Is Rick Santorum The ‘Incredible Shrinking’ Candidate? (The Note)

Mar 2, 2012 9:18am
gty rick santorum ll 111028 wblog Is Rick Santorum The Incredible Shrinking Candidate? (The Note)

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just when Rick Santorum needs to be expanding his lead in Super Tuesday states like Ohio, he seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

A new poll out this morning in the Buckeye State, which represents one of the most significant battlegrounds in the Republican nominating contest next Tuesday, shows Romney gaining on Santorum.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, Santorum is still leading in the state, but just barely. He’s ahead of Mitt Romney 35 to 31 percent among likely Republican primary voters. That represents a slide from his 36 to 29 percent lead in a survey released at the beginning of the week.

Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown noted that the race is “too close to call” and more importantly: “A third of the electorate say they still might change their mind.”

At this point, it is a two-person contest for the top spot between Santorum and Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 17 percent, and Ron Paul is at 12 percent.

Both Romney and Santorum arrive in Ohio today and intend to spend much of the weekend campaigning there, each trying to shore up their base of support while grabbing hold of the 34 percent of likely GOP voters who say they’re still open to switching.

Some top Republicans who know the state well are beginning to see the battle for Ohio take on many of the same characteristics as the final days of the Michigan primary where Romney made up a large deficit in the polls and ultimately won by a slim margin.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine said in an interview with ABC News that Romney has proven himself to be a “good closer.”

“I think there are lot of voters who have yet to make a decision. I think the race still is very much wide open,” DeWine said. “I look back at Michigan — this thing could be like Michigan.”

Complicating Santorum’s problems in Ohio is the fact that in at least three congressional districts he won’t be eligible to win any delegates even if he ends up coming in first in those areas because he did not file what are known as “delegate slates” by a late December deadline.

And adding to the former Pennsylvania senator’s potential headache heading into Super Tuesday, there are fresh signs that Romney is starting to overtake him in Washington State, which holds its caucuses on Saturday. A win there could give him a boost heading into Tuesday.

All of this could add up to a Super Tuesday that might end up better for Romney than some political forecasters had expected. But if we’ve learned anything from the race thus far, it’s to leave room for the unexpected.

 

ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: ABC News’ Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl has exclusively uncovered a long-forgotten tape from the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race where Mitt Romney boasts of his Washington connections and ability to tap into millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars.

“I am big believer in getting money where the money is,” Romney says on the video, “The money is in Washington.” The video, which was surreptitiously shot by Democratic opponents of Romney on Oct. 16, 2002, shows him addressing a group called the New Bedford Industrial Foundation. The Power Point presentation he uses lists ways to improve economic development in Massachusetts, including “boost federal involvement.” “I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities,” Romney tells the group. And while Romney now often criticizes his opponents for being Washington insiders, in this video he touts his Washington connections. “I have learned from my Olympic experience that if you have people who really understand how Washington works and have personal associations there you can get money to help build economic development opportunities,” Romney says. More from Karl’s report: http://abcn.ws/yHJd6L

ROMNEY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. The Romney campaign is circulating a memo this morning, titled, “Santorum Misleads on Lobbying Record: Despite Recent Denials, Santorum Was Indeed A Lobbyist Back In Pennsylvania.” The memo provides a series of press clips dating back to 1994 highlighting Santorum’s work to influence government.

 

THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK.” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos sits down the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to get his take on his chances on Super Tuesday — especially in a state that is a must-win for him: Georgia. Also on the program, Obama campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod. Join George Sunday morning for a roundtable with columnist Peggy Noonan, political analyst Matthew Dowd, Howard Dean, Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile and George Will.

 

THE BUZZ

MICHIGAN GOP CHANGES RULES, AWARDS ONE MORE DELEGATE TO ROMNEY. ABC News’ Chris Good reports: The Michigan Republican Party voted to break a delegate tie Wednesday night, awarding 16 delegates to Mitt Romney and 14 to Rick Santorum. The decision, which broke a 15-15 tie that would have resulted under the pre-primary interpretation of the rules, caused disbelief at Rick Santorum’s campaign. A spokesman rejected the decision. Even Romney supporters in the Michigan GOP said the decision was unfair to Santorum. “I have this crazy idea that you follow the rules,” said former Attorney General Mike Cox said after a 4-2 vote by a Michigan GOP credentialing committee, according to the AP. “I’d love to give the at-large delegates to Mitt Romney, but our rules provide for strict apportionment.” Santorum had claimed partial victory and ABC News projected a delegate tie from Michigan’s Tuesday primary based on the rules as originally laid out by the Michigan GOP. Romney won the popular vote 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent. http://abcn.ws/zgl5Dkv

NOTED: SANTORUM PUSHBACK. Yesterday the Santorum campaign held a conference call to dispute a meeting the Michigan Republican Party held Wednesday night that changed the rules, breaking a delegate tie that awarded 15 delegates each to Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Two at-large delegates are now allocated to Romney. Now Romney has 16 delegates; Santorum, 14. Santorum national communications director Hogan Gidley said the meeting was “unannounced” and “behind closed doors.” According to the party’s rules, written Feb. 4, there would be proportional allocation of the two at-large delegates, but that was changed in the meeting to winner-take-all.  Romney had edged out Santorum in the popular vote 41% to 38%, so he got both at-large delegates. John Yob, who headed up the Santorum campaign’s Michigan strategy, explained that the party voted 4 to 2 to change the rules and he said the four that did vote to change it were Romney supporters, including party chair Bobby Schostak, said to be a Romney backer although he hasn’t announced publicly. “They vote four to two to change the rules that were previously approved to give Mitt Romney a win in his home state, rather than a tie in his home state, essentially because he was being embarrassed by it being a tie,” Yob said. http://abcn.ws/zriMlw

SANTORUM SAYS HE’S RUNNING A ‘GUERRILLA CAMPAIGN.’ Rick Santorum defined his campaign, which he says has none of the frills or trappings of Mitt Romney’s, as a “guerrilla campaign” Thursday, ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports. He raised $9  million in February alone, but the candidate believes as the race approaches Super Tuesday, he will be outspent by his rival. “Look, I don’t have billionaires giving me tens of billions of dollars to super PACS,” Santorum said. “We raised $9 million in the last month. We’re converting a lot of that into television ads, but also a lot of other things that we’re doing. … We’re not going to be able to go out and use a sledge hammer on television, but we’re connecting with voters, social media, all sorts of volunteer calls and activities that we’ve got going on in every state.” Santorum says he has “a great organization” in Georgia, the state with the biggest delegate haul when 10 states vote this coming Tuesday. He also, like the three others in this race, has a superPAC, but it hasn’t invested in Georgia yet. Romney’s superPAC has spent more than $1 million here up to now, but their ads are just attacking Newt Gingrich. http://abcn.ws/AnNAeG

GINGRICH LAUNCHES ANTI-SANTORUM ROBO-CALLS. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is hunkering down in the trenches of the Southern battleground for Super Tuesday with a robocall attacking Rick Santorum for being a “big labor conservative,” ABC’s Elicia Dover notes. This is the first paid advertisement against Santorum from the Gingrich campaign. The call is set to begin Friday in Oklahoma and Tennessee and will reach 150,000 households in each state. The robocall, narrated by a woman, was recorded Thursday. The ad begins by saying Santorum “talks a good game” about his blue collar roots, and that he doesn’t want you to know Santorum “cozied up to the labor union bosses” and voted against a national right-to-work bill that would have let workers opt out of paying union dues. “Union dues that hurt families and small businesses. Rick Santorum, friend of working families or the union bosses pal? You decide.” http://abcn.ws/wVsfpN

ROMNEY LIKELY TO HIT TENNESSEE AND GEORGIA AHEAD OF SUPER TUESDAY. Though Mitt Romney is trailing in the polls in a series of Southern states holding contests on Super Tuesday, his campaign says it plans to make an in-person play for delegates in at least two of them. Romney is hoping to peel away some delegates from opponents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in states that are not necessarily ripe for Romney wins: Georgia and Tennessee. Tentatively, Romney plans to make stops in the Knoxville, Tennessee area and Atlanta this weekend, just days before next Tuesday’s primaries. Georgia and Tennessee are two of ten states where voters will go to the polls on Super Tuesday — a day when there are a total of 437 delegates at stake. “No states are monolithic,” a Romney aide told ABC News, “there are different of pockets of opportunity in these areas.” Campaign strategists say they see opportunities to over-perform in the eastern part of Tennessee, which includes the tri-cities area — a region that borders Virginia and where John McCain and Mike Huckabee each ran strong four years ago. The campaign also sees a chance to pick up delegates in the greater Atlanta area. Romney won the five counties surrounding Atlanta in Georgia’s 2008 primary.

OBAMA SEES GOP DEBATES AS FODDER FOR CAMPAIGN ADS. President Obama said tonight that his campaign might run excerpts of the GOP primary debates as political ads “without commentary” during the general election, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports from New York. “I recommend you watch the recent debates,” Obama told a star-studded group of 90 donors at the Upper East Side home of HBO executive James Costos. “I’m thinking about just running those as advertisements,” he said with a smile and slightly joking tone. “Without commentary; here you go.” White House officials have said the president hasn’t actually watched any of the debates, that he has only read reports about them. Obama suggested that the ads would simply point out “this is what they said awhile back.” “I think what you’re seeing now in the Republican primary underscores what’s at stake in this election,” he added. Obama made the comments during his fourth and final campaign fundraiser in New York City tonight, where tickets were $10,000 apiece. http://abcn.ws/wE7Z1P

 

PRIMARY STATE SPEED READ

by ABC’s Chris Good and Elizabeth Hartfield:

–Early Voting Slow In Ohio. Today is the last day for early voting in Ohio, and the Plain Dealer reports that early voting seems to be down this year.  “Ron Koehler, Summit County elections director, said, ‘We’re really shocked at how little interest there’s been with regard to absentee and walk-in voting.’” http://bit.ly/x7723z

–Newt’s Southern Strategy: Georgia a Must-Win. Campaigning in Georgia on Thursday, Newt Gingrich offered a blunt assessment of how he has to perform in his home state. “I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race,” Gingrich said. “But if I win Georgia, the following week we go to Alabama and Mississippi, and I think I’ll win both of those and we have a good opportunity to win in Kansas.” http://bit.ly/yDWMAy

–Abortion Bill Adds to Pre-Primary Debate in Georgia. After Georgia’s state House passed a bill limiting the legal time limit for elective abortions from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that abortion and contraception have been pushed to the front of election-year debate. http://bit.ly/y00OvM

–Obama’s Oklahoma Challenger. The Oklahoman notes that anti-abortion activist Randall Terry will run against the president in Tuesday’s Democratic primary and says he hopes to win 5 to 15 percent of the vote. His hope is for Obama’s eventual defeat in November. http://bit.ly/xfsr2T

–Romney Picks Oklahoma CEO as Top Energy Adviser. Oklahoma-based Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources Inc., will serve as chairman of Mitt Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group, The Oklahoman reports. http://bit.ly/y7cXoX

–Tennessee Democrats Focus On Romney. Despite the fact that he’s trailing behind Rick Santorum in statewide polling, Tennessee Democrats are keeping their eyes on Romney, hurling attacks at him on Thursday. Tennessee is an open primary, though state Democrats did not suggest any mischief making for Tuesday’s primary in their attacks.  http://bit.ly/xB3jsP

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@NKingofDC: Romney camp promotes thesis that he doesn’t need Ohio but it’s do or die there for Santorum.

@BuzzFeedAndrew: Mitt Romney press release in 2010: “What Obamacare can learn from Romneycare: Massachusetts’ plan makes far more sense”web.archive.org/web/2010032416…

@OKnox: Very interesting @Goldberg3000 interview with Pres Obama on Iran, Israel, Syria. theatlantic.com/international/…

@markknoller: Kudos to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in NH. It knows its business about getting planes in and out despite snow.

 

POLITICAL RADAR

Mitt Romney campaigns in Bellevue, Washington with a meet & greet at the Highland Community Center. Romney ends the day in Cleveland, Ohio with a rally at Cleveland State University. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will also attend the rally. Ann Romney is in Columbus, Ohio hosting an event at Romney for President Ohio Headquarters.

Rick Santorum campaigns in Ohio addressing the Lake County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Willoughby. Santorum will also hold a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Newt Gingrich is on the trail in Georgia with events in Savannah, Brunswick, Valdosta, and Columbus.

Ron Paul campaigns in Washington State ahead of the Saturday’s Caucus. Paul will hold three town hall meetings in Spokane, Vancouver, and Seattle.

–ABC News’ Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)

 

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

 

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