Rick Santorum’s Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday isn’t until March 6th, but Rick Santorum had a “Super Tuesday” last night. Santorum cruised to big victories in Minnesota and Missouri early in the night, but the big surprise came when he won Colorado.

Unlike in Iowa where Santorum only won by 34 votes, he had commanding victories in each state. He won Minnesota by 18 points. He carried every county in Missouri, garnering 55 percent of the vote. In Colorado, Santorum beat the heavily favored Mitt Romney by 5 points. Four years ago, Romney won Minnesota by 20 points and garnered 60 percent of the vote in Colorado.

It’s been over a month since Rick Santorum shocked the political pundits with a strong finish in Iowa that would ultimately become a win. Santorum toiled in Iowa for more than a year with little to show for his effort until the final days of the caucus campaign. In the end, he took home 25 percent of the vote and defeated Mitt Romney by a razor thin margin of 34 votes.

Nobody expected Santorum to do well in the New Hampshire primary that followed 10 days later, but he was expected to run strong in South Carolina. Santorum didn’t find success in South Carolina. Instead, it was Newt Gingrich who whipped South Carolinians into a frenzy with two stellar debate performances. Once again Santorum had to fight to remain relevant while Gingrich repeatedly called for his exit from the race.

Santorum was able to survive third and fourth place finishes in Florida and Nevada in large part because of strong debate performances. What’s remarkable is that Santorum was able keep his campaign afloat while Romney and Gingrich dominated the headlines. While the two of them tried to destroy each other with negatives ads, voters began to give Santorum another look, which he has now turned into three impressive wins.

Santorum’s victories last night will not immediately help him in the delegate count since none of the contests were binding, but what it does do is create a tremendous amount of momentum for Santorum. As we have seen, momentum has been a great equalizer in the race. It has allowed candidates like Santorum and Gingrich be able to compete with Romney despite being outspent by a wide margin. It will also help his campaign and Super PAC raise the resources necessary to compete on Super Tuesday on March 6th.

The Romney campaign made a concerted effort to downplay Tuesday’s contests in Minnesota and Missouri, but Santorum stunned them when he won Colorado, a state Romney seemed confident that he would win.

Despite what the Romney campaign is trying to spin, last night’s contests were important. First, Romney won both Colorado and Minnesota in 2008. Surely he was appreciative of those victories back them. His inability to win Minnesota after winning the state over John McCain by 20 points has to be of some concern to his campaign. Combine his Minnesota loss with the fact that 8000 fewer people voted for him in Nevada this year than voted for him in 2008, and it seems like Romney is not appealing to same people he did four years ago.

Besides the results of the Maine Caucuses, which began on Saturday, there will not be another contest for another three weeks. That’s good news for Santorum who can use the time to campaign and raise money for the next round of contests. Santorum’s big night is bad news for Newt Gingrich, who now must find a way to gain momentum before Super Tuesday.

The race for the Republican nomination changed last night. Romney still has an advantage, but it’s based entirely on the amount of money he and his Super PAC have been able to raise. What Romney lacks is a connection to grassroots activists in the Republican Party. Romney’s instinct will be to attack Santorum, but what he really needs to do is reach out to the base of the party.

If Romney refuses to do that, Santorum and the other candidates in the race will continue to give Romney fits. One of them might not be able to get the 1,144 delegates required to secure the nomination, but the three of them might be able to prevent Romney from getting there.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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Blood Money: Romney’s Medicare Scandal

Debating in Tampa, Florida in late-January, while falsely characterizing Newt Gingrich’s income from his government consulting work, Mitt Romney denied that Bain did “any work with the government like Medicaid and Medicare”. Now we learn that Bain, under Romney’s “supervision”, purchased and ran the Damon Corporation, who pled guilty to Federal conspiracy charges as a result of tens of millions of dollars in systemic Medicare fraud committed under Romney’s and Bain’s control. Damon was fined over $119-million which was, at the time, the largest criminal healthcare fine in Massachusetts history and Mr. Romney’s participation was characterized in 1996 by Corporate Crime Reporter thusly: “As manager and board member of Damon Corp, Mitt Romney sits at the center of one of the top 15 corporate crimes of the 1990’s.” Watch the substantiated mini-documentary, BLOOD MONEY: MITT ROMNEY’S MEDICARE SCANDAL, to learn the truth about Mitt Romney.

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Newt’s Big Ideas Are Not A Problem

Coming off a huge win in the South Carolina, Newt Gingrich is riding high in the polls, drawing massive crowds in Florida, and could very well deliver a fatal blow to Mitt Romney’s candidacy should he win the Florida primary next Tuesday.

Despite all of his momentum, a Gingrich win in Florida is not certain. Even before the conclusion of the South Carolina contest, Romney had spent millions of dollars in Florida working an early voter program and running television ads all across the state.

With the massive amount of momentum he has coming in to Florida, Gingrich is once again being viewed as a huge threat to win the Republican nomination instead of Romney, the candidate who most insiders would have bet everything they owned on winning the nomination as recently as ten days ago.

Just like we experienced in Iowa when Gingrich surged in late November, the common criticism by his critics is that he’s an erratic leader who lacks focus. In one of last week’s debates, Rick Santorum blasted Gingrich for having “ten ideas a minute,” while being the Speaker of the House. Santorum made the argument that Gingrich’s constant flow of ideas made it difficult to accomplish anything since the mission was ever-changing.

Romney has used a whole host of surrogates to attack Gingrich in a similar way. Two different television ads in South Carolina featured former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, who also served under Gingrich in the House, and former New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari. The ad, titled “Undisciplined” featured Senator Talent saying, “He would make outrageous comments that would blindside us and undermine our conservative agenda. Chaotic decisions, erratic behavior, it’s a problem when your own leader is the biggest political problem that you’re dealing with, which is why we removed him as the Speaker.”

Even though the charge didn’t help Romney in South Carolina, it is becoming clear that painting Gingrich as an erratic figure is going to be one of the chief lines of attack for the remainder of the primary campaign and the general election should he win the nomination. The comments made by Talent and others cut right to the bone. Regardless of what you think about the ads and the message they convey, they are a full-frontal personal attack on Gingrich. What voters must decide is whether it really matters.

Before we delve too deep into this subject, the idea that Gingrich lacks focus is not entirely true. He helped lead the Republican revolution of 1994, which was no small feat considering that Republicans had not controlled the chamber in forty years. The game plan was clearly mapped out in the Contract With America, and the Gingrich-led House voted on each segment of the Contract in the first 100 days that they were in power. The Contract had created a clear mandate, and the Republican controlled House swiftly followed through with its promises.

The “undisciplined” or unfocused Gingrich that the Romney campaign is attacking or that Santorum has talked about involves the post-Contract with America Newt Gingrich. It’s a fair criticism if Gingrich were attempting to win his old job back, but he’s not. He’s running for President, and the job requirements there couldn’t be more different.

As the leader of the majority party in U.S. House, Gingrich needed to build a consensus with his Republican colleagues. Wanting to promote new ideas everyday would make finding a consensus impossible. The President has to cast a vision, lead an administration, and work with Congress to get it implemented. The difference is that the president’s job is rallying the American people around his agenda, not necessarily lining up the votes in Congress.

It’s likely that Newt Gingrich would be a far better President of the United States than he was a Speaker of the House as he is more of a visionary than an organizer. Sure Gingrich is still going to have all sorts of ideas, but he will need Congressional approval if any of these ideas were ever to materialize. What I’m saying is that Congress will be able to sort out the good ideas from the bad, thus providing a much needed check and balance on the ever-thinking Gingrich.

If Republicans maintain control of the House and take control of the Senate, there is no doubt that they would be able to advance a conservative agenda in a Gingrich administration. Where there is cause for concern it’s how a President Gingrich would deal with a Democratically controlled Congress. History provides conservatives ample reasons to be concerned under that situation. One only needs to watch the global warming ad Gingrich shot with Nancy Pelosi or his willingness to join forces with Hillary Clinton to advance to the discussion on reforming healthcare in America to see the potential problems.

If elected, it’s safe to say that a Gingrich presidency would be either boom or bust. As long as one branch on Congress is under Republican control, there would be little to worry about. If a President Gingrich woke up and said that he wanted to colonize the moon, which Gingrich said yesterday on the campaign trail in Florida, I trust that Congress would put the breaks on the proposal.

Despite all of Gingrich’s flaws, he has displayed an ability throughout the campaign to rally people around his vision for America. The American people want a President with an idea of where he wants to take the county. The American people are not afraid of the candidate who thinks big because that is what this country is all about. Sure, Gingrich has been undisciplined at times, but so to have many of our greatest leaders.

Romney attacks Gingrich for being undisciplined, but that’s what the Republican establishment also thought of Theodore Roosevelt when he was Governor of New York and then Vice President. President Eisenhower thought that General George Patton was undisciplined. Even Ronald Reagan was known for being undisciplined at times. Had it not been for his willingness to trump the advice of his advisors, he would have never demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall,” when standing before the Brandenburg Gate.

The history books are littered with examples of undisciplined people being extraordinary leaders. Only time will tell if Gingrich wins the nomination, let alone is elected President. The make up of Congress after the next election is probably the most important factor in whether or not Gingrich would be the conservative leader that people are looking for. All the candidates have faults, and Newt may have a long list of them, but his big ideas and larger than life persona are not on that list.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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Gingrich Plays it Safe and Fades in Florida Debate

Last night’s NBC News/National Journal/Tampa Bay Times presidential debate marked the 17th time that the Republican candidates have debated. With the field of candidates narrowed to just four candidates, these debates offer each candidate plenty of opportunities to gain or lose traction.

Last night’s debate was the third in the last seven days and the first of two this week. Unlike the rambunctious crowds from South Carolina, the audience in last night’s debate was subdued. The lack of audience interaction forced those watching the debate to process the candidates’ answers instead of getting swept up by emotion. If anyone was hurt by the lack of audience participation, it was Newt Gingrich, who for the first time in any debate lacked a memorable moment.

Winners: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum

Mitt Romney:

For the first time in the 2012 race for president, Mitt Romney finds himself in a place other than that of undisputed frontrunner. Romney went on the offensive in Monday night’s debate and did a good job at defining Newt Gingrich as an “influence peddler.” Romney won the exchange in large part because Gingrich chose not to engage Romney. Instead, Gingrich said he would be launching a website that corrects the inaccurate things of which Romney has accused him.

Romney played the role of the aggressor much better than I had anticipated. Romney remained calm, cool, and collected throughout the debate, even when pressing Gingrich on a number of issues. Unlike in previous debates, Romney was the one cross-examining the frontrunner, and he did a good job putting Gingrich on his heals. Romney’s best line of attack was saying that companies that lobby Congress also paid Gingrich. This takes away Newt’s defense that he didn’t fall within the strict legal definition of a lobbyist. But if you look at the facts of what Newt actually did for this money, it looks an awful lot like lobbying.

Rick Santorum:

For almost a week, Santorum has had to defend his ongoing campaign. Santorum’s performance in last night’s debate might be the strongest case for him to continue. Once again, Santorum made a strong case that he is the true conservative in the race by hammering Gingrich and Romney on their support of healthcare mandates, bailouts, and cap and trade.

In doing so, Santorum also provided the best lines of the night. In talking about both Gingrich and Romney, Santorum said, “When push came to shove, they got pushed.” He also added, “They rejected conservatism when it was hard to stand.” Santorum is at his best when he is making the argument that he is consistent conservative who you can trust. Santorum had another strong debate last night. As the field of candidates has narrowed, Santorum as used the extra time to show off his debate skills.

Participation Certificate: Ron Paul

For people who care about foreign policy, Paul made it clear than he doesn’t want their support. Other than that, Paul had a routine debate performance. In the South Carolina debates, Paul went on the offensive against Gingrich and Santorum. In last night’s debate Paul didn’t really engage anyone, but that may be because he didn’t get many opportunities.

Loser: Newt Gingrich

Mitt Romney got the better of Gingrich in the opening segment of the debate where his work for Freddie Mac was discussed at length. From those early moments, it was clear that Gingrich had decided to play it safe. The head scratching moment for me was when he said that he would answer Romney’s charges with a website instead of taking the time in the debate. By not engaging Romney, he allowed Romney’s attack on him to be the focus. He also let a guy like Santorum, who the media seems so willing to write off, deliver the most memorable lines of the debate.

Gingrich’s best answer of the night was when Brian Williams asked him about what he has done to advance the conservative cause. Gingrich’s answer to that question compared to Romney’s answer made it easy to understand why Gingrich did so well in South Carolina and Romney didn’t. Still, it was Santorum who articulated a clear conservative agenda throughout the night, not Gingrich.

It seems odd to declare Gingrich the loser of a debate, but he faded in the background tonight by not being his boisterous self. If there is one candidate who shouldn’t play it safe in a debate, it’s Gingrich. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
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First In The South: We Vote Dead People

More votes were cast by dead people in South Carolina last night than couldn’t be certified in the Iowa caucuses.

From WTOC in Savannah: LINK

South Carolina’s Attorney General, Alan Wilson has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud. Wilson says an analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters were people who are listed as dead.

Should we really be surprised?

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Gingrich Wins South Carolina

A surging Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary. It’s a result that seemed unthinkable ten days ago when he was being berated by conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh for his attacks on Romney’s business dealings. Gingrich used the two debates in the final days to change the election’s narrative and sail to victory.

Gingrich’s South Carolina win turns the entire Republican nomination process on its head. Just days ago, the national media was talking about Mitt Romney sweeping the first three contests, but after tonight’s win for Gingrich, three different candidates have won the first three states. Now Gingrich has momentum headed into Florida, and the race is sure to last much longer and be more contentious than Mitt Romney ever hoped.

There are two noticeable differences between the South Carolina primary and the Iowa Caucuses that helped Gingrich find success in South Carolina. First, there were no major debates held in the last 18 days in Iowa, while two debates were held in the final week before South Carolinians went to the polls. Second, Newt Gingrich wasn’t the only candidate being hammered by negative TV ads in South Carolina like he was in Iowa.

The two debates that occurred in the final days before the South Carolina primary helped Gingrich immensely. In Myrtle Beach on Monday, Gingrich dazzled the audience and used the event to provide his campaign a spark. That debate was also one of Mitt Romney’s worst ever. After Monday’s Fox News debate, Romney’s aura of invincibility evaporated.

The CNN debate in Charleston the following Thursday also played a critical role in Gingrich’s campaign in the state. While Gingrich wasn’t nearly as good as he was on Monday, he used the debate to inoculate himself from the controversial interview his ex-wife gave to ABC News and the Washington Post. The story may continue to haunt Gingrich, but for the time being, he was able to take the focus off of himself by castigating the media for such a personal attack in the final hours before people vote.

The other big difference in South Carolina that ultimately helped Gingrich was the uncertainty of the race. After Rick Santorum won Iowa, the Romney campaign, the Romney Super PAC, and Ron Paul’s campaign saw Santorum as a threat and thus began running negative ads against him. While the Romney effort continued to run some ads against Gingrich, it seems as if they took their eye off of Gingrich. In Iowa, every attack ad on TV was aimed at Gingrich. In South Carolina, Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum were all being attacked.

The knock on Gingrich has been that his campaign lacked the ability to build ground organization in any of the early states. That was obviously the case in Iowa and New Hampshire where he finished a disappointing fourth and fifth place. However, being for the neighboring state of Georgia, he was able to build a real grassroots effort in South Carolina, which may be why his standing in the polls never really dipped when the negative ads began to run. Even still, if anyone deserves the credit for Gingrich’s South Carolina win it’s the candidate himself and his ability to debate.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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