Newt Gingrich Sets The Bar (The Note)

VIDEO: Former House speaker and GOP presidential contender on claiming the nomination.

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

The former House Speaker turned presidential hopeful didn’t mince words in an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper yesterday.

“I’m going to be the nominee,” the former Speaker said in Iowa. “It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee. And by the way, I don’t object if people want to attack me, that’s their right. All I’m suggesting that it’s not going to be very effective and that people are going to get sick of it very fast.”


And as far as attacks on him go, the candidate has reportedly instructed his staff not to be too reactionary.

“In response to the dynamics over the last 24 hours about the attacks coming our way, his instructions to us were to not say anything bad about Mitt Romney,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told Real Clear Politics’ Erin McPike.

Gingrich’s opponents have been circling the wagons this week, and several have weighed in with criticism of their surging rival. Ron Paul, for one, released a brutal web video slamming him.

In an interview on Fox News this morning Romney said he “sure” does disagree with Gingrich’s boast that he is going to be the nominee.

“Self aggrandizing statements about polls are not going to win elections,” Romney said. ”I wish Newt the best, he’ll run his campaign and I’ll run mine, and let the best person win.”

Earlier this week Romney disparaged Gingrich as a “lifelong politician” and yesterday in Florida Gov. Chris Christie — a Romney backer — said flatly: “Speaker Gingrich has never run anything … He’s been a legislator. I have to tell you — I don’t think being a legislator is the best calling card.”

But besides the other candidates, what else is standing in Gingrich’s way of capturing the nomination? ABC’s Political Director Amy Walter identifies four potential obstacles:

– Iowa debates: These debates have been the single greatest reason for Newt’s rise, in large part because he’s been able to remain above the fray. How he reacts — both in tone and substance — to the next two debates in Iowa will be critical to his chances to remain on top.

– His past: There is an active underground effort to discredit the former House speaker. Found tucked on windshields of every car parked at two events Gingrich attended yesterday were anonymous fliers that attacked his record on issues ranging from his support for Medicare Part D to his lucrative contract with Freddie Mac.

– Organization: Even Gingrich admits that he’s not where he needs to be in terms of campaign organization in Iowa. One smart GOP insider in the state tells us that while Gingrich has gotten an enthusiastic response from Iowa Republicans this week, he’s yet to prove that he can turn out these voters on his own.

–Self-Discipline: When Newt is on, he’s good. But, when he gets off-message he often digs himself into bigger problems. Can he keep himself and his message focused as the pressure of being a frontrunner intensifies?



More clips from Tapper’s interview with Gingrich:

HIS ADVICE FOR HERMAN CAIN: “My advice to Herman having lived through a lot of different experiences is he has to stop and open up his heart and he has to think very prayerfully about what he owes his own family and what he owes his own future.”

ON ABORTION: “I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”

ON THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE:“I think a mandate per se is clearly unconstitutional because it means the Congress can require you to do anything with your own money under any circumstances, I think that’s the argument of unconstitutionality in the long run.”

ON CALISTA AS FIRST LADY: “First of all she is a very strong personality, which Nancy Reagan was,” Gingrich said. “She actually describes herself as being a cross between Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush with just a slight bit of Jackie Kennedy tossed in and I think there is, somewhere swirling in there, the model Calista would like to live up to.”  Gingrich noted that Calista “is a musician.  She is a trained pianist, she plays the French horn in the Fairfax City band.  She sings in the professional choir at the Church of the Immaculate Conception so she is really into music and I think she would be very musical in the White House and music education orientated.”


OTHER SKELETONS IN HIS CLOSET?  ”Not that I know of. I mean, again, given the nature of the modern world whatever is there I’m sure will come out in the end. But to the best of my knowledge people know an immense amount about me. Probably more than any candidate who is running. I think people have dealt with and thought through whether or not they could support me.”


UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS TO 8.6 PERCENT. From the ABC News Business Unit: The nation’s employers increased their payrolls by 120,000 jobs in November. The private sector, which factors out government layoffs and hiring, saw 140K workers added to payrolls. The nation’s unemployment rate decreased by a statistically significant one-tenth of a percent from 9.0 percent to 8.6 percent. The rate hasn’t been this low since March 2009.

TEAM ROMNEY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Mitt Romney offers his take on the November numbers: “Today’s unemployment figures bring to 34 the number of months that unemployment in the United States has been over 8 percent, the longest such spell since the Great Depression. The Obama administration may have come to accept such a high level of joblessness as the new normal. I will never accept it.”


THE CAIN WANE. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs offers a sneak peek at the new poll numbers the newspaper will be releasing in full on Saturday night, and the news is not good for Herman Cain: “Herman Cain’s once-surging popularity in Iowa has plummeted in the wake of an allegation of a 13-year extramarital affair, leaving him at single-digit support with the Iowa caucuses just over a month away. Cain is now at 8 percent among likely Republican caucus-goers, The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll shows. That’s down from 23 percent in late October. … On a question about the candidate most likely to have a scandal in the White House, Cain’s numbers rose from 25 percent at the start of polling, then to 36 percent, and to 47 percent at the end of polling.”

@ jaketapper : This is what Iowans are waking up to,  @THEHermanCain


ROMNEY’S ENDORSEMENT FRIDAY. Two prominent former elected officials are throwing their support behind Mitt Romney today: Former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray and former Missouri Sen. John Danforth. “This election is one of, if not the, most important of my lifetime. Our country faces the possibility of losing our place in the world if our economy fails to restart,” Danforth said in a statement. “I am honored to join Senators Roy Blunt and Jim Talent in endorsing Mitt Romney.” And former Gov. Ray noted that Romney “offers the personal qualities and vision to become a truly great president.”

‘A COURTESY CALL’ ABC’s Emily Friedman reports that Romney met with former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush at their Houston home Thursday. There was no endorsement and it was just a “courtesy call.” Mitt Romney tweeted a photo of the happy threesome along with a message: Grateful for the opportunity to catch up with George and Barbara Bush this afternoon


DEMOCRATIC FACT-CHECK. Two Democratic SuperPACs, Priorities USA Action and American Bridge 21st Century, are out with a new hit on Romney today, challenging his contention that he is not a career politician.

From a memo written by Priorities USA’s Bill Burton: “The irony is not just the long time Romney has spent in politics, but how he embodies the characteristics of a ‘career politicians’ he claims to be so eager to defeat. He has opportunistically changed on core beliefs so frequently, the conservative Manchester Union Leader wrote that Romney just “tells us what he thinks we want to hear.” But, to court (and win) support from the Republican establishment in Washington and on Wall Street, Romney has continued his pattern of pandering. Even the food he eats and the airlines he flies feel calculated by his chief pollster and strategist. In the 1994 campaign, Romney’s career politician sentiment may have been honest: ‘I’ve never run for office before, that’s why I finally decided to do it.’” And an accompanying video provided by American Bridge:



REPUBLICANS LOOK TO STEAL OBAMA’S THUNDER . “President Obama has spent the past few weeks trying to shame Republicans for their reluctance to embrace a payroll tax cut extension for workers. Now Republicans are trying to turn the tables,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer and Mary Bruce note. “Conceding that the tax break will ultimately pass the Congress with bipartisan support - last night’s Senate votes notwithstanding — GOP leaders have shifted focus of the debate to Obama’s plan to pay for it. And in doing so they’re hoping to make the president eat his own words. Obama wants to offset an extension and expansion of the existing payroll tax cut with a new 3.25 percent surtax on all millionaires and billionaires — a plan Republicans say will go nowhere.  Instead, they’re offering a menu of spending cuts that they say Obama will find difficult to refuse.”

RICK PERRY’S ‘FUNNY’ STRATEGY. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: Over three weeks after he “stepped in it” by making a major gaffe at a nationally-televised debate, Rick Perry showed Thursday that he isn’t hiding from his verbal mistakes.  Instead, he’s decided to embrace them.  The Texas governor appeared on his second late night show last night to make light of his debate slip-ups. “Well, you know, one, two, and then — uh, uh.  It happens, man. Let me tell you.  I said, ‘Listen, it happens,’ Perry said of his debate gaffe on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” “Every now and then I call my dogs by the wrong name.  I get that wrong, too.”  This wasn’t his first late night appearance.  In the day after his debate slip-up, Perry engaged in a media blitz of damage control, appearing on every morning show, conducting a series of interviews with Fox News, and reading the Top 10 List on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Accompanying Perry’s late night appearance Thursday was a television ad poking fun at his “Oops” moment, which bookended the program, airing exclusively for one night in Iowa. More on the ad:

NOTED: Perry walked onto the stage of the “Tonight Show” wearing his cowboy boots while the band played “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” ABC’s Greg Croft points out an article in the Atlantic about Perry’s footwear. The Texas governor alternates between wearing cowboy boots and orthopedic looking shoes, though his campaign claims they are not orthopedic shoes, but Justin Roper comfortable work boots.

GOP LEADERS STILL TORN OVER MITT. “ Republican leaders remain bullish about their party’s chances of winning the White House, but after spending much of this year unsuccessfully trying to recruit new candidates, they are coming to the conclusion that their eventual nominee will carry substantial flaws into the general election,” reports The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny. “A month before the first round of voting begins, with the top of the field seeming to take shape, many Republicans remain torn over whether to back Mitt Romney and still want to see how Newt Gingrich or another alternative develops. The desire to defeat President Obama is high, but a vast majority of Republican governors, members of Congress and other party elders are content for now to watch from the sidelines, undercutting Mr. Romney’s effort to create an air of inevitability and reflecting broader indecision among conservatives even as the time to choose draws close. … But the 2012 quandary for party leaders has grown in recent weeks as Mr. Romney has failed to capitalize on the woes of his Republican rivals, allowing Mr. Gingrich another shot at challenging him.”

WILL CAIN DROP OUT? From ABC’s Arlette Saenz: Herman Cain admitted Thursday that his wife did not know about his friendship with Ginger White, the woman who has claimed to have engaged in a long-term affair with the presidential candidate, nor did he tell his wife about the financial assistance he offered  White, and he is prepared to quit the race if his wife asks him to,  according to the New Hampshire Union Leader and  CSPAN. In an hour-long interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader’s editorial board, Cain acknowledged that he’d helped White with “month-to-month bills and expenses” and that his wife, Gloria, “did not know that we were friends until she [White] came out with this story.” The presidential candidate said his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”  Cain has yet to discuss the allegations, which arose Monday, with his wife in person but plans to do so Friday when he returns to Georgia.

NOTED: ABC’s Susan Archer files this dispatch from Tennessee: “Embattled GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain took a break from the campaign trail Thursday night to deliver a lecture at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The university emphasized that there would be no discussion of politics or Cain’s candidacy. But Cain’s lecture on business and entrepreneurship soon became very political when Occupy protesters interrupted the event. Approximately 20 minutes into the event, Occupy protesters conducted a “mic check” as Cain discussed his rise through Pillsbury and the Burger King Corporation. A young woman stood up in the middle of the lecture hall shouting “Mic check! Mic check!” She was soon joined by three or four more students in the hall as they all began to call out their grievances.

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: From former Republican National Communications Director Doug Heye: “I wanted to let you know I’ve signed on as a senior advisor to the Iowa Republican Party to help guide the communications efforts of the Party and Chairman Matt Strawn leading up to the Iowa Caucus and the upcoming debates.”

@ mattstrawn : RT  @DougHeye: Excited to be working with the  @IowaGOP and its Chairman  @mattstrawn for the Iowa Caucus.  #iagop  #iacaucus

MARK HALPERIN’S TAKEWhy this bad stretch has been Romney’s worst of the campaign. #1 Reason: “Widespread Old Media and blog condemnation of — and late-night comic mocking of — his first TV ad.”




@ kasie : On Fox & Friends,  @MittRomney says of George H.W. Bush and Barbara: “By the way, they are 100 percent with it.”

@ mattklewis : Michele Bachmann hits Romney as a ‘chameleon’; hits Newt on ‘Amnesty’ -…

@ fivethirtyeight : The recovery is still fragile, though, so it’s good there’s not an entire continent whose currency might collapse or anything like that.

@ politicoalex : Some Dems believe Artur Davis will leave the party altogether and run as a GOPer -

@ jonward11 : Dear world, my wife gave birth to our third child yesterday, so that’s why your emails, calls & Christmas party invites are being ignored


* Herman Cain is on the trail in South Carolina where he’ll host a town hall meeting in Rock Hill.

* Ron Paul will spend the day in New Hampshire attending a meet and greet with business leaders in Manchester.

* Michele Bachmann campaigns in South Carolina hosting two book signings.

* Rick Santorum will attend three events in New Hampshire including a Toys for Tots drive at his Granite State campaign headquarters.

* Mitt Romney fundraises in Missouri.

–ABC’s Josh Haskell


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