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News from the Votemaster

Perry Drops Out and Endorses Gingrich     Permalink

What a day we had yesterday! For starters, Rick Perry saw the handwriting on the wall and it said: "You're toast. Go back to Texas." On paper, Rick Perry was the new Fred Thompson. In reality, he was also the new Fred Thompson. Before either of them got into their respective races (Thompson in 2008, Perry in 2012), they were heralded by conservative Republicans as the Great White Hope. They would take on the moderate (John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012) and make mincemeat of him. Didn't happen and in both cases for the same reason: resume isn't destiny. If the actual candidate is poorly prepared and a weak campaigner to boot, he won't win. Running for President isn't easy. These guys just weren't ready for the big leagues.

Gingrich Surging in South Carolina     Permalink

Seven polls of the Republican primary in South Carolina were released yesterday. Here are the results.

Pollster Romney Gingrich Paul Santorum Perry
ARG 32% 33% 19% 9% 4%
Insider Advantage 29% 32% 15% 11% 3%
Marist 31% 26% 17% 13% 5%
Tarrance 31% 29% 9% 8% 3%
PPP 29% 35% 15% 15% 5%
Rasmussen 31% 33% 15% 11% 2%
We Ask America 28% 32% 13% 9% 3%
Average 30% 31% 15% 12% 4%

The results show a spectacular surge for Newt Gingrich, who only a few days ago trailed by double digits. Now he is tied with Mitt Romney. This is a huge gain for him. If this surge continues for another day, he is likely to win Saturday's primary. Primaries are notoriously difficult to poll because finding likely voters is tricky and this year the race has been exceptionally volatile, with double-digit leads vanishing in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, Gingrich's surge the past few days is clearly real.

Gingrich's Second Wife Attacks Him     Permalink

Newt Gingrich second wife, went on television last night attacking him, saying that he lacks the moral character to be President. She should know. She had an affair with him while he was married to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley. Then he went and did the same thing to her, having an affair with a young staffer while still married to her (and while viciously attacking Bill Clinton for having an affair with a young intern). The basic facts of Gingrich's marital life have been known for years and are detailed on his Wikipedia page. Nevertheless, hearing them from his clearly bitter ex-wife could influence some voters. On the other hand, her role in breaking up his first marriage is not likely to cause family-values voters to see her as a paragon of virtue and her timing of the interview to do maximum damage to his career does not add to her credibility.

Romney Loses His Win in Iowa     Permalink

On caucus night in Iowa, the announced preliminary tally put Mitt Romney 8 votes ahead of Rick Santorum. A few days ago, Romney was about to make it three for three, with back-to-back wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Now the final tally for Iowa has come in and it appears that Rick Santorum won by 34 votes, although the votes of eight precincts were lost somehow. Nevertheless, with Gingrich surging in South Carolina, a scenario of three consecutive Romney wins could easily turn into a scenario of Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich wins, keeping the race going for a while.

Romney Reported to Have Millions of Dollars in the Cayman Islands     Permalink

An ABC News Report claims that Romney has millions of dollars worth of investments in the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven. Romney has admitted having the money there but has denied the funds were put there to avoid taxes. Since the Caymans have no industries to invest in except tourism (hotels, etc.), a story that he put his money there because the islands have a pleasant tropical climate is not going to fly. He is going to be under constant pressure to explain what makes the Cayman Islands a good place to invest in, other than its financial secrecy laws. This is going to be a story for quite a while. Even assuming Romney has done nothing illegal, his rivals are going to be asking why he didn't invest in America to create jobs at home.

The Final Four Take Off the Gloves in the Last Debate before the South Carolina Primary     Permalink

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul went at it one last time before the voters of South Carolina have their say. The biggest moments of the debate were when moderator John King asked Newt Gingrich about the remarks his second wife made about him. She said he asked her for an open marriage (English translation: he wanted to stay married to her while openly continuing his affair with his staffer and later third wife, Callista Bisek). Gingrich exploded at King, said the question was despicable, and launched into a tirade against the media that won him multiple standing ovations from the audience.

The strategy of avoiding the questions and issues, acting like a victim, and attacking the media (a technique Sarah Palin turned into a fine art) is working brilliantly for Gingrich so he is mining it for all it is worth. He clearly understands that the right has a persecution complex despite controlling the media (Fox News and Rush Limbaugh probably have a combined audience an order of magnitude more than the New York Times). He plays this sense of persecution like a violin. In a general election, it won't work at all and having the media hate you is not a receipe for good coverage down the road, but at the moment, Gingrich is thinking about Saturday evening, not next October.

Mitt Romney didn't get any ovations, standing or sitting. He did get a lot of questions about his slashing jobs while at Bain Capital as well as questions about his tax returns. When asked whether he would follow in the lead of his father, George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for President in 1968, Romney said "maybe" and was booed by the audience. This issue is not going to go away. Politicians never seem to learn that the cover-up is almost always worse than the thing being covered up. If he would just release them all now, there would be a flurry of news stories for a week then the issue would probably go away (unless there are very damaging things there). By sort of half agreeing to possibly thinking about maybe releasing them some time in the future, all he is doing is building up an image of someone who has something to hide. In preparation for attacking Romney on not releasing his tax returns, Gingrich released his yesterday. In 2010, Gingrich and his wife earned $3.1 million. They paid over 30% of their income in taxes, compared to 15% for Romney, a fact Gingrich is not going to let anyone forget. Furthermore, they gave $81,000 to charity. This is an important issue for Republicans, who say charities, not the government, should be in the social safety net business. Also on the subject of tax returns, Ron Paul, who hasn't released his either, got in a good one liner: "I don't want to be embarrassed because I don't have a greater income."

Rick Santorum went after both Gingrich and Romney. He really tore into Gingrich, his last remaining competitor in the not-Romney sweepstakes, saying Gingrich had grandiose views. Gingrich shot back with: "I spent 16 years on a grandiose project called creating a Republican majority in the House." Santorum also took on Romney, painting him as insufficiently conservative on immigration. If Gingrich wins South Carolina, it will be hard for Santorum to stay in the race much longer. He really has to take Gingrich down fast.

Ron Paul didn't get a lot of air time but he did manage to mention that his wife of 54 years was in the audience, a not-so-subtle dig at Gingrich. Unlike the other candidates, he's not really in the race to win and can stay in as long as he wants to keep pushing his pet ideas, like abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank.

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Previous headlines

Jan17 Hard-Hitting Debate in South Carolina Changes Nothing
Jan16 Huntsman Expected to Drop Out Today and Endorse Romney
Jan16 Why is the Republican Field So Weak?
Jan16 South Carolina Debate Tonight
Jan15 Social Conservatives Agree to Back Santorum
Jan13 Eleventh Commandment Repealed
Jan11 NH: Romney 39%, Paul 23%, Huntsman 17%, Gingrich 9%, Santorum 9%
Jan11 Charlie Cook: Redistricting is Politically Neutral
Jan10 Romney Leads Going into the New Hampshire Primary Today
Jan10 Gingrich Goes Negative in South Carolina
Jan08 Romney Survives Debate Unscathed
Jan08 Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Jan05 Bachmann Drops Out
Jan05 Perry Hesitates, but Stays In
Jan05 Movement Conservatives Attempt to Find a Consensus Candidate
Jan04 Iowa: Romney 24.6%, Santorum 24.6%, Paul 21.4%, Gingrich 13.3%
Jan03 All Eyes on Iowa Today
Jan03 The Horse Race as a Horse Race
Jan01 Happy New Presidential Election Year
Jan01 Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday
Jan01 Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising
Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
Nov29 Woman Accuses Cain of Long-Running Affair
Nov23 Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
Nov23 Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
Nov19 Newton Defies Gravity
Nov10 Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate
Nov09 Anti-Union Bill Repealed in Ohio
Nov09 Republicans May Take over Virginia State Senate
Nov09 An Egg is Not a Person in Mississippi
Nov06 Romney's Choice
Oct22 Cain First, Romney Real Winner in NV Straw Poll

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