The Note: Lords Of Discipline: What It Takes To Win In 2012

May 17, 2011 9:04am


To win the most powerful job in the world there’s one thing you've got to have: discipline.

Discipline to stay on message even when you are sick and tired of your stump speech, to keep dialing for dollars even when you think you can't ask for another dime, and to stay focused on the big picture when the circus around you wants to pull you down into the weeds.

As we move through this pre-campaign process we've learned that there are candidates who have that discipline: Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, for example. And then there are those who don’t like Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump.

It's hard to understand how someone who blew his first presidential kick-off could flub it again. But Gingrich, the former House Speaker, is nothing if not predictable at being unpredictable. To be fair, Newt had been subtly distancing himself from Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan  over the last few weeks, emphasizing in a Facebook post, for example, his desire to have a Medicare restructuring that allowed for individuals to opt in or out of any new plan.

But then on Sunday he called Ryan’s plan “right-wing social engineering," which he said was not “any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.”

Gingrich’s decision to take a baseball bat to Ryan on Sunday when a fly swatter would do was the clearest indication yet that he simply isn't disciplined enough to do what it takes to win the nomination. Ironically, during the same Sunday television appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Gingrich offered a candid self-critique.

“One of the painful lessons I’ve have to learn — and I haven't fully learned it honestly — is that if you seek to be president of United States, you are never an analyst, you're never a college teacher,” he said. “Because those folks can say what they want to say. And someone who offers to lead America has to be much more disciplined and much more thoughtful.”

Contrast that with former Minnesota governor Pawlenty, who has been much more measured so far on the campaign trail and is methodically building up a campaign structure, especially Iowa where he may have an even bigger opening now that Mike Huckabee is no longer an obstacle. This morning, Team Pawlenty announced that former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker will chair his Iowa steering committee.

It’s clear that Pawlenty is banking on the "slow but steady" path to get him the nomination. He's hoping that what are now pejorative terms used to describe him, like "boring" and “predictable,” end up being his biggest assets in the end.

Romney, meanwhile, also has plan and he’s sticking to it: raise lots of money and hope to outlast his opponents in what could be a much more drawn out primary than 2008. He followed through yesterday.

The former Massachusetts governor — and about 800 supporters — spent their Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center dialing for dollars for Romney’s still unofficial presidential campaign. And it paid off. By the end of the day, the Romney campaign said it had raised $10.25 million — all of it useable in the primary.

“Today’s event makes clear, Gov. Romney will have the resources to be competitive and to spread his jobs and economy message,” said Romney’s national finance chairman, Spencer Zwick, said in a statement.

But even though Romney could very well lap the rest of the 2012 field, it's Obama who'll have the number we'll all be talking about on July 15. President Obama headlined two joint fundraisers with the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC last night. And, as ABC’s Jon Garcia reports, while there was no final tally on the take, more than 600 donors ponied up between $44 and the legal max of $38,500 each to hear the president. 


HOW SERIOUS WAS TRUMP? ‘MORE SERIOUS THAN…PEOPLE REALIZE’  Had Donald Trump decided to run for president he and his aides were planning an announcement event in an iconic location — the glittering atrium of his own building on New York’s Fifth Avenue. There, at Trump Tower, surrounded by polished marble, brass, mirrors and even a waterfall , the real estate and reality television mogul planned to hold a morning press conference on Wednesday, May 25. It was to be followed by a series of events over the next few weeks in early nominating states like New Hampshire and Iowa that Trump confidantes said would attract thousands.

Trump had been meeting with political consultants on a weekly basis and talking to them on the phone even more frequently. Last Thursday they handed him a campaign plan complete with suggested names for a campaign manager, a finance director and even a team to run his political website. “He was more serious than a lot of people realize,” John McLaughlin, one of the consultants working closely with Trump, said in an interview with ABC News. “He definitely had a path to victory — it would have been a tough path.” A few weeks ago, Trump settled on McLaughlin, who along with his brother Jim, run a New York and Virginia-based polling and strategic services firm, McLaughlin & Associates, to draw up the blueprint for a potential presidential bid. McLaughlin, who worked on the presidential bids of Steve Forbes and Fred Thompson, said the campaign-in-waiting he had been putting together for Trump would have been ready to go at a moment’s notice. He was recruiting Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 deputy national press secretary, Jason Miller, to be Trump’s campaign manager. (Miller never officially accepted the position.)


WHY NY-26 MATTERS. What started out as a relatively quiet special election to fill a Congressional seat in New York’s 26th district is now officially a barn burner and a bellwether. The Cook Political Report just moved the race to “Toss-Up” and Rothenberg Political Report moved it to “Toss Up/Tilt Dem.” With the always important caveat of “don’t read too much into one special election race” — especially one that involves a self-funding third-party candidate — it’s still fair to say that this is a referendum on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan. And, it should make Republicans nervous. That said, it’s also important to note that a special election in upstate New York in 2009 was seen as a positive referendum on Obama’s stimulus package. A year later, Democrats wouldn’t touch the stimulus vote with a ten-foot pole.

DEMOCRATS ON OFFENSE. Today the House Majority PAC, a political action committee working to elect Congressional Democrats, is launching a paid advertising campaign against Republican Jane Corwin in the NY-26 race. The ad highlights Corwin’s support for — what else? — Ryan’s budget and Medicare plan. “We will make sure voters in NY-26 are aware of Jane Corwin’s support for a budget that not only ends Medicare as we know it, but also increases the national debt by providing giveaways to millionaires and big oil companies,” Ali Lapp, Executive Director, House Majority PAC said in a statement. “Asking seniors to sacrifice while the debt rises and the wealthy benefit isn't a budget plan; it's a sham.” The committee plans to run the ad on cable and broadcast television between now and Election Day (May 24).


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.”  ABC’s Rick Klein and Devin Dwyer interview Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who yesterday viewed photos of Osama bin Laden, which he said represented “conclusive” evidence that bin Laden was dead. Also on the program, Matt Lewis of the the Daily Caller. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



ARNOLD FATHERS A CHILD WITH HOUSEHOLD STAFFER. “Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated after she learned he had fathered a child more than a decade ago — before his first run for office — with a longtime member of their household staff,” The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Z. Barabak and Victoria Kim report. “Shriver moved out of the family's Brentwood mansion earlier this year, after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the paternity. The staff member worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January. ‘After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,’ Schwarzenegger said Monday night in a statement issued to The Times in response to questions. ‘I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.’ … A spokesman for the former first lady said she had no comment.”

CARVILLE’S TAKE: ‘STUNNING’ Political strategist Carville was amazed the former governor ran for public office in the first place knowing he had fathered a child with another woman. “It is pretty stunning…He put himself out there knowing that all the scrutiny of his personal life, that was a really risky thing he did in even getting into politics,” Carville, a “Good Morning America” political contributor, said on the program this morning.

TOMMY THOMPSON TO LAUNCH WISCONSIN SENATE BID, PAUL RYAN A NO-GO. "Rep. Paul Ryan is staying in the House, and won't run for the U.S. Senate, two well-placed GOP sources tell National Journal. Ryan began informing close friends of his decision Tuesday," the National Journal's Major Garrett reports.

Meanwhile, Tommy Thompson, the Republican former Wisconsin governor and George W. Bush’s first secretary of Health and Human Services, has told friends he plans to run for the open Senate seat in Wisconsin, according to top Wisconsin sources,” Politico’s Mike Allen and Edward-Isaac Dovere report. “Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) said Friday that he won’t seek a fifth term in 2012. Thompson would give Republicans a popular former two-term governor to seriously challenge for this toss-up seat, which could prove the difference as Senate Democrats struggle to defend their majority with now eight retirements. Thompson’s entry would even further intensify a race that already seems destined to be one of the most watched in the nation: Wisconsin has been at the center of the national political discussion since Gov. Scott Walker’s showdown with unions over collective bargaining in February that prompted weeks of protests at the state capitol in Madison. In the months since, even what would have almost certainly otherwise been a sleepy race for a state supreme court seat turned into a pitched battle, now in its third week of the recount.”

CONGRESS FACED WITH BUDGET PARALYSIS. “Following a Congress that passed laws affecting more Americans than any since the ‘Great Society’ legislation of the 1960s, U.S. lawmakers by comparison this year are taking a breather,” notes Bloomberg News’ Catherine Dodge. “Since the newly seated, divided 112th Congress began in January, 13 measures have been signed into law by President Barack Obama. Four of those cut spending and keep the government funded through this fiscal year. A couple of bills named federal courthouses, and the remainder were mostly temporary extensions of existing programs. ‘Perhaps after gorging itself in the 111th Congress, the 112th is a time for fasting,’ said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The reasons include fundamental policy differences between a Republican-run House and a Democratic-controlled Senate in Washington. Within weeks of convening, the House passed a repeal of the health-care overhaul that is Obama’s major domestic achievement. The repeal was defeated in the Senate. In April, a House-passed bill to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood similarly lost in the Senate.”

NOTABLE: CAN MICHELE BACHMANN ‘WIN BY LOSING’?  “Michele Bachmann isn’t going to be the Republican nominee for president this cycle, but that doesn’t mean her candidacy won’t have merit or an impact on who ultimately wins the nomination,” writes The Daily Caller’s Kurt Bardella (his inaugural Op-Ed since joining the site). “Let’s assume for a minute that she runs but doesn’t win. At some point, whoever is left standing will want the support of her and the army of grassroots supporters she commands. That means direct attacks on her run the risk of alienating a base of people the eventual primary winner will need. But what if she does run to win? If the field is Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Huntsman, Santorum, Paul and Cain — no Mitch Daniels and no Sarah Palin — there’s a good base of primary voters who, not feeling overly enthusiastic about any one nominee, might be inclined to channel their energy and support toward Bachmann. … To impact the race, Bachmann doesn’t need to win in any of the early contests in New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina; she just needs to finish in the top three. … If Bachmann were to be in the top three early on, what does it say about the other four or five guys who don’t? Can they make a credible case to stay in the race? You can’t really make the case for Bachmann to get out if she’s consistently outperforming more ‘traditional’ candidates.”

NOTABLE: STAYING ‘ON GUARD’ POST-BIN LADEN. “Our counterterrorism efforts these past weeks mark significant accomplishments for our intelligence and special operations offensive efforts. Without a doubt, the al-Qaida leadership will be on the run at least for the short term. But regrettably that won’t stop lower-level and independent operators from taking their inspiration from bin Laden’s death to plot their revenge,” writes Robert Liscouski, a former Department of Homeland Security official who now heads Secure Strategy Group, in Roll Call today. “Two recent nearly successful terrorist attacks in the U.S. provide a window into what al-Qaida and its loose network of supporters and operatives aspire to do, and how we should respond. … Imagine the absolute panic that would have occurred if a car bomb detonated in Manhattan? … Again, imagine the economic, psychological and political effect of a commercial airliner blowing up in the air over America on Christmas Day. … We need to get better technology in the field to counter the threats before the terrorists mount their next attack, not in response to their attacks. We need to continue our offensive intelligence, military and law enforcement efforts, as well as continue increasing our defensive efforts on our mass-transit systems and soft targets. Our successes increase the urgency of our future efforts. As former CIA Director Michael Hayden said, in war, you should ‘reinforce success.’ We have succeeded in our recent offensive efforts, but we also need more success on defense.”  



@MPOTheHill: Cantor on Gingrich: "I think that many have said now he's finished…I probably would reserve judgment on that."

@HenryBarbour: no idea if Mitch Daniels is running, but this wide open field needs another truth teller with a record like his…#wh2012

@JillDLawrence: So when Schwarzenegger ran for governor and Maria defended him against groping allegations, he already had love child. #beyondbelief

@CourtneyCohen: Off to the #AJForum. First up: Bob Woodward!

@thegarance: DSK vs. pre-election Arnold, and French vs. American values. Discuss.



* California’s 36th Congressional will hold an all-party special election primary today to replace Rep. Jane Harman. Harman resigned in February to serve as president of the Woodrow Wilson Center. 

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