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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US elections live: Mitt Romney endorsed by Mississippi governor” was written by Richard Adams, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 9th March 2012 18.24 UTC

1.02pm: Barack Obama: mercantilist. Speaking at a car plant somewhere in America this afternoon, the president said:

I don’t want stuff made there and sold over here. I want stuff made here and sold over there.

D’oh. In fact “stuff” can be made here and there, and sold both here and there. It’s called comparative advantage, and everybody wins.

An odd example from the latest trade figures published today: US imports and exports of cars rose during February.

12.46pm: So what happens if Mitt Romney actually wins one of Alabama or Mississippi next Tuesday? It could be all over, according to an enthusiastic Romney staff member:

In a message obtained by Politco, regional political director Michael Joffrion asked Romney volunteers in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia to pitch in for next week’s elections – and close out the 2012 primary season.

“I know everyone is exhausted and still scatter brained from Tuesday. With that said, I need a HUGE favor. We are within one point here in Alabama. A win in Alabama will end this process,” Joffrion wrote.

Larry Sabato, the Oracle of Charlottesville, appears to agree:

And not just Newt but Rick too, surely.

12.22pm: Hey it’s another poll from Mississippi, this time from Rasmussen Reports:

A new statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the Magnolia State shows Romney with 35% of the vote, while former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each draw support from 27%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul runs last with six percent (6%).

11.56am: Oh god: get ready for the third coming of Newt Gingrich, based on today’s polls from Alabama and Mississippi.

Mississippi: according to a post-Super Tuesday ARG poll, Newt Gingrich leads with 35%, Mitt Romney with 31%, Rick Santorum with 20%, and Ron Paul with 7%.

Alabama: according to Rasmussen Reports, Gingrich is just ahead with 30%, compared with 29% for Rick Santorum and 28% for Mitt Romney. Ron Paul trails with 7%.

Yikes. If that patterns holds, then no one is dropping out anytime soon. Except in this scenario: Mitt Romney wins both Alabama and Mississippi, which he could easily do based on these polls. In that case, it might very well be all over.

In conclusion: only time will tell.

11.29pm: Before HBO’s Game Change makes you all sentimental about Sarah Palin, the real life Sarah Palin smacks you across the face like a Rush Limbaugh apology.

Appearing as herself on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last night, the former governor of Alaska accused Barack Obama of being a pre-Civil War Southern confederacy slave-supporter, or so it would appear. Yes, it’s that crazy.

11.05am: And some more good news – in one sense – from the US economy, in the form of a widening trade deficit.

The US trade deficit hit $52.6bn last month, with both imports and exports up. Why a deficit is good news: it suggests domestic demand is picking up, enough to suck in more imports.

And it wasn’t oil: there was a 10% increase in imports of cars and auto parts, and more importantly in imports of capital goods such as computers and industrial machinery.

10.40am: The reviews are in for Game Change, the 2008 election-o-drama debuting tomorrow night on HBO.

The Los Angeles Times likes it and supplies a thoughtful review:

It is impossible, and superfluous, to attempt a letter-perfect chronicle of almost any historical event, especially a political campaign, and no doubt Palin and others depicted here will argue that the script takes liberty with the facts, if only in the selection of which events or conversations are presented and which are not.

But the overall atmosphere of the film is surprisingly kind to all, much more fatalistic than hypercritical and certainly not derisive. Palin’s rise and fall is depicted as series of bad decisions made in relatively good faith that lead up to a hideous car crash.

The Wall Street Journal goes with a lazy, snotty review:

Truth be told, “Game Change” does not make anyone look good. John McCain, as portrayed by Ed Harris, comes across as an insecure figure, part Bubba, part booby, with repetitive expletive syndrome.

10.30am: More detail on the rosy jobs numbers, from the CEPR’s Dean Baker:

The rise in manufacturing employment was impressive; with upward revisions to the prior two months, the sector has added 111,000 jobs over the last three months. The auto industry has been a driving force, directly accounting for 20,700 of these jobs. The pace of growth may slow, but it seems likely that manufacturing will be a major force in the recovery going forward.

That’s also good news for the White House, since its support of the auto industry has been a subject of much debate, and similarly bad news for Mitt Romney, who wanted Detroit to drop dead (I paraphrase).

10.20am: The RomneyBot 2000 software had another bug yesterday, revealed when the Mitt Romney avatar said the following in a speech in which he described how he was being turned into “an unofficial Southerner”:

I am learning to say ‘y’all’ and ‘I like grits,’ and things. Strange things are happening to me.

What a stroke of luck that Mitt Romney should learn to like grits just before a crucial election. And it’s not at all patronising.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, suggests that while Romney has endorsements from almost all of the state GOP hierarchy in Alabama and Mississippi, the actual voters are not so convinced:

Waiting to hear [Newt] Gingrich speak Thursday in Jackson, Shane Brown, a 43-year-old nondenominational Christian minister, said he and his wife are not Romney fans but they’re resigned that he will probably win the nomination.

“He just does not seem like a real person,” Brown said. “We’re going to end up getting a candidate that the base doesn’t really love. You may go vote for him, but you’re not going to tell 10 people to go vote for him.”

He said that enthusiasm gap will hurt the Republicans. “I think that’s something the party establishment doesn’t quite understand.

Not a real person? But he likes grits, since yesterday.

10am: The latest job figures are unalloyed good news for the White House and President Obama’s re-election hopes – and put the Republican party and its presidential candidates into a pickle.

US employers added 227,000 jobs in February, and January and December figures were revised up by 61,000, meaning the economy has now generated an average of 245,000 jobs in the past three months.

And while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3% despite the job growth, that was also a form of good news: previously discouraged workers were being attracted back into the labour force and were out looking for work.

While 8.3% unemployment is still not a great number for the White House, the trend is more important. And it places the Republican party in a tough spot: Mitt Romney, its front-runner and presumptive nominee, has based his candidacy on his private sector record as a businessman. Remove that plank, and what’s left?

9.30am ET: It’s another day of campaigning in the Republican presidential contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with events overshadowed by more good news on the economic front, with the US adding another 227,000 jobs last month.

Here’s a summary from Ryan Devereaux with what to look out for today:

• Ahead of Mississippi’s primary, Mitt Romney received a key endorsement from the state’s governor, Phil Bryant, who said he thought Romney had the best chance of beating President Obama. The endorsement is an important gain for Romney as heads into southern Evangelical territory. On average, exit polls have indicted that in the five states where the majority of GOP primary voters are born-again Christians, Romney has trailed his rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich among Evangelicals by 20 points among evangelicals. Among Romney’s qualities that enthused Bryant were his ability to hold a baby: “I like to see a man when he’s holding a baby. And he looks like he’s held a baby before.”

• Rick Santorum has attempted to appeal to Christian conservatives in the south by renewing attacks on John F Kennedy. Running for president in 1960 Kennedy said he believed “in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Speaking at a banquet in Alabama on Thursday, Santorum said: “That’s not America. That’s France. That’s a naked public square where people of faith are out of bounds.”

• Despite their candidate choosing not to appear in Kansas this week, Gingrich’s Super Pac has outspent competitors in the state by a wide margin. According to Politico, Winning Our Future has spent $180,185 on television ads in the first week of March, well ahead of his rivals.

• The candidates have a full day of campaigning ahead of them. Romney and Gingrich will both be rallying support in Mississippi and Alabama. Santorum will be in Alabama this morning and then is scheduled to appear in Kansas by early afternoon. Texas congressman Ron Paul, who is indeed still in the race, will be in Kansas all day

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Newt Gingrich promises moon base by the end of his second term” was written by Stuart Millar, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th January 2012 23.36 UTC

There are two givens in any election campaign: 1) the candidates will make grand promises that they can never keep and 2) they will pander to their audience at every opportunity.

But on Wednesday, Newt “grandiose is my middle name” [it isn’t] Gingrich took those truisms on to a whole new, extraplanetary level. Speaking to an audience on Florida’s Space Coast ahead of the state’s primary next week, the big-thinking Republican hopeful turned his science fiction fantasies into a hard and fast campaign promise.

“By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Talking Points Memo Gingrich went on to say that the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and to create a “robust industry” modelled on the airline business in the 20th century.

And from there, how could a president ever top that? Well, that would be a mission to Mars obviously, said Gingrich – or Newt Lightyear as my colleague Richard Adams has now dubbed him.

Some reporters in the room undoubtedly would have known that they were witnesses to a historic moment: Gingrich finally losing his mind. But that’s not how Newt saw things, according to Andrew Kaczynski from Buzzfeed Politics.

Of course, Newt has aired his space musings in public before. In December, he defended his policy in favour of lunar mining during one of the live televised debates. Then of course there are his repeated warnings over the dangers to America from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear warhead detonating in space.

By all accounts, Gingrich’s promise drew huge applause on the Space Coast. On Twitter, a far more forbidding place at the best of times, the response was more sceptical. Philip Klein, of the Washington Examiner, was typical.

But then, if Newt can win the Republican nomination, beat Obama in November and then go on to secure a second term, anything is possible.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Florida primary campaign and state of the union fallout – live” was written by Matt Wells and Richard Adams, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th January 2012 21.38 UTC

4.35pm: Treasury secretary Tim Geithner makes an oddly-worded announcement, telling Bloomberg Television that he will not be serving in Obama’s second term administration, because Obama won’t ask him.

I think we all assumed that Geithner wasn’t going to stick around for the second term – and one explanation is that Geithner is on the White House’s short-list being drawn up to replace Robert Zoellick as president of the World Bank, when Zoellick steps down soon.

Here’s what Geithner told Bloomberg TV:

He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident. I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury… Something else for me.

Something else like … the World Bank? Geithner wouldn’t be an inspiring figure for non-American members and his nomination could trigger a fight over the bank’s future.

4.30pm: More detail from the CNN/Time poll that has just come out, showing how Newt Gingrich‘s bounce from his South Carolina primary victory didn’t last long:

On Sunday, the day after Gingrich won big in South Carolina, he was at 38% in Florida, with Romney at 36%, Santorum at 11% and Paul at 8%. Looking only at Monday and Tuesday’s results, Romney was at 38%, Gingrich 29% Santorum at 11% and Paul at 9%.

4.20pm: Can the GOP primary in Florida get much nastier? Yes it can, thanks to this video from a Romney-supporting Super Pac:

A delightful line there: “From debates, you’d think Newt Gingrich was Ronald Reagan’s vice president,” says the voice-over, along with clips of Gingrich playing the Reagan card at multiple debates.

4.10pm: Many Republicans have got in a huff because of these comments by Nancy Pelosi on CNN:

John King: Because of your history with Speaker Gingrich, what goes through your mind when you think of the possibility, which is more real today than it was a week or a month ago, that he would be the Republican nominee and that you could come back here next January or next February with a President Gingrich?

Nancy Pelosi: Let me just say this. That will never happen.

King: Why?

Pelosi: He’s not going to be president of the United States. That’s not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it, it isn’t going to happen.

King: Why are you so sure?

Pelosi: There is something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him that’s their prerogative. I don’t even think that’s going to happen.

Never slow to hate on Nancy Pelosi, Republicans have been rumbling about “dirty tricks” and so forth. Pelosi’s knows what she’s doing, sowing terror and confusion among her enemies.

4.05pm: “Our latest poll, released this minute!” says Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Let’s see some numbers.

Oh dear, CNN seems to have some problem, flashing up random numbers but not the headline figures. Throughout the blizzard it appears that it’s Romney 36%, Gingrich 34%, Santorum 11% and Paul 9%.

“We’re seeing a tight race, a very tight race here in Florida,” Wolf goes on – with the numbers suggesting Mitt Romney won back some ground on Newt Gingrich, after the fiery debate on Monday night in which Romney gave Gingrich a bit of a slapping.

3.50pm: Speaking of polls, it would appear that reaction to President Obama‘s state of the union address was positive:

An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama’s state of the union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers.

According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91% of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr Obama put forth during his remarks. Only 9% disapproved. Last year, 83% of viewers approved of Mr Obama’s State of the Union remarks.

And via Twitter, some excellent advice for Obama’s re-election campaign.

3.40pm: Polls! Lots of them. In fact, three, with one more to come from CNN shortly.

There’s the Quinnipeac one mentioned earlier today – which showed Mitt Romney ahead of Newt Gingrich by 36% to 34% – and then there’s this ARG poll with Romney in the lead:

Mitt Romney has maintained his lead in the Florida Republican presidential primary. Romney leads with 41%, followed by Newt Gingrich with 34%, Rick Santorum with 9%, and Ron Paul with 7%.

In a similar survey conducted January 13-15, 2012, Romney was at 42% and Gingrich was at 25%.

And there’s this ABC/Univision poll of Latinos in Florida:

In the Sunshine State, where about one in 10 likely Republican primary voters are Latino, Mitt Romney has a large, 26-point lead over his closest rival Newt Gingrich, 49% to 23% among Latino Republicans.

3.35pm: Newt Gingrich has kept up his attacks on Mitt Romney’s wealth today:

And this coming from a man who used a $500,000 credit line at Tiffany’s? Remember: you can’t spell Gingrich without “rich”.

3.30pm: Mitt Romney is also out wooing Cuban and Latino voters – who make up one in 10 of Republican primary voters – in Florida, reports Ewen MacAskill:

Romney, speaking at a Univision conference and taking questions, did not threaten military action but possibly trumped Gingrich by welcoming the mantle ‘Mexican-America’. He said he could not, in all honesty, claim it for himself but it would be useful in the Florida primary and if Univision wanted to put it out, he would be happy. His father was born in Mexico, but of American papers and his father never even spoke Spanish. So it is a bit of a stretch, but in the bid for Latino votes anything goes.

Give it a couple of days and Mitt Romney will start shouting “Sí, se puede!” at his rallies.

3.20pm: There has already been much debate about whether Barack Obama has a “Jewish problem,” arguing whether or not the administration’s relations with Israel have given former supporters cold feet.

But a smart piece of analysis shows that Republican Jewish donors aren’t exactly on fire with enthusiasm either:

A Tablet review of campaign-finance records for 175 major Republican Jewish donors shows that, according to the most recent campaign filings, more than 55% have yet to give to any primary candidate. Of that 55%, nearly two-thirds — 64 donors — had already given to a candidate by this time in the 2008 presidential cycle.

3.10pm: One major piece of policy was missing from Obama’s state of the union address last night:

Betsy Stevenson is a former chief economist at the Department of Labor in the Obama administration.

3pm: On the subject of the Latino immigrants in Florida, the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill has been out on the campaign trail with Gingrich and Romney:

The next few days in Miami is in danger of witnessing a high-stakes bidding game for the still important Cuban vote. Well, maybe not high stakes, as most presidential candidates once in office tend to forget what they promised on the campaign trail.

I heard Newt Gingrich speak at lunchtime to a group of mainly Latinos, many of them of Cubans or Cuban descent, at the Werthelm Performing Arts Centre in Miami.

“I think it is possible to have a new dawn of freedom across Latin America,” he said to loud applause. Fine. That is vague enough, a crowd-pleaser without commitment. But he went on: “Fifty years of dictatorship (in Cuba) is more than enough…. I do not think it has occurred to anyone in the White House to look south and propose a Cuban spring.”

And how is he going to do that? Gingrich is old enough to remember the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1962, so he stopped short of military action to remove the Castro brothers. Instead he would use all the tools that Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope used to allegedly bring down the Soviet Union: moral and economic pressure, covert action, and so on. “I will use every non-military tool,” he said.

Santorum was due to be next up, at another venue, talking to the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in another part of Miami. Having already pledged to bomb Iran early in his administration, it is not a big jump to promise to bomb Havana. But we may never know, with Santorum cancelling the event because of scheduling problems.

2.55pm: A key player in the forthcoming Florida primary is the dashing young Tea Party-beloved Senator Marco Rubio. He has said he isn’t supporting or endorsing anyone in the primary – but he is playing referee.

This morning Rubio rapped Newt Gingrich’s campaign over the knuckles for its ads attacking Romney for being “anti-immigrant”:

This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.

“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.

Why? Well it’s not in Rubio’s interests to have the Republican party having a fight over immigration in a state where it is such a big issue, and where Republicans are open to accusations by the Democratic party on precisely that subject.

2.45pm: Perhaps the biggest news this afternoon came from the Federal Reserve‘s federal open markets committee, which made its monthly announcement on monetary policy.

According to the FOMC, the latest data “suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately, notwithstanding some slowing in global growth”. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news:

The Committee expects economic growth over coming quarters to be modest and consequently anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually…. Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.

The net result is that the FOMC expects to keep interests where they are, around zero, for a while, and low interest rates generally until late 2014 at least.

2.35pm: And we’re back – apologies for the brief stoppage in the news-hose but we had some technical issues.

So what’s happened while we’ve been offline? Let’s quickly get up to speed: Newt Gingrich has remarried, while Mitt Romney has made another $20m. So nothing unusual there.

This is Richard Adams, replacing Matt Wells.

12.33pm: That well-known political commentor, Fidel Castro, has pitched in with his analysis of the Republican race. He’s written a long opinion piece carried by official media in Cuba, in which he says:

The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been.

Well, that’s pretty much spot on. Expect Arianna Huffington to sign him up pronto. Well, at least once she’s back from Davos.

Cuba, of course, is a big issue in Florida, and the Republican candidates were asked in Monday’s TV debate in Tampa about how they would react as US president if Castro died. Gingrich said he expected Castro to end up in hell.

According to the Associated Press, Castro didn’t refer to their replies in his opinion piece, reporting that he was “too busy with other things to waste any more time analyzing the Republican competition”.

Again, spot on.

11.39am: Florida senator, Marco Rubio, is staying neutral in the race, but he criticised the Gingrich campaign today over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”. This from an interview in the Miami Herald:

This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign.

Rubio is widely touted as a potential running mate for the eventual nominee – and he was careful to temper his criticism, adding:

The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.

So that’s okay then.

10.55am: Here’s some of the best reaction to the state of the union address.

• The National Journal says Obama’s evocation of the Navy Seal mission that killed Osama bin Laden is a preview to a presidential campaign that will cast him not on his spotty economic record, but as the “most impressive Democratic president on national security in decades, perhaps since John F. Kennedy”.

• Mark Sandler in the New York Times casts the speech in the context of the forthcoming presidential campaign, saying Mitt Romney was the “unspoken adversary in Mr. Obama’s call for a more equitable society”.

Gary Younge for the Guardian said the Occupy movement allowed the president to make his strong remarks about fairness in US society and portrays it as “an election speech, for an incumbent playing defence”.

10.15am: Hello and welcome to our continuing live coverage of the Florida primary campaign, with a bit of state of the union fallout thrown in for one day only.

Here’s a summary of where we’re at this morning.

Newt Gingrich’s momentum in Florida appears to be growing. He drew a crowd of about 2,000 people at a rally on Tuesday night. A Quinnipiac poll out this morning shows him gaining on Romney, although the former Massachusetts governor leads by two points.

• Gingrich has released a second contract with the mortgage provider Freddie Mac. The contract specifically rules out lobbying services, but according to Politico Gingrich advised the company’s chief lobbyist, Mitchell Delk, about “business and public policy issues.” Romney’s campaign insists Gingrich was in effect providing a lobbying service.

Analyists continue to pore over Mitt Romney’s tax returns, released on Tuesday. The returns revealed the existence of a now-closed Swiss bank account, and there were questions about whether the effective 13.9% tax rate paid by the Romneys was in reality even lower.

• The Republican nomination candidates took a break from tearing strips out of each other to attack Barack Obama over the state of the union address. Newt Gingrich claimed it showed Obama wanted to increase taxes and expand government, while Romney did not even wait for the speech to launch his attack, saying the president’s speech was designed to divide America.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Police chief hits out at cuts that put his force on “cliff edge”” was written by Sandra Laville, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th January 2012 22.04 UTC

Last week it was the chair of the Greater Manchester Police Federation who brought the impact of the cuts in policing into sharp focus.

In a letter to Chief Constable Peter Fahy, Chairman elect Ian Hanson, said officers were “working well beyond maintainable limits”, and response teams were “stretched well beyond capacity”.

Today the chief constable of Gloucestershire police goes further, saying his force is “on a cliff edge” as it is faced with making an extra £1.3million cuts on top of reductions of £24 million in its budget.

Chief Constable Tony Melville says he is speaking out in support of both rank and file and senior officers, who say the cuts will leave their chief with little option but to hit at the very heart of front line policing.

“Here in Gloucestershire we are in the middle of the perfect storm,” said Melville. “Never before in my 34 years of policing have I experienced an issue which has galvanised staff and officers in the way this has, and I feel compelled to respond…”he said in a letter to the police authority.

While all forces face a 20 percent grant to their Whitehall grant Melville says a series of local decisions mean he has to find £1.3million more.

“In a small force, a series of local decisions have combined to take us to a metaphorical cliff edge much more quickly than others,” he said. He supported letters sent to the police authority this week from the police federation, the superintendents association and the trade union Unison, as the authority considers increasing the cuts.

“The letters… are written by bodies which represent every part of hte constabulary – both officers and staff spanning all ranks. The content is strong.. but not scaremongering. They air genuine concerns which I share.”
Melville says if he is forced to cut so deeply, policing “will look very different from what the public have come to know and expect”.

In Manchester the feelings expressed last week were similarly strong. The Greater Manchester force is shedding 3,000 posts, which will see it lose 23% of its workforce by 2015 to help save £134m after its annual budget was cut.

Hanson told the chief constable Peter Fahy officers were at breaking point.

“Officers are working well beyond maintainable limits and they cannot sustain this pressure much longer,” Hanson said.

“Response teams are barely able to function on a normal day and then when an incident occurs they are stretched well beyond capacity.

“Officers are seeing their numbers depleted and, despite what some local commanders may tell force command, things are starting to come apart.”

As budgets are being set across the country for the new financial year these are unlikely to be the only discordant voices.

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