Jim DeMint Emerging as a Heavyweight in the GOP

While former Alaska Governor, Fox News media personality and Twitterer galore Sarah Palin has caused a splash with her high profile endorsements of Mama Grizzlies and Papa Bears, her record, so far, hasn't been anything to brag about. Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina as The State put it seems to have "the Midas touch." He's 6 and 2 overall with some of those six wins knocking off big name GOP establishment picks. If DeMint were a big game hunter, you might say he's the RINO killer.

It's true that nationwide, in the three US Senate Republican primaries in which both Palin and DeMint made endorsements, each has picked two winners — Rand Paul in Kentucky for both, Carly Fiorina in California for Palin and Dino Rossi in Washington for DeMint — but DeMint is quietly amassing key wins in other races where Palin didn't make an endorsement. While the Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina did wallop Chuck DeVore in the high profile California GOP Senate primary, DeMint has now returned the favor as his pick in Washington trounced the Palin-backed Clint Didier. 

Moreover, candidates that Palin supported in Senate races in Kansas, Wyoming and now Washington state lost their primaries despite her high-profile endorsements. Most embarrassing was the loss by Karen Handel who fell short in her runoff contest against Rep. Nathan Deal for Georgia governor just a day after Palin flew to Atlanta for a last minute appearance. Hopes of putting Handel over the top were dashed. Instead, Rep. Deal, who was backed by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, eked out a narrow win.

Now, Alaska's Senate primary on Tuesday is shaping up as another embarrassing defeat in her own backyard. Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to dispatch the challenger Palin has endorsed in the Republican contest proving that the Murkowski dynasty still rules the roost in the Last Frontier. In New Hampshire and Maryland, Palin-backed candidates also seem headed for defeat.

DeMint, however, is riding high having backed Marco Rubio in Florida early on. His endorsement of the former Speaker of the Florida House 14 months ago when he was trailing Governor Charlie Crist badly has proved both pivotal and prescient. The Cuban-American Rubio rode the Tea Party wave and blessed with a $421,000 infusion of cash from DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund PAC crested in the polls. As Crist faded, he was forced to leave the GOP to run as an independent. Score one for DeMint with bonus points for shooting a RINO.

DeMint publicly backed Rand Paul, the libertarian Tea Party darling, on May 5 — a day after US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Paul’s GOP primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. When the dust settled in that race, DeMint bagged his second RINO and bonus points for putting a shiner on McConnell in his home state.

The conservative South Carolinian also caused a buzz in the Beehive State. After Senator Bob Bennett was eliminated from the nominating process at the Utah State Nominating Convention, DeMint endorsed Mike Lee. DeMint's endorsement for Lee was delivered at the convention through a video message that was played for the delegates before they cast their votes on the final ballot between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. So far, DeMint's PAC has contributed $217,000 to Lee who faces Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman Sam Granato in the general election. 

Another contrarian pick by DeMint came in Colorado where he backed Ken Buck over the John McCain and establishment pick Jane Norton, another RINO hit. DeMint's PAC, by the way, sent $375,000 Buck's way. 

While DeMint didn’t endorse Nevada's Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite, until the day after her June 8 Republican primary win, he has now made up for that by contributing $312,000 to her campaign.

With these endorsements and campaign cash, DeMint has now quietly positioning himself as the de facto leader of the conservative wing of the GOP. Whether the Republicans take back the Senate or not, it's likely that come January Senator DeMint will be in a leadership role. The conservative website Red State is pushing for DeMint as the next Republican Conference Chair arguing that he is "tough as nails, and knows that the best compromise is getting the other side to concede." Red State finds such a development  to be "pure bliss."

Further down the line, Senator DeMint who will win re-election to a second term in the Fall in a cakewalk — 70 percent is not out of the question — has to be seen as a viable Vice Presidential candidate. He'll also play a decisive role come the 2012 South Carolina primary where his choice may end up as the GOP nominee. 

Rick Santorum "Pulled Along" into 2012 Race

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has told the Des Moines Register that he feels "being pulled along" into the 2012 Presidential contest and that he's "very encouraged by everything that’s happening.”

Since that first visit last October, when Santorum spoke to a few dozen social conservatives in Des Moines and gave a speech in Dubuque, he has logged four more Iowa trips, more than any GOP prospect weighing a 2012 campaign.

Santorum has handed out three checks to Iowa Republicans and campaigned for seven. He has also enlisted the help of a small circle of Iowa advisers to help him make inroads, including Nick Ryan, a longtime senior aide to former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle. And on Tuesday, Santorum met with about 80 Republicans in Gull Point State Park near Milford. Santorum and other Republicans eyeing the caucuses have made Iowa contacts while campaigning for candidates running this fall. But Tuesday’s event marked Santorum’s first in Iowa strictly aimed at putting him in touch with party activists.

Santorum also headlined four events for candidates across western and northwest Iowa on Monday and Tuesday, in key Republican hot spots such as Sioux Center and Spencer. He’s the first caucus prospect to dig that deeply into that GOP-heavy part of the state at this early stage in the campaign.

I noted this earlier in the week but the Iowa Republican polled 399 likely Iowa Republican voters on their preference come 2012. Former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee finished on top garnering 22 percent while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished second with 18 percent. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House from Georgia, finished "surprisingly well" in their view with 14 percent in third place. Sarah Palin finished fourth with 11 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul garnered 5 percent, while Pawlenty, and South Dakota Senator John Thune each received 1 percent. Former US Senator Rick Santorum garnered support in the poll but it did not surpass the one percent threshold. He clearly has some work to do.

It is difficult to foresee Rick "man on dog" Santorum differentiating himself in what's likely to be a crowded field. He's not especially well versed on economic issues which will likely dominate both the GOP contes and the general election. Neither is Sarah Palin but she has a ready made cult following though I suspect that her support will continue to erode slowly but surely over the next 18 months.

Of course a year and five months out, anything can happen but Santorum faces an uphill climb on fundraising and name recognition. The field of 2012 Republican prospects includes far better-known names, including national figures Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney not to mention next door neighbor Tim Pawlenty who has also made frequent visits to the Hawkeye State.

 

Quick Hits

Some other items making the rounds today.

The Iowa Republican polled 399 likely Iowa Republican voters on their preference come 2012. Former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News talk show host Mike Huckabee finished on top garnering 22 percent while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished second with 18 percent. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House from Georgia, finished "surprisingly well" in their view with 14 percent in third place. Sarah Palin finished fourth with 11 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul garnered 5 percent, while Pawlenty, and South Dakota Senator John Thune each received 1 percent. Former US Senator Rick Santorum garnered support in the poll but it did not surpass the one percent threshold. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry did not register any support in the poll. Twenty three percent of those surveyed remain undecided.

Not mentioned above is Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico Governor, much to the chagrin of Andrew Sullivan who today has a post on the libertarian-minded Johnson entitled A Man Who Deserves to be Viable in 2012.

Down in the Palmetto State, Alvin Green said he is not quitting the race even after his indictment on a felony charge of obscenity. The Chair of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, Carol Fowler, issued a statement calling for Greene to resign from the race.

A panel of three judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has granted a stay preventing the resumption of gay marriages in California until at least the end of the year. The Ninth Circuit panel - Judges Edward Leavy, Michael Hawkins and Sidney Thomas - also expedited the case's appeal. During the week of Dec. 6, a separate, randomly selected panel of the Ninth Circuit will take up the request by Prop. 8 proponents to throw out Walker's ruling. More from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Obama Administration is planning to expand opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba, the latest step aimed at encouraging more contact between people in both countries, while leaving intact the decades-old embargo against the island’s Communist government, according to Congressional and administration officials. The New York Times has more on the story. This move is not likely to please many. On the right, any reapprochement with Cuba is too much. On the left as long as the embargo remains in place, it is just window dressing. Moreover, the US has no leverage to speak of. It is now Spain and Brazil that have been able to extract concessions from Cuba. In July, the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos secured the release of 52 political dissendents held in Cuban prisons.

Tim Pawlenty, Off and Running

Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty make up a perhaps not exhaustive list of possible GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nod. And while some are just in the thinking about it mode or perhaps testing the waters, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty seems all but announced.

The above video, entitled History is on Our Side, produced by Governor Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC was released just last week and has the all marks of a campaign video. It shows Pawlenty as a hockey player, provides a brief bio that touts his South St. Paul hard scrabble roots and covers his take on conservative commonsense principles as images of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Rep. Michele Bachmann swirl past. Two hundred and ten seconds of Minnesota Bland might have been a better title. 

On Monday, Governor Pawlenty will wrap up a five city tour of eastern Iowa in Davenport when he speaks to a local Republican group. This visit to Iowa is his fifth to the Hawkeye state since the end of the 2008 Presidential campaign and third this year. And Palwenty will be back in Iowa in less than in mid-August for more fundraising, along with an appearance at the Iowa State Fair.

Pawlenty's Iowa forays have not escaped the national press. This weekend, the New York Times  provided the coverage:

Mr. Pawlenty, 49, is presenting himself as an authentic Main Street conservative, who twice won statewide election as a Republican in a progressive state. He says Republicans need to shed the stereotype that their party is rooted solely in the country club and the board room. He mentions none of his potential rivals by name, of course, but it is not lost on Republicans that he is seeking to become an alternative to Mr. Romney.

Mr. Pawlenty’s visibility has grown in Republican circles since he was a finalist to be Senator John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Asked whether he benefited from not being chosen, Mr. Pawlenty paused for a moment and said, “It seems like Sarah Palin has done very well, having been selected.”

In addition to his Iowa trips, Mr. Pawlenty has visited New Hampshire, the site of the first presidential primary, and has traveled across the country to help Republicans. He has raised more than $2.5 million for his Freedom First political action committee, some of which he is contributing to state and federal candidates.

While Ms. Palin and Mr. Romney have made similar contributions, they have done so from afar. As Mr. Pawlenty finished speaking on the farm outside of Waverly, he pulled a $500 check from his pocket and presented it directly to Bill Dix, a candidate for the Iowa Senate.

On a sultry afternoon, sweat was soaking into Mr. Pawlenty’s white shirt as he spoke with nearly everyone in the crowd of about 100. (He positioned himself by the lunch buffet, so a handshake was an easy stop on the way to the barbecued pork, potato salad and baked beans.)

His conversations and speeches were peppered with homespun one-liners, including the quip about his wife, which he has been telling Minnesota crowds for years.

On federal spending: “Watch the behavior of people at an open bar versus a cash bar. It is very different. That’s all you need to know about government. If you have an open bar, you’re going to have one set of behaviors, and we’ve got to get back — at least partially — to a cash bar.”

On why he believes Democrats have struggled creating jobs: “It’s pretty tough to be pro-job and anti-business. That’s like being pro-egg and anti-chicken. It doesn’t work so well.”

He drew respectable applause at the picnic and a few hours later at a fund-raiser for a Republican candidate in Cedar Rapids, where he had changed into a suit and tie. At each stop, he does not leave until the last hand has been shaken. But the congeniality does not mean that people will automatically sign on if he runs for president, a decision he said he would make early next year.

 

There's more...

Jeb Bows Out, Thune Prepping While Santorum Heads to Iowa

Dubbed the "the candidate hiding in plain sight" and deemed by many especially among mainline conservatives and neo-conservatives as perhaps the best hope for the GOP to win back the White House, former two term Florida Governor Jeb Bush today quashed speculation that had been building in recent weeks that he was considering a presidential run in 2012.

The argument for Jeb Bush ran something like this: each of the other presumed front runners have obvious perhaps fatal flaws and thus only Jeb Bush can pull together the disparate threads of the GOP. Moreover, he has strong conservative credentials, is the only Republican ever to win two terms of the Sunshine state, has a political pedigree second to none even if tarnished by his older brother, can appeal to the all-important Hispanic population with his Mexican-born wife in tow, is perceived as less divisive on social issues who would thus appeal to independents, would do well in his home state that electoral vote rich battleground state that has often decided presidential elections and unlike older brother can speak in complete sentences.

Despite the growing speculation that he was at least considering a run in 2012, today when asked Louisville’s ABC affiliate WHAS following an event for Rand Paul if he was eying the White House, Jeb Bush was adamant. “I am not running for president,” he said.

Politico has more on Jeb Bush's denial of interest.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads