January 19, 2012

The best for last: Text of Rick Perry's exit speech

From Rick Perry's campaign, which has the disclaimer "Gov. Perry sometimes deviates from prepared remarks" (really? We hadn't noticed):

Thank you. As I have stated numerous times on the campaign trail, this campaign has never been about the candidates.

I ran for President because I love America, our people and our freedom. 

But the mission is greater than the man. 

As I have traveled across this great country: from New Hampshire to California, from Iowa to Florida, and to numerous states in between, I have discovered a tremendous purpose and resiliency in our people.

They have never lost hope despite current circumstances.

They haven't stopped believing in the promise of America or the American Dream.

Americans are down, but we can never be counted out. We are too great a people.

What is broken in America is not our people, but our politics.

And what we need is a Washington that is humbler, with a federal government that is smaller so our people can live freer.

Continue reading "The best for last: Text of Rick Perry's exit speech" »

Mitt Romney: Obama belongs in "Fantasyland"

Mitt Romney hopped onto a conference call this morning with two of his Florida allies, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and John Mica.

On Obama's visit to Disney, Romney said: "Interestingly, he has chosen fantasyland as the place for his address ... I'm afraid he's been speaking from fantasyland for some time now. He continues to speak about his 'solid' economic record and as you know, that's out of touch with reality. ... "

Romney pivoted to his surging South Carolina rival, Newt Gingrich, who often talks about his work with Reagan. "Actually, he'd only been in congress two years when Ronald Reagan came to office. I don't think he was the author of Reaganomics, or of the success of the Reagan years. Him taking credit for that qualifies as a fantasyland experience as well, I'm afraid."

Posted by Alex Leary

Mitt Romney's bad morning: Rick Perry quits, endorses Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum wins Iowa

Thursday was a bad day for Mitt Romney.

The morning began with news that he actually lost the Jan. 3 caucus vote in Iowa to Rick Santorum. Then, sources say, Rick Perry droped out endorsed Newt Gingrich -- the only candidate that, according to the polls, has a good shot at beating Romney in South Carolina's Saturday vote.

"There is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign...I am endorsing Newt Gingrich," Perry said. "We need bold conservative leadership that will take on the entrenched special interests and bring our country back. I believe the mission is greater than the man."

The one-two punch upset the political narrative about Romney as the inevitable Republican candidate.

Romney was already 2-0 heading into South Carolina. But the re-counted Iowa ballots show he's now 1-1. Romney was cruising ahead in South Carolina as well until the weekend debate where Gingrich got a standing ovation from the crowd. After that, polls showed the race tightening.

That makes Saturday's primary winner crucial -- especially in Florida, where the electorate is driven in large part by television.

"It's the narrative that matters. The winner in South Carolina matters," said David "DJ" Johnson, a former Republican Party of Florida executive director and Florida adviser to Jon Huntsman's now-scuttled campaign.

"Debates matter, too, and it just so happens there's one tonight," Johnson said.

But, he noted, the South Carolina winner isn't guaranteed a victory in Florida, which has more party-nominating delegates and Electoral College votes than the other three early-voting states combined.

Republicans have cast more than 138,000 absentee mail-in ballots already in Florida. Another 5,000 have early voted at the polls in some Florida counties, including Republican-rich Hillsborough. And Romney has been running a full-bore campaign targeting early voters by mail while spending an estimated $2.5 million on television commercials in Florida.

Only Gingrich has begun advertising in Florida -- but on radio. He has sent Republican voters two mail pieces at most. Romney has sent at least four to some voters.

Still, with Romney making such a strong push and him doing so well for so long, it's likely that he's leading in the 143,000 ballots already cast.

Gingrich also has a dose of bad news he'll have to deal with: His ex-wife, Marianne, told ABC News that Gingrich wasn't so holy when it came to their marriage, where he cheated with the congressional aide who's now his wife.

"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC News. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."

In an evangelical-heavy state like South Carolina, where Gingrich has taken a conservative stance on abortion-restrictions and gay marriage, the interview could damage the former House Speaker.

Also, it's unclear how much Perry will support Gingrich and whether his support really means anything. Perry only garnered 6 percent of the vote in a CNN poll. And his campaign appearances in South Carolina have been characterized by small, unenthusiastic crowds.

Still, Perry's withdrawal narrows field where the conservative vote had been splintered. Now those conservative voters, assuming they don't suddenly back Romney, will have to decide between Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul, whose base appears to rest with younger and independent voters

Small crowds speak to Rick Perry's struggles, dying campaign

GREER, S.C. -- Rick Perry walked into a pizza shop with eight news cameras trained on him, a dozen more reporters and a handful of Texas troopers and campaign staff.

At most, a dozen people wait for him Wednesday at Wild Ace Pizza.

This isn’t what a top-tier presidential candidate’s events should look like just days before Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

But Perry is no longer a top-tier candidate. And the crowds — or the lack of them — are just another indicator that Perry is about to lose his third race in a row after Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney won in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The tough-talkin’ Texas governor, who used to brag he never lost an election, is expected to leave the race before the Florida primary on Jan. 31, assuming he places fourth in South Carolina as the polls show. A CNN poll showed him pulling only 6 percent of the vote.

“I don’t know what really happened to him,” says Larry Stinson, a 58-year-old disabled veteran who was part of the pizza parlor skeleton crew that met Perry in downtown Greer.

“I hope he can turn it around. But I’m not sure about that.”

Stinson shared with Perry a story about how Romney was “arrogant” to him last week during a stop at a Greer motorcycle shop. Stinson said he wanted to ask Romney if he’d give up his presidential salary if elected.

“You’re worth almost $250 million ..., ” Stinson said he started to ask Romney before the Republican front-runner cut him off: “Yes I am.”

Romney walked away and Stinson said he couldn’t finish his question because he was blocked by the crush of supporters.

Stinson didn’t have that problem Wednesday. He chatted up Perry in the restaurant and, later on Trade Street, a post-card perfect stretch of mom-and-pop shops nestled among red brick buildings.

More here

January 18, 2012

Rick Perry on a 'lighter version of Obama,' the Keystone pipeline and the comeback of paisley

In the post-card perfect downtown of Greer, Rick Perry popped in on the local businesses lining Trade Street to shake a few hands, tout his record as Texas governor and make political fodder of the Obama Administration's decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline energy deal with Canada.

“The president’s more focused on the next election than on the next generation. Getting this country independent of foreign sources of crude from countries that are not our friends is really problematic. This Canadian oil, there’s a possibility we can lose it to China with that decision," he said. I hope Americans will really become unhinged with that decision because it is a really bad decision for our country, for energy independence and sends a horrible message at a time that we’re heading to $4-$5 gasoline.”

Perry pivoted to his record in Texas, noting it was "the number one wind-producing state in the nation... because we made the decision in the state of Texas that we were going to give incentives to alternative fuel portfolios. And the wind energy folks said we can make that work."

But as president, he said, he'd take a hands-off approach because he opposed "Washington picking and choosing" winners in the tax code.

"I would do away with all tax credits and subsidies for energy at the national level. I don’t care whether you're in the oil and gas industry or you're in the wind industry side," he said. "Ethanol? I would do away with all of those. If Iowa wants to have an incentive for ethanol in their state, that’s fine. That’s state against state competition. But not in Washington DC."

Perry brought up the case of bankrupt solar-company Solyndra, which received federal money under Obama, who had received campaign contributions from investors in the California-based company.

"If you need an example any more so than Solyndra, then I can't explain it to you any better," Perry said.

Perry said he wanted a flat 20 percent tax rate for corporations and individuals. He said that, coupled with aggressive domestic-energy production, would improve the economy. More domestic energy, he said, would also ensure that America doesn't have to buy crude oil from enemy states.

"I can promise you, Hugo Chavez does not have America’s interests in mind," Perry said.

Perry never mentioned his opponents by name, but he seemed to echo the conservative attack on frontrunner Mitt Romney, bashed as a moderate.

“You want a bright contrast between president Obama and our nominee on the Republican ticket. We need that bright contrast," Perry said. "We don’t need a lighter version of Obama. We need a powerful contrast between what Obama’s done on this economy and what I’ve been able to do in Texas.”

Perry was met with relatively small crowds. Often, reporters and the governor's security detail and campaign staff outnumbered South Carolina voters. At his keynote speech at Southern Thymes restaurant, about 80 people crammed a small room to hear him speak. About 20 of them were college students from Mercer University -- a Georgis school -- who were transported by the campaign.

The anemic crowds are a leading indicator of the struggles with Perry's campaign, which has gone from top-tier to cellar in a matter of months. Perry's schedule was also relatively light. He had a more robust schedule, but opted for the morning walk in Greer and an evening address at an anti-abortion "personhood" rally, skipping a Bob Jones University visit in between.

Still, Perry didn't seem too concerned. At the Acme General Store, Perry grabbed a bottle of "Dave's Gourmet Insanity Mustard" and mugged for an NBC news camera. He played with Ezra, a shopper's cocker spaniel he met on the street. And later, at Chelsea's Ladies Apparel and Accessories, he recommended a brightly colored dress to a reporter who expressed her disgust.

Perry quickly retrenched, noting he's fashion sense is largely cowboy. Moments later, though, he asked what was wrong with the dress.

"It was a little too flashy?"

"Yeah," the reporter responded. "And a little too paisley."

"Oh," he said. "Well, paisley's coming back."

Whether his campaign is like paisley will be clearer when South Carolinians vote Saturday.

January 09, 2012

The Bain of Mitt's existence? Opponents have 3 knocks on Romney: taxes, jobs and healthcare

As his momentum grows, Mitt Romney's opponents are left with little to do but attack. Today, Romney's opponents got a hand from... Romney.

 "I like being able to fire people," Romney, who is being tarred as a corporate raider who profited off of pick slips at Bain Capital, said in New Hampshire when he went off script during a discussion about Health Savings Accounts. What Romney meant was that HSAs empower consumers to shop around for the best product.

Opponents pounced. Jon Huntsman's senior adviser, John Weaver, called Romney "a gaffe-prone, out-of-touch, flip-flopping, inauthentic candidate is a losing strategy." A secretive political committee backing Gingrich had already announced plans to air South Carolina ads about layoffs at Bain. And Rick Perry got in on the action the day before after Romney said that he, too, feared getting a pink slip.

Continue reading "The Bain of Mitt's existence? Opponents have 3 knocks on Romney: taxes, jobs and healthcare" »

Q Poll: Romney (36), Gingrich (24), Santorum (16), Paul (10), Perry (5), Huntsman (2)

From Quinnipiac University's survey of self-described likely Florida voters:

With 36 percent of Florida Republican likely primary voters, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a double-digit lead three weeks before the nation’s first big-state presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.  But 54 percent of GOP primary voters say they still might change their mind.

Twelve points back in the Republican pack is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 24 percent, followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 16 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds.  Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is at 10 percent with 5 percent for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 2 percent for former ambassador Jon Huntsman.   This first look at likely primary voters, a more select group, can’t be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.

There is almost no gender gap in the primary selections.

“Gov. Mitt Romney has a double-digit lead in Florida among likely primary voters.  But the primary is three weeks away and the results from New Hampshire and South Carolina could shake things up in the Sunshine State,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.  “With more than half of voters saying they might change their minds and more than 50 percent of them backing candidates perceived as more conservative, Romney could be vulnerable if those voters settle on one candidate.”

Romney is the best-liked candidate among Florida likely GOP primary voters, with a    73 – 14 percent favorability rating.  Santorum gets a 59 – 8 percent favorability, while 33 percent of likely voters don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Gingrich gets a 59 – 29 percent favorability, while Paul has a negative 34 – 47 percent favorability. 

Among Florida self-professed Tea Party members,  Romney and Gingrich are tied with 32 percent each, followed by Santorum with 19 percent, Paul with 7 percent and Perry with 4 percent.

Tea Party members give Gingrich a 76 – 18 percent favorability, with 72 – 7 percent for Santorum and 72 – 19 percent for Romney.

The race is closer among white evangelical Christians: Romney gets 28 percent to Gingrich’s 26 percent, with 20 percent for Santorum. 

From January 4 – 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 560 Republican likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points.  Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.  

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, 

October 27, 2011

Rick Perry picks South Florida campaign chairs

Rick Perry's campaign put out a list Thursday of its South Florida presidential campaign chairs. The picks include Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and former Broward School Board member Kevin Tynan. There are also other choices in Miami-Dade and Broward, and chairs in Palm Beach and Martin counties.

See the full list after the jump.

Continue reading "Rick Perry picks South Florida campaign chairs" »

October 25, 2011

Jeb Bush: GOP presidential candidates should "categorically reject" birthers

In an interview with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush denounces fringe claims that President Barack Obama wasn't born in this country. Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "decision to delve back into birtherism — on CNBC and on the day he is rolling out an economic plan — has struck a nerve with responsible GOP officials and insiders," Rubin wrote.

Here's what Bush told Rubin's Right Turn blog, apparently in an email:  "Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President."

Here's the transcript of what Perry said today about "birtherism" in an interview with CNBC's John Harwood:

JOHN HARWOOD: Mitt Romney after the President released his birth certificate earlier this year said that issue's done and settled, I accept it. You chose to keep it alive in your interview with Parade magazine over the weekend. Why'd you do that?

RICK PERRY: I-- it's a good issue to keep alive. Just-- you know, Donald's got to have some fun. So-- and the issue is this.

JOHN HARWOOD: But it sounds like you really do have some doubt about it.

RICK PERRY: Well, look, I haven't-- I haven't seen his-- I haven't seen his grades. My grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper. So, let's-- you know, if we're going to show stuff, let's show stuff. So. But, look, that's all a distraction. I mean, I get it. I'm-- I'm really not worried about the President's birth certificate. It's fun to-- to poke and add him a little bit and say hey, how about-- let's see your grades and your birth certificate.

RICK PERRY: But here's what's really serious. Is we got people sitting around watching this interview while the president has killed 2 and a half million jobs. That's serious. And that's what we got to better get right.

JOHN HARWOOD: But are you saying that your comments about that are kind of a joke? Or do you seriously have unresolved questions like Donald Trump has about them?

RICK PERRY: I don't have a clue about where the President-- and what this-- birth certificate says. But it's also a great distraction. I'm not distracted by it. If those of you in the media want to talk about it that's fine, but I hope what you'll really get focused on is how are we going to get this country back on track.