Letting Newt Be Newt (The Note)

Nov 23, 2011 9:08am

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

Newt Gingrich couldn’t have picked a better debate venue if he tried.

Last night’s foreign policy-focused face-off in Washington, DC appeared to be the perfect place for Gingrich to show off his professorial side — wonky think tank questions that came nowhere near any of his weak spots.

Remember that pesky Freddie Mac consulting retainer that lined Gingrich’s pockets to the tune of nearly $2 million a few years ago? That issue didn’t come into play on the debate stage last night where eight of the Republican contenders squared off.

What Gingrich got was an opportunity to show off his general election appeal when he revealed what is essentially a compassionate conservative stance on immigration.

“There’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone,” Gingrich said at the debate. His response provoked heated rebuttals from several of his rivals, including Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, who characterized Gingrich’s approach as “amnesty.” http://abcn.ws/rVmvq6

“I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century,” Mr. Gingrich followed up. “I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”

Gingrich is taking criticism from conservatives, and while that could continue, the Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent Byron York points out this morning, “it’s also possible he will not suffer anything like the damage suffered by Rick Perry, who fell in the polls after he famously said that those who disagree with his position on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants ‘have no heart.’  Perry didn’t make a very effective case for himself; there was a reasonable argument to make for his position, but he did not or could not make it, at least at first.  Gingrich won’t have that problem.” http://bit.ly/u6QOkx

His answer on immigration notwithstanding, it’s Gingrich’s ties to Washington’s “crony capitalism” system that remain his biggest liability. The Thanksgiving break may do wonders for Gingrich’s chances to get a break from the scrutiny and if he remains generally unscathed heading into the final push to Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s no telling how far he can go.

 ABC’s Jake Tapper rounds up the best moments from last night’s presidential debate on “Good Morning America” today. WATCH:  http://abcn.ws/vcqmEN

 

 

DEBATE NIGHT LOSERS. More analysis from ABC’s Political Director Amy Walter:

Herman Cain: He didn’t have a 53-second brain freeze, but it was also clear that he was out of his element. His answers to questions on foreign policy were vague and showed a thin understanding of these issues.

9-9-9:  This may be the first time at a Republican debate that the economic slogan didn’t get mentioned – not in German or Spanish and not by any of the candidates, including Herman Cain.

Journalists as Questioners:  The debate was shown on CNN and was hosted by Wolf Blitzer. But every question came from a person associated with conservative think tanks American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, including from former Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz and former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington. http://abcn.ws/stpSsB

DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. The Democratic National Committee is out with a new post-debate web video attacking Romney for his “extreme anti-immigrant views.” According to DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse, “Romney once again went to the right of every other Republican presidential candidate, refusing to agree with others on the stage that tearing apart families is wrong or that we shouldn’t implement an extreme and inhumane immigration policy.” WATCH: http://bit.ly/tkT1nC

@rcmahoney: New @RNC video on @BarackObama‘s failure of leadership youtu.be/aYLzOlr5K6U #supercommittee

 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: PRE-THANKSGIVING FOOD AND FUN. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Obamafoodorama blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan. Kohan runs what he calls “the blog of record about White House food initiatives, from policy to pie.” Also on the program, a special “Top Line” edition of “Washington Cribs” featuring Facebook’s new headquarters in DC. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc 

 

THE BUZZ

IS ROMNEY’S FAITH GOING TO BE A FACTOR? “‘Cult’ is the word most Americans used when asked in a new poll to describe how they view Mormons, a view that could hurt GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the primaries,” ABC’s Huma Khan reports. “In a new survey by the Pew Research Center, about a third of Americans — and the same proportion of Republican voters — say they don’t believe Mormons are Christians. That number expands even further when specific religious groups are questioned. More than half of white evangelical Protestants say Mormons aren’t part of the Christian faith. That viewpoint could hurt Mitt Romney in the Republican primary, but it is likely to come into play in the general election, according to Pew. The voters most likely to see Romney’s faith as a negative might still vote for him regardless of religion because they staunchly oppose President Obama. In the general election, Romney does better in a head-to-head matchup with Obama than any of the other top-tier Republican candidates.” http://abcn.ws/velthc

ROMNEY SCORES JOHN THUNE’S BACKING. “Mitt Romney today will pick up yet another major endorsement of the week when South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune endorses him at a campaign stop in Iowa,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports. “Thune, considered to be a rising GOP star, defeated Senate minority leader and incumbent Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004. Thune’s name was also floated as a vice presidential nominee during Sen. John McCain’s president bid in 2008. And Thune ruled out a presidential run of his own in February, saying in a statement that he had decided to remain in ‘the trenches’ of the Senate. Romney has received endorsements in the past few days from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H. Of his endorsement of Romney, Thune wrote today, ‘The next election will be the most important in generations. We can choose to continue on the same path with four more years of President Obama’s failed policies or we can choose a leader who has the needed experience to lead an economic recovery.’” http://abcn.ws/sQHZr4

MITT HIT WITH PROTEST LETTER. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: A group of more than two dozen New Hampshire state representatives and senators has written Mitt Romney protesting what they say his misleading TV ad has done to political discourse in the Granite State. “The ad…does a disservice to Granite Staters who are attempting to make up their minds based on the candidates’ records and proposals,” the members wrote. “Your first television ad does not mention your record nor your plan for moving the state and the nation forward…. we can only hope that you will discuss your proposals and your record instead of perpetuating misleading attacks. Granite Staters deserve better.” The signatories, all of whom are Democrats, include state Senate leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord and House leader Terie Norelli of Portsmouth.

NEWT INC. VS THE CAMPAIGN. Politico’s Ken Vogel, Emily Schultheis, and Abby Phillip report: “During his decade on the political sidelines, Newt Gingrich got rich by building a network of companies and think tanks that pulled in more than $115 million in contributions and fees from powerful corporations and individuals…. It laid the foundation for his recently surging presidential campaign by providing a pool of talent for staff and consultants to tap and allowing him to get in front of key early state audiences and build relationships with major donors and influential interest groups. Now, though, months after Gingrich stepped away from his businesses and groups to run for president, some of his enterprises have struggled: one major group folded, another is on the brink and a third is reportedly considering a sale. The story of Gingrich’s network, and the way in which it has been partly absorbed in his campaign, is an example of how the line between business and politics can blur when a politician uses connections and clout to build a Washington empire. ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like what Newt did,’ said Norm Ornstein, a veteran of Washington’s non-profit policy world who worked with Gingrich during their time together at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where Ornstein is a resident scholar.” http://politi.co/srZ9lr

OBAMA STORE STOCKED FOR BLACK FRIDAY. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports from Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago: “This Black Friday, count President Obama’s re-election campaign as one ‘retailer’ fully stocked and hungry for a slice of the holiday shopping pie. A glimpse inside the campaign store at headquarters found shelves loaded with the traditional array of screen print T-shirts, buttons, stickers and yard signs. But there’s also plenty of non-traditional ‘swag’ to accompany what aides bill as a non-traditional campaign. New arrivals include Obama-Biden branded yoga pants, basketball jerseys, golf divot tools, martini glasses, cutting boards, grill spatulas and cufflinks. Bo Obama, the first family’s pet Portuguese Water Dog, makes a cameo appearance on a button. Vice President Joe Biden’s face is emblazoned on a coffee mug titled ‘Cup of Joe.’ … Campaign officials won’t reveal which are the hottest selling items, or how much revenue the sales have raised. One thing they will say for certain is that everything on the shelves was manufactured on U.S. soil.”

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@Timodc: GLEN JOHNSON: @globeglen speaks – Huntsman excels at GOP debate bo.st/vfK6VN #FITN

@ron_fournier: Must read @majoratNJ on the “The Monty Python Committee:”njour.nl/uj1rBg

@AndreaBozek: Gobble Gobble: National Journal says Carnahan is one of the “top 10 congressional turkeys on the chopping block” goo.gl/K4F3x #MO03

@realDonaldTrump: I dictate my tweets to my executive assistant and she posts them. “Time is money”—The Art of the Deal.

@kalpenn: One thing I miss about working @whitehouse is the pardoning of the turkey. Bummed i’m not there today. @RonnieCho take some pictures maing!

 

POLITICAL RADAR.

* Mitt Romney will deliver a speech at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, Iowa. Later, he and newly-announced endorser Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., will host a tele-town hall meeting.

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

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