Here are four quick takeaways from Michigan and Arizona.
Newt Gingrich is banking on Georgia.
The Florida primary feels like it was eons ago but that was the last time Newt Gingrich was really a factor in this race. Gingrich has garnered more than 15% of the vote only once since Nevada. After a disappointing finish in the Silver State he focused the bulk of his energy on Super Tuesday and largely ignored the states voting today.
Georgia, his home state, is where Gingrich has spent most of his time campaigning and it appears that he may be making a "last stand" there. Gingrich has to make himself relevant again next Tuesday or it may be over for him. With no debates remaining a Gingrich comeback may be impossible.
We will know more about Rick Santorum's strength with Midwestern voters on Tuesday
Michigan is the first state in the Midwest that Rick Santorum did not win. With wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa he has proven that he has what it takes to connect with voters in the Rust Belt but his biggest test will be on Super Tuesday in the delegate rich and crucial swing state of Ohio.
Not many caucuses left for Ron Paul
Washington state's 40 RNC delegates are up for grabs this weekend in one of the few remaining caucuses of this campaign. Ron Paul did campaign in Michigan but he did not commit significant resources to the state running. Paul's strategy revolves around caucuses and scoring delegates at party conventions not statewide primaries. Only Kansas and Nebraska host caucuses with a significant chunk of delegates at state.
Mitt Romney is barely beating a guy with next to no organization
Journalists at Santorum events have observed that his campaign does not have staff gathering emails and other contact information from people at his events, a very basic campaign function. Santorum's inability to perform even basic organization building activity says volumes about his shoestring operation but it says even more about Romney's inability to knock him our of the race.
If Romney can barely beat a guy with a rag-tag operation in his home state how will he do in a general election against a sitting president with an imposing war chest and massive organization?
The long slog to Tampa continues.
Of all the possible third party candidacies that Michael Shear suggested in his blog post today only two seem likely to actually take the plunge: Lexington's own Jill Stein and Louisiana's Buddy Roemer.
His suggestion of former comptroller general David Walker is very intriguing but he has such limited name recognition that it is hard to see how he would have an impact.
DAVID WALKER: Perhaps the least known of the bunch, Mr. Walker served as the comptroller general of the United States for a decade, from 1998 to 2008, and was the subject of a column by The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman earlier this month. Mr. Friedman argued that he would make a good independent candidate.
“After months of nutty, gravity-free Republican primary debates, how great would it be to have presidential debates in which a smart independent like Walker was in the middle to challenge both sides and offer sensible solutions?” Mr. Friedman wrote.
Mr. Walker hinted at the possibility that he might run in a statement that he put out — conveniently on the anniversary of the announcement by Mr. Perot of his own candidacy.
For some reason Shear left out the likely Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. The former New Mexico governor could give the LP its strongest ticket since Harry Browne ran in 1996. If Ron Paul is not involved in the Republican Party's general election efforts his supporters could bolt for Johnson and make him a serious third party challenger.
Tonight's CNN debate in Arizona, the 20th of this Republican primary, may be the final one of the Republican primary. Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have indicated that they are not interested in future ones making this, the potential grand finale, all the more important.
Here are five things to watch for during tonight's debate:
- Rick Santorum will be front and center for the first time, how will he handled the attention?
- Will Newt Gingrich steal the show and return to form?
- How assertive and aggressive will Mitt Romney be?
- Will Ron Paul go after Romney?
- Will immigration be a factor in tonight's debate?
For much of the campaign Santorum has been a sideshow, a distraction from the main event of Romney vs The Not Romney Candidate of the moment. Now he is the Not Romney Candidate and is under more scrutiny than ever before. In recent days Santorum has been under attack for a variety controversial comments ranging from the president's religion to his social conservativism. It is very likely that some of these comments will be brought up during tonight's debate. In previous debates he has proven himself as a solid debater that can hold his own but it is easy to do that when you are not the focus of attention
Nobody has lived and died by debates in this primary more than Newt Gingrich. His victory in the South Carolina debates was largely a result of his debate performances prior to the election there. His failure in Florida was due to a combination of a wave of negative advertising against him and poor debate performances. In order for Gingrich to make an impact in Arizona and Michigan, and most certainly the Super Tuesday states, he needs to remind people why they liked him in the first place .
The Romney campaign hired Michele Bachmann's debate coach before the Florida debates to change things up. The reviews were positive but the two parted ways in earlier February. Will Romney be the same guy we saw in Florida or will this be a return to the pre-Florida Romney?
Ron Paul's campaign has focused its attacks on Gingrich and Santorum while mostly ignoring Romney. According to reports the two have a friendly relationship; their wives are particularly close. In the most recent debates Paul has mixed it up with Santorum over foreign policy matters and TV ads.
Arizona is ground zero for the national debate on immigration and the issue should be featured prominently in tonight's debate. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has made immigration one of the main issues during her term. She presided over the passage of the controversial SB1070 law. Gingrich is the only candidate who has presented a thorough proposal on immigration in a debate so far.
If there are more debates after this one the next is scheduled to take place in Oregon on March 19.
Former congressional candidate Bill Hudak may have left the world of Massachusetts politics but he is still making headlines in the Commonwealth.
Last week Hudak informed supporters that he was teaming up with the company Qivana to sell a product called "Prime." In an email to his campaign list Hudak said that product can do things like "reverses the aging process" and enhance "brain activity."
Today we find out that one of Hudak's business partners is currently serving a five year sentence for his involvement with prostitution.
Albert Muir, identified in advertising as heading the "North Shore-Boston-based Qivana Team" with Hudak, is a professional poker player and is currently under a suspended five-year jail sentence for promoting prostitution, according to Connecticut court records.
Muir and his now-ex-wife co-owned a health spa called Marlow's in Branford, Conn., which was raided by police in 2009. A Branford police detective who investigated the case said the business was well-known for years as a pit stop just off Interstate 95 for illicit massages.
Hudak said that he did not know anything about his partner's legal problems.
Whole thing here.
EAST MACHIAS, MAINE -- Ron Paul won the Washington County caucus with 167 votes but it does not appear that it will be enough for him to take the entire state. The caucus was originally slated to take place last week when the rest of the state voted but it was postponed due to snow.
According to county officials the turnout, 319 people, was double what it normally is.
Mitt Romney, who was leading after the vast majority of the state voted last Saturday, took second place here with 86 votes followed by Rick Santorum with 59 votes. Newt Gingrich finished last with five votes.
There were two votes for "unnamed" candidates.
Parts of Hancock County voted today as well.
When all the votes are counted and tallied Romney should lead by somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 votes. The caucus rules for Maine are complicated so it is unknown
at this point what will and will not be counted in the final tally.
Earlier today former state senator Robert O'Leary announced that he is out of the running for the seat in the newly formed 9th Congressional District.
“I would love to represent the Cape and Islands so it was painful to make this decision,” O'Leary said. “It's about the amount of money you need to run for Congress. It's out of control.”
O'Leary's absence helps Congressman Bill Keating's bid for the seat because it eliminates the possibility of a real three way race with Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter. A race between the three would have been an intense one as they all have a strong presence in the newly drawn district.
Former congressman Bill Delahunt is not a Keating fan and still casts a large shadow over the district but Peter Ubertaccio makes the case that it is all over for Sutter here:
But with O’Leary out, how does Sutter chart a path to the nomination? Well, he doesn’t. Keating has worked his district hard in an attempt to bring O’Leary voters to his cause and since the lines were redrawn, he’s travelled the length and breadth of the new district. Keating’s lined up all the political powerhouses in the state and in the district and there is no indication that he isn’t liked by voters. He’ll have a fundraising and organizational edge and his votes are in line with his party and his district.
Data was not available for the other candidates. n
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Of all the speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week nobody excited the crowd the way former Alaska governor Sarah Palin did. Of course nobody gave a speech filled with zippy one liners and guaranteed red meat applause lines like she did. Palin sounded more like a motivational speaker than somebody who, only a few months ago, was being bandied about as a serious presidential candidate.
“Well, Mr. President we don’t want an economy built to last, we want an economy built to grow and we certainly don’t want your economy to last, we want your administration to end,” she said bring the crowd to their feet, something she did frequently throughout the night.
Palin’s speech was heavy on attacks and loose on specifics unlike her comments from when she was on the ground in Iowa.
“We have a jobs plan it’s called the free market! It worked before this president and will work after this president,” she said, again, bringing the crowd to its feet.
It was only later in her speech that Palin addressed the current presidential race where she spoke in vague terms about “our nominee” and how he will be a conservative.
“We don’t know who our nominee will be to come up against Barack Obama and his failed policies but we do know that this election will be hard fought. Our nominee must be ready, strong, fortified, passionate, a fighter for American ideals,” Palin said.
Her most successful line of the night was when she indirectly knocked Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech.
“We are not red Americans. We are not blue Americans. We are red white and blue, and President Obama, we are through with you,” she said.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Occupy protesters outside the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel told Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller that they were paid $60 by a union to stand outside the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"Are you getting paid right now?"
"Yeah, we all getting paid for this"
"How much are you guys getting paid?"
"Like sixty dollars per head."
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In his speech at CPAC conservative activist and online publisher Andrew Breitbart called liberals the "the least tolerant people you will ever meet in your entire lives." When asked what he thinks about libertarians in American politics and the fight with the left Breitbart said that he thinks libertarians need to develop a free speech movement on college campuses and, frankly, do more than support Ron Paul.
WASHINGTON -- Speaking before a gaggle of press at the Conservative Political Action Conference former presidential candidate and current Texas governor Rick Perry said he did not regret running for president.
"It was a great experience," he said.
Perry dropped out before the South Carolina primary.
House Speaker Robert Deleo is expected to give a speech today that will all but kill hopes for new or increased taxes and fees in the next budget.
“For the past two years, this House has rejected balancing the budget with new taxes and fees,” DeLeo said in prepared remarks. “Any changes to revenue policy should be approached with extreme caution and should never be done piecemeal. As such, we will release a budget from the House Committee on Ways & Means that does not rely on new taxes and fees.”
More on his expected speech here.
It is more than likely that the proposed 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax is dead. Still one of the stranger aims behind that proposed increase is that it will discourage smokers while still lead to an increase in revenues.
If your goal is to raise revenues you do not want to decrease the number of people paying the tax because that leads to a lower amount of revenue collected. It is easy to avoid this problem with income and property taxes but it is harder to do this with consumption taxes. People can obtain cheaper cigarettes if they really want to avoid paying the state tax. New Hampshire, already sans sales tax, just cut their cigarette tax to $1.58 a pack. A hike would lead to a loss of business for local retailers as consumers head north for cheaper smokes. Meanwhile any increase in taxes on tobacco products disproportionately hits the poor.
If the goal of the tax is to stop people from smoking why not make the tax $10.00 a pack? Heck, why not ignore the steady decrease in smokers and just cut to the chase already and outlaw smokes entirely?
Even though Ron Paul has won only a handful of counties in this still young primary season he has improved on his 2008 performance, particularly in Iowa where he picked up more counties than in all of the other states combined. Paul still has not won a state but we now have a clearer picture of where he does well.
Nye County, NV
The rural Nevada community of Pahrump is typical of the places where Paul thrives. It is isolated, deeply conservative with"> a strong libertarian streak, and a history of resisting government intrusion into the community. Pahrump provided Paul with a repeat victory in Nye County and gave him his largest margin of victory in Nevada.
During Paul's only campaign stop there the libertarian spirit of the place was on full display as rally attendees were openly carrying side arms.
Coos County, NH
Paul edged Mitt Romney in this northern New Hampshire county by two points. Coos County, the largest and least populated county in the state, is far away from the Massachusetts border and more representative of the traditional spirit of the Live Free or Die state. It was the only county in the state that did not go to Romney.
Benton County, MN
Though Benton is not like Nye and filled entirely with unincorporated communities there are several surrounding the city of St. Cloud. Paul did well in Benton winning 55% of the vote.
Jefferson County, IA
This county is home to the Maharishi University of Management and was Paul's strongest in Iowa. Paul picked up nearly 50% of the vote there. Paul won other counties in Iowa but he did not clean up in any of them the way he did in Jefferson. Paul's libertarianism, particularly his foreign policy positions, resonated with the large Transcendental community more than the mainline conservativism of the other candidates.
Ramsey County, MN
Paul did not win Ramsey County but he came very close losing to Rick Santorum by only 64 votes. Ramsey has a large student population as it is home to many public and private universities including the University of Minnesota.. Again, Paul's libertarianism appeals to college students as they are staring at a bleak fiscal future and tend to be more receptive to Paul's social positions on things like the failed war on drugs and gay marriage.
Paul's coalition continues to provide him with victories in counties but in order for him to really break through he needs to pick up an entire state. Based on what we know about where he does well it appears unlikely Paul can pull this off though there are places he could really come close like Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota.
The Massachusetts political world has been on high alert since it first heard that convicted former house speaker Sal DiMasi was on the move. Well now that we have an idea of where he is going we can start speculating wildly about what will happen next. Here is a quick collection of all the latest DiMasi chatter.
Andrea Estes and Shelley Murphy blew the doors off this one with the scoop that DiMasi may be gearing up to testify before a Worcester grand jury as part of the ongoing Probation Department investigation. This would be a major turn of events as he has some incentive to talk now that he is behind bars for the next several years.
Boston Herald has it, too, noting that he may be traveling in shackles.
David Bernstein speculates that if DiMasi does talk we will not hear about indictments again for months as his testimony will reshape the case. In his words it will get "ugly and uglier."
DeLeo says he won't let house get distracted by probation investigation
House Speaker Robert DeLeo tells State House News that he only knows that he is not under investigation and he cannot speak about the issues facing other elected pols.
Massachusetts Liberal observes that activity at the State House has slowed down since the cloud of impending indictments stalled out over Beacon Hill.
Dan Kennedy uses Storify to put together a post on Sal DiMasi. Pretty cool looking when it is all assembled.
Blue Mass Group is surprisingly silent save for this blurb by EB3.
LAS VEGAS - It's still really early but Paul has already performed better than he did in 2008 winning two counties: Nye and Esmeralda. Last time around Paul only won Nye, a rural county known for the once controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. Look for Paul to do well in the other rural counties, particularly Elko, as these tend to be bastions of leave-me-alone libertarianism.
If Paul fails to place second, though, it will be hard to see this as a victory for him but that's not what his campaign cares about. A win or very strong second place finish would be great for headlines but Paul is focused on picking up delegates to the state convention in Reno. All day Paul's supporters have been reporting their caucus results as well as the number of Paul friendly delegates elected to the state convention.
Why does Paul care about the state convention? It is where delegates for the Republican National Convention in Tampa will be selected. If Paul can amass a army of delegates he will have significant leverage at the national convention even if he does not win the nomination during the primary process.
Full disclosure: I donated to Ron Paul in 2008.
ELY, Nev. - We have seen very limited polling on the Nevada caucuses but all the results come to same conclusion: repeat of 2008's Romney blowout. Ok, that's believable about I find it hard to believe Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum will place ahead of Ron Paul. Paul has been building an impressive organization here for years, I have seen it first hand on the ground in this state, while the other candidates not named Romney are just getting started.
Paul has poured extensive resources into organizing, not into media buys and that is what matters in a caucus state. It's a complicated process that requires getting voters to the polls, spending long hours in a room with your neighbors, and then voting. It's not a five minute process like voting in a booth. Paul's strong results in straw polls are a display of his organization's impressive ability to turn people out non-traditional voting events.
Plus, Paul has to place second here or his long term, go all the way to the convention, caucus strategy goes out the window. I find it hard to believe Paul will finished in a distant fourth place or weak third on Saturday.
ELKO, Nev. - It is Elko's time to shine.
Once every four years this small mining town in northern Nevada gets some national attention when presidential candidates make a stop here. This year only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are dropping by while the other two remaining candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich focused their time on the population hubs of Reno and Las Vegas.
Elko is unique because its economy usually goes against the rest of the country. Mineral mines, particularly gold, surround the greater Elko area and when the economy goes south the price of gold goes north bringing high paying low skilled jobs to town. Most residents I spoke to here reference a core population that stays through the extreme swings in the minerals market and a mining population that comes and goes with the jobs.
Even with the mining culture dominating the town you still find 24/7 culture that is common in Elko's bigger cousins to the west and south. The largest "resort style casino" here is the Red Lion Hotel and Casino with its 222 rooms located right off I-80. Out of town mining crews frequently stay here as the rooms are cheap.
The 24/7 culture of Nevada mixes well the frontier style culture of this area creating a unique political climate. Paul is particularly popular here due what Elko County GOP Chair Marla Criss calls its "real independent libertarian streak."
"Everyone wants to be left alone," said Criss, a Paul supporter.
Several voters I talked to here reference the US Forest Service's travel management plan for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest as a major issue. The plan will limit accessibility to the area and local residents are concerned this will hurt tourism while curtailing their recreation activities.
"We don't go in there tearing the place up. We're respectful with our ATVs. People pack out what they pack in," said Tyler Vavak, a barber here.
Paul visits Elko this afternoon while Romney stops by here tomorrow during a swing across the state. After that it will probably be another four years before this town is in the national spotlight again.