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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Justin Miller

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Justin Miller

Last Build Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2007 06:57:07 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Romney's Pivotal August

Fri, 10 Aug 2007 06:57:07 -0600

It's not the first time his religious beliefs have been called into question, but it was the first time Romney was visibly angry about it. It won't be known until winter if evangelicals will vote en masse for a candidate who happens to be Mormon (all other issues aside). In the meantime, they and other Republicans may empathize with Romney if he continues to be the target of hostile "gotcha" questions about whether he's truly a man of faith.

The day before that confrontation, Romney faced an angry New Hampshire waitress who pressed him on what he'd do about the cost of health care. The exchange, captured on video by the Washington Post, caused Romney to sweat but not to fall off message as he responded to the woman's emotional grievances with his health care plan.

With the waitress Romney showed he can be agile in an unscripted moment. At the radio station, Romney showed an unvarnished side that contrasts with his polished image, helping humanize him.

More important is tomorrow's Ames straw poll, where Romney enters as the heavy favorite. If Romney meets expectations with a convincing victory after being attacked on abortion by Sam Brownback, on immigration from Tom Tancredo, and seeing Mike Huckabee gain traction, he can show that his right flank isn't weak. However, it could still be vulnerable from Fred Thompson or a second-tier candidate that catches fire this fall.

An Ames win reinforces Romney's position as frontrunner in Iowa and will allow him to focus on two early-voting states where he is weakest: South Carolina and Florida. In the RealClearPolitics' average, Romney is fourth in South Carolina and tied for third in Florida. In both states he's more than 15 points from first place. However, Romney finished second in South Carolina and Florida fundraising last quarter.

"You're going to see a lot of me in Florida," Romney told reporters during a Tampa visit on Monday - indicating he was already looking past Ames.

Stem Cells Are Back for 2008

Wed, 06 Jun 2007 11:00:00 -0600

Out in California stem cell research received a boost from the California Supreme Court after it ended years of litigation that tied up Proposal 71, which approved $3 billion worth of bonds for stem cell research in California, including work with embryos. The proposal was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004.

Prop 71's most important booster was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who bucked his party and went back on his word to support it. As the New Yorker reported, Schwarzenegger originally vowed to stay neutral on Prop 71. The California GOP was opposed to embryonic stem cell research and in August 2004 it leaned on Schwarzenegger to come out against the proposal. It wasn't until two weeks before Election Day that Schwarzenegger finally took a stand -- against his party and for the proposal. Schwarzenegger did the same a day after Bush vetoed stem cell legislation last year by authorizing $150 million in loans for stem cell research, including embryos.

Schwarzenegger's repeated stand against the Republican leadership on this matter and his insistence that California and its issues play a significant role in the presidential election almost insures he will keep stem cell research in the spotlight as candidates tour his state.

On the other end of the Sun Belt in Florida, the stem cell issue is rising again thanks to the state supreme court and another moderate Republican governor.

Last Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court allowed two initiatives to make their way to the ballot for November 2008: one requiring the state to support embryonic stem cell research and the other prohibiting state money for research that "involves the destruction of a live human embryo." Presidential candidates will be asked to take a position on these initiatives, but they'll likely say they won't take a position on initiatives that must gather enough signatures (and have them approved) to gain ballot access. Still, the issue will be on the minds of Florida voters.

It will also be on the mind of Gov. Charlie Crist, who supported embryonic stem-cell research during his campaign last year and whose father suffers from macular degeneration, a blinding disease that destroys central vision, leaving only a poor-quality periphery. The governor mentioned his father when he proposed spending $20 million on research that wouldn't destroy embryos. However, the money was denied by the state legislature as it grapples with a budget deficit. Still, Crist will be present to push for funding next summer while the general election is in full swing and one or two of the proposals work their way to the ballot, all of which will provide developments to keep stem cells in the news.

By moving up their primary dates, Florida and California have increased their influence in the nominating process, and with that comes increased attention to their issues - and stem cell research is likely to be among them.

Richardson Begins to Rise

Thu, 24 May 2007 15:00:00 -0600

However, campaigning and a $110,000 worth of advertisements during May surveys seems to have helped Richardson.

"Frankly, it's happened even quicker than we expected," said Richardson campaign manager Dave Contarino. The two-part ad where Richardson is interviewed for the job of president was original, funny and effective at showing his long resume, which Contrarino said Richardson's best asset.

"For the first time we've really put the governor's record out there," Contarino said. "I think that it never hurts to be on TV when you're polling, but these Iowa folks are pretty sophisticated caucus goers. ... I think the big difference between us and every one else is that no one else could run ads like we've run. No one else has taken such a clear position on Iraq and no one else has a record like the governor has...."

Richardson has visited Iowa four times since he started campaigning in January and plans to be back two or three times before the end of June, Contarino said.

"We'll be back there and active and pressing the flesh. As the governor said, we don't do thousand person rallies and leave the state. He goes in there and sits down with people in the more traditional Iowa settings," Contarino said. The campaign has increased its media buy lately and plans to continually renew weekly ad buys for the next couple of weeks.

The real test of Richardson's strength as a candidate will come in the other early nominating states, including Nevada, a state is not entirely clear how it will fit into the nominating process because of its new position in the eight-day gap between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

"I think Nevada is deservedly important," Contarino said, largely for the same reasons it was chosen: it's western location, high growth rate, sizable union presence and large Hispanic population. Exemplifying these characteristics is the state's Culinary Union, which has 60,000 members (the largest union in Nevada) and is 40 percent Hispanic. Richardson spoke to the group three weeks ago.

"The Culinary Union is extremely important. They are a critical constituency, well organized. We believe the governor has the best pro-labor record of anyone running," Contarino said. The Hispanic make up of the union is important and Contrarino believes Richardson can "earn that endorsement with his record and his understanding of a lot of issues that those folks grapple with," not just his ethnicity.

Though Richardson is performing well in Iowa and seems to have a foothold in Nevada, he has not found the same support in various polls from New Hampshire and South Carolina.

"I frankly think we are doing well in New Hampshire," Contarino said, citing a Zogby poll that gave Richardson 10 percent support. "I think Bill Richardson is a really independent kind of Democrat, a pro-growth, very progressive Democrat that will appeal to independents that can cross over" in the state's primary.

Contarino said the strategy for New Hampshire and South Carolina is much the same as it's been for Iowa: further visits and more ads.

"What's happened in recent weeks is really a ratification of our strategy," Contarino said.

Brownback on Rudy and More

Fri, 18 May 2007 15:00:00 -0600

"I think the standard bearer should be pro-life," Brownback said, adding he thought the nominee would be pro-life.

When asked if he could support a pro-choice nominee, Brownback said, "I do think it's important that the party be pro-life." The GOP is a "pro-life party with a pro-choice wing," and the pro-life position is "the moral position," he said. A pro-choice nominee would move away from the party's platform and history, but "we need to be a big tent party" and it's important to embrace the pro-choice wing, he said.

"We should back the party nominee," Brownback added, because even a pro-choice Republican would be more likely to appoint strict constructionist jurists than a Democrat. Brownback quoted Ronald Reagan's axiom about someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time isn't 20 percent your enemy.

Brownback talked about his political philosophy and how he can appeal to pro-choice voters by being "pro-life and whole-life," which applies to protecting the unborn but "also applies to the child in Darfur, the man in prison and the woman in public assistance." The senator said many liberals support his efforts on Darfur as well as his efforts to reduce prison recidivism. He also said he thinks he can bring them around to accept his philosophy about life inside the womb.

I asked Brownback about a part of his philosophy that many find difficult to accept: abortion not being acceptable in cases of rape. How do people, of any political persuasion, respond when you say abortion in that case should be refused?

Brownback said it "comes across well when you explain" that rape is a horrible crime whose victims should be helped and given a chance to adopt, but "you don't compound it by killing an innocent child."

On the campaign itself, Brownback was optimistic about his ground operations, saying many college students are volunteering for him in Iowa this summer and that that should help him in the Ames straw poll in August. However, he thought his message plays better in South Carolina than Iowa, especially on the issues of life and the "need to invite faith back in the public life."

Brownback touched on difficulties the GOP has had recently, saying that sometimes when candidates talk about social issues it's "perceived as stone-throwing." Brownback elaborated his views on the family, saying you can raise a good family without the traditional family unit but that doesn't mean the nation and government shouldn't protect the optimal idea of a traditional family. Lastly, Brownback said his party and the nation must win in Iraq.

Romney Jump-Starts Campaign in Michigan

Wed, 14 Feb 2007 10:30:37 -0600

I spoke to a political consultant at the event who is heavily involved in state politics. He said he wasn't worried about Romney's chances and thought his stock would rise once more people got to know him. Certainly more do now: local stations carried the speech live and the major dailies are framing Romney as a candidate returning to his "native home" and as "the closest White House candidate Michigan has had since Gerald Ford." There has been little mention of his 30-year residency in Massachusetts and no "carpetbagger" barbs so far.

Today's kickoff is the biggest swoop of his barnstorming in Michigan. Last week he addressed the Detroit Economic Club, followed by a speech to the state GOP convention, and immediately after his speech he was whisked away to Iowa and South Carolina with much of the press corps in tow.

Appearances aside, Romney's speech was notable for its emphasis on economic policy and government reform. About as long was the portion focused on the fight against "jihadists" and the goal of "seeking stability in Iraq, with additional troops endeavoring to secure the civilian population." Romney didn't speak about a democratic Iraq, only a stable one.

Challenges to the family consumed the smallest portion of the speech, though it received some of the loudest applause: family values and morals are "under constant attack," but the family can be strengthened with traditional marriage, lower taxes, successful schools and healthcare that is affordable and portable."

This was Mitt Romney as Mr. Fix-It, not Mr. Conservative as his campaign has tried to make him out to be in recent months, and others doubting the sincerity of his conversion from Massachusetts moderate to American conservative.

Michigan won't be a pushover for Romney. Though he's built one of the strongest organizations of his campaign here, so too has McCain who won the state's GOP primary in 2000. Competition between the two has been fierce, with an endorsement for one candidate followed by the other within a day. The McCain-Romney proxy war tore the state GOP apart with RNC committeeman for Michigan, Chuck Yob, a strong McCain supporter, lining up last fall against Michigan GOP chair Saul Azunis who is seen as a strong supporter of Romney. Azunis was re-elected and the spat seems to have passed. Though someone should have told that to the protestors calling Romney a "flip-flopper" at the state convention last weekend. Who did the Romney campaign blame? McCain.