returns. Maybe in April. If that’s the tradition. He was going to release them eventually sometime. It was quite the exhibit of red-faced tap-dancing. Meantime, Newt Gingrich played the conservative and vocal audience in the debate hall like a Stradivarius.

Then Romney hinted his tax return just might reveal he paid a fairly low 15% tax rate and then basically declared that his $350,000 in annual speaking fees was chump change. Which, of course, it is, compared to his estimated $25 million annual income from investments, but still enough to put him in the top 1% of American wage earners.

He then wakes up Thursday morning to find out he may actually have lost the Iowa caucus to Rick Santorum- trailing in the final but incomplete vote count officially released today. Not sure it’ll help Santorum- but it takes the luster off the Romney camp’s brag about being the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate in history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. He is no longer undefeated.

Meantime, recent polling finds a large erosion in Romney’s South Carolina and national leads. As I write, Rich Perry is getting out of the race and apparently headed toward a Gingrich endorsement.

The only bright spot for Romney is anticipating the possible damage that might be done tonight when ABC News releases an interview conducted with Newt’s ex-wife Marianne on Nightline. Careful what you wish for. A “lame-stream” media interview with a surging conservative candidate’s ex-wife 48 hours before the voting- seems to me to be the perfect storm for a voter backlash against the establishment media- and a potential boon for Newt Gingrich if he plays it right.

Mitt Romney is still formidable. He still has a lot of money and the best and deepest campaign organization. He still has a large lead in the Florida primary set for Tuesday, January 31st. History has shown that politicians in a seeming free fall can correct and conquer.

I’m not in the business of advising presidential candidates on tactics, but Jon Stewart offered Mitt some advice on the Daily Show last night that might be his ultimate answer to surviving this critical juncture in the campaign. That advice: stop pretending not to be rich. Embrace your wealth. Embrace your success story. Lose the pretenses about being middle class and once having worried about getting a “pink slip.” Nobody believes that stuff.

Americans strive to be rich no matter what their circumstance or background. They can respect that. What they pick up on fast is phoniness and a lack of authenticity. He ought to release his tax returns, tell people he did everything lawfully available to him to save on his tax bill, and proclaim himself rich and proud of it. “You know what?” the New Romney might say, “I earned everything I have. Maybe it’s time America had a President who knows how to create a little bit of wealth.”

Why, it’s so crazy, it just might work.

Ok, Romney- What Was It? Moose or Elk?

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I am not a hunter but I have seen elk in Montana and I have seen moose in Maine. Yes, they both have antlers but moose are huge. Elk are considerably less so. I am deeply concerned that the potential next leader of the free world can’t recall precisely what it was he was out trying to kill on his most recent hunting trip.

If you missed the moment in the recent Republican presidential debate- it went like this according to the Associated Press:

In Monday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina, the GOP front-runner said he “went moose hunting” in Montana with friends, then quickly corrected himself and said it was, in fact, elk hunting.

But there’s more background on this because Mitt has a kind of tortured history in his public references to hunting and it bears further investigation.

John Kerry goose-hunting in Ohio in 2004

Back in the 2008 race, Romney described himself a “lifelong hunter.” Hunting is apparently a very important skill a future President must possess. I distinctly remember the photo, for example, of John Kerry back in 2004, walking through some field with some Congressman and one of them is holding a deceased goose, one of four they had shot and killed in the key swing state of Ohio. Very manly and 2nd amendment-like, indeed.

But back to Mitt. Pressed on his hunting prowess in April of 2007, to be exact- Romney uttered these famous words:

I’m not a big-game hunter. I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will. I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then.

I can understand hunting those wascally wabbits- but rodents? Absent further elaboration, my mind imagines Romney with a shotgun ridding the servant’s quarters of a pesky mouse problem.

Also, if I were Mitt’s media advisor I would have had him steer away from this phrase in particular: “Small varmints, if you will.” Hunters rarely end sentences with “if you will.” And if that isn’t enough of a dead giveaway- only Elmer Fudd (pictured above) Yosemite Sam has ever referred to game as “varmints.”

I, personally, would never go hunting with Mitt Romney. We know, for example, that former Vice President Dick Cheney is an old hunter from way back- and even he occasionally, accidently, shoots people in the face.

I mean there’s no telling- after Romney has gotten his personal assistant to load and then aim his shotgun- where the shot might actually go. You know those things kick back when you fire ‘em. The bullet could go straight up in the air for all I know and then we’ll all be diving for cover, except Mitt will have his personal assistant draped over him protectively, while I would be lying there totally exposed yelling, “incoming!”

Anyway, back to the differences between moose and elk. Moose kind of stand there and therefore, as stationary targets, make for a less than exciting hunt. Elk, on the other hand, are way more elusive. In Montana, I’m told, you have to climb mountains and invariably end up on scary elevated ledges looming over thousand-foot drops- and then maybe you’d spot an elk. I think most people would remember if they went out to a parking lot and bagged a moose or were barely clinging to life with hands clutching a shaky precipice- and managed to snag an elk.

I’m not insinuating that Romney was lying about going hunting. This could clearly have been a case of mistaken identity. You know, the hot lights, a big audience, national TV. Like being on Jeopardy when you choose the “Things with Antlers” category and get all nervous when the Daily Double comes up and there’s a picture of an elk and damn it all- you say “What is a moose?”

Actually, that may well have been the exact question Romney asked his personal assistant following Monday’s debate.

The GOP Nomination Race is Not Over

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

He’s supposed to make South Carolina his third straight victory and head to Florida with a full head of steam, at which point Mitt Romney would be the certain Republican nominee. About 99 out of 100 pundits told us it was all over after the New Hampshire primary. That chorus of prescience from the talking heads should have been our first clue.

Mitt Romney is fighting for his political life in South Carolina. The latest polls have Newt Gingrich just 2 points behind the prematurely anointed former Massachusetts Governor. Sarah Palin went on Fox today demanding that he release his tax returns and offer definitive proof about the 100,000 jobs he says he created when he was at Bain Capital.

Gingrich is unapologetically continuing the theme the party elders begged him to stop this week, unrelenting in his attacks on Romney’s investment banking days. He is joined by Texas Governor Rick Perry who lost a big GOP donor over the approach but didn’t seem to care much, saying, “If somebody wants to cut and run that’s their call.”

There will have been a full nine days of negative ads from Gingrich before South Carolinians finally take to the polls Saturday after next- a withering attack that may well have the same effect on Romney that Romney’s onslaught did to Newt in Iowa. Looks like the Super Pacs are going to make this a contest after all.

What is interesting about the path being taken by Gingrich, Perry and Palin in making these attacks on Romney is that it really does reflect a populist “main street” wing of the Republican Party. It must be horrifying to the “Wall Street” wing of the party.

And then there’s Ron Paul who will keep getting his 20% and finishing 2nd or 3rd in these contests, piling up delegates along the way.

Here’s the reality of the Romney march to the nomination. Yes, he made history becoming the first non-incumbent Republican candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. But he won Iowa by 8 votes and couldn’t hit 40% in the state where he owns a home and is next door to his native Massachusetts. South Carolina is Newt’s New Hampshire. Next to his home state of Georgia and a blue-collar conservative bastion that may well be receptive to the surprising populist message of the new main street Republicans.

This race may just be starting.