As Romney Expands His Lead, Santorum Gets Scrubbed (The Note)

Jan 6, 2012 9:11am

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

MANCHESTER, N.H. — With one more day of campaigning to go before tomorrow’s night ABC News-WMUR debate in New Hampshire, ABC News has learned that Mitt Romney has grown his lead in the state from 42 percent to 44 percent.

Romney, of course, wants to stay above the fray, avoid engaging his rivals and play it safe. But, a big win here gives the former Massachusetts governor the kind of momentum that will be tough to stop — even in more conservative South Carolina.

So the big question for tomorrow night’s debate, will anyone try to stop that ‘mo. And, can one of these candidates finally emerge as the obvious not-Mitt candidate?

Thus far, we haven’t heard much Romney bashing on the trail. In fact, Santorum’s job now is to try to define himself as more than just a fluke. But, as he learned yesterday, the crowds in New Hampshire are much less friendly to his brand of conservatism (more on his frosty response from a college crowd below).

Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, is out with a feisty new ad and has the most riding on a strong New Hampshire showing.  But will he bring that aggressiveness on stage or will he fall flat as he has in so many previous debates?

And then there’s Newt Gingrich. He was on-message during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America,” casting himself as a Reagan conservative vs. “Moderate Mitt.” (Watch George’s interview: http://abcn.ws/xu08OJ)

But, will that disciplined Newt make an appearance on stage or will we see the Newt we saw in Iowa on Tuesday night — angry, frustrated and ready to lash out?

The other wildcard is Ron Paul. He’s not afraid to attack his rivals on television. And, we know he gets under Newt and Santorum’s skin. The Live Free or Die State is also fertile territory for the Paul message — he’s held consistent support here in polling. But, Gingrich and Santorum and Rick Perry have their eye on South Carolina where he isn’t going to be as much of a factor.

So, better to aim their fire at Mitt instead of Paul.

As for Romney: “He will be a political pinata, no question about it,” one veteran GOP strategist told Politico’s Maggie Haberman in advance of this weekend’s debates. “The question is, how does he handle it?” http://politi.co/wujeAD

 

DEBATE DETAILS. ABC News, Yahoo! News, and WMUR-TV are joining forces to host a Republican presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire tomorrow night.  The debate occurs a critical moment in the Republican nomination process — just four days after the Iowa caucuses and three days before the Granite State’s first in the nation primary. It will be the only broadcast network debate in primetime before the primary airing from 9:00-11:00pm ET from Saint Anselm College. The debate will air live nationally on the ABC Television Network and locally on WMUR-TV and will be moderated by ABC’s Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos; they will be joined by WMUR-TV anchor Josh McElveen.

DEBATE PREP: NEW JOBS NUMBERS. According to the ABC News Business Unit, the U.S. economy created 200,000 jobs during December.  The unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a percent from 8.6% to 8.5%. This is better news than expected.  Economists estimated that there would be an increase of 150,000 jobs. The private sector, which factors out government layoffs and hiring, saw 212,000 workers added to payrolls. From a political standpoint, remember that the Obama team has always argued that the issue was not so much the unemployment number, but the trend. This, plus dysfunctional Congress, will help give Obama a boost. But can it last? Also, you could make the case this helps Mitt Romney. The leading Republican candidate can make an argument that the GOP contenders need to spend less time focusing on each other and more time making the case against a newly emboldened Obama.

ABC’s John Berman asked on “Good Morning America” today whether Mitt Romney can hold Rick Santorum at bay. The campaigns are beginning to zero in on former Pennsylvania senator as his poll numbers rise. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/wxB08h

 

SANTORUM INTERRUPTED. A dispatch from ABC’s Jake Tapper and Shushannah Walshe, who traveled with Rick Santorum on the campaign trail in New Hampshire yesterday: Santorum’s transition from scrappy Iowa underdog to national contender hit some bumps in his first full day campaigning in New Hampshire since his near-upset in the Hawkeye State. At the first stop they covered yesterday, at the Merrimack train station in Northfield, N.H., the former senator from Pennsylvania charmed the crowd, telling his life story, making his pitch and winning them over. Diving into the traditional engagement that New Hampshire voters demand, Santorum excelled in the back-and-forth. But at the New Hampshire College Convention, at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., he seemed lecturing and occasionally prickly. And while perhaps an instructive tone is not entirely inappropriate in front of students, he did some of the same Wednesday night at a senior center in Brentwood, N.H.  http://abcn.ws/yHFKzb

In Concord, Santorum was booed after a lengthy back-and-forth with several students in Concord, N.H., on the issue of same-sex marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire. As Santorum addressed a group of college students, one asked him how same-sex marriage affects him personally and why not have legal same-sex marriage as long as it’s not religious in nature. Santorum answered that for “230 years marriage has been between one man and woman. So if you want to change the law … you have to make the positive argument about why.” At that point, several members of the audience started trying to engage the candidate. Santorum said, “We’re not shouting out here,” before asking the students to raise their hands. http://abcn.ws/yWWf8l

SANTORUM AS STEALTH LOBBYIST. ABC’s Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk report: Rick Santorum entered Congress with modest means. But not long after he left in 2006, the former two-term senator reaped the rewards of his time on Capitol Hill, earning more than $1 million last year in cash and stock for advising corporate clients, sharing his insights with social organizations, and consulting for media outlets. “He has been, essentially, a stealth lobbyist,” said Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group. “He has been hired to try to influence policy on behalf of his clients without crossing the thresholds that would require him to report what he’s doing.” After helping to shape policy on the Senate finance and banking committees, Santorum accepted paid consultant jobs for insurance and energy firms with key issues pending before the politician’s former colleagues. The work has been lucrative — in 1996 he reported assets ranging from $155,000 to $475,000 on the personal financial disclosure form he filed with the Senate. The report he filed in August 2011 as he began his presidential bid show his assets are now valued between $1.9 million and $4 million, including rental properties and robust investment and college savings funds. A spokesman for Santorum has not responded to calls and emails seeking comment. http://abcn.ws/AwecEs

And as Roll Call’s David Drucker reports today, as a U.S. Senator, Rick Santorum was not typically perceived by his colleagues as presidential material. “He was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” one former Senate Republican leadership aide who served on Capitol Hill when Santorum was a Senator told Roll Call “He was great at delivering the GOP message, but then he would say outrageous things and get himself into trouble.” http://bit.ly/wyTk6J

 

THE BUZZ

ROMNEY NABS A BUCHANAN ENDORSEMENT. Mitt Romney has picked up Buchanan’s endorsement:  Bay Buchanan, ABC’s John Berman reported on “Good Morning America” today. The Republican television commentator, who was treasurer in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 campaigns, as well as campaign manager in her brother Pat’s three attempts for the White House, threw her support behind Romney this morning.   “If Americans want a real conservative in the White House, they need to look no farther than Mitt Romney,” said Bay Buchanan in a statement provided to ABC News. Buchanan is a name that means something in New Hampshire.  Pat Buchanan won the 1996 GOP primary here.  And it might be that it is with the blue-collar Buchanan voters where Rick Santorum will find his greatest appeal.  The timing of this announcement-just as Santorum is trying to make inroads in the Granite State-seems designed to thwart Santorum’s outreach, or at least needle it a little bit. Bay Buchanan also backed Romney in 2008. http://abcn.ws/yoAeUz

NOTED: CHRIS CHRISTIE TO NEW HAMPSHIRE. ABC’S Emily Friedman reports that the New Jersey governor will campaign with Romney in New Hampshire on Sunday. He will likely duck out after then due to his own responsibilities — namely the State of the State address on Tuesday he needs to deliver. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Christie made brief remarks about Romney’s Iowa win at a New Brunswick home earlier this week. “Iowans are like the political wine-tasters of presidential politics,” Christie told the newspaper. “The bottle gets opened out there, it’s allowed to breathe. They pour it in the glass. And they get to be the initial tasters. And they have a lot of time to do it.”

RICK SANTORUM: THE $2 MILLION MAN. Enjoying a wave of momentum from his near-win in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum’s campaign is raising money faster than ever before. Donors have added $2 million to his campaign’s war chest in the last 48 hours alone. And a Santorum aide tells ABC News that in the space of 10 hours — between midnight Thursday and 10 a.m. — the campaign took in $250,000 of that $2 million total. The quarter-million figure total represents online contributions only. What’s the campaign doing with that fresh infusion of cash? For starters they are taking out a 1,000-point television ad buy in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Jan. 21 primary. The campaign is calling is a “major buy,” and an adviser to the former Pennsylvania senator’s presidential bid told ABC News the spot will play heavily on cable. According to a GOP source who tracks ad spending, the Santorum campaign has only spent $12,000 on the airwaves in South Carolina so far during the election cycle. The Santorum campaign also plans a heavy mail drop in the state that begins early next week. –ABC’S Shushannah Walshe, Michael Falcone and Jake Tapper

JON HUNTSMAN GETS THE BOSTON GLOBE SEAL-OF-APPROVAL. Jon Huntsman got a high-profile endorsement when the Boston Globe backed his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination over a frontrunner from the paper’s home state, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney,” ABC’s Susan Archer reports. “The Globe made clear that it was between Huntsman and Romney for the endorsement. But it suggested Romney has moved too far to the right in his pursuit of the nomination. Indeed, the endorsement of Huntsman spent a fair amount of time describing the faults of Romney. ‘Both his supporters and detractors suspect that behind the conservative scaffolding is a data-driven moderate who will make practical compromises. But the way Romney has run his campaign, it’s impossible to tell,’ wrote the Boston Globe editorial board.”

NOTED: Though the Huntsman campaign was celebrating the endorsement on Thursday night, it may not do much to help the former Utah governor’s chances among New Hampshire conservatives. The Globe’s left-leaning editorial pages are unlikely to sway Republican voters in the Granite State. http://abcn.ws/wXEYOP

BACKSTORY: WHY RICK PERRY IS STILL RUNNING. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports that in a matter of 12 hours, Texas Gov.  Rick Perry wavered from being all in to reassessing his campaign to finally settling on soldiering on in the Republican presidential nominating contest, seeing South Carolina as the opportunity to turn around his struggling campaign. “The governor said what he said Tuesday night for a reason. He truly did want to assess the lay of the land regarding the Republican field, regarding South Carolina and regarding the organizational and financial situation of our campaign,” Ray Sullivan, communications director for the Perry campaign, said. Between the 12 hours that Perry took the stage to announce he was returning to Texas to rethink his campaign after a fifth-place finish in  Iowa  and the moment he tweeted he would continue his campaign and head to South Carolina, Perry consulted with his family, political advisers, including Sullivan and senior adviser Joe Allbaugh, and staff on the ground in South Carolina. Despite the belief held by many staffers that the Texas governor would call his presidential bid quits once he returned to his home state, Perry, apparently receiving strong pressure from his wife, Anita,  decided to stay in the race. “He wants to soldier on and believes that his record and conservative message and status as the only non-establishment Washington, outsider left in the field are good matches with the citizens of South Carolina,” Sullivan said. http://abcn.ws/A8lGIx

GINGRICH’S FOOD STAMP REMARKS STIR CONTROVERSY. The blogosphere piled up with headlines Thursday over a part of Newt Gingrich’s campaign speech involving food stamps and the NAACP, which left the Gingrich campaign scrambling in defense to put Gingrich’s comments in context, ABC’s Elicia Dover notes. “And so I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” Gingrich said earlier today in Plymouth, N.H. After a few tweets about Gingrich’s comments surfaced online, several blogs were written focusing on Gingrich’s comments. The Gingrich campaign immediately responded to the press over Gingrich’s comments by sending out an email that said Gingrich’s NAACP comments were an effort to reach out to the African American community. The Gingrich campaign pointed to Gingrich’s book Real Change, in which Gingrich was critical of President Bush’s “failure to address the NAACP.” Gingrich said it was a “clear signal to the African American community that Republicans did not see them as worthy of engagement in dialogue.” http://abcn.ws/x4WzKd

DEBATE DAY ADS HIT NEW HAMPSHIRE CONGRESSMAN. Two left-leaning groups, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are getting into the Granite State action this weekend. They plan to air a television ad during this weekend’s Republican presidential debates designed to tweak New Hampshire GOP Rep. Charlie Bass and the Republican presidential candidates on the issue of Medicare. “When Congressman Charlie Bass voted to end Medicare, that was an attack on New Hampshire families like mine,” says a New Hampshire social worker who narrates the spot. “My father worked with Charlie and respected him. I voted for him 5 times. But Charlie Bass has changed.” The ad, titled “Charlie Bass vs. Medicare” will air during presidential debates on WMUR during Saturday’s ABC-WMUR New Hampshire debate and on WHDH during the NBC Meet the Press debate taking place live in New Hampshire on Sunday. WATCH: http://bit.ly/mEACXE

LONG-TIME UTAH SENATOR GETS A CHALLENGER. “Former Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist will challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch for the Republican nomination in next year’s Senate race,” the Washington Post reports. “‘Washington, D.C., is broken and some of our own Republican lawmakers share in the blame,’ Liljenquist said in a statement. ‘It’s time for new conservative ideas from those who have the energy to see them through.’ … Liljenquist has long been considered a potential challenger to Hatch. The likelihood of his bid increased significantly after Rep. Jason Chaffetz decided to stay out of the race.” http://wapo.st/w4ZIRD A source close to the Liljenquist campaign passes along the challenger’s announcement: http://bit.ly/ya1ldM and bio: http://bit.ly/zkM67V

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@FixRachel: Oops. McCain: “Earmarks are a gateway to corruption… neither Mitt Romney nor Santorum share that view.”

@politicalwire: First post-Iowa poll in South Carolina: Romney holds three point lead over Santorum… pwire.at/yIbYst

@ron_fournier: Ex-NH GOP chair on Santorum: “The more he talked, the more votes he lost” njour.nl/z9kmtZ

@MelanieDNC: Reaction to jobs #s in Romneyland? “We just won’t count those…act like it didn’t happen” nyti.ms/yG5Rjg

@jimgeraghty: Newt on Santorum: “If you think of us as partners, he would clearly be the junior partner.” “Nonaggression Pact” = passive-aggressive

 

TODAY ON THE TRAIL.

–Mitt Romney will start the day in South Carolina with a rally in Conway, before returning to New Hampshire for a spaghetti dinner in Tilton.

–Rick Santorum will make campaign stops in Keene, Jaffrey, Dublin and Manchester, New Hampshire. Later in the evening, he will also attend the Hillsborough County Republican Gala in Nashua.

–Newt Gingrich will continue his bus tour through the Granite State with town hall meetings in Lebanon, Newport and Salem. His daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman will hold a meet and greet in Chester, South Carolina.

–Ron Paul will hold a rally with supporters in Nashua and a town hall meeting in Durham, New Hampshire.

–Jon Huntsman will address the New England College Convention in Concord, New Hampshire. Later, he is scheduled to make campaign stops in Randolph and Bretton Woods.

–ABC’s Joanna Suarez

DISPATCHES FROM THE TRAIL. Check out our new political website OTUSNews.com (www.Otusnews.com) The Note (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/the-note/) and ABC News/Politics (http://abcnews.go.com/politics) and follow our reporters in the field on Twitter:

Newt Gingrich: ABC’s Elicia Dover (@EliciaDover)

Jon Huntsman and New Hampshire: ABC’s Susan Archer (@TheOnlyArcher)

Ron Paul: ABC’s Jason Volack (@Jason_Volack)

Rick Perry: ABC’s Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz)

Mitt Romney: ABC’s Emily Friedman (@EmilyABC)

Rick Santorum: ABC’s Shushannah Walshe (@shushwalshe) and ABC’s Russell Goldman (@GoldmanRussell)


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


* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.

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

 

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus