December 05, 2011

The week ahead for the GOP 2012 field

With Herman Cain off the island, Newt Gingrich riding high in the Iowa polls and a Saturday debate to cap off the week, the final sprint to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses is on.
There two marquee events in the next seven days: the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in D.C. on Wednesday — which will feature the entire GOP field except for Ron Paul — and the ABC/Des Moines Register debate Saturday.

Paul has been excluded from the former because the group disagrees with his foreign policy views, and Jon Huntsman didn’t meet the qualifying threshold to appear at the latter. He’ll host a town hall in New Hampshire instead.
The rest of the week figures to play out this way: the remaining candidates will try to woo Cain’s supporters, needle Gingrich and lay the groundwork for their own final pushes.
Gingrich’s imperative this week is to raise enough money and hire enough staffers to capitalize on his momentum. Polls out this weekend from the Des Moines Register and NBC News-Marist College show him leading in Iowa.

But his latest schedule shows the former House Speaker has no plans to return to the state until Saturday. He is in New York Monday for a Donald Trump sitdown at Trump Tower, a fundraiser at the Union League Club (accompanied by a “media availability”) and a visit to the conservative confab known as the Monday Meeting. On Thursday, he’ll visit Greenville, South Carolina.
Mitt Romney, who slipped to third place with 16 percent in the latest Register poll, will campaign Friday in the state that rejected him in 2008. Before then, he’ll crisscross the country, traveling from New York to California for fundraising, then to Arizona for a political event on Tuesday. He comes to D.C. for Wednesday’s forum and then jets back to California.
A campaign official says to expect “a big endorsement” this week during one of the stops, but they haven’t said yet where in Iowa Romney will go before Saturday’s debate.
“We are going to keep moving forward with our own message and will draw contrasts with Newt where they exist,” the official said.
Paul, who some say has the best organization in Iowa and who finished second with 18 percent in the Register poll, is in D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday for votes and to host a dinner on Monetary Policy for the House Financial Services Committee. He heads back to Iowa for a series of town hall meetings on Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s debate. The Texas congressman won’t attend the RJC forum, but it’s just as well — being excluded all but guarantees extensive free media coverage.

Rick Santorum will continue to grind it out on the trail, county by county, and he’ll be in western Iowa through Tuesday. He flies to Washington for the RJC conference but heads right back to Iowa afterward and will stay there through the debate. Though the former Pennsylvania senator continues to work Iowa harder than anyone else, he was stuck at six percent in the new Register poll. His campaign insists the candidate is not discouraged, and they say he’ll keep to his grueling schedule with lots of stops in the run-up to Saturday’s debate.
Michele Bachmann starts off the week in South Carolina and wraps it up in Iowa — with a swing through New York City for national media and fundraising events and D.C. for the RJC forum. The Minnesota congresswoman’s campaign plans to roll out endorsements in the Hawkeye State while making campaign stops prior to the debate.

Her campaign also telegraphed plans Sunday night to intensify attacks on Gingrich.
“The people of Iowa take great pride in their role in the election process and we know the best vote is an educated vote,” spokeswoman Alice Stewart said. “This is why Michele will reinforce the contrasts with the candidates and show that she is the only consistent conservative in this race.”
Huntsman starts the week by raising money in New York. He’ll head to Washington Tuesday for a briefing with conservative bloggers at the Heritage Foundation. After the RJC forum, he flies back to New Hampshire, where he’s making his last stand, for town hall meetings.

While his opponents (including Romney) focus on winning over Iowa voters, the former Utah governor continues to invest in the Granite State. He’ll essentially have the state to himself next weekend.
“Gov. Huntsman is continuing to build in New Hampshire, working harder than any other candidate in the state and building on the momentum he’s had of late with conservatives,” spokesman Tim Miller said Sunday. “In a choice between Romney, Gingrich, and Huntsman, Governor Huntsman has the most consistent conservative record.”
Rick Perry plans an Iowa bus tour starting next week, but the Texas governor’s campaign has not released a schedule beyond the week’s two major events. His focus on retail politicking — his strong suit — will mean lots of town-hall-style question-and-answer sessions. It’s part of a bid to get a second look in Iowa, where he’s putting more and more of his limited resources.
There’s been scant polling in South Carolina, but Winthrop University will release fresh numbers from its latest survey on Tuesday. Even if it mimics national trends and Gingrich leads, the results could give a boost to one of the lesser candidates, like Perry, who might have a shot to break through in the state that holds the South’s first primary.

Mike Allen contributed to this report.

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