Romney’s parallels to JFK

By CHARLES DUNN
The Providence Journal

In 1960, the junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, surprised political pundits by breaking through the anti-Catholic barrier and winning the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination against the opposition of two long-powerful senators, Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson.

Today’s political pundits discount the chances of a Mormon former governor from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, in his battle against two better-known candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain and “America’s mayor,” Rudolph Giuliani.

Will history repeat itself? Can Romney do for Mormons what Kennedy did for Catholics? To do so, Romney must negate America’s anti-Mormon prejudice, especially among evangelical Christians. Some parallels suggest that he could.

First, their fathers’ records in business and politics paved the way for their successes.

As a self-made multimillionaire in business and a prominent supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, achieved America’s most coveted diplomatic post, ambassador to the Court of St. James (Britain). In like manner, Romney’s father, George Romney, rescued American Motors Co. from insolvency and won the governorship of Michigan. And for a short time in 1968, he was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Second, the Kennedy family raised millions of dollars to build one of America ‘s best-oiled presidential campaigns. As a successful venture capitalist with close ties to Mormon financial interests, Romney has raised millions of dollars for his campaign.

The third parallel is that just as the Kennedy family became a centerpiece of his campaign, so it is with Romney. Like Jacqueline Kennedy, Ann Romney exudes grace and excellent speaking ability. Her storybook romance with Mitt, beginning at age 16, has blossomed into a family of five grown sons and 12 grandchildren, which carries special weight among family-oriented evangelical Christians.

Fourth, while telling the Kennedy legacy hardly ever ends without referring to the famous touch-football games, so the Romney story features his vital role as the savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which floundered on the brink of bankruptcy and scandal until he took charge.

Charisma is the fifth parallel between the two men.

Like Kennedy, Romney combines a charismatic personality with excellent educational credentials and superb speaking ability. He graduated summa cum laude from Brigham Young University and earned two degrees from Harvard University, in business and law.

The sixth parallel is related to geography.

Born in Michigan, Romney has Midwestern ties, which should help him in Iowa. As former governor of Massachusetts, he should have a natural appeal in next-door-neighbor New Hampshire, scene of the nation’s first presidential primary. And in South Carolina, his traditional family values and economic conservatism should play well.

If Romney wins or does well in these early caucus and primary states, which have small Mormon populations, he will have followed in Kennedy’s footsteps. The latter won an early and unexpected victory over Humphrey in Protestant West Virginia.

Romney has won in Massachusetts, where Republicans usually lose. In 1994, he gave Ted Kennedy his closest of nine Senate races. Then in 2002, he won the governorship. Romney balanced the budget and created an enviable statewide health-insurance program.

Lastly, in 1960 an MIT political scientist, Ithiel de Sola Poole, advised Kennedy to address the anti-Catholic issue head-on, which he did at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Houston. Following the Kennedy script that the best defense is a good offense, Romney has already won over many evangelical Christians in one-on-one and small-group settings, and now he plans to address the Mormon issue before large gatherings of evangelical Christians.

In 1960, Democrats needed a winner, and Catholics wanted to break the anti-Catholic barrier. In 2008, Republicans need a winner, and Mormons want to break the anti-Mormon barrier. History could repeat itself.

(Charles W. Dunn is dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.)

Tracking the Richardson buzz

By KATE NASH

SANTA FE, N.M. — He rules the headlines here.

And Gov. Bill Richardson is starting to get ink in nearby states like Texas, Colorado, Nevada.

So how well does Richardson the Democratic presidential candidate come off in the rest of the nation?

The Albuquerque Tribune checked in with professors, bloggers and reporters in other parts of the country to see what kind of buzz he’s created, how his TV skills rate, what techies think of his Web site, what endorsements he might receive, and what his chances of raising enough money to win might be.

So far, our self-described underdog governor doesn’t appear to be generating much chatter elsewhere.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are hogging the spotlight.

“Richardson is invisible in Florida with Obama and Clinton in the state several times already with max publicity,” says Roger Handberg, chairman of the political-science department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Although Richardson is somewhat known in the Sunshine State for one thing — and it doesn’t play well with everyone.

“There are clearly mixed emotions about his pushing a state spaceport, which further undercuts Florida’s already shaky space future,” Handberg said.

Last weekend, Richardson visited Florida for the first time since he launched his presidential campaign a month ago.

Richardson is expected to soon visit South Carolina, where he doesn’t seem to be doing much better buzz-wise.

“I don’t think he appears on the radar screen here in South Carolina, as far as I can tell,” Colin Pearce, a professor at the University of South Carolina in Beaufort, wrote in an e-mail.

“It’s all Hillary as far as the Democrats are concerned, thus far, I would say.”

That could change. Richardson in late February named two staffers from South Carolina to his campaign.

What about Montana? The governor has little name recognition beyond university circles in the Treasure State, but Jim Lopach, a political-science professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, says Richardson seems like a regular guy.

“He is probably best-known for being a quasi-minority candidate, a freelancer in diplomacy and the Clinton aide who tried to get Monica Lewinsky a job outside of Washington.”

Lopach rates Richardson a four out of five — with five being the best — for his ability to appear genuine.

“He seems to be quite strong in his interactions with media and voters,” he said. “He appears to be a genuine and regular guy.”

Reason magazine’s David Weigel said Richardson is at the top of the second tier of candidates.

“He doesn’t make headlines nationally, in part because he’s promised not to attack other candidates,” Weigel, an associate editor and political columnist, wrote via e-mail. “If he proposed a global-warming fix the same day Obama had a $2 million fund-raiser, Richardson would be bumped to the back pages.”

The Tribune asked a few theater professors to critique a video posted on Richardson’s Web site. The video, called “New Mexico’s Comeback,” is meant to highlight his achievements as governor.

Philip Auslander, who teaches performance studies at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, said Richardson needs to relax.

“If I were Bill Richardson’s acting coach, my main advice to him would be, ‘Loosen up.’ It is common in the theater for directors to say to actors: ‘Have fun with it.’ That is what Richardson needs to do — to seem more engaged, more personable, more as if he’s enjoying himself.”

Richardson speaks clearly in the ad, Auslander said, but is monotone and expressionless.

“He comes off as serious, but also stiff and not very personable,” Auslander said. “To his credit, however, he doesn’t seem overly scripted.”

Another ad that Richardson filmed, this one for his second gubernatorial race in 2006, played well in Wisconsin, said Oliver Kiefer, the fund-raising chairman for the College Democrats in Madison.

“I wouldn’t call him a household name, but I’d put him in the tier right below that. His commercial, the Old West-style one, did get a few people talking,” Kiefer wrote.

The commercial featured the governor wearing cowboy boots and spurs, riding his horse and bellying up to the bar for milk.

Richardson’s two-person Web team has some fans.

“With regard to Richardson’s present competition, I definitely see his Web site as the winner, at least in the Democratic realm,” said Kingsley Anderson, owner of Webport Design in Albuquerque.

“While BarackObama.com has many of the networking links Richardson does, the graphics are not as rich, lacking depth and color,” he said. “VoteHillary.org lacks many of the professional qualities of either (Richardson’s or Obama’s) site.”

And while Richardson’s site, www.richardsonforpresident.com, has patriotic colors, it needs a way to syndicate or automatically send updates to those who sign up so people can get the latest dish on the campaign, Anderson said.

(Contact Kate Nash of The Tribune in Albuquerque, N.M., at www.abqtrib.com.)

Oh what a tangled, dirty political World Wide Web we weave

By M.E. SPRENGELMEYER

Let’s talk politics. But make sure there are no children around.

Just disable your adult-content filters and look online.

The Internet has become an integral part of modern politics; one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean made it an essential tool for organizing and fund-raising. But increasingly, cyberspace also has a dark side.

With a few mouse clicks, you can find anonymous Web sites and blogs that test old political boundaries of privacy and good taste, sometimes substituting dark satire and partisan fiction for facts and opinion.

Look no further than a new Web site that takes a swipe at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

There, readers are treated to a rear-view portrait of the Democratic donkey. Among other things, the site invites people to register so they can share a room with a “putrid vagrant” during the convention. Under development are links for delegates — to adult entertainment and bail bondsmen.

Another political Web site features an image that’s supposed to be a warning for what the Republican elephant will do to “RINOs — or “Republicans In Name Only,” who don’t toe the conservative line.

Another anonymous Web site recently touched off a spate of online attacks and counterattacks after it took pot shots at a congressman’s daughter.

The site was denounced by both Democrats and Republicans because it broke a long-standing taboo.

“Family members are off-limits in this business,” said Dick Wadhams, the longtime Republican consultant who’s running for the Colorado state GOP chairmanship.

Wadhams found himself a target of a Web site that included a string of supposed Wadhams talking points like (expletive deleted), (expletive deleted) and (expletive deleted).

The quotes were bogus, of course, but it typifies part of what the Internet has added to the marketplace of ideas.

“The public has a way of sorting through all this, and I do think that crossing the line as clearly as these things do will hurt their cause ultimately,” Wadhams said this week. “So actually, from a political standpoint, I probably would invite more of this from the other side, because I think it hurts them.”

Pat Waak, the Colorado state Democratic Party chairwoman, said the explosion of sometimes nasty, anonymous Web sites is a sign of the times, and one that adds to public cynicism about the whole political game.

“I think it hurts politics in general,” Waak said. “There’s a general attitude that politics is nasty and dirty, where I personally see politics as a way to exercise the democratic freedoms we have in this country. I think people just throw up their hands and say, ‘This is the same nasty stuff. See, I was right. Politics is dirty.’ ”

Online hit pieces were a staple of the 2006 campaign, both in Colorado and nationally. It has become common for groups on the left or the right to launch edgy, often satirical Web sites attacking candidates.

Jason Bane, one of the once-anonymous authors behind the political site ColoradoPols.com, said he has seen the online political world turn more aggressive since last year’s election.

Bane said ColoradoPols tries to weed out anonymous postings that make inflammatory charges with no proof. “We don’t want it to be a place where it’s character-assassination central,” Bane said.

Still, he said the Internet is still a wild, untamed realm that mostly polices itself.

“You have to take it upon yourself to be fair. When you do that, you get the credibility for it,” he said. “If you’re just going to slander people, be aggressive and use foul language, people will shy away from it. It takes care of itself.”

(Contact M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)

Hillary loses ground to Obama

Senator Hillary Clinton has lost some ground in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, while former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani has widened his lead on the Republican side, a new poll showed Wednesday.

But also showing strength was former vice president Al Gore, who got a boost following his winning an Academy Award Sunday for his documentary on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Clinton, the former first lady, was favored by 36 percent of Democrats compared to 41 percent in an earlier survey, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Her main rival in the 2008 Democratic race, Senator Barack Obama, enjoyed a surge in support with 24 percent in the latest poll compared to 17 percent in a January 19 survey.

The poll numbers of another Democratic frontrunner, 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards, remained stable at 12 percent, just one point higher than a month ago.

But surging ahead of Edwards on his Oscar win was Gore, who though still denying any intent to contest the 2008 race moved into third place on the Democratic side with 14 percent support, up from 10 percent.

Gore was defeated in the 2000 presidential race by George W. Bush, despite winning the overall popular vote.

On the Republican side, Giuliani, known as “America’s Mayor” for his handling of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York, widened his lead, earning 44 percent of support compared to 34 percent on January 19.

His top rival, Senator John McCain, lost six points going from 27 percent last month to 21 percent in the new poll.

Former legislator Newt Gingrich, who led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, gained six points, getting 15 percent of support compared to nine percent a month ago.

The survey was conducted between February 22-25 among 1,082 Americans. It has a plus-minus three percentage-point margin of error.

The first primaries to decide each party’s nominees begin in early 2008.

Clinton’s campaign meanwhile Wednesday celebrated reaching its goal of raising more than one million dollars in campaign funds in a single week in an online campaign.

“It was an incredible success, and it means so much to me knowing that I have so many friends all over the country who are committed to our campaign,” Clinton told supporters in an email.

The drive, launched last week by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, was seen as a bid to counter Obama’s glitzy Hollywood fundraiser which also raised more than a million dollars while sparking a furious spat with the Clinton camp.

Clinton aides bristled at criticism of their candidate by David Geffen, a movie mogul who co-hosted the Obama event, and said the Illinois senator was guilty of the “slash and burn” politics he publicly decries.

The row centered on a New York Times column in which Geffen was quoted as branding Clinton overly ambitious and “polarizing” and criticizing the former president, who he once supported.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

GOP candidates to Bush: ‘We don’t want you around’

By JENNIFER LOVEN

Since President Bush’s approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May, nearly six in 10 of his appearances helping Republican candidates have been closed to all media coverage.

Unlike his barnstorming leading up to the 2002 congressional elections, when he was more popular and the divisive Iraq war had not begun, Bush has yet to hold a single traditional campaign-style rally for one of his party’s hopefuls this election cycle.

Every one of his events for GOP gubernatorial, House and Senate candidates has been to raise money from faithful Republican donors — not to urge support among the broader voting public.

The GOP’s control of Congress is in danger. The tendency of many Republican candidates to keep their president under wraps is represented starkly in Bush’s schedule in the week ahead.

Republicans hardly have abandoned their enthusiasm for having the president exercise his talent at raising money for their campaigns. But of six fundraisers Bush is headlining this week, all but one — for Alabama Gov. Bob Riley — are private, by agreement between the White House and the campaigns.

GOP Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, one of the more vulnerable Republicans, is a case study in the sometimes tricky dynamics of a president’s assistance.

Bush is raising money for DeWine on Monday at a private home in Cincinnati. It is the third time the president will have helped the senator, to the tune of about a $1 million each time. No other candidate has rated as many appearances from Bush, and all have happened out of public view.

Earlier in the year, there was so much discussion of why DeWine was snubbing the president whenever he traveled to Ohio that the senator eschewed his family’s baseball seats to take in the Cincinnati Reds’ home opener at Bush’s side.

A photo of the two, taken at the airport in June when Bush last traveled to Ohio for a closed DeWine fundraiser, is the primary image of an anti-DeWine ad by the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. Above the picture of the two, smiling with arms around each others’ shoulders, the ad says: "Mike DeWine likes working together … with George Bush."

DeWine’s campaign stresses that all the senator’s fundraisers are closed and that there is no attempt to shun the president. "Not at all," said spokesman Brian Seitchik, who added that DeWine plans to appear with Bush during a tour, open to reporters, of a business earlier Monday.

Still, DeWine’s ads have emphasized his independence and ability to work with Democrats.

Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce, the fourth-ranking House Republican, once cozy with Bush. Now she stresses her independent side as she struggles to hold onto her seat in an evenly split district. Bush is returning to Ohio on Thursday to raise money for her; this reception also is closed.

The president appears to be itching to join the battle. Highly competitive and a political junkie, he becomes invigorated in front of large and supportive crowds.

"I’m looking forward to the campaign. I’m looking forward to reminding the American people there are significant differences in between what our party believes and what the other party believes," the president said Thursday at the first of two open fundraisers in Florida. He pounded his lectern and shouted so loudly that donors sometimes had to cover their ears.

That event in Tampa, to collect cash for state Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ bid to succeed his father in Congress, was in a safely Republican district.

The White House says more fundraisers will be opened to coverage as Nov. 7 gets closer, that Bush will start speaking before larger crowds in bigger venues and that he will hold some rallies. But White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged that the president’s role through the end of the campaign will remain largely fundraiser in chief.

Republican Party and White House officials say Bush is in such great demand by candidates that he cannot fill all the requests and that he is appearing at political events at the same rate as he did in 2002.

But the nature of the events this time around is different.

In 2002, between July and the end of September, nearly all of Bush’s political appearances — most fundraisers — were open. From the end of August to this time in 2002, Bush also appeared in a half-dozen areas with tough races at "welcome" events, thinly veiled attempts to marshal presidential power to boost the struggling Republican candidates smiling at his side.

But this year, in the same time period between July and the end of September, nearly two-thirds of Bush’s political events are scheduled to be closed, held in private homes where the White House says media coverage would damage the intimacy and intrude on hosts’ privacy.

Overall, from the first political event Bush headlined in March 2005 through the end of September, 47 percent of Bush’s 68 political events — for candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans — will have been private. Before May’s approval-rating slide, the percentage of closed events was 34 percent; since, it is 59 percent.

Of the candidates Bush will have helped by the end of this week, 16 have chosen to have him in private and 23 have elected public appearances. Two have had public and private events — Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri, in a tough re-election race, and Bob Corker, hoping to beat Democratic Rep. Harold Ford to succeed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in Tennessee.

Most who choose public displays, such as Bilirakis, are running in Republican-leaning districts.

Most preferring a private Bush appearance are competing in some of the toughest races. Among them are Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, whom Bush has helped twice; Reps. Clay Shaw of Florida and Dave Riechert of Washington, and Rick O’Donnell, running for an open House seat in Colorado.

Still, several Republicans in close races have not shunned Bush, including Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, and Reps. Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

As Bilirakis put it Thursday in Florida, for some people nothing beats having the president of the United States at your side.

"Today we have the honor and the privilege of hearing from a man of great character and strong conviction: President George W. Bush. I’m proud to stand on this stage with the president," he gushed.

___

Associated Press Writer David Hammer contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

Republicans running scared

Republicans are running scared in a number of key House and Seante race. In Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum (R) has been running behind his challenger for months. In Montana, Sen. Conrad Burns (R), linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal, is on the defensive. In Ohio, Sen. Mike DeWine (R) is struggling to overcome a toxic environment of scandals that have tarnished the state Republican Party.

Writing in Monday’s edition of the Post, Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza report:

Not since 1994 has the party in power — in this case the Republicans — faced such a discouraging landscape in a midterm election. President Bush is weaker than he was just a year ago, a majority of voters in recent polls have signaled their desire for a change in direction, and Democrats outpoll Republicans on which party voters think is more capable of handling the country’s biggest problems.

The result is a midterm already headed toward what appears to be an inevitable conclusion: Democrats are poised to gain seats in the House and in the Senate for the first time since 2000. The difference between modest gains (a few seats in the Senate and fewer than 10 in the House) and significant gains (half a dozen in the Senate and well more than a dozen in the House) is where the battle for control of Congress will be fought.

The contest begins with Republicans holding 231 House seats and Democrats holding 201, with one Democrat-leaning independent and two vacancies, split between the parties. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to dethrone the GOP majority. In the Senate, Republicans hold 55 seats to the Democrats’ 44, with one Democrat-leaning independent. Democrats need six more seats to take power.

What makes the year ahead compelling is the tension between two powerful factors: the broader political environment plainly favors Democrats, but the on-the-ground realities of many races give Republicans an advantage as they seek to preserve their majorities.

History dictates a certain modesty about predictions. Early in 1994, few foresaw the size of the Republican landslide-in-the-making. By November, the anti-incumbent mood overwhelmed even well-prepared candidates. If the public mood deteriorates further this year, Republicans could be swamped; if not, the GOP could be adequately equipped to wage trench warfare state by state and district by district and leave Washington’s current balance of power intact.

At this point, the biggest challenge facing the Democrats is the narrow size of the battlefield. To win control of the House or Senate, Democrats must either capture the overwhelming percentage of genuinely competitive contests or find a way to put more races “in play” than is the case now.

Redistricting after the 2000 census left most House districts safely in the hands of one party or another. In 2004, just 32 districts were won with less than 55 percent of the vote — giving incumbents a grip on power, said Rhodes Cook, an independent analyst.

Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the odds strongly favor gains by the Democrats but not necessarily Democratic takeovers. “From almost every standpoint — the national political environment, the state political environments, recruiting, retention, fundraising — Democratic candidates are in exceedingly strong shape,” he said. “Because of the map, a flip in either chamber is significantly harder, but you can certainly see how it’s done.”

Read the full story in The Washington Post

Clinton adviser’s racial slur: Real or fake?

Mickey Kantor, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and one of a cadre of advisors to Sen. Hillary Clinton in her uphill fight to become the Democratic Presidential nominee, claims he never involked the ultimate racial slur to describe voters in Indiana.

And he’s thretening to sue those who claim he did.

Kanton claims he is outraged by a YouTube video that features a clip from the 1993 documentary “The War Room” that may or may not have been altered to make it appear that he called voters in Indiana “white niggers.”

The video has been widely circulated. In it the words “white niggers” are audible. In the original film, the words were not understandable. Some say the audio was simply enhanced to make what Kantor said more audible. Others claim the soundtrack was dubbed.

In another part, however, Kantor does use the word “shit” to describe Indiana voters.

Writes Sam Stein in The Huffington Post.

A former aide to President Bill Clinton, and current informal adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton, expressed outrage and shock on Friday after a videotape from 1992 surfaced allegedly showing him describing Indianans as “white n—rs.”

Mickey Kantor, who served as campaign chairman during Clinton’s 1992 run for the White House and says he has offered help and advice to Sen. Clinton, insisted that the tape was a fraud and that he was exploring legal steps against the individual who posted it online.

“I’ve never used that word in my entire life, ever, under any circumstance, ever,” an angry Kantor told The Huffington Post, citing his and his parent’s work fighting for civil rights. “I have listened to [the video] and so have you. You can’t tell what it is I’m saying in that second sentence, you can’t decipher that.”

Indeed, a review of the original copy of the 1993 film The War Room, from which the excerpt was taken (around the 4:40 mark) is virtually inaudible. The sound suggests, if anything, that instead of saying “How would you like to be a worthless white n****r?” Kantor says, “How would you like to be in the White House right now?”

The director of the film, moreover, says that Kantor never uttered those words. “He does not say that. He does not say that,” D.A. Pennebaker told Ben Smith.