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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “GOP nomination fight goes on to Mississippi and Alabama – live” was written by Richard Adams, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 12th March 2012 21.20 UTC

4.48pm: Sigh. Depressing news that far too many Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi think that Barack Obama is a Muslim:

The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believe Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believe he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian.

4.33pm: Mitt Romney can’t even get it straight whether or not he likes catfish. In South Carolina he’s not that into catfish. But in Alabama this week, catfish is “delicious”.

Oh and Rick Santorum uses a teleprompter.

Maybe this is the first post-modern presidential primary, where there is no connection between what candidates say and what they do?

4.04pm: Not content with banning teleprompters, Rick Santorum is now just making stuff up:

In response to the obvious reply of “Ha ha ha ha, seriously, what has Rick Santorum ever been commander in chief of exactly?” the Santorum campaign says Santorum was “referring specifically to his service on the Senate Armed Services Committee”.

Ah, that was quick.

3.49pm: It’s that Mormon business again – in answer to a question on Fox News earlier today, Alabama governor Robert Bentley said Mitt Romney‘s religion remains a “problem”:

I think that’s a very subtle issue that probably – may be a problem in many states, not just in Alabama. But I do believe that Republicans are looking to see who can win the presidency and they’re going to look at that more than anything else.

Bentley says he thinks Romney will win the Alabama primary, although he hasn’t endorsed him.

3.18pm: A brief glimpse inside the happy home life of the Romney family, via the Washington Post and a long and – let’s be honest – deeply tedious article about Ann Romney’s interest in equestrian sports:

The best gift her husband ever gave her was a horse, Ann Romney told the New York Times late last year. Her son Josh told another New York Times reporter in 2007 that he had given his dad a rubber horse mask so that if he wore it, “maybe Mom will pay as much attention to you as she does to the horses.”

That is the highlight. The rest of the article is basically just cut and paste from a lawsuit in which Ann Romney gave testimony.

You may be thinking, “really, who cares?” and you’d be right. Tye bad news is there is more fodder for Gail Collins’s equally tedious obsession with that story about Mitt Romney strapping the family dog to the roof of the car:

In one harrowing episode, [Ann Romney] recalled, Marco Polo, the other German horse, was in a container that tipped on an airport runway during transit.

2.56pm: Buzzfeed Politics has some figures on TV ad spending in Alabama and Mississippi. Surprise, surprise, Mitt Romney and his campaign have spent about $2.5m, while Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have spent about $1.3m combined.

2.19pm: The 2012 Republican primaries have been the season of the Super Pac attack ad – and the Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox rounds up some of the harshest ads of the last few months.

An ad’s effectiveness is rated on a 1 to 5 “Horton Scale”, so named after the devastating “Willie Horton” ad implemented against Michael Dukakis in 1988. An ad with a “5” rating is, of course, the highest and has the potential to fatally wound a candidacy. An ad at the other end of the scale – “1” – has the effectiveness of the 2010 ad by California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina against rival primary rival Tom Campbell, known as the “Demon Sheep ad”: hilarious, potentially viral, dubious impact.

2pm: Mitt Romney is still working on that connecting with the voters down South thing, as AP reports:

As is often the case, Romney showed an engaging side and stiffness, at almost the same time. When the rain-soaked crowd sang “Happy Birthday,” Romney exclaimed: “That’s a fine Alabama good morning,” as if such greetings are somehow different in other states.

Moments later, he showed good-natured self-awareness, saying he hoped to go hunting with an Alabama friend who “can actually show me which end of the rifle to point.”

No word whether the trees of Alabama were the right height.

1.41pm: Finally, a GOP presidential contender takes a brave stance on the real issues of this election: teleprompters.

No seriously, Rick Santorum really did say this on Sunday, in public, in Gulfport, Mississippi:

See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter. Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.

You know, when you’re running for president, people should know not what someone’s writing for you after they’ve had pollsters and speech writers test it.

You know who used teleprompters? Ronald Reagan.

But according to Rick: “You’re choosing a leader. A leader isn’t just about what’s written on a piece of paper.”

But what if the candidate writes their own words? Shouldn’t it be speechwriters who are banned? But we risk taking this at all seriously, when it is obviously mad.

1.20pm: Lucky Puerto Rico: the island nation is going to have visits from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum soon, ahead of the caucuses there on 18 March:

The former Pennsylvania senator will arrive in Puerto Rico on Wednesday and will meet with Governor Luis Fortuño at La Fortaleza. After a press conference, Santorum will visit the Veterans Hospital in Río Piedras.

Santorum and the governor worked together in Congress when Fortuño served as resident commissioner and are friends. Still, the governor has endorsed the presidential bid by Mitt Romney, the front-runner who is also scheduled to stump in Puerto Rico this week.

1pm: Mitt Romney is doing pretty well in the Deep South, according to new polls of Alabama and Mississippi today from ARG, which has done a good job forecasting this election cycle so far:

• Alabama: Newt Gingrich leads with 34%, followed by Mitt Romney with 31%, Rick Santorum with 24%, and Ron Paul with 6%

• Mississippi: Mitt Romney leads with 34%, followed by Newt Gingrich with 32%, Rick Santorum with 22% and Ron Paul with 8%

ARG finds lower levels of support for Rick Santorum in both states than the earlier PPP polls out today, which suggests a different likely-voter model.

On ARG’s Mississippi result, an earlier survey by the same firm conducted on 7-8 March found Gingrich was leading Romney 35% to 31%. That’s some change in four days, but within the margins of error.

ARG finds that in Alabama, Romney is winning the most support from Democrats and independents: “Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Romney leads with 33%, followed by Santorum with 28%, Gingrich with 17%, and Paul with 15%.”

12.27pm: So the delegate math says that Mitt Romney is the inevitable nominee? That may be so but people such as Rick Santorum aren’t dissuaded by things like “math” or “science” or “fact” – these are people who deny climate change and evolution, so what would you expect?

But this new argument from Santorum’s campaign is the “least-convincing campaign strategy memo ever,” according to Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post:

Santorum strategist John Yob argues that Santorum will win … by seeding the convention with stealth delegates who will switch to Santorum after the first convention ballot is cast, and they are no longer bound. This is, to be blunt, nonsense.

Yes but that’s from what the Bush administration once called “the reality-based community,” and so should be disregarded.

12.07pm: Sad news! To help his supporters celebrate Mitt Romney’s birthday, the Romney campaign wanted them to use the #hbdmitt hashtag. Over three days only about 17 did.

11.24am: To celebrate Mitt Romney‘s birthday today, here’s Steve Benen in the New York Daily News:

The party that nominated self-described “maverick” John McCain and swaggering George W Bush – and that reveres Ronald Reagan for his clarity and fortitude – looks set in 2012 to choose someone who never met a constituency he was prepared to offend.

11.01am: I’d like to start the latest “Mike Bloomberg for Treasury Secretary” rumour, on the back of this New York Times piece on a low-key lunch meeting between President Obama and the New York City mayor:

Over a long private lunch at the White House, President Obama posed a question to Mayor Michael R Bloomberg: what are you interested in doing next?

Mr Bloomberg’s precise response is unknown. But their meeting a few weeks ago, confirmed by aides to both leaders and previously undisclosed, was potentially significant for both men, as Mr Obama seeks support for his presidential campaign and Mr Bloomberg ponders his post-mayoral career.

And then Mike Bloomberg can run as a Democrat for the 2016 presidential nomination.

10.39am: I think we now know why Rick Santorum decided to run for the Republican nomination: to improve his Google ranking.

Prior to the 2012 primary season, as you may recall, the top Google.com search result for Santorum was the result of a Dan Savage prank, defining Santorum as “frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter”. Now, though, thanks to all the news stories about Santorum’s nomination bid. that site has slipped way down the Google results front page and is not far off dropping onto the second page (which no one ever reads in Google searches).

All he has to worry about now is the Wikipedia page “Campaign for ‘santorum’ neologism” which still comes in second.

10.15am: It looks like Mississippi and Alabama are going down to the wire, based on a brace of polls by PPP released early this morning.

• Alabama: A virtual three-way tie with Mitt Romney at 31%, Newt Gingrich at 30% and 29% for Rick Santorum, with Ron Paul way back with 8%.

• Mississippi: Newt Gingrich holds a slim lead with 33% to 31% for Romney, 27% for Santorum, and just 7% for Ron Paul.

So any combination of results is possible, from Mitt Romney winning both – and perhaps ending the GOP race right there – to Romney coming third in both contests behind Santorum and Gingrich, which would ensure it continues for some time to come.

Here’s PPP’s analysis of why Romney is competitive, despite Gingrich and Santorum both being more popular than Romney in each states:

The reason Romney has a chance to win despite being less popular in both states is the split in the conservative vote. In Mississippi 44% of voters describe themselves as ‘very conservative’ and Romney’s getting only 26% with them. But he’s still in the mix because Gingrich leads Santorum only 35-32 with them. In Alabama where 45% of voters identify as ‘very conservative,’ Romney’s at just 24%. But again he remains competitive overall because his opponents are so tightly packed with those voters, with Santorum at 37% and Gingrich at 31%.

It’s not really clear who, if anyone, has the momentum in these states. In Mississippi folks who’ve decided in the last few days go for Gingrich over Santorum 37-29 with Romney at only 15%. But in Alabama the late deciders go 38-29 for Romney over Santorum with Gingrich at 23%.

10am: It’s the final day of campaigning in the Southern states of Mississippi and Alabama, the latest set of must-win primaries between GOP contenders Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

With the polls showing a tight race between the three, after a weekend that saw wins for Romney and Santorum, we’ll be following the candidates and their campaigns live.

Here’s a summary of the latest events from Ryan Devereaux:

• The GOP’s presidential hopefuls are working to secure southern voters ahead of tomorrow’s primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. Depending on how they play out, the contests could narrow the field or lead to more weeks of inter-party fighting. National polls have the leading candidates in a virtual dead heat, suggesting tomorrow come down to the wire.

• Over the weekend, Santorum continued his efforts to urge Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race. On Sunday, Santorum said a one-on-one race between himself and Romney would need to “occur sooner rather than later”. The day before Santorum decisively won the Kansas caucuses. For his part, Gingrich has remained defiant but losing tomorrow’s contests could spell the end for the former house speaker’s campaign. Meanwhile, if Mitt Romney manages to come out on top tomorrow it could effectively seal the nomination for the former Massachusetts governor.

• Romney is reported to be looking to Illinois to make his stand against Santorum, in the event that he can’t seal the deal tomorrow. Taking the midwestern state, however, may prove difficult for the Romney campaign. A new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll finds little space between the two candidates. According to the survey Romney has the support of 35% of likely voters, while Santroum has 31%, well within the 4% margin for error.

• Despite the muddled appearance of the race for the Republican nomination, Santorum has predicted that he will be the victor if the party remains undecided by the time the Republican national convention rolls around this summer. Despite trailing Romney by more than 200 delegates, Santorum told NBC’s Today Show this morning: “We’re going to be the nominee. Governor Romney will not make it.”

• A new ABC News/Washington post poll finds a steep decline in support for the war in Afghanistan, even among Republicans, which could change the landscape of the battle for president. According to the poll, 60% of Americans do not feel the war efforts have been been worth their immense costs in blood and treasure, nearly double those who feel the opposite. For the first time in five years, Republicans are evenly divided on whether the war has been worth it. As reports surfaced of a US army sergeant massacring over a dozen Afghan civilians–including numerous women and children–over the weekend, Newt Gingrich expressed a surprisingly critical analysis of the war. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Gingrich said, “I think it’s very likely that we have lost, tragically lost, the lives and suffered injuries to a considerable number of young Americans on a mission that we’re going to discover is not doable.”

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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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