The Indomitable Ron Paul

It seems that there isn’t an Internet poll out there that Ron Paul can lose. In the latest example, he draws 62.5% of votes cast in this LGF poll. You might be thinking, what’s so noteworthy about that? Well, the poll question was: “Which Democratic Candidate Was Least Pathetic [in last night’s debate]?”

Rudy Fundraising

With the third quarter coming to a close on Sunday, this is around the time that everybody starts speculating about fundraising numbers. Yesterday, we had some mixed signals from the Rudy camp. First, we learned that the campaign fired its head of fundraising, Anne Dunsmore, triggering talk that he must have had a lousy quarter. But the campaign quickly pushed back against that interpretation, insisting that the differences were about strategy, and not difficulty raising money. Giuliani himself went even further: “We’ll have a very good quarter, probably the best of the Republicans.” That’s quite a bold claim at a time when campaigns typically try to lower expectations. So I’m going to go out on a limb and predict his quarter will either be lousy, really great, or somewhere in between.

Hillary Crosses the Line

Asked whether she prefers the Yankees or Red Sox, she said “I’m a Yankees fan, and have been for a very long time.” Asked who she would root for if the Yankees faced the Cubs in the World Series, she said: “I would have to alternate sides.” I’m sure Rudy Giuliani, who stayed loyal to the Yankees in the Subway Series while he was mayor rather than remain impartial, will have something to say about this.

Rudy in New Jersey

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Rudy in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton in New Jersey, leading her ever so slightly 45-44. The ability to put NJ in play is one of the key arguments that the Giuliani camp has been making in arguing that he is the strongest general election candidate.

In other matchups, Clinton tops McCain 46-41 percent, Thompson 48-36 percent and Romney 52 – 33 percent.

Re: Real Poll Numbers

Some other interesting items from the CNN/WMUR New Hampshire poll.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is how fluid the race still is: only 13 percent have “definitely decided” who they plan to vote for, with another 21 percent “leaning toward someone” and 66 percent–or about two-thirds of voters–“still trying to decide.” So again, with more than three months to go, everything written now should be viewed with a grain of salt.

With that said, at this point in time, Giuliani has the highest favorability ratings, is seen as the most likeable, and viewed as having the best chance to win in the general election; McCain is believed to have the “right experience” by more voters than any other candidate; and more voters think Romney will “bring needed change.”

As for Thompson skipping the debate? It seems like it was a bigger deal in DC than New Hampshire: two-thirds of voters said it makes no difference to them whether Fred missed it.

Also, following up on my earlier post on Gingrich, Newt polls at 7 percent in New Hampshire, and he pulls 2 points from Romney and Giuliani, and one point each from Huckabee, McCain and Thompson. Also interesting: Newt’s favorability rating went from a net negative of 35-49 in March/April, to a slightly positive 43-39. That still gives him the highest negatives in the field, but it shows that even if a candidate has near universal name recognition, voters’ perceptions can change.

Club For Growth Challenges Rudy on Social Security

Just in my inbox:

Dear Mr. Mayor:

As you know, the Club for Growth has not been shy in praising your economic record in New York City. Because of your strong opposition to tax increases and your vocal support for free-market solutions, we were surprised and concerned to read the allegation in a recent Associated Press article that you indicated you would not rule out raising Social Security taxes in order to deal with the program’s insolvency.

Such an allegation, if true, together with your refusal to sign Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge, casts doubt on your commitment to opposing all tax increases.

We urge you to explicitly rule out raising taxes as part of any Social Security remedies. Raising taxes is completely unnecessary in a climate of unprecedented wasteful spending in Washington, and would exacerbate the central problem of the Social Security program, namely, the low rate of return workers earn on their contributions and the dependency it fosters on government. We also favor a proposal that will allow younger workers the option of investing their Social Security taxes in higher-return personal savings accounts. As someone who has spoken at length of empowering individuals when it came to reforming welfare in New York City, we are confident you understand the importance of empowering individuals in their retirement years. Finally, we encourage you to sign Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge to erase any doubt as to your opposition to tax hikes.

We look forward to hearing a clarification and proposal from you.

Sincerely,

Pat Toomey

President, Club for Growth

UPDATE:

This is how the AP story in question read:

[Giuliani] Refused to rule out raising taxes to offset a Social Security shortfall. He said he would assemble a bipartisan group to develop ideas for fixing Social Security, perhaps even before his inauguration.

“I am opposed to tax increases, but I would look at whatever proposal they came up with and try to figure out how we can come up with a bipartisan way to do it,” Giuliani said, adding that potential solutions must come from both parties. “The reality is, I’m more concerned about Medicare and Medicaid than I am with Social Security, because I’m pretty sure we can solve Social Security.”

Giuliani would be wise to take the oppourtunity to rule out Social Security tax increases. There is no room for parsing here. From a policy perspective, increasing taxes would hamper economic growth and only defer the structural problems with Social Security, just as every past increase has done. And from a political perspective, given Giuliani’s differences with social conservatives, he can ill afford to alienate economic conservatives by being wobbly on tax policy.

I have contacted the Giuliani campaign and will post their response as soon as I have it.

Romney’s Record on Crime

In addition to his sagging poll numbers, Mitt Romney received some bad news with the release of new FBI statistics showing his record on crime as governor. The Boston Herald reports:

New FBI statistics show that murders and other violent crimes rose in Massachusetts under former Gov. Mitt Romney while plummeting in many parts of the country, a fact that could haunt the ex-governor on the presidential trail.

The newly released figures show that murders were up 7.5 percent in the Bay State and 25 percent in Boston from 2002 to 2006 while Romney was governor.

From 2005 to 2006 – most of which Romney spent out-of-state campaigning – murders were up 4.5 percent in Massachusetts, outpacing the national increase of 1.8 percent. In New England, murders were up 1.9 percent but some states, including Rhode Island and New Hampshire, saw double-digit declines.

But Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the ex-governor has "a strong record on public safety."

"He hired more state police officers, pushed for the death penalty and signed new laws making it easier to imprison sex offenders and keep track of them once they get out of jail," Fehrnstrom said.

Someone sympathetic to Rudy Giuliani was quick to draw a contrast between Romney's record on crime as governor, and Giuliani's record as mayor. To take one example, whereas the number of murders jumped 7.5 percent in Massachusetts under Romney, they plunged 67 percent in New York City under Giuliani.

This also brings up a broader point I have made in another venue. Romney supporters tend to conflate his successful business career and leadership of the Olympics with his governing record to create an overall impression of executive competence. But while being a success in business can translate into success as a public executive, one doesn't necessarily follow from the other. And the more you look at Romney's record for the four years that he actually had to run a government, it really isn't all that impressive. To be sure, he was better than any Democrat would have been, and he helped control spending and fend off tax increases to eliminate the deficit. But he also raised fees and instituted a healthcare plan that he has had to run away from as a presidential candidate. Everything about Romney's gubernatorial record suggests he viewed the office like the eager high school student who volunteers at a soup kitchen one Saturday so he can list "community service" on his college application. How else can one explain such actions as signing an agreement to let state troopers go after illegal immigrants just weeks before he left office, even though he knew it would be rescinded by the incoming Democratic governor? These crime numbers are just the latest example of Romney's record as governor not holding up to close scrutiny.  

UPDATE:

In comments, a defense of Romney:

Regarding Romney and Crime, one only has to look at our radical liberal legislature to understand he didn't have much of a chance to do anything.   He vetoed, they laughed and overruled his veto.   The fact Romney achieved as much as he did was a small miracle.   For heaven sakes look at our two Senators and our congress delegation.   They're all radical liberals.   Romney deserves a lot of credit for fighting for the people.     We live in a socialist state and if the Republican party cared about the northeast, they'd have people ready to debate Kennedy, Kerry and all the Democrat Congress here in this state.     We need a Massachusetts' miracle and soon.   These liberals are taxing and spending to our detriment.

Fair enough. But if we employ that argument, Giuliani's accomplishments in New York City  become even  more impressive. Giuliani faced an environment  in New York City that was at least as hostile to conservative ideas as Massachusetts under Romney, if not more so. Democrats outnumbered Republicans on the New York City Council 45-6, for instance. The New York Times, the ACLU, Al Sharpton, and every other liberal interest group fought everything he did tooth and nail. Yet Giuliani was still able to reduce crime, cut taxes, slash welfare rolls, etc.

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Romney Sinking In NH?

Jim Geraghty:

An Early Report on WMUR Numbers in New Hampshire

I am told that the WMUR poll will read something like this tonight – Romney 24 (down 9 from the previous) Giuliani 23 (up 5 from the previous) and McCain 17 (up 5 from the previous).

If true, this is an ominious sign for Romney, whose strategy is contingent on building momentum by winning the early states. Other recent polls have already suggested that his lead is tenuous in the Granite State, and his national numbers have been in free fall after receiving a post Ames bounce. Considered together, these numbers cut into one of the central arguments made by Romney supporters all year–that although he has lower name recognition than his chief rivals, the more people get to know him, the more the like him. These results would suggest just the opposite.

The WMUR result, if confirmed later, also would represent great news for Giuliani. If he could pull off a win in one of the early states leading up to Florida and the big Feb. 5 states, he’d be very hard to beat. This would also reinforce the “McCain surge” narrative, putting him back in the mix in a state he won in 2000.

If Newt Does It

With Newt Gingrich’s group holding its Solutions Day, specualtion is rife over wether he will jump into the presidential sweepstakes, so�it’s worth taking a quick look at how his entrance might affect the race. Ultimately, I don’t think he can win the nomination given that it’s unlikely he could overcome his huge negatives to be seen as electable nationally, and Fred Thompson’s entrance into the race has already filled much of�the demand for another conservative alternative. But that doesn’t mean that his entrance will not impact the race.

In March, I wrote about how a Gingrich candidacy could prod the other Republican candidates into having a more serious dialogue about the nation’s challenges. Given his historic role in the modern conservative movement, all of the other candidates are likely to be somewhat deferential to Gingrich, hoping for an endorsement.

How would his entance into the race impact the polls? The simple answer is that�I believe�a Gingrich candidacy�would�mainly eat into the numbers of�Giuliani and Thompson, but the reality is a lot more complicated.�The Washington Post/ABC poll is somewhat useful because it has been asking for GOP voter preferences with Gingrich in and out of the race.

Let’s start with Thompson, because�clearly there’s a lot of overlap between�Gingrich/Thompson voters�being that both candidates are considered conservative alternatives. In February, just before Thompson began being included in these polls, Gingrich was polling at 15 percent, but in the next poll taken in April, he dropped to 6 percent. In that same April poll, Thompson debuted at a number exactly equal to that differential–9 percent.

While it goes against conventional wisdom to believe there is much overlap between Gingrich and Giuliani voters given that Gingrich is seen as the choice of conservatives and Giuliani is seen as the choice of moderates, in reality, they do draw at least some of their support from a similar pool of voters. My thesis on this is that there are a certain number of conservative voters who see the struggle against Islamic terrorism�as the defining issue of our time. They are drawn to Giuliani because of his leadership on 9/11 and for being outspoken on the nature of the threat, and also to Gingrich, who has�framed the conflict�as World War III. Given a choice between two candidates who they see as “getting it” on the terrorism issue, some conservative voters would prefer Gingrich, because of social issues. In the February poll, Giuliani’s numbers were 9 points higher when Gingrich was not included in the question.

In the September poll, Gingrich was at just 5 percent, tied with Mike Huckabee. With him in the race, Giuliani loses two points, Thompson loses one point, Romney loses one point, and the rest gets spread around. However, if Gingrich’s numbers rise upon announcing, he may shake up the race more than this.

Here are some of the remaining questions�to consider: Would Gingrich receive a traditional boost in polls should he decide to run?�If so, how big? Could he�help Rudy by�further dividing up the conservative vote? Or will he take away national security voters from Rudy?�Would he end up taking some air out�of Thompson’s rise? Will�he present another road block for Romney?

Either way, Newt would add another wrinkle to the most dynamic GOP nomination battle in decades.

Hillary and Romney on Iraq

The Concord Monitor has an article on something that Jim noted yesterday — Mitt Romney’s track record of choosing his language carefully to keep his options open so he can reposition himself down the road, something that he has been doing in seeking the Republican nomination with his parsing on Iraq. What makes things interesting is that Hillary Clinton is also keeping her options open, and as Patrick Ruffini has remarked, she won’t end the war in Iraq. On Sunday, Clinton would not commit to withdrawing all troops by the end of her first term. “I don’t know what I’m going to inherit,” she said on ABC. “I don’t know and neither do any of us know what will be the situation in the region.” Should Romney get the Republican nomination and face off against Hillary, we could end up with a presidential campaign in which, for all practical purposes, the Republican and Democratic candidates support the same basic policy in Iraq. Romney may say that we can bring troops home because the surge was such a success, and Hillary will say we have to end the war because it is a failure. There will be a lot of bluster on both sides to create the impression of a stark difference in policy–Romney will assail Defeatocrats and MoveOn, while Hillary will attack the disasterous Bush-Republican foreign policy. But after all the shouting, it’s quite likely that both candidates would be arguing for some form of “responsible withdrawal.”