Archive for February, 2012

Poor fundraising by Obama “Super PAC” prompted new strategy

Obama election to loseIn early January, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina called David Axelrod, the president’s top strategist, into his Chicago office and started writing on a white board.

On one side of the board, Messina sketched out the amounts of money he expected Republican “Super PACs” and other groups to raise and spend to try to defeat the Democratic president in the Nov. 6 election.

Drawing a line under that cumulative number — roughly $700 million — Messina then highlighted the amount raised by the Republican groups’ Democratic counterparts. It was a measly figure.

“We’ve got to talk about this. This is a problem,” Messina told Axelrod, according to a campaign official.

Roughly a month later, on Feb. 6, the Obama campaign announced it would start supporting Priorities USA Action, the struggling Super PAC formed to help Obama. The move reversed a plan rooted in Obama’s distaste for a Supreme Court decision that allowed such independent groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to try to influence elections.

If there were any lingering questions about why Obama’s campaign changed course, they were answered late on Monday.

Priorities USA raised a paltry $59,000 in January, Federal Election Commission filings showed, and that amount came almost entirely from one longtime Obama supporter, John W. Rogers, who donated $50,000.

The disappointing figures were a sharp contrast with the tens of millions of dollars raised by the political action committees, or PACs, that support Republican presidential candidates.

The results reinforced concerns among Obama’s advisers that despite his campaign’s fundraising strength, Republican PACs could help the opposition outspend the president’s re-election efforts.

A campaign spokesman declined to comment about the Priorities USA figures.

ENTHUSIASM RISING?

On Feb. 6, Messina announced that Obama campaign and White House officials would start appearing at Priorities USA events, though they would not directly solicit contributions.

But Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, would not participate in the Super PAC events.

The change has made a difference in donor enthusiasm, said Bill Burton, a former White House official who helped found Priorities USA and is a senior strategist for the group.

“Interest and enthusiasm has increased significantly since the announcement,” he said in an email.

Despite the PAC’s financial weakness, the Obama campaign itself is still a fundraising juggernaut, raising $29.1 million in January along with the Democratic National Committee and other allies. It is expected to raise at least as much for the president’s re-election as the $750 million it collected in the 2008 presidential race.

But there are limits to how much the campaign can take in from big donors.

Individual donations to campaigns are limited to $2,500 during the primary season and another $2,500 for the fall general campaign. Because of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that banned limits on fundraising and spending by independent political groups, Super PACs have no such limit on donations.

Obama opposed that ruling, which erased longstanding limits on corporate and union money in federal elections.

Obama “believes that this is an unhealthy development in our political process, but it is a reality of the rules as they stand,” Axelrod said in an interview.

“This was not a quick decision, but he also feels a responsibility to win this election,” Axelrod added. “There’s a lot hanging on this beyond him.”

Priorities USA had raised just $4.2 million by the end of January, only a fraction of that raised by Restore Our Future, the group supporting Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, which had raised $36.8 million by the end of last month.

The figures showed Priorities USA had $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of January and no debt.

The PAC’s incoming contributions in January averaged less than $2,000 a day. Without Rogers’ $50,000 donation on January 17, the group would have pulled in less than $10,000 last month.

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The Year of the Super PAC

Super PacsAn unmistakable dynamic is playing out in the money game among Republican presidential candidates: New “super” political action committees are growing more powerful than the campaigns they support.

For two of the GOP front-runners, their supportive super PACs raised more money and have more cash left in the bank than the candidates’ own campaigns. Helping their efforts are major financial gifts from wealthy business executives, whose contributions can be essential to the groups’ continued operations.

Mitt Romney-leaning Restore Our Future and Newt Gingrich-supportive Winning Our Future raised a combined $17 million last month and spent nearly $24 million during that same period. That financial strength allowed the groups to splash the airwaves in key primary states with millions of dollars in TV ads.

The proliferation of new super PACs continues to underscore how the groups, which can raise and spend unlimited sums, are influencing the race. The groups’ fundraising last month offers a periodic behind-the-scenes glimpse into the identities of the rich supporters who will help elect the next president, along with details on how the millions of dollars they donated have been spent.

Restore Our Future, which had $16 million cash on hand, has been boosted by more than two dozen repeat donors. Winning Our Future, which had $2.4 million in the bank, is largely supported by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

Meanwhile, Romney raised $6.5 million last month and had $7.7 million left over for his presidential bid, while Gingrich’s presidential campaign raised $5.5 million during the same period and had about $1.8 million in cash remaining.

The super PACs, as well as other groups supporting other candidates and the individual campaigns, were required to disclose how much they raised and the identities of their donors in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by midnight Monday. Those reports provided a snapshot of fundraising for President Barack Obama’s early campaign and for Republican candidates as they battled during important primary elections in January.

During the month, GOP candidates Gingrich and Rick Santorum had briefly surged ahead of Romney but trailed the former Massachusetts governor in fundraising. Since then, Santorum has climbed remarkably in polls while Gingrich’s support has eroded just as stunningly following the former House speaker’s disappointing showing in Florida’s primary.

Restore Our Future has been a boon for Romney, who has benefited greatly from the group’s TV ads attacking Gingrich in particular. Such ads were purchased thanks to the financial help of repeat donors, including Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott Jr., who has given the super PAC $750,000 to date.

The super PAC also reported new donors, including Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. Romney mentored Whitman, recently an unsuccessful candidate for California governor, during the 1980s at Boston-based Bain & Co., the private equity firm Romney headed. Whitman’s $100,000 check to Restore Our Future came days after she joined Romney at a celebration of his victory in the New Hampshire primary.

Restore Our Future counted on continued support from at least 30 repeat donors who, along with new contributors, gave a combined $6.6 million in January, according to a review of the reports by The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Winning Our Future’s $11 million in contributions during the same period came almost exclusively from Adelson, a friend of Gingrich’s and a staunch supporter of Israel. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each gave $5 million to the super PAC in January — a move that helped keep Gingrich’s struggling campaign alive.

Other GOP-leaning super PACs reported major contributions.

Endorse Liberty, the group supporting Texas Rep. Ron Paul, reported roughly $2.4 million in donations, including $1.7 from the billionaire founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel of San Francisco. Thiel, who runs a hedge fund, is a libertarian who has supported Republican causes and candidates and also has donated to California’s marijuana legalization ballot measure.

Obama’s campaign on Friday reported raising a combined $29.1 million in January among the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and other joint fundraising committees. The major super PAC backing Obama, Priorities USA Action, raised only $58,000 last month — mostly from a $50,000 contribution by Chicago businessman John Rogers — underscoring why Obama encouraged his supporters recently to give to the super PAC.

The reports likely will rekindle criticism of the groups, which were made possible under a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case. The super PACs must legally remain independent from the candidates they support, but many are staffed with former campaign aides who have intimate knowledge of the campaigns’ strategies.

Late Friday, the Supreme Court put on hold a Montana case that bore striking similarities. Two justices said the newest case provides an opportunity for the court to reconsider whether millionaires and billionaires should be allowed to continue pouring millions of dollars into the presidential election.

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Rush predicts return of the Newt

Gingrich New Hampshire

Rush Limbaugh predicted Monday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich could make what would be his third comeback in the GOP presidential contest.

Telling his listeners that the polls indicated Mitt Romney would likely lose the Michigan primary, the conservative icon said he wouldn’t be surprised if Romney’s demise gives Gingrich yet another opportunity to be frontrunner. Another great performance by Gingrich in a debate could turn the race around once again, Limbaugh said.

“I think there’s a possibility of something happening nobody’s talking about — and that’s the reemergence of Newt. Keep a sharp eye. Anything’s still possible,” Limbaugh said.

“If Romney has trouble in Michigan… Now, Public Policy Polling is a very liberal polling group out of North Carolina. They say that Romney’s gaining ground, and he could well be. A slew of negative ads are being run against Santorum, and they work. Negative ads have always been shown to work, and Romney’s gaining ground back in Michigan. Of course, the Republican establishment would be turned upside down if he loses in Michigan, because that’s his what, second or third home state? And his dad was governor there. …

Limbaugh pointed out that a number of news accounts have pointed out that GOP candidates, to be successful in Michigan, would have to say they supported the auto bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. One reason Romney is doing so bad in the polls is that he, the son of former auto industry chief and Michigan governor, has consistently said that the Obama administration should have let the automakers go bankrupt.

“If Romney falters in Michigan, the guy to look at as perhaps having a chance to get back in this big time is Newt Gingrich,” Limbaugh said. “Do you realize there hasn’t been a debate in a month? There has not been a debate, and look at what impact that could be having on the polls, ’cause there haven’t been any primaries, either. But look at the impact no debates are having. So if Romney doesn’t do as expected, then of course the Republican Party establishment’s gonna panic and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, we need somebody new now,’ because none of the others are suitable to them. Including Newt. Newt’s not suitable to them, either. But the debates are gonna kick back in again once we get close to Michigan and then we’ve got Super Tuesday.

“The debates will kick back up and if Newt has stellar performance. Given the roller-coaster nature of the results of these primaries, anything can still happen.”

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Romney fighting for political appeal and support in Michigan.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney’s presidential bid enters a real make or break phase this week ahead of the Michigan primary. The GOP campaign has had no less than seven frontrunners in this campaign, and the worrying aspect for the largely organised and heavily financed Romney campaign is his struggle to break through the field.

Rick Santorum’s surge is consistent Texas Governor Rick Perry’s at his peak. A little higher than Herman Cain’s surge and slightly than Newt Gingrich’s lofty pre-Christmas heights, and nobody can rule out another Gingrich surge either.

The current debate involving the Catholic Church and Obama Administration has in no doubt aided the Santorum surge, with his values based appeal to the conservative support base. One has to wonder whether the much publicised spat was a strategically placed controversy by the Obama Administration to kill off Romney’s bid, or a calculated risk on their part however; Santorum’s rise is potentially the most serious yet. The previous negative advertising used by the Romney campaign against in particular, Gingrich may not be as effective in this instance. I asked the question some weeks ago, what does Romney stand for?

Herein, lays Romney’s biggest flaw in his campaign to date. He has been effective in ripping apart previous challenger’s surges without people asking what does Mitt Romney stand for? In this instance Santorum, unlike previous challengers has demonstrated an ability to learn, identify himself clearly and definitively as the social values candidate, while at the same time, slowly but steadily attacking Romney on his record in public office. Santorum is oozing confidence at present and appears sincere, natural and passionate on whatever issue he is speaking about.

Santorum combines a deeply held social conservatism with a genuine blue-collar appeal. Romney has appeared out of sorts at CPAC constantly using the phrase “Conservative values” and at one point referring to himself as “Severely Conservative”, he has also seemed uneasy and unnatural when trying to appear passionate on describing his love for his native birth state Michigan, appearing almost desperate, when citing his love of the trees and lakes in one speech, ouch! Romney has also found it troublesome to shake the label of being out of touch and being a member of social elite attributed to him by the Obama team.

The Romney campaign has already made large ad purchases, which are not likely to feature positive Romney bio slots. The problem the Romney Campaign has is their inability to frame a negative attack label on Santorum to date. Turning negative has contributed to the surge in unfavourable feelings voters have about Romney, and independents like other voters favour a politician who plays dirty. This presents the risky proposition that any such negative attack ads may not work and actually be used against Romney himself. Romney has been unable to manipulate Santorum’s electoral weakness on cultural issues, as Santorum has gone to great lengths and efforts to question the role of women in the workplace and in the military, and emphasise his opposition to contraception.

Santorum on the other hand has a strong record on supporting global health programs and earned a reputation for being a champion of faith-based anti-poverty efforts. Santorum also appears to be a more acceptable candidate to the GOP establishment who raced to attack former speaker Gingrich when he assumed the front runner status, the language and commentary used in their description of Santorum is subtlety complimentary, yet composed.

Another major factor working against Romney in Michigan is his well-publicised opposition to the federal bailout of General Motors who only last week announced its largest ever profits in history, which undermines Romney’s argument that bankruptcy would have been a better way to go for the auto companies. This makes Santorum’s appeal to ordinary blue collar worker all the more prominent in the state’s primary battle.

Romney has failed to win over supporters and the conservative base despite six years of campaigning largely due to a fundamental lack of enthusiasm. He has to win Michigan it is as simple as that, it is a battleground state in the general election and a failure to a secure victory here, will raise new doubts ahead of the critical Super Tuesday contest and Romney’s fragile front-runner status once and for all.

Romney’s best chance of victory is message, he needs to give voters and supporters a clear vision on where he will take the country and present a break-out policy initiative to seize the upper hand. He can no longer depend on his tried and tired tactics of highlighting his business credentials, attacking President Obama’s record and tearing down fellow GOP rivals.

Romney needs to inspire American’s and give them a reason to vote for him. One good policy initiative, which he can take to the country, may enable him to display a dynamism, passion and level of enthusiasm that will make him the all-appealing stand-out candidate. Failure to change step and stick with the old tried and tested tactics will only lead to his challenge for the highest office in the land falling apart slowly but surely.

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Santorum attacks Romney & President Obama

Santorum attacksWhile campaigning in Ohio on Saturday former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum went on the attack on two front questioning President Obama’s Christian values and attacked GOP rival Mitt Romney’s Olympics leadership as he courted tea-party activists and evangelical voters in Ohio, “ground zero” in the 2012 nomination fight.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator known for his socially conservative views, said Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” He later suggested that the president practices a different kind of Christianity.

“In the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity,” he said. “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”

The Obama campaign said the comments represented “the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fuelled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity.”

Santorum was forced on his heels in recent days after a top supporter suggested that women use aspirin to prevent pregnancy. Foster Friess, the main donor behind Santorum’s “super PAC,” apologized Friday in a blog post.

In Ohio, a Super Tuesday prize, Santorum shifted decidedly to offense before friendly crowds. Trailing Romney in money and campaign resources, he is depending on the tea party movement and religious groups to deliver a victory March 6 in the Midwestern state’s primary.

More delegates will be awarded in Ohio than in any other state except Georgia in the opening months of GOP primaries and caucuses. Ohio and Georgia are two of the 10 votes scheduled for March 6, a benchmark for the primary campaign that often decides who can continue to the next level.

Santorum has surged in recent opinion polls after capturing Republican caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Feb. 7. Several polls have shown him ahead in Romney’s native state of Michigan, where primary voters cast ballots Feb. 28.

Obama’s campaign team has responded by starting to consider the possibility that Santorum rather than Romney could be the Republican nominee. The Chicago-based organization has begun scrutinizing Santorum’s record and asked its Pennsylvania allies to look for information that might be used against Santorum in ads and speeches.

Even as he criticized Obama, Santorum also went after one of Romney’s most promoted achievements – his leadership at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“One of Mitt Romney’s greatest accomplishments, one of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games,” Santorum said. “He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake Games – in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic Games.”

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Newt & Cain on the Campaign trail in Georgia

Newt Gingrich, recognising that  his campaign “all hinges on Georgia,” was on the campaign trail on Saturday with a very familiar face in the state, fellow Georgian Herman Cain.

“I think Georgia is a very, very important state,” Gingrich said. “We actually have a very good chance of doing well here and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country.”

But the former House speaker cautioned “there are no slam dunk states anywhere in America.”

Gingrich got a much-needed lift on Saturday from another Georgian in his home state: Former rival Herman Cain.

The Atlanta businessman, who bowed out of the race in early December and later endorsed Gingrich, said the former House Speaker’s economic plan comes the closest to his trademark “9-9-9” plan for a nine percent corporate business flat tax, income flat tax and national sales tax.

“I’m still working on him,” Cain told an audience of about 300 at a meeting of the Forsyth County Republicans.

Georgia, with its 76 delegates, will be the largest prize up for grabs during the critical Super Tuesday primaries on March 6. Recent polls have shown Gingrich in first place ahead of Mitt Romney.

Gingrich had said earlier this week there was a possibility he could lose here, but on Saturday amended that prediction to say, “We actually have a very good chance of doing well here, and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country. I think that’s part of what we are counting on.”

Gingrich and Cain, a former presidential candidate himself, appeared at three separate events.

The two men, who say they have been friends for years, not only cracked jokes with one another as they passed each other on stage, but also were full of compliments for each other during their speeches.

“Newt is not afraid to engage in a little smackdown when necessary,” a smiling Cain told the crowd in Cumming, Ga. “That’s bold leadership.”

Asked by reporters in Suwanee, Ga., what cabinet position Cain would hold in a Gingrich administration, the former speaker shied away from naming a specific job.

Cain, however, took control of the answer himself.

“My ideal job with a Speaker Newt Gingrich as president of the United States is to be a senior adviser not in charge of anything,” Cain said. “That’s what I would want to do in a Gingrich administration.”

Cain, who dropped out of the race back in November, was one of many presidential candidates who made their way to the top of the pack at some point during the primary season.

Rick Santorum is currently in that front-runner role now, Gingrich said, but told supporters in Atlanta that he “will survive Santorum.”

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Newt and Cain on the Campaign trail in Georgia

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, recognising that  his campaign “all hinges on Georgia,” was on the campaign trail on Saturday with a very familiar face in the state, fellow Georgian Herman Cain.

“I think Georgia is a very, very important state,” Gingrich said. “We actually have a very good chance of doing well here and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country.”

But the former House speaker cautioned “there are no slam dunk states anywhere in America.”

Gingrich got a much-needed lift on Saturday from another Georgian in his home state: Former rival Herman Cain.

The Atlanta businessman, who bowed out of the race in early December and later endorsed Gingrich, said the former House Speaker’s economic plan comes the closest to his trademark “9-9-9” plan for a nine percent corporate business flat tax, income flat tax and national sales tax.

“I’m still working on him,” Cain told an audience of about 300 at a meeting of the Forsyth County Republicans.

Georgia, with its 76 delegates, will be the largest prize up for grabs during the critical Super Tuesday primaries on March 6. Recent polls have shown Gingrich in first place ahead of Mitt Romney.

Gingrich had said earlier this week there was a possibility he could lose here, but on Saturday amended that prediction to say, “We actually have a very good chance of doing well here, and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country. I think that’s part of what we are counting on.”

Gingrich and Cain, a former presidential candidate himself, appeared at three separate events.

The two men, who say they have been friends for years, not only cracked jokes with one another as they passed each other on stage, but also were full of compliments for each other during their speeches.

“Newt is not afraid to engage in a little smackdown when necessary,” a smiling Cain told the crowd in Cumming, Ga. “That’s bold leadership.”

Asked by reporters in Suwanee, Ga., what cabinet position Cain would hold in a Gingrich administration, the former speaker shied away from naming a specific job.

Cain, however, took control of the answer himself.

“My ideal job with a Speaker Newt Gingrich as president of the United States is to be a senior adviser not in charge of anything,” Cain said. “That’s what I would want to do in a Gingrich administration.”

Cain, who dropped out of the race back in November, was one of many presidential candidates who made their way to the top of the pack at some point during the primary season.

Rick Santorum is currently in that front-runner role now, Gingrich said, but told supporters in Atlanta that he “will survive Santorum.”

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