August Is The Cruelest Month: Perry Usurps Romney’s Front-Runner Status (The Note)

Aug 25, 2011 9:01am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

What the polls giveth, the polls taketh away. And just like that, after months of referring to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, that title — at least for the moment — got passed on to Texas Gov. Rick Perry yesterday.

And it wasn’t just that Perry inched past Romney, who as of July topped the GOP leader board with 23 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in Gallup’s national poll. Perry blew right by him, surging to 29 percent compared to Romney’s 17 percent.

Trailing behind are Ron Paul (13 percent) and Michele Bachmann (10 percent). Other candidates, including Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were polling in the low single digits, according to Gallup’s latest numbers.

Add possible candidates Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani to the mix and Perry still comes out on top with 25 percent, followed by Romney (14 percent), Palin (11 percent), Paul (11 percent) and Giuliani (9 percent).

And it’s not just the Gallup poll. As The New York Times’ Nate Silver points out, Perry has taken the lead over Romney in a total of five national polls conducted since he officially jumped into the presidential race earlier this month.

The front-runner mantle is not necessarily something that the Perry campaign was hoping for at this stage in the race, and there’s no telling for how long it will stick. Indeed, a Perry source told ABC News yesterday that “the only poll that matters is on election day.”

Keep in mind, however, that the percentage of Republicans who say they are undecided remains essentially unchanged from last month. It was 20 percent in July and 19 percent this month. In other words, it’s still fair to call the situation in the GOP primary “fluid.”

Perry’s lead comes not by convincing those sitting on the sidelines to join him, but by essentially stealing votes from Romney and Bachmann.  In theory, these voters could always move back to their original candidate if they decide that Perry doesn’t wear well.

It’s also important to remember where things stood in the GOP primary at this point in 2007. Remember those days? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the favorite to capture the Republican nomination, leading the field with 34 percent support as of early Sept. 2007. Following on his heels was former Sen. Fred Thompson at 22 percent, Sen. John McCain at 15 percent, and Romney at 10 percent.

We all know how that turned out — Giuliani’s campaign ended after he limped to a third-place finish in the 2008 Florida primary, Thompson’s campaign fizzled even earlier (after South Carolina) and McCain captured the nomination.  

At this point in 2003, Sen. Joe Lieberman was in the lead among Democratic voters with 23 percent, followed by Congressman Dick Gephardt (13 percent), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean (12 percent), and the eventual nominee — Senator John Kerry (10 percent). And, four years later, in the fall of 2007, Hillary Clinton held a double-digit lead over Barack Obama from the summer through early fall.

Rick Perry’s biggest challenge now will be the Sept. 7 debate at the Reagan Library in California where he will have to show a command of policy issues. He's great on the stump, but how will he do at the podium?


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE. ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein will be joined by Rob Jesmer, Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Guy Cecil, Executive Director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to talk about the political landscape for both parties heading into 2012. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. 


“TOP LINE” REPLAY: CONGRESSMAN MIKE ROGERS ON LIBYA. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee called on the Obama administration to immediately launch efforts to secure a post-Gadhafi Libya, warning that chemical weapons could wind up as part of a “black market bonanza” for terrorists. “Once the fall of Gadhafi happens — well, then all of the jockeying and positioning happens. And we've seen that before,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told ABC’s “Top Line” yesterday. “We know he has a chemical stockpile — some 25,000 pounds of mustard gas,” Rogers said. “And he has other weapons systems — anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles that are very, very dangerous in the hands [of anyone] beyond any legitimate government. And there it's very concerning that these things are going to start walking away in the weeks following the actual fall of Gadhafi.”



CAUTION SIGNS FOR PERRY. “Rick Perry has directed plenty of scorn toward the Beltway and Wall Street, but for years he’s also been raising money from a small pool of deep-pocketed donors in the Washington and New York metropolitan areas to finance his successful runs for Texas governor,” Politico’s Ken Vogel, Maggie Haberman and Dave Levinthal note. “As his presidential campaign gears up, he has stepped up his efforts to broaden his fundraising networks in those two reservoirs of establishment Republican wealth, wooing D.C.’s lobbying community, and working to set up operations in the two towns by among other things, trying to poach key supporters from his chief rival for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney. Yet, there’s been a bit of caution on both sides. Some lobbyists and finance types are privately leery about Perry’s sometimes heated anti-establishment rhetoric — his assertion last week that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s monetary stewardship could be “treasonous” and might prompt “pretty ugly” treatment from Texans remains a point of concern. And Perry also has kept a bit of distance, so far scheduling no fundraising events in either Washington or New York (though he is expected to hold events in the capital towards the end of next month), and instead his allies have summoned donors to Austin as well as Aspen, Colo., where he scheduled to attend a fundraiser today hosted by a major investment banker. The arm’s length courting is not a strategy Perry’s bundlers, who have been deputized by the campaign to corral big checks from well-heeled friends and associates, all agree on.”

SCOTT BROWN, MITT ROMNEY ADVISER CONFESSES TO FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNT. “For nearly a month, Democratic Senate candidate Alan Khazei has been mocked by a ‘CrazyKhazei’ Twitter account that pretends to represent his voice and offers sometimes-nasty statements about the news of the day,” the Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson scoops. “Now the author has been unmasked. Eric Fehrnstrom — a senior campaign adviser to US Senator Scott Brown, the Republican whom Khazei hopes to challenge in next year’s election – sent out a ‘CrazyKhazei’ –type tweet Tuesday from his Twitter account. That kind of mistake can happen when a person with multiple accounts chooses the wrong distribution channel on social media aggregation software such as HootSuite or TweetDeck. … The tweet was subsequently removed, but not before Blue Mass Group and Kevin Franck, spokesman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, pointed it out on their own Twitter feeds and blog posts. In an e-mail, Fehrnstrom admitted yesterday that he was the person behind the ‘CrazyKhazei’’ tweets, but did not apologize. ‘It was my Twitter account,’ he said in an e-mail. ‘Sometimes we take our politics too seriously, and this was my way of lightening things up. As they say in politics, if you can’t stand the tweet, get out of the kitchen.’ Neither Brown’s campaign manager nor his US Senate communications director responded to a request for comment on Fehrnstrom’s actions.”

BACHMANN’S IMAGE-MANAGEMENT MACHINE. “All presidential candidates try to control their image. But the campaign of [Michele] Bachmann, the winner of the Iowa straw poll this month who is now battling to be seen as a national front-runner, is more controlling than most, carefully stage-managing her contacts with the news media and the public,” writes The New York Times’ Trip Gabriel. “That control is partly about her appearance, a far more complicated issue for a female candidate because there is no voter consensus on what looking ‘presidential’ means for a woman. Viewers of a televised debate this month with seven male candidates scratched their heads when Mrs. Bachmann disappeared offstage during commercials, before learning she was touching up her makeup. A recent profile in The New Yorker included a scene aboard a campaign plane in which an aide warned journalists not to photograph Mrs. Bachmann in cargo pants. But the Bachmann campaign’s controlling instincts go beyond the candidate’s makeup and wardrobe. Unlike other candidates who let reporters fire questions after a public appearance for 5 or 10 minutes in a scrum, known as a ‘press avail,’ Mrs. Bachmann takes questions in a well-mannered way at a microphone stand in front of her bus — but only from reporters whose names she calls from a list, like a substitute teacher.”

SUPER PACS GAIN STEAM. The Washington Post’s Dan Eggen takes a closer look at the rise of candidate SuperPACS, which he writes, “are emerging as de facto subsidiaries of the traditional presidential campaigns”: “Super PACs are technically independent of candidates and parties, and are supposed to abide by Federal Election Commission rules prohibiting coordination with campaigns. But many campaign-finance experts complain that the line is fast blurring into a distinction without a difference, in part because the FEC itself has loosened its regulations to allow much closer ties between campaigns and outside groups. The trend has accelerated since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, experts said. ‘The candidate super PAC, which is new to 2012, is the most dangerous vehicle operating in American politics,’ said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, who has led the push for campaign-finance regulations since the scandals of the Nixon era. ‘It is a way, in essence, for candidates to raise and spend unlimited money from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions for the benefit of their campaign. That takes you very close to unlimited contribution limits.’ Each of the top GOP presidential candidates — Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) — has one or more super PACs dedicated solely to assisting his or her White House bid. A Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA Action, is raising money to help President Obama in his reelection effort.”

COAL-HARD REALITY FOR VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE. “When the Environmental Protection Agency announced new smokestack standards for coal-burning power plants this summer, former Virginia Gov. George Allen, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, was quick to oppose the move,” the Washington Times’ Jim McElhatton reports. “‘These backdoor tax hikes have real economic impacts on Virginia families and businesses, destroying jobs and sending electricity rates soaring,’ he said on his campaign website. But as Mr. Allen advocates for the coal industry on the campaign trail, a financial disclosure form shows that as recently as last year, he was working as a consultant for a major coal company. After he lost his Senate seat in 2006, Mr. Allen opened his own consulting firm, George Allen Strategies. His client list included Alpha Natural Resources, one of the country's largest coal producers, according to a financial disclosure form Mr. Allen recently filed with the Senate. The company and the Allen campaign say the consulting arrangement ended last year. Mr. Allen declared his candidacy for the Senate on Jan. 24 this year.”


@GOP12: Herman Cain: Perry is flavor of the week; "lot of vetting hasn't been done about him yet"

@jimgeraghty: Former Obama fan Mort Zuckerman in WSJ: "I long for a triple-A president to run a triple-A country."

@davecatanese: Following the @ericFehrn as @CrazyKhazei reveal, will campaigns be more careful about fake Twitter accounts?

@PounderFile: AP Poll: "Some 75 percent in the poll said the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 63 percent in June"

@GovernorOMalley: Prepare for Hurricane Irene by taking a look at our emergency management map: It's a great resource.



(all times local)

* Mitt Romney holds a forum on jobs in Exeter, N.H. at 11:45 a.m. and a town hall meeting in Dover at 6 p.m.

Michele Bachmann participates in a town hall forum with Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C. in North Charleston, S.C. at 7 p.m.

Rick Santorum will be the keynote speaker at the Clove Lake Wylie Republican Women's Club and York County Republican Party dinner at 7 p.m. in Lake Wylie, S.C.

Newt Gingrich  participates in a plant tour and employee gathering at Freudenberg-NOK in Manchester, N.H. at 1 p.m.

Gary Johnson hosts a "Get to Know Gary Johnson" town hall at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord at 7 p.m.

Rick Perry is the honored guest at a reception in Englewood, Colo., at 6:30 p.m.


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