January 12, 2012

*** Conservatives rally to Romney’s defense: If the attacks and scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s Bain record have produced one positive for the former Massachusetts governor, it’s that some conservatives -- including those who haven’t been pulling for his campaign -- have started to rally to his defense. There’s Rush Limbaugh and the conservative Club for Growth. Rival Rick Santorum, who has thrown plenty of punches at Romney’s way, has defended Bain. Ditto Jon Huntsman, who yesterday said: “If you have creative destruction in capitalism, which has always been part of capitalism, it becomes a little disingenuous to take on Bain Capital.” And also yesterday, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who endorsed Romney in ’08 but is staying neutral this time, told Laura Ingraham: “I really think that to have a few Republicans in this race beginning to talk about how bad it is to fire people, certainly we don't like that, but it really gives the Democrats a lot of fodder." DeMint added, "We need to understand the principles of our party." Even Rudy Giuliani, on FOX this morning, defended Romney against the Bain attacks and then quickly reminded the audience that he’s STILL no fan of Romney (he prefers Gingrich, Santorum, or Huntsman).

*** And so does the pro-Romney Super PAC: NBC’s Garrett Haake reports that the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future has a brand-new TV ad to air in South Carolina and Florida using the defenses from Limbaugh and Club for Growth to defend Romney and hit Gingrich. “Newt Gingrich’s attacks are called ‘foolish,’ ‘out of bounds,’ and ‘disgusting,’” the ad says. “Newt attacks because he has more baggage than the airlines.” So now it’s SuperPAC vs. SuperPAC. Keep an eye on Santorum if this negative ad battle is as nasty as it appears it’s about to get. Remember the multi-candidate rule: When Candidate A and Candidate B attack each other, Candidate C (if there is one) usually benefits.
*** The politics of emotion: So the conservatives rallying to Romney’s defense is the good news for him. The bad news: One of the reasons why they’re rallying to his defense is they know the Bain attacks are potentially damaging in a general election. Listen again to what DeMint said: “It really gives the Democrats a lot of fodder.” Here’s another thing to consider about the Bain charges: It becomes easier for voters to attack Romney with their hearts, using personal stories of laid-off workers. Romney and his supporters can make a logical defense -- and Romney will be holding a media avail around 9:00 am ET this morning in South Carolina -- but it’s hard to make an emotional one. And emotion matters in American politics. That’s the challenge for Romney in both the primary season and general election, if he becomes the nominee.

*** Why Bain is fair game: Here’s a final point about Bain: His work there is fair game. After all, he made it the central narrative of his candidacy -- he understands the economy and can fix the economy because of his private-sector work. The phrase “private sector experience” was perhaps the most common phrase he used in 2011. (And this is the reason why Bain really wasn’t a topic in Romney’s ’08 bid, because his private-sector experience wasn’t his central narrative back then.) As the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last has written, “For a variety of reasons (the general dislike of government, Romneycare) he chose to make his work at Bain central to his candidacy with constant and over-the-top talk about how he created ‘100,000’ jobs. As such, he invited voters to look at what he did there and determine if they believe it was both (a) admirable and (b) germane to the presidency.”

*** Obama makes his first televised campaign-fundraising appearance of 2012: Last night, President Obama made his first televised campaign-fundraising appearance of 2012. In remarks he delivered from his hometown of Chicago, the president commented on the GOP presidential field, but didn’t single out any of the Republicans by name. “The Republicans in Congress, the presidential candidates who are running, they’ve got a very specific idea about where they want to take this country,” he said. “I mean, they’ve said it. They said they want to reduce the deficit by gutting our investments in education and gutting our investments in research and technology, letting our infrastructure further deteriorate.” He went on to add, “We cannot go back to this brand of you’re-on-your-own economics.  We believe that everybody has a stake in each other, and that if we attract an outstanding teacher to the profession by giving her the pay and training and support that she needs, she’ll go out and educate the next Steve Jobs.”

*** 4th quarter fundraising numbers: Obama vs. Romney: In a video released to supporters this morning, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina announced that the campaign raised more than $68 million in the 4th quarter. That amount includes more than $42 million the campaign raked in, more than $24 million the DNC brought in, and additional $1 million by a swing-state victory fund. Messina also said that a total of 1.3 million Americans have now donated to the Obama campaign. Meanwhile, the Romney camp yesterday noted it raised $24 million last quarter -- all of it primary money and none of it coming from Romney’s own pockets -- and that it had $19 cash on hand at the end of the year. Folks, that Romney total is more impressive than it looks when you compare it to 2007 4th-quarter totals, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza points out this morning.
*** John Bolton endorses Romney: Early this morning, the Romney campaign unveiled an endorsement from former Bush administration official John Bolton. Said Romney in a statement: “John has been a staunch defender of U.S. interests and values, both while he was in and out of government. John’s wisdom, clarity, and courage are qualities that should typify our foreign policy. I look forward to consulting with him as we campaign to restore America’s standing abroad and ensure that this century is an American Century.” As NBC’s Andrea Mitchell notes, the Bolton endorsement is a big signal for some conservatives.  

*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: All candidates -- with one exception -- find themselves in South Carolina: flock to South Carolina to slug it out before the Jan. 21 primary.  Romney drops into Greer then heads to West Palm Beach, FL… Gingrich rallies in Greenville, Clemson, and Columbia… Huntsman bounces into Daniel Island…Santorum hits Sun City, Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Charleston…And Perry stumps in Blythewood, Orangeburg, Summerville, and Walterboro… The one exception: Paul is taking the day off.

*** Beg your pardon? Remember the political furor when Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich in his last days in office? Well, just imagine if he had granted pardons to murderers and those convicted of violent crimes. As NBC’s Mark Potter reported last night on NBC’s “Nightly News,” outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour – one of the Republican Party’s more influential voices – granted pardons or early releases to more than 200 convicts, including 21 murderers and others serving time for violent crimes. Barbour eventually released this statement: “Approximately 90% of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years. The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90% of the cases. The 26 people released from custody due to clemency is just slightly more than one-tenth of 1% of those incarcerated.”
*** Barbour has more explaining to do: While that statement appears to help Barbour -- OK, most of these folks were no longer in custody -- but he still has more explaining to do. What about the pardons for those still in custody? And the pardons where there was no recommendation by the Parole Board? It’s important to note that despite leaving office, Barbour plans to play a major role in 2012 by assisting the GOP group American Crossroads. Meanwhile, a Mississippi judge has granted a request by the state’s attorney general that prevents any more prisoners from being released under former Gov. Barbour.

*** Donohue’s address: Finally, at 9:00 am ET today, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue delivers his annual “State of American Business” address. Per a spokesman, Donohue will announce his organization will hold elected officials and candidates accountable for their positions on creating jobs. “In overwhelming numbers, Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track,” Donohue is expected to say. “They want their leaders to lead, to find solutions to our problems and to stop playing political games with people’s jobs, livelihoods and life savings.”

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