Thanks

I thought for a time I'd never write this item: That I'd literally keel over in front of my keyboard in a couple of decades, and leave behind a post with even more typos than usual.

Instead, this is my last blog item. You'll still find my columns every week over on the front page of POLITICO. But I wanted to say thanks before handing over the keys.

I'd like to thank, in particular, my regular readers and correspondents, dozens of whom I’d call friends, and some of whom I’ve been in an email correspondence with since 2005. Many favorite items are the ones emailed in by perceptive or well-placed readers, and I hope my respect for that highest common denominator of news junkies has been clear. I feel like I actually know my audience, a rare luxury in this business, though something that's become increasingly possible.

I’m also thrilled to maintain my relationship with POLITICO, where I’ve had the incredible privilege of working for bosses – Jim VandeHei, John Harris, and Bill Nichols – who’ve always had something to teach me not just about the craft of reporting but the substance of politics and policy. They've also been remarkably open to the changing medium, willing to give me enough virtual rope to hang myself on this blog many times over.

I have too many great colleagues and editors to list, but want to mention three. I’ve had the best reporting partnership of my career here, with Jonathan Martin, a truly great and devoted reporter who couldn't imagine how I – or anyone – would give up one of the truly great political reporting jobs. And this really became a dream job when POLITICO hired two of my closest and smartest friends in the profession, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, out of our old shared basement office in New York City Hall.
 
Along with my POLITICO column, I'll be striking out into some new online space at BuzzFeed starting January 1, but this blog isn’t going away. I’ve followed my interests in recent months toward a beat that focuses on the intersection of politics and media, and the dangerous and talented Dylan Byers – who has been on fire since he started here this Fall — will continue to to explore and expand that conversation. Please treat him with all the copious respect and deference I always got.

Continue reading post…

Fox bites man

Paul Farhi has the latest in a series of stories reflecting Fox's course correction since the glory days of the Beck era:

But just days before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus takes place, there’s not much evidence to suggest that Fox News has crowned any one candidate as the eventual nominee.

There’s little question that Fox is an important news and opinion source for conservative voters, despite the relatively small audiences that cable news attracts (Fox News, the ratings leader, rarely reaches more than 2 million people at a time). Among Republican voters in Iowa, 37 percent said they got most of their news from Fox, making it the leading TV source, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll found. By contrast, a mere 2 percent said they relied on MSNBC, which has forged a more liberal identity.

But campaign watchers are hard-pressed to detect a tilt by the network toward one candidate. Even the two candidates who have worked for Fox News as on-air contributors, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, don’t appear to have had any special access or advantage during the campaign.

Fox doesn't like these stories, because they imply that it's something other than an ordinary news organization; but it's certainly more ordinary than it has been at times in the past. 

Continue reading post…

The textbook late surge

Former Edwards aide Jonathan Prince noted recently that Rick Santorum's path this year seems a lot like John Edwards's near-miss 2004 bid, in which he worked Iowa for months with no evident results, then surged into second place at the last moment, propelling him onto the ticket if not into the top slot.

And a reader points out this 2004 AP article on the state of the race, printed the day before the caucuses:

John Kerry and John Edwards are surging close to Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt to create an electoral free-for-all going in to the state's Democratic presidential caucuses on Monday.

Polls in the state suggest all four are competing for the lead within the margins of error. A Research 2000 poll released Thursday showed Dean at 22%, Kerry at 21%, Gephardt at 18% and Edwards at 18%. The undecided vote was at 13% and other candidates were in single digits.

"Any one of those four could win," said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000, who conducted the poll for KCCI-TV of Des Moines. "The biggest surge without question is Edwards. Both Kerry and Edwards have momentum."

A Research 2000 poll released a week ago found Dean (29 percent) and Gephardt (25 percent) battling for the lead with Kerry in third place at 18% and Edwards at 8%.

After losing ground in polls in New Hampshire, Kerry has been campaigning hard in Iowa to create a spark for his struggling campaign. Edwards has been lagging in polls throughout the year, but has been energized by the recent Iowa campaigning, especially after being endorsed by The Des Moines Register.

Edwards had positioned himself like Santorum: He had the discipline to stay out of the fray, and as voters turned away from wounded front-runners, he was a known, reliable quantity.

 

Edwards also had in the Register endorsement the kind of moment Santorum has lacked so far — outside validation to affirm and accelerate the trend. The rough equivalent would be a late endorsement from Steve King.

 

Continue reading post…

A faithless super PAC

My old colleague Dan Hirschhorn writes:

A political action committee which had planned to support Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign has very quietly defected to Mitt Romney — and it's spending big on his behalf.

Citizens for a Working America, the so-called Super PAC which aired TV ads against a Democratic congressional candidate last year, had indicated earlier this year that it was backing the Minnesota congresswoman in the GOP nominating contest. But the group instead made a $475,000 Iowa ad buy on Christmas Eve in support of Romney, according to Federal Election Commission data published today.

The so-called independent expenditure was listed as supporting Romney's candidacy, and an Iowa political operative who has seen the ad confirmed to The Daily that it's a 30-second positive spot about the former Massachusetts governor that doesn't mention any other candidate.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Keeping it on Newt

The newest salvo from Romney's super PAC auxiliary is aimed at the usual target, Newt Gingrich.

Something to watch for in the closing days: Will the group turn its fire on Rick Santorum? If it does, it would be the clearest sign yet that Romney is playing to win Iowa; Gingrich, however, seems to represent more of a threat in the states to come. 

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Paul’s wrecking crew, cont’d

Even as Gingrich gets tangled up in whether he should condemn his super PAC's negative mail, the Paul campaign keeps swinging away at "hypocrites" and "serial flip-floppers."

It seems hard to argue that there's been a more effective paid media presence this cycle — or any really effective paid media at all — outside the Paul barrage, which has made others' attacks look mild by comparison.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Dismay at the Times

Michael Calderone writes up a bit of a revolt at the Times:

The letter calls attention to several grievances. Last week, Times brass notified foreign citizens employed in the paper's overseas bureaus that their pensions would be frozen. In the letter, Times staffers dismayed by this decision point out to Sulzberger that some of these foreign employees, working alongside Times reporters in war zones, have "risked their lives so that we can do our jobs."

The signatories include a number of well-known reporters and of political bylines, among them: Nick Confessore; Michael Cooper; Trip Gabriel; Jim Dwyer; Steven Greenhouse; Clyde Haberman; Michael Luo; Michael Powell; Campbell Robertson; Michael Roston; and Eric Schmitt.

 

The Times newsroom is, more than at other institutions, a force beyond its formal Guild representation; the ouster of Howell Raines after the Jayson Blair mess was the product of, as much as anything else, a newsroom revolt. 

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Possibly the weirdest video of the cycle

Step aside Herman Cain. This one went up on Newt Gingrich's YouTube channel before Christmas.

Apparently an all-volunteer production, though I think I can detect some duress in a face or two.

"Conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la."

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Expectations, mostly managed

Jo Ling Kent and Michael O'Brien have a nice look today at Romney's expectations management:

"You always want to do well in every state. I don't think there's any must-win state for anybody," a relaxed Romney* said at a cafe in southern N.H. "But for me, I want to do well in all the states and get a good start, but I really can't set expectations. A couple of weeks ago, I was a distant third in Iowa and you just don't know what's going to happen in this process."

And yet, Romney is now openly playing to win in Iowa, and the expectations gaming has, at least twice, slipped. As the Journal reported last month:

Romney aides say they are eyeing a strategy to boost the campaign's muscle in Iowa over coming weeks, a gambit encouraged in part by Mr. Perry's recent stumbles. Asked what an acceptable finish would be for Mr. Romney in Iowa, Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom offered a one-word answer: "Winning."

Spokeswoman Gail Gitch also strayed into stating the obvious a last month: "Our strategy is to win there," she said on a conference call with reporters.

*Side note: How hard was he working at being relaxed to get that adjective into the story?

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Paul in Iowa

Molly Ball makes a good point:

But in a crucial way, Paul is unlike the other candidates who have risen and fallen in Iowa voters' favor in the past several months. He hasn't surged into position all of a sudden — he's grown his support gradually, earning supporters the hard way.

And that's why Paul's surge to first place has to be taken seriously. Alone among the candidates, he has built an organizational machine to recruit and identify caucus-goers and turn them out on Jan. 3. Paul's rise in Iowa isn't a bubble. It's a mound, and it is rock solid.

"Fortunately for us, when we get people, they tend to stay," A.J. Spiker, one of Paul's three Iowa co-chairs, said in an interview in the candidate's Iowa headquarters here, just north of Des Moines.

I must admit that I'm looking forward with some anticipation to the hallucinatory moment, which may not come, when it seems to at least some people for a moment that Ron Paul could be president.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon


Presented By:
 

Barbour never really left lobbying firm

The news that Haley Barbour will return to his lobbying practice at BGR, the firm he founded and that made him a wealthy man, comes as anything but a surprise. Barbour, in fact, never really left. He has, as has been reported, continued to be paid from the firm — through a blind trust — as governor of Mississippi.

But that's not Barbour's only connection to the firm. He's also continued to operate out of its Washington, D.C. office on at least some of his frequent trips to Washington, D.C.

A Democratic operative who filmed the video above when Barbour was contemplating a presidential campaign sends it over. In the video, shot last October, Barbour and his entourage enter BGR's office.

"Doing a little lobbying, Governor?" the cameraman asks.

"Borrowing a cheap phone," he replies.

That's what BGR is known for: Cheapest phones in DC.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Forgiving Ron Paul

Reason's Nick Gillespie makes the case to fellow libertarians:

Paul is going to need to deal with the newsletter issue more directly than he has so far, especially if he doesn't want it to loom larger and larger as the stakes get higher. He is actually in control of the issues that most vex contemporary America, which have nothing to do with affirmative action, "racial terrorism," or the transmission of AIDS via saliva. He is running against Republicans who were for individual mandates in health care long before they were against them or who seriously invoke sharia law as a threat to the American way of life, and he faces a possible general election against a president with low approval ratings precisely because he passed his awful health care, bailout, and stimulus plans, among other things. As Friedersdorf argues, Paul actually has a far better record on matters that directly affect the minorities slagged so disturbingly in his newsletters.

As I've argued elsewhere and often, Paul is providing the alternative that Americans are craving in politics.That alternative, by definition, is going to discomfit conventional politicians and politicos who are more concerned with whether their party is in power than what is done with that power; with whether deficits and entitlements and "defense" spending will bankrupt the country; with whether Americans should be treated like adults when it comes to deciding what to eat, smoke, and drink. Paul is not the perfect vessel for a libertarian message, but waiting for perfection is something ideologues insist on. Most of us are far more interested in someone who at least has shown he understands the most pressing issues of the moment — and the future.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Romney’s taxes

Mitt Romney has gotten this far avoiding releasing his tax returns, and though he said "never say never" — that has been his line for decades — he apparently thinks he can keep it up. 

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt blasts away:

By declaring that, if nominated, he would not release his income tax returns, Mitt Romney is defying a practice to which every party nominee, Republican and Democrat, has adhered for decades. Even his father, George Romney, disclosed his tax returns when he ran for President in 1968. Why does Gov. Romney feel like he can play by a different set of rules?  What is it that he doesn’t want the American people to see?  Previous candidates have disclosed their returns so Americans could be aware of potential conflicts of interest and gauge whether a candidate had gamed the tax system to their advantage. Gov. Romney, who has favored secrecy over openness time after time, should live up to the same standard of disclosure his father and others set.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



The national security re-elect, cont’d

The DNC puts out a video boasting on the Osama bin Laden slaying:

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Israel backs aid to Palestinian Authority

In a dramatic public shift that appears to lower the intensity of the simmering diplomatic conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government is backing a strings-attached compromise that would restore American aid to the Palestinian Authority.

House Republicans have called for cutting off the P.A. over its push for international recognition through the United Nations, over the objections of many Democrats and the White House, and over the reported private objections of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The compromise proposal would restore the aid as long as the Palestinians ramp down their diplomatic efforts.

And in a statement from Ambassador Michael Oren today, the Israeli support for continued aid to the Palestinian Authority —its day-to-day partner in governing the West Bank — has become public. Oren said in a statement provided POLITICO by an aide:

The Israeli government would welcome the decision to lift the congressional hold on U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. We appreciate that the hold was placed to demonstrate to the Palestinians the consequences of their attempts to declare statehood unilaterally at the United Nations, without making lasting peace with Israel. The Israeli government's position follows a decision by the Obama administration and Congress to declare specific consequences, including the closure of the PLO office in Washington and the withholding of future funding for the Palestinian Authority, and the fact that the Palestinians have refrained from additional U.N. initiatives.

We view these measures as essential for returning the Palestinians to direct talks without preconditions, as endorsed by the Quartet. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands by his commitment to negotiate all core issues leading to a viable and permanent two-state solution.

 

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Romney appears to back unlimited contributions

Greg Sargent picks up on an interesting Romney line:

I think the Supreme Court’s decision was following their interpretation of the campaign finance laws that were written by Congress. My own view is now we tried a lot of efforts to try and restrict what can be given to campaigns, we’d be a lot wiser to say you can give what you’d like to a campaign.They must report it immediately and the creation of these independent expenditure committees that have to be separate from the candidate, that’s just a bad idea.

This is an interesting, if offhand, gesture in the GOP guerilla war on campaign finance regulation. Romney seems to be rejecting one new strand, which is the attempt (largely the reality at this point) to do away with disclosure; he's meanwhile embracing the effort (also largely the reality) to do away with limits. 

 

There is a reasonable case for institutionalizing the runaway — and Supreme Court-blessed — spending in exchange for transparency, and that seems to be where Romney's headed here.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Romney botches Iraq history

Chuck Todd pressed Mitt Romney this morning on his position on the Iraq war, and in stating his position — that nobody, presumably including Romney, would have backed the war without bad intelligence about weapons of mass destruction — Romney notably garbled the story of the runup to that war.

"The president went in based on intelligence that they had weapons of mass destruction. Had he known that that was not the case, the U.N. would not have put forth resolutions authorizing this type of action, the president would not have been pursuing that course," Romney said. "But we did not know that."

The United Nations never authorized the Iraq war. Indeed, the U.S. and its allies advanced, and then withdrew, a resolution seeking authorization. The key authorization fight was in the U.S. Senate. 

UPDATE: It was in fact the formal legal view of the Bush Administration that earlier U.N. resolutions authorized the invasion, though it was viewed even at the time as quite a stretch.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



The Jewish campaign

Allison Hoffman writes:

With Election Day less than a year away, the core of the Obama campaign’s play for Jewish votes is simple: Overwhelm what the Obama camp sees as Republicans’ bald emotionalism on Israel with a flood of facts and figures. Obama’s campaign website has a section devoted to Jewish issues that includes a seven-page PDF documenting the president’s support for Israel, with a six-page supplement titled “President Obama’s Stance on Israel: Myths vs. Facts.” (“Myth: President Obama believes that Israel is at the root of all problems in the Middle East today. Fact: President Obama declared Israel a source of inspiration for the American people as the sole true democracy in the Middle East.”)

…That these mini-controversies continue to reverberate suggests that Obama’s “Jewish problem” is, at base, an emotional one: a failure to connect with and respond to the concerns of his Jewish constituents. These are voters, it seems, who would find it easier to tune out Republican smears of Obama as anti-Israel if only they had an image of the president addressing the Knesset, or, better yet, splitting a hummus with Benjamin Netanyahu on Jaffa Road.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Romney’s mad men

My story today:

Mitt Romney’s campaigns for governor and president have employed perhaps the three signature political admen of their generation: Mike Murphy, Alex Castellanos and Stuart Stevens.

They are talented consultants who made reputations and fortunes in a rough and sharp-elbowed profession. To varying degrees, they have parleyed that success at gritty Republican politics into the glamor of high-profile media careers.

Also: They hate each other.

More precisely, Murphy and Castellanos, who worked for Romney in 2002 and 2008 respectively, have proven unable to disguise their loathing for Stevens, his current guru and frequent traveling companion. They have become the sharpest critics of Romney’s campaign strategy and, in the occasional tweet, of his media-friendly strategist.

“Nothing more idiotic Stu Stevens preening in NYT Mag won’t solve,” Murphy tweeted of a late November poll showing Romney trailing Newt Gingrich in Florida.

“Don’t worry. Stuart will deliver Crist endorsement,” Castellanos chimed in tongue-in-cheek, referring to the former Florida governor who suffered an epic loss in his 2010 Senate bid.

The intrigue only gets better from there: while Stevens makes the campaign’s ads and travels with the candidate, Murphy is widely seen as waiting in the wings. He still speaks to Romney himself regularly.

“Mitt is a good friend and we stay in touch,” he said.

Indeed, some prominent Romney supporters believe that if the former governor’s campaign goes disastrously awry, they would expect his first call for help to be to Murphy’s Los Angeles office.

“Of course, Murphy wouldn’t come back in unless they agreed to shoot Stu in the head,” said a prominent Republican consultant who knows all three well, and who, like many who spoke to POLITICO, spoke anonymously for fear of becoming involved in a dangerous feud.

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon



Paul threatens Iowa

Iowa's party elders, Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns report, are worried that their voters will embarass them:

SIOUX CITY, IOWA –The alarms are sounding in Iowa.

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

In spin rooms, bar rooms and online forums, the what-to-do-about-Paul conversation has become pervasive as polls show him at or near the top here just weeks before the January 3rd vote.

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”

Paul campaign spokesman Gary Howard responded to earlier nail-in-the-coffin charges last week, calling it "an insult to Iowans who truly care about where our country is headed."

Continue reading post…





Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to del.icio.us
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon