Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Hampshire Debate: Mitt Romney Untouched By Rivals, Goes On Offense Against Obama

(L-R) Rick “Snowball’s Chance In Hell” Santorum, Michelle “Kelly” Bachmann, Newt “3 Wives So Far” Gingrich, Mitt “Suge” Romney, Ron “Senior Crazy” Paul, Tim “Mr. Charisma” Pawlenty, and Herman “Godfather of Soul Pizza” Cain

GOP rivals let Romney off easy

Gibbs: Debate looked like a ‘rerun’

How the candidates sliced Obama

GOP hopefuls recycle energy talking points

John King: The grunting moderator

Is Michele Bachmann now first-tier?

Darrell West: “With her strong performance, she made conservatives forget about Sarah Plain.”

Last night’s debate winners: Romney, Bachmann, and the Tea Party… Last night’s losers: Aplenty, Gingrich, and anyone who wanted a serious, substantive conversation on the economy… Recapping Osama’s economic talk with NBC’s Ann Curry… The president’s day in Puerto Rico… The Biden talks on debt ceiling/deficit restart on Capitol Hill at 2:00 pm ET… Presidential maybe Rick Perry in the spotlight in New York City… And the day after the debate, Romney and Gingrich are in NH, Santorum is in Iowa, and Huntsman (who didn’t participate in the debate) discusses foreign policy with Henry Kissinger in the Big Apple.

By NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenici Montana, and Ali Weinberg

*** Last night’s winners and losers: Although last night’s GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire turned out to be standard fare for an early debate — with no fireworks and no heated exchanges — we learned some things. One, Michele Bachmann announced she filed her paperwork to run for president (when is the last time that’s happened at a presidential debate? That’ll get copied in 2016, mark our words). Two, having previous presidential debating experience like Mitt Romney had certainly helps (though it didn’t end up benefiting John Edwards in ’08 in the long run, just at the very early debates). Three, if you try to pick a fight the day before the debate, as Tim Aplenty did, you better follow through (or face the post-game consequences). And four, the debate was a contest to prove who was the most anti-Obama, anti-government, and most pro-Tea Party (“Anyone on this stage would be a better president than Obama,” Romney said). Now on to last night’s winners and losers…

*** Practice makes perfect for Romney: The clearest individual winner was Romney. He performed as well as he did at any other debate in 2007-2008, which just goes to prove that practice makes perfect. He was confident and engaged. What’s more, he emerged relatively unscathed — receiving only fingernail scratches from Rick Santorum (on his authenticity on abortion) and Aplenty (more on that below). Yet as National Journal’s Reinhardt writes, he probably won’t get off as easily in upcoming debates. Perhaps most important for Romney, his message was better tailored to independent voters than the rest of the field (though it was striking that he decided not to criticize Osama’s views on NASA/space, given the industry’s importance in Florida). His most puzzling comment came when he seemed to argue against the Bush Doctrine regarding military involvement in places like Iraq and Afghanistan: “I also think we’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation — only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban.” Does he believe this about Iraq as well? If so, we didn’t hear that in ’07-’08. Also, Romney ducked answering the debt-ceiling question and no one followed up on it.

*** Bachmann: The most credible anti-Romney candidate? Another winner was Bachmann, who likely will continue to dominate the anti-Obama one-liners and rhetoric throughout the debate season. As soon as she appeared on stage and as soon as she announced that she filed her paperwork to run for president, the Herman Cain Experiment seemed to be over. She stumbled on the gay marriage answer and muddled her facts on a few issues, but her supporters won’t care about that. Just from watching last night’s debate, she has the potential to be the most credible anti-Romney in the GOP field, especially considering the order of the contests with Iowa first. Of course, that’s what Team Romney is hoping for. Indeed, last night’s debate played out almost exactly how we saw it playing out last week — Bachmann dominated the process of the debate and allowed Romney to “win” it.

*** We’re all Tea Partiers now: The other big winner was the Tea Party. Indeed, it sounded like all the candidates — even Romney — were reading off the Dick Armey, Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity script. So many of last night’s answers were about what the government SHOULDN’T be doing rather than what it SHOULD be doing (other than get out of the way). But that rhetoric raises this question: If the federal government should stay out of the way — and if the 10th Amendment is so cherished — why run for president? Why not stay governor of Massachusetts or Minnesota? One person who struggled a tad on the 10th Amendment talking point was Rick Santorum, even though he’s fully embraced much of the economic rhetoric. After all, it’s hard to legislate morality as Santorum wants to do when the GOP sounds more and more like the Libertarian Party. And that has to bring a smile to Ron Paul’s face. Bachmann is as much a social conservative as Santorum in her voting record, but notice her consistency on the 10th Amendment when it comes to gay marriage — a distinction from Santorum. Though, it was notable how she had to fix her answer three times.

*** The biggest loser: Aplenty: If there was one big loser last night, it was Pawlenty. Coming into the debate, no one raised the prospect of attacking Romney more than he did (with his “ObamneyCare” line). But when Pawlenty got into the batter’s box, he didn’t even swing; in fact, he struck out looking. After the debate in the spin room, his campaign dismissed that criticism, saying that Pawlenty didn’t give the answer news outlets were hoping he’d give. But there’s one problem with that explanation: It was the Pawlenty campaign that called SO MUCH attention and promotion to the candidate’s dig at Romney before the debate. Either the candidate doesn’t agree with his advisers on strategy or the campaign doesn’t agree on strategy; either way, that’s not a sign of a winning campaign. Seven months from now, Pawlenty could very well end up regretting this missed opportunity. And it underscores the early challenge for Pawlenty: The Minnesota Nice Guy wants to be the tough-talking Tea Party conservative, but he personally just may not be comfortable in that role.

*** Good Newt, Bad Newt: That brings us to Newt Gingrich. Oh, boy. A week after his campaign imploded, the former speaker delivered a very uneven performance, displaying both Good Newt and Bad Newt. Good Newt: his elegant argument on the space program. Bad Newt: his “loyalty oath” rant on Muslims serving in the U.S. government. “I just wanna go out on a limb here,” he said last night. “I am in favor of saying to people, ‘If you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.’” More: “We did this in dealing with the Nazis, and we did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered, after a while, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country, and we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘No’.” Unfortunately for Gingrich, that McCarthy-like line isn’t going to help him after his rough news last week.  

*** The absence of a serious, substantive discussion on the economy: The other big loser of the night was a serious, substantive discussion on the economy. After spending the last few weeks criticizing the Obama administration on this subject, not a single GOP presidential candidate offered a convincing plan on how to create jobs. We heard plenty about lower taxes and less regulation. The problem: Taxes are already at their lowest level since the 1950, and that hasn’t really jump-started the economy. Moreover, there was little regulation during the Bush administration, and that didn’t produce a wave of jobs between 2001 and 2009.

Huckabee: TPaw’s ‘overcoached’

Mike Huckabee surfaced on Laura Ingraham’s radio show today [Tuesday] for some post-debate analysis, in which he dissected Tim Pawlenty’s on-stage problems and swatted his old rival, Mitt Romney: “I would say that the number one thing, and I am going to go back to my friend Tim Pawlenty, is that he needs to get rid of some of his consultants. I saw this with Romney four years ago and I am seeing it with Pawlenty now. Overcoached. Overconsulted. Get rid of them.”

Newt Gingrich Charity Paid Cash To Gingrich For-Profit Business

Gingrich: ‘I feel liberated’ by shake-up

Jon Huntsman 2012 announcement countdown begins with video

Puerto Rico: Obama makes first presidential visit since John F. Kennedy

A NARRATIVE TAKES HOLD – BACHMANN BREAKS THROUGH – The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes in an analysis that the Minnesota congresswoman has joined Romney and Tim Pawlenty in the ranks of candidates to be reckoned with, dubbing her “the only other clear winner Monday” beside Romney. Balz: “Bachmann showed stage presence and a flair for attracting attention to herself. She lacks the experience of Pawlenty, a two-term former governor, but she could become a real force in Iowa, the state Pawlenty knows he must win to be Romney’s chief challenger next year … Bachmann’s debate performance was just that, a good showing in a single event. For her, the question is what she does with it … The rest of the Republican field will struggle for attention. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has a campaign in deep trouble. Former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) was overshadowed. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has his followers but not much more. [Herman] Cain also has some support but will have more trouble expanding it after Monday.” http://wapo.st/ihio7P

THEY REALLY LIKE HER – The second-day debate headlines tell the story: USA Today, “Debate showing elevates Bachmann to higher tier” … The Christian Science Monitor: “Is she the Mike Huckabee of 2012?” … The Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Debate score: Bachmann 1, Pawlenty 0” … The New York Times Caucus blog, “Bachmann used debate to widen her appeal” … Gallup notes that Bachmann starts her campaign with 62 percent name recognition among Republicans nationally: http://bit.ly/ile9Dy

HUNTSMAN GETS HUGE INSIDER PUSH : Several prominent Bush names are siding with Jon Huntsman, who formally announces his campaign Tuesday. A rooftop HPAC reception-fundraiser in D.C. tonight is sold out and over capacity. Juleanna Glover, one of the co-chairs, emails: “I’d asked some uncommitted heavy-hitter funder and policy types to come as my guests … but I had to disinvite them since there is just no more room (they’ll attend another event later this month). Without exception every GOP member, staffer, donor, policy wonk with whom I’ve spoken (except those on other presidential campaign payrolls of course!) wants to see Huntsman up-close and in action – the interest is profoundly intense.” Levels — Co-Chair: $1,000 (give or raise), Host: $250 (give or raise), Attend: $100, Young Professionals Attend: $50. Obama Campaign must link Huntsman Campaign to eight years of failed Bush 43 policies.

NEWS

Obama Says Biden Debt Ceiling Talks Making Progress Toward Budget Deal

“Nine of the 10 districts throughout the U.S. with the most people age 45-54 are represented by Republicans, including [Rep.] Fitzpatrick, a Bloomberg analysis of census data shows. Those would be among the first Americans to no longer have Medicare as an open-ended entitlement, and instead would be given money to buy private insurance when they’re eligible, under the plan…. So far, older Americans aren’t responding favorably to privatizing Medicare, polls show. Fifty-one percent of people age 50 and over oppose the Republican plan, while 29 percent support it, according to a May 25-30 survey by the Washington- based Pew Research Center. Even among Republicans, more people oppose the plan than like it.” –   Bloomberg, 6/13/11

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: ‘We [Dems] own the economy’

Music’s Racial Divide: An Industry Built on Black Talent Still Lacks Black Executives

Jada Pinkett Smith: The family ‘nucleus’

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appeared to be a changed man during the NBA playoffs

Weird Story of the Day

Shaq’s Alleged Sex Tape: Shaquille O’Neal At The Center Of A Robbery And Assault Case Involving An Alleged Sex Tape.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Tim Pawlenty might as well get it over with and close up shop now. If he couldn’t say “Obamneycare” to Mitt “Suge” Romney’s face during Monday night’s debate, how does anyone expect him to stand up to President Obama next year? Say goodnight Timmy.

I’ve heard of “advance sales”, but putting Shania Twain tickets for December 2012 now seems a bit much even for Vegas!

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