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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Can Any Republican Still Compete With Mitt Romney?

Again the Republicans debated, this time in Las Vegas, and again the dynamic of their presidential race remained static – a disappointing outcome for all of the candidates except Mitt Romney, who once more dominated his would-be competitors. Blitzed repeatedly on issues from health care to immigration, the former Massachusetts governor not only held his own but asserted his domination, pushing back only as hard as he heeded to, and leaving the rest of the field to bicker, snicker and posture impotently.

Continuing his stiff march toward the nomination, Romney demonstrated why he is the most formidable figure amid a decidedly unimpressive group, a candidate with confidence and intellect that complement his personal wealth, fundraising prowess, and organizational skill. He is a supple debater.

Politely but capably he put down Herman Cain, yet another version of non-Romney, for scheming to raise the taxes of middle-class Americans with that grossly regressive “9-9-9” tax plan. (With luck we’ve heard the last of this scheme, which is just as indigestible as Cain’s cardboard pizza.) Forcefully but calmly, he cut through Rick Perry’s furious assaults on him for hiring illegal immigrants, with the Texas governor still sporting a phony grin even as his severed head hit the ground. Wisely and slyly, he changed the subject when the questioning turned to “Occupy Wall Street” — and the responsibility of investment banks for the national economic disaster. Mr. Bain Capital knows what he doesn’t want to talk about, too.

The shrewd, persistent, dogged Romney slapped down every missile aimed at him, insisting on his time and overpowering even the belligerent Perry, who displayed considerably more animation than in his last lifeless performance. Saying that Romney had “lost all standing” for lying to the American people, the Texan sneered: “You hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year,” accusing Romney of scaling “the height of hypocrisy.” But like the exhausted scuffling over health care reform in Massachusetts, this charge too was recycled from four years ago, when the Boston Globe uncovered two alleged instances of undocumented laborers employed at Romney’s home. He replied now as he did then that he hadn’t known about their status, and nobody – or at least not Perry – is prepared to prove that he did.

It is hardly worth discussing any other candidates – the peevish Santorum, who polished his political credentials by disremembering his catastrophic defeat in 2006; the preening Gingrich, who was exposed in dissembling about his own previous position on health care; the excitable Bachmann, whose costume and demeanor were so reminiscent of Evita; and the avuncular Paul, whose radical views on foreign policy and defense are still far outside his party’s mainstream.

Cain seemed to be having a moment in the polls, but that is likely to deflate as his 9-9-9 plan’s flaws become obvious even to the most gullible segment of voters. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, it would raise taxes for 84 percent of taxpayers, with the worst impact felt by poor families earning under $30,000 annually, while reducing taxes on the wealthiest elite. If that doesn’t sweep Cain off the stage, he will surely be diminished by his remark suggesting that he would trade all the Guantanamo prisoners to Al Qaeda for a single US soldier – a gaffe he first tried to amend and later withdrew, saying he had “misspoken” or perhaps “misunderstood the question.”

Only Romney proved ready for prime time, as each of his vaunted rivals falls short. It is true that he consciously (and unconscionably) panders to the far right, as when he said that America should stop distributing humanitarian foreign aid around the world, and leave that to the Chinese. That was a stupid answer and he knows it. It is also true, however, that he can muster a certain gravity, as he did when he dismissed the bigotry of his fundamentalist critics as an insult to the founders and the Constitution. Although he is vulnerable on many levels, from his wooden insincerity to his business profile, none of the Republicans possesses the wit or the boldness to exploit his weaknesses.

“The cake is baked,” crowed Michele Bachmann, playing cheerleader to the angry audience that dreams of defeating Obama. But that cliché more aptly describes her own fate — and the state of the Republican primary — unless Romney stumbles very badly, very soon.

Cain Leads The Polls, But Will He Be The Frontrunner For 30 Minutes Or Less?

A new Public Policy Polling survey has Herman Cain leading the field for the Republican presidential nomination. The poll, which surveyed usual Republican primary voters from across the country, shows Cain leading presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney by a 30 percent to 22 percent margin. In another surprising result, the poll shows former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in third place at 15 percent — that’s 1 percent ahead of the plummeting Rick Perry.

Cain’s rapid rise in the polls was reflected by his prominent position in last night’s Republican debate; Cain was seated at the center of the table, and much of the conversation was focused on his “9-9-9” economic plan. It was the first debate in which Cain received the type of attention usually afforded to top-tier candidates. Still, a poll showing him as the national frontrunner comes as a surprise.

Now that the pizza mogul has the lead, the question is how long he will be able to hold onto it.

There are indications within the poll that Cain’s stay at the top could be short lived. Only 30% of his supporters are solidly committed to him with 70% saying they might still go on to support someone else.

This suggests that Republican voters are still less than thrilled with their choice of candidates. Herman Cain is enjoying big support from Tea Party voters — 39 percent of them support his candidacy — but these are the same voters who have already flirted with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry before moving on. It remains to be seen whether or not Cain can succeed where they failed, and retain their support.

In the wake of last night’s debate, pundits from both sides of the aisle are rushing to declare Mitt Romney as the inevitable nominee. This poll suggests that such declarations may be premature. Even if Cain cannot maintain these high levels of support, they make one thing clear: A huge segment of the Republican electorate is still desperate to find someone — anyone — who can take Romney down from the right.

Perry Set to Usurp Romney And Claim Frontrunner Mantle

The press have been describing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination since at least early last year. That may be coming to an end, though, as Rick Perry, the free-wheeling Texas governor who entered the race with a bang just a couple of weeks ago, has surged to the front of the pack in polls and grassroots enthusiasm.

Two new polls show him with a double digit lead among all Republican voters, and they show a three-way race between Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney going the Texan’s way as well. From PPP:

In PPP’s first national poll since Rick Perry’s official entry into the Presidential race he’s jumped out to a double digit advantage. Perry’s at 33% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 16% for Michele Bachmann, 8% for Newt Gingrich, 6% for Herman Cain and Ron Paul, 4% for Rick Santorum, and 3% for Jon Huntsman.

Conservative voters have been looking for a candidate that they can rally around and Perry’s filling that role. Romney continues to lead with the small portion of voters describing themselves as moderates at 27% to 20% for Bachmann and 15% for Perry. But Perry gets stronger and stronger as you move across the ideological spectrum. With ‘somewhat conservative’ voters Perry leads by 15 points with 38% to Romney’s 23% and Bachmann’s 11%. And with ‘very conservative’ voters the advantage expands to 22 points with him at 40% to 18% for Bachmann and 14% for Romney.

“I think even Rick Perry would acknowledge that there’s still a lot of work to do. You’ve got a very significant hill to climb with the infrastructure and fundraising that Romney’s done,” said Rick Wilson, a veteran Florida-based GOP media consultant and strategist.

“However, traveling around the country, especially in swing states, I’m seeing on the ground a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for Rick Perry. For a lot of Republicans Mitt Romney felt like an arranged marriage, and they’d marry Rick Perry for love.”

He said Perry hasn’t become the favorite yet, per se, but that the nature of the calendar favored him more than some have noticed.

“We like to put people through the ringer in the primary. He’ll get put through the ringer like everyone else. The next major event that’s on the schedule that Republicans are really going to pay attention to is in Florida, the Fox News debate and the straw poll. This is 3,500 of the most important activists and fundraisers [in the state]. And [it will be the] first significant state where Republicans are gonna rack up delegates.

“Even if we went early [in the primary calendar] and the RNC cut our delegates in half, Florida will still have more delegates than Iowa, NH, and SC combined. The sense we get here is it’s gonna be a very big fight between Romney and Perry in Florida. Romney has some good people with him, but I sense at the grassroots that Perry has exploded onto the scene very dramatically and very swiftly and there’s a sense that he presses some of the buttons that they really want to have pressed.”

What remains to be seen is whether frontrunner status brings such increased scrutiny to Perry’s record — especially on executions — as well as questions about his electability, that his meteoric rise is followed by a plateau or drop-off in support.

Follow National Correspondent Matt Taylor on Twitter @matthewt_ny

Frontrunner?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry just jumped in the presidential race, but some fresh numbers suggest he’s shot to the front of the pack:

Pollster Scott Rasmussen is about to release the first national post-straw poll numbers. The results:

Perry 29, Romney 18, Bachmann 13, Paul 9.

It looks like Rick got out more of a bang out of Iowa and the Battle of Waterloo than Michele did.

National polls are often just indicators of name recognition, so the media’s fixation with the knee-slapping Southerner is paying dividends.