CNN/Tea Party Pres. Debate: Favorable Reviews for Mitt Romney

GOP presidential candidates appear on stage at the CNN/Tea Party debate last night in Tamp, FL. 9/12/11 (photo by David and Holloway/CNN)

What a night for Mitt Romney at the GOP CNN/Tea Party debate in Tampa, Florida! He more than held his own and by some early accounts – won – in a crowd that clearly had a likin’ for Rick Perry (although Perry faded in the last half; the crowd didn’t like his gardasil vaccine mandate and he received boo’s on his immigration stance.)

The reviews…

The Weekly Standard – Fred Barnes (my favorite article)

Romney’s Win

If a debate more than four months before the first vote is cast can influence the outcome of a presidential nomination race, the debate last night among eight Republicans should aid Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Seldom has there been as clear a winner.

Romney was crisp and succinct, prepared and focused, and aggressive in going after his chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Texas governor Rick Perry, when he needed to be. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, showed once again that he’s a far better candidate now than he was four years ago.

He did well in these instances, among others: spelling out the differences between the health care plan he championed in Massachusetts and Obamacare; explaining the problem with the Fair Tax is that it gives short shrift to the middle class; pointing out the built-in advantages Perry has in Texas in governing successfully; and refraining from boasting, except to say that “if America needs a turnaround, that’s what I do.”

Romney challenged Perry on Social Security at the outset of the debate, which was held in Florida and billed as a collaboration of CNN and various Tea Party organizations. It was Tea Party people who asked the questions, mostly better ones than a panel of reporters or pundits would probably have asked.

The first question was on Social Security, which Perry has called a Ponzi scheme and a failure. Romney has suggested Perry’s view makes him unelectable.

When Perry didn’t back down from those comments, Romney jumped in with questions, and host Wolf Blitzer let him proceed. Romney asked Perry about his recent book in which he said Social Security is unconstitutional and might be better run by the states.

Perry didn’t have a ready answer, or at least not a persuasive one. Nor did he offer the one thing that I expected from him in the debate: a Perry plan for fixing Social Security’s looming insolvency. […]
Back to Romney. The candidates were asked what they’d bring to the White House – what thing. Romney gave the best answer after repeating the Winston Churchill quotation that America always does the right thing after trying everything else first. He said he’d bring the bust of Churchill, sent away by President Obama, back to the White House.

The Daily Beast – Howard Kurtz

[…] Romney seized control of the tempo in what may have been his strongest performance so far. He seemed at ease taking the fight to Perry and got the better of their heated exchanges. The former Massachusetts governor was clearly trying to position himself as the reassuring grownup on stage and Perry as the fearmonger.

Let’s unpack their verbal clash and see what it tells us about each man and his strategy.

Perry tried to clean up his mess from last week’s MSNBC debate, when he attacked Social Security as a Ponzi scheme without suggesting how he might fix it. This time he offered those near retirement age a “slam-dunk guarantee” they’d get their benefits before hailing his own “courage” in criticizing the ailing system.

Romney didn’t miss a beat, calling Perry’s Ponzi language “over the top” and “frightful” before delivering his strongest punch: that the Texan had called Social Security unconstitutional and “not something the federal government ought to be involved in.”

The Fix (The Washington Post) – Chris Cillizza


Mitt Romney: Four debates. Four times Romney has wound up in the winner’s circle. It’s not a coincidence. Romney proved yet again that he is the best debater in this field with another solid performance in which he effectively downplayed his liabilities on health care and accentuated his strengths on jobs and the economy. Romney played more offense than he has in previous debates, taking the fight to Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Social Security. He also got a major assist from Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), both of whom relentlessly bashed Perry. But that’s how debates work. Romney also, smartly, ignored the tea party audience in the hall — who occasionally booed him — and focused his messaging on the much broader audience of people watching the debate on CNN.

More good reading after the fold…

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Romney Ranked #1, New Natl Republican Senatorial Committee Obama Ad

At last, April has arrived! While today may be filled with high-jinx and tom-foolery, three political news analysts aren’t fooling when they state that the scramble for 2012 starts today:

Money, momentum and the race for the 2012 Republican nomination

The race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination begins today.

Why? Because today marks the first day of the second fundraising quarter of the year. And anyone who is serious about running for president needs to prove between now and June 30 — the quarter’s end — that Republican donors are investing in them.

While money has mattered since political time immemoriam, it may matter more than usual in this GOP presidential fight for two reasons.

First, President Obama is setting himself up to be the greatest fundraising force in American politics. After collecting $750 million in the 2008 campaign, Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina has created a program for 400 majors donors to each collect $350,000 by the end of 2011.

The Fix is no math major, but that adds up to $140 million in 2011 alone (thanks, calculator!) if each of the donors can make their number. If 300 make the target — a more likely possibility — that’s still $105 million raised for the Obama re-election effort before a single vote has been cast on the Republican side.

While no Republican — not even former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — will likely equal Obama in fundraising, any GOP candidate must prove an ability to collect some threshold amount of money over the next three months to prove that he (or she) would be financially viable against Obama next November.

The first indicator of momentum in any race, but especially a presidential contest, is money. Donors are, after all, investors and convincing them to buy in at the ground level is an early sign of momentum building. (Remember that Howard Dean’s out-of-nowhere candidacy first jumped onto the national radar screen when he raised $7.6 million in the second quarter of 2003.)

And, money follows money. Human nature tends to make us all want to be with the winner — cough, Yankee fans, cough — and the more a candidate raises early on, the more of a winner they look like.

(my emphasis)

Gov Romney is under no illusions about the progressive money machine he’s up against and the dollar amount it takes to survive a primary. He knows if his fix-it experience and get it done dauntlessness is going to rebuild America, he’s going to need a war chest full of money. From an earlier March fundraiser in NYC:

I think Mitt is a very prudent businessman. He’s very data driven. He knows what he needs to do and he’s focusing on it with laser-like intensity,” said [former MA Governor] Weld. “He sounded not just like a presidential candidate. He sounded like a president.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Eisenberg said his goal is to be out fundraising as much as he can to raise as much money as possible for Romney, and although $50 million may be the goal now, the final number for the entire campaign is much higher.

“I do believe that by the time we’ve reached November 2012…both presidential candidates, Romney and Obama, will have raised and spent a billion dollars,” Eisenberg said.

(my emphasis)

The Fix also ranks 10 potential GOP presidential contenders most likely to win the nomination (I begin at number five):

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Washington Post: Top 10 rankings of potential Republican Presidential contenders for 2012

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza of The Fix ranks the top 10 potential Republican candidates for President in 2012 as of Today. We’ll just post the juicy details of the top three finishers here; be sure to head over to read Cillizza’s full analysis of all ten contenders at WaPo:

10. Jim DeMint:
9. Mike Pence:
8. Mitch Daniels:
7. John Thune:
6. Haley Barbour:
5. Mike Huckabee:
4. Tim Pawlenty:

3. Newt Gingrich: One well-connected Iowa operative was recently detailing the massive amounts of time — and money — that the former House Speaker had spent in the Hawkeye State over the last two years. That got us to thinking about the possibility that we have been underestimating Gingrich in our 2012 calculations. What he has: name identification, the ability to raise money and more policy proposals than Antoine Dodson has You Tube hits. (And you said we couldn’t get an Antoine Dodson reference into the Fix!) What he doesn’t: a demonstrated ability to stay on message day after day in the cauldron of a presidential race. Still, if Gingrich runs, and he sounds like he is going to, he is a major force. (Previous ranking: 6)

2. Sarah Palin: Palin has begun to break out of her Twitter/Facebook cocoon to interact with the mainstream media of late. Basic political analysis would suggest that Palin’s newfound love — ok, that may be too strong a word — for the press means that she is trying to re-shape her public image in advance of a run for president. But, as we have written many times, basic political analysis doesn’t often apply to Palin. it’s just as likely that this media tour is the result of a snap decision made by Palin and her top/only political adviser (aka First Dude Todd Palin). Who knows? What we do know is that Palin is the only person on the Line who could get 10,000 people to show up and see her next weekend in Iowa. And that’s worth something. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Mitt Romney: Romney’s op-ed in opposition to the tax compromise proved that the former Massachusetts governor is deserving of our top spot. He effectively positioned himself in opposition to not just Obama but also congressional Republicans — a very good place to be given the anti-establishment sentiment among the GOP electorate these days. Romney has, by far, the most advanced political organization of anyone in the field and his ability to self-fund gives him a leg up financially over his potential competitors. Romney’s weaknesses — his difficulty in connecting on the stump, his Mormonism, his flip-flops on social issues — are well known and real. But, Romney seems a more measured and mature candidate than he was in 2008. Whether that resonates with primary and caucus voters remains to be seen. (Previous ranking: 1)

Is this a fair assessment? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Mitt Romney Most Capable 'Shellacker' of 2012 GOP Hopefuls

Just as the dems are trying to recover from the midterm ‘shellacking’, Republicans are gearing up to extend that shellacking all the way to the White House. Chris Cillizza, from the “The Fix“, reminds us who the most capable ‘shellacker’ is in his latest presidential power ranking line-up. Mitt Romney maintains the top position as most influential leader within the Republican party heading into the 2012 primaries.

“These rankings come from conversations with a variety of Republican strategists — those aligned with potential candidates and those not — as well as an analysis of fundraising potential, quality of staff, name identification, organizational ability and natural on-the-stump talent.

Top Influential Republicans and Possible 2012 Contenders

Here is what he had to say about Mitt Romney:

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, spent the entire 2008 cycle trying to win over skeptics with a be-everywhere-do-everything, Energizer Bunny sort of approach to the presidential race. His style in advance of the 2012 race has been strikingly different; Romney has picked his issues — economic ones, mostly — carefully and avoided wading into every fight with President Obama or intraparty squabble. The goal seems clear: to make Romney look like the adult in the room. And, to date, it’s worked well — establishing him as a candidate of serious purposes who won’t be distracted by the shiny objects thrown in front of him. Romney also has, by far, the most intricate and able political and financial organization in the race — a machine that can instantly be turned on whenever he decides to announce for president. Challenges remain, most notably explaining to Republican primary voters why the healthcare bill he passed in Massachusetts is different from what Congress passed earlier this year.

Here is some video analysis:

h/t: Right Wingnut

Here is the full list of those that made the top ten:
1. Mitt Romney 2. Sarah Palin 3. Tim Pawlenty 4. Haley Barbour 5. John Thune
6. Newt Gingrich 7. Mitch Daniels 8. Mike Huckabee 9. Mike Pence 10. Marco Rubio

*The top five are pictured up above in order of their rank.

Romney Leads Among Republican Leaders

Romney Leads GOP For 2012

Chris Cillizza, from the “The Fix“, ranked Mitt Romney as the the most influential voice within the Republican party. Here is what he had to say about Mitt’s recent activities:

Mitt Romney gave a command[ing] performance at CPAC — delivering a solid speech aimed at establishing himself as the de facto leader of the party and offering a detailed critique of the Obama Administration and its policies. And, his decision to put Matt Rhoades, communications director of his 2008 presidential bid, in charge of his Free and Strong America PAC was a savvy move that won him kudos among party insiders. Romney appears far more at ease in this race than he did in 2008; he knows who he is and what he can (and can’t) do — a very important quality in politics.

Here is the full list of those that made the top ten:
1. Mitt Romney 2. Haley Barbour 3. Sarah Palin 4. Tim Pawlenty 5. John Cornyn 6. Scott Brown 7. Marco Rubio 8. Newt Gingrich 8. Mitch Daniels 10. John Thune

The top five are pictured up above in order of rank.

Tuesday News Tidbits

1. released today the transcript to an extensive interview they did with Governor Romney last Friday. It’s so fresh (and extensive) that I have not even read it yet. Give me some feedback.

2. Tim Pawlenty, the GOP Governor of Minnesota, who was also considered a strong contender for the VP nod in 2008, has announced that he is starting his own PAC, dubbed the Freedom First PAC. It has long since been rumored that T-Paw would jump into the fray of 2012 contenders. His announcement in June that he was not seeking re-election, coupled with his new PAC, and his recent high profile speeches, are a clear indication that he is doing just that. Another indication being that he has taken several shots at MA health care (ie. shots at Romney) recently.

Chris Cillizza from Washington Post’s The Fix reports:

Pawlenty’s expected rivals for the 2012 nomination already have PACs up and operational.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) is at the head of the PAC class, having collected $2.3 million for his “Free and Strong America” committee so far in 2009 and ending August with $811,000 in the bank. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin closed June with $732,000 raised via her “Sarahpac” while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee collected $305,000 through his “Huck PAC” in the first six months of the year.

In recent presidential elections, leadership PACs have become de rigeur for top tier candidates — allowing them to begin the construction of a national financial apparatus while also building up chits with candidates running for office.

This process is especially important to Pawlenty as he has never run for national office before and starts at something of a disadvantage in terms of national organization and name identification when compared to Romney, Palin and Huckabee.

Tim Pawlenty does start a little behind, but he’s not in any different boat than Romney was in early 2007 when he was polling less than 4% nation-wide. Will his campaign gain traction? My guess is yes, and the Big 3 will soon become the Big 4. In fact, my early prediction is a T-Paw vs. Romney match up down the stretch. Good luck with that Tim. (Note to self: time to make a Tim Pawlenty category for blog posts ….. done.)

3. Two different GOP rankings. The first from The Hill’s Pundit Blog. Their scoop: Huckabee’s in first. Romney a close second. Big wild cards: Palin, Pawlenty.

The second is again from The Fix: Romney in first (5 times in a row now), Pawlenty at number 2, Huckabee at 7 and Palin at 9. Keep in mind this ranking is for “most influential Republicans” and is not necesarilly a handicapping of the GOP nomination race.

Said of Romney in the rankings:

1. Mitt Romney: No one in the Republican party at the moment can match Romney’s motor. The guy is simply everywhere. During Romney’s visit to Washington this weekend, he will address the Value Voters Summit in Washington on Saturday, raise money for his Free and Strong America PAC and collect cash for — among others — former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who is running for governor, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, and Republican consultant Barbara Comstock who is seeking to unseat a Democratic state legislator in McLean. Couple that packed calendar with the favorable reviews Massachusetts residents are giving to the health care plan Romney signed into law as governor and you see why Romney continues to hold the top slot on the Line. (Previous ranking: 1)

~Nate G.