Rick Santorum Takes His Turn On Top (The Note)

Feb 14, 2012 9:00am
gty santorum tk 120103 wblog Rick Santorum Takes His Turn On Top (The Note)

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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

Mitt Romney and his allies are circling the wagons.

With a series of polls, including one this morning from The New York Times and CBS News, showing Rick Santorum either tying or surpassing the former Massachusetts governor nationally, the Romney campaign and a pro-Romney super PAC are beginning to set up a firewall in the next dozen primary and caucus states.

The super PAC, Restore Our Future, has been busy buying up air time in Arizona and Michigan — both of which hold primaries on Feb. 28 — as well as Ohio, a Super Tuesday state. There are reportedly plans to go on the air in Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee as well.

As the race for the Republican nomination becomes more national in scope, Santorum is taking his turn on the leader board.

A poll out yesterday from the Pew Research Center found Santorum ahead of Romney 30 percent to 28 percent. A Gallup tracking poll showed Romney slightly ahead of Santorum, 32 percent to 30 percent. And today’s New York Times-CBS News survey gives Santorum the edge, 30 percent to 27 percent over Romney. http://abcn.ws/AfbZty

The polls show a statistical tie between the two contenders. In each one, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul fall somewhere in the low to mid teens.

And despite a win in Maine’s caucuses on Saturday, the Romney Team saw three other states slip away last week. That’s informing their strategy in Michigan — a state where both campaigns will be spending considerable time and money ahead of the primary there.

The Santorum campaign announced yesterday a television ad on the Michigan airwaves that begins today.

“We’re under no illusion that this is Romney’s home state and he’s in a good spot,” Santorum’s national spokeswoman Alice Stewart told The Note. “It’s going to be a tough battle, but Rick has the right message and has the momentum.”

Both candidates will visit the state this week and both will try to use it as a launching pad into 10 more Super Tuesday states that will hold contests just one week later.

 

WHY MITT ROMNEY CAN’T GO NUCLEAR. As Rick Santorum surges in the polls, the conventional wisdom is that the Romney machine is warming up an all out assault on Santorum like they did against Newt Gingrich in Florida, ABC News’ Political Director Amy Walter notes. The “nuke Newt” strategy may have worked in the short term, but recent polling shows just how problematic a purely negative campaign has been for Romney, especially among those independent voters Romney will need in November.

According to a Pew poll released Monday, Romney has lost 8 points among independents since November. An ABC/Washington Post poll last week asked voters what they thought about what the GOP presidential candidates have been saying on the campaign trail.  Fifty three percent of independents disapproved, while just 35 percent approved. Almost a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) disapproved as well. Furthermore, the Romney camp has done a great job discrediting other candidates, but they haven’t done nearly as good a job in defining their own candidate. Just 39 percent of Republicans think Romney “takes consistent positions on issues,” an 8-point drop since November. And, more ominously for Romney, almost half of all GOP voters (a 15-point jump since November), think that Romney is inconsistent on issues. http://abcn.ws/z6HtkK

So, is Rick Santorum really the new Republican “front-runner”? ABC’s John Berman tackles that question for “Good Morning America.” WATCH: http://abcn.ws/z2WAUv

 

POWER PLAYERS: SPINNERS AND WINNERS. In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl for “Spinners & Winners,” Rick Perry reviews the worst moments in his failed presidential bid – but says: don’t count him out yet — he “absolutely” may run in 2016. http://yhoo.it/wohCnp

 

PRIMARY PRIMERS — TWO WEEKS OUT.

ARIZONA: With two weeks until Arizona’s primary, Mitt Romney appears to have nearly every advantage in the state — meaning that if he doesn’t win handily, he risks heading into “Super Tuesday” weaker than ever, reports ABC’s Matt Negrin. But the vote won’t be for another 14 days, plenty of time for a surging candidate like Rick Santorum to pick up some ground. Political observers in Arizona see a few key issues that could change the shape of the race, should an underdog candidate harp on them enough to win over voters who have so far settled on Romney. A candidate looking for an opportunity could adopt a populist tone and seize on voters’ lingering distrust of the banking and financial institutions that caused the economic crisis. Arizona’s Republican voters are more libertarian than hard-right conservative, in the spirit of Barry Goldwater, said Chuck Coughlin, a GOP strategist in the state. Coughlin suggested that if Santorum wants to narrow the gap with Romney, he should remind voters of “Romney’s Wall Street friends.” The GOP primary has already seen a back-and-forth over ties to mortgage giants and financial institutions, though that particular feud involved Romney and Newt Gingrich, who was once the former Massachusetts governor’s chief rival. http://abcn.ws/xANoQB

MICHIGAN: A win for Santorum in Romney’s birthplace, the state where his father, George Romney, was a popular three-term governor, could send shockwaves through the Republican race, put Santorum in pole position heading into Super Tuesday, and potentially spell doom for Romney’s campaign, no matter what his staff in Boston says about a long, drawn-out nomination battle, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. So how does Romney, the home-state son and resounding favorite, suddenly find himself staring at the prospect of a loss to Santorum in Michigan? For starters, Romney has fared dismally in the Midwest. He lost to Santorum in Iowa, Minnesota  and Missouri, all states with strong socially-conservative, working-class populations who tend to favor the former senator. Michigan is not so different, paving the way for another impressive showing from Santorum. The Public Policy poll revealed Santorum had 53 percent of the Tea Party vote there, 51 percent of the “very conservative” vote and 48 percent of evangelicals. In addition, Romney has received considerable flak for opposing the government bailout of the struggling U.S. automakers. The state’s Republican Party chairman, Bobby Schostak, is a bit more optimistic about Romney’s chances than the candidate himself is. “I think that the Romney campaign will be successful in Michigan,” Schostak said earlier this month. “I don’t see a scenario where they’re not.” http://abcn.ws/wP5iJq

 

BREAKING DOWN THE PRESIDENT’S BUDGET. President Obama today doubled down on the populist proposals central to his re-election campaign with a $3.7 trillion budget that outlines his tax and spending priorities for 2013, notes ABC’s Devin Dwyer. The Obama budget calls for $1.3 trillion in spending on the nation’s credit card next year, including $350 billion in spending on jobs programs and $476 billion in infrastructure projects.  Obama also wants to boost aid for manufacturing research and development by 19 percent above current levels, to $2.2 billion. To pay for the spending, the president would raise $1.5 trillion in added tax revenue over 10 years, mainly from higher taxes on wealthier Americans.  He would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on families earning more than $250,000 a year and impose a new minimum tax of 30 percent on millionaires, which the administration has called the ”Buffett Rule.”

OBAMA’S BROKEN PROMISE: From ABC’s Jake Tapper: “This is big,” wrote White House director of new media Macon Phillips in a February 23, 2009 blog post, ”the President today promised that by the end of his first term, he will cut in half the massive federal deficit we’ve inherited. And we’ll do it in a new way: honestly and candidly.” Indeed, President Obama did make that promise that day, saying, “today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay — and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.” The 2013 budget the president submitted today does not come close to meeting this promise of being reduced to $650 billion for fiscal year 2013. The president noted in that 2009 speech the Obama administration inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. The deficit was similarly $1.3 trillion in 2011, is projected to be $1.15 trillion in 2012, and the president’s budget claims it will be $901 billion in 2013. http://abcn.ws/AzjyFo

What if Obama’s Budget Were Your Family’s? Jake Tapper puts the White House’s budget proposal in perspective. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/wQSrDA

 

THE BUZZ

SANTORUM SQUARES OFF WITH OCCUPY MOVEMENT. “Mic Check!” Those were some of the first words Rick Santorum was greeted with at a rally Monday evening that was interrupted by Occupy protesters, ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports from Tacoma, Washington. The candidate had to shout over about a dozen protesters, who have their camp set up in a park adjacent to the amphitheater. Santorum said they represent a “radical element.” “I think it’s really important for you to understand what this radical element represents,” Santorum said to the cheering crowd of about 350 people. “Because what they represent is true intolerance.” The former Pennsylvania senator compared the protesters to the recent decision by a U.S. Appeals court in California that ruled the state’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional. “That’s what the 9th circuit said when they handed down the decision striking down proposition 8. What they said was that anybody who disagreed with them were irrational and the only reason they could possibly agree is they were a hater or a bigot,” Santorum said. “Now I gotta tell you. I don’t agree with these people but I respect their opportunity to be able to have a different point of view and I don’t think they’re a hater or a bigot because they disagree with me.”  http://abcn.ws/xUWoCi

ROMNEY TOUTS CONSERVATIVE CRED. Mitt Romney lept onto a stage in the battleground state of Arizona last night to continue his defense of his conservative credentials while warning voters of politicians who may have been “infected by the Washington disease,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports. “My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of great conservative scholars as it did from living my life, my family my faith, my business,” said Romney, speaking to thousands in an outside amphitheater in Mesa. “Conservative values were also part of my business experience, because in business you don’t have a choice about balancing your budget, you either balance your budget or you go bankrupt,” said Romney. “So I learned time and again the principles of conservatism.” But over this past week, which included a win by Romney in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll, Romney has paid more attention to highlighting his conservative principles. And tonight he continued to do just that, providing a laundry list of events in his life where he says he’s had to flex his “conservative values.” “There are also some social issues that came up that were significant during my term in office,” said Romney, who before last week rarely discussed social issues on the stump. “You may recall that our Supreme Court said that, that John Adams had written into our Constitution a protection for same sex marriage. Adams [would] be surprised.” http://abcn.ws/wM6gWn

NEWT: ‘WE FEEL VERY GOOD.’ ABC’s Elicia Dover reports from Pasadena: Newt Gingrich, down in the polls in upcoming primary states and nationally, deflected the notion of a two man GOP race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney yesterday in California, while Santorum said Sunday on CNN that he believes the Republican nomination is now between Romney and himself. “We feel very, very good going into Michigan and Arizona,” Santorum said. “We’re going to compete, obviously, heavily in Michigan. We’re going to compete in Arizona. And we think this is a two-person race right now, and we’re just focused on making sure that folks know we’re the best alternative to Barack Obama and we have the best chance of beating him.” Gingrich responded to Santorum’s comment that it was now a two man race today in South El Monte at a Hispanic leadership event. “That’s exactly what I said when I suggested that Rick ought to drop out weeks ago, and he decided that wasn’t a good idea, and he was right,” Gingrich said. Gingrich said he still believes the race will go all the way to the convention. “I’m very happy to continue this campaign based on real solutions as you saw from this audience, we’ve done it twice in the last three months and I suspect you’re going to see us do it again,” Gingrich said. http://abcn.ws/AbvLEn

HAPPENING TODAY: DOGS AGAINST ROMNEY. ABC’s Jake Tapper flags an event happening outside the Westminster dog show at Madison Square Garden at noon today. The group “Dogs Against Romney” will protest “to ensure pet lovers are aware that Mitt Romney is mean to dogs,” according to the group’s press release. While it may seem silly to some, Democrats are have every intention of making sure – if Romney wins the GOP nomination — that every voting American knows about the story of Romney putting his family dog Seamus in a kennel on top of his roof and driving from Boston to Canada, with said canine Seamus making his displeasure known in a rather scatological way. “I have a yellow Lab named Winston,” Fox News’ Chris Wallace said to Romney. “I would no sooner put him in a kennel on the roof of my car than I would one of my children. Question: What were you thinking?” “This is a completely airtight kennel, mounted on the roof of our car,” Romney replied. “He climbed up there regularly, enjoyed himself. He was in a kennel at home a great deal of the time as well. We loved the dog. It was where he was comfortable.” “When Seamus crapped all over the car I’m fairly certain he wasn’t expressing pleasure,” one top Democrat told ABC News. http://abcn.ws/wxUpGe

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@RealClearScott: Obama & Romney move from winking to nodding at super PACs, raising new questions about $ and access bit.ly/zAHcn7

@thecaucus: Five Questions for Jill Stein of the Green Party nyti.ms/wLYuk

@AlexPappasDC: Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler says tea partiers not satisfied with 2012 choices thedc.com/xMEoo2

@conncarroll: great @daveweigel piece on why liberals are 100% wrong about Citizens United #freespeechworks #whoknew goo.gl/WL46H

@rickklein: @marcambinder congrats on the new gig w/ @GQMagazine


POLITICAL RADAR:

Rick Santorum campaigns in Coeur d’Alene and Boise, Idaho.

Mitt Romney has no public events. He campaigns in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday.

Newt Gingrich is in California for an afternoon rally in the central valley town of Tulare. Callista Gingrich holds events in San Diego.

Ron Paul is in Texas and has no public events.

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