Newt Gingrich Gives The Pygmies Campaign Advice

After likening his jumping into the field of 2008 GOP candidates to Charles de Gaulle "rush[ing] in and join[ing] the pygmies" (yeah, it's totally like that), Newt Gingrich generously offered the Republican candidates some unsolicited campaign advice, also of French origin oddly, on Hannity and Colmes last night (via Newshounds):

There's a French lesson for Republicans in the election of Sarkozy who called for a clean break from Chirac although he was in the Chirac administration and he ran as the candidate of change. I think Republicans ought to pick five or six big items, I would start with English as the official language of government for example, and draw the line sharply with the candidates of the left.

Gingrich elaborated on the parallel between the French and US presidential elections in an appearance earlier this month (he also betrays a bit of a mancrush):

So Sarkozy comes along and he's brilliant and he understands that [the French] are in a crisis of their culture. And he's in, in terms of the current politics of where we are in Washington, he is in the second term of a 12-year presidency, which has been decaying. Chirac was unpopular. So if you set up the normal political science equation, the left is going to win because after 12 years of the center right they've run out of energy and he manages to put together this magic formula of arguing that the greatness of France requires real change. So even though he is in Chirac's cabinet, he is the candidate of real change and Royale is the candidate of reactionary bureaucracy.

Clearly this advice seems perfectly suited to a scenario in which Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee (as Sean Hannity predicts will happen) but it offers fair warning to all of the Democrats not to allow any of the Republican candidates to run against Bush and portray himself as the true agent of change. Not that we have the maddening brilliance of Sarkozy among the GOP field but it's never a bad thing to remind people that the first term of any of these Republicans' presidencies = Bush's third term.

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Ames Straw Poll Taking Shape

The Ames, Iowa Straw Poll is coming up on August 11 and gives the Republican presidential campaigns a chance to flex their on the ground organizing muscle by buying tickets for supporters and bussing them in from around the state. The event consists of a non-binding vote taken at an Iowa Republican Party fundraising dinner at which the candidates speak. While the vote is non-binding, the straw poll is traditionally predictive of the actual results of the Iowa caucus. Hence, the reason Giuliani and McCain dropped out of the straw poll and why Thompson decided not to officially announce until after it: you can't lose if you don't compete and if a Romney win in the straw poll gives him an aura of inevitability in the caucus, then the only way he can go is down and the only way they can go is up.

Race42008 is announcing that the line-up for speakers and the order of the ballot are set:

Speaking Order (chosen randomly)

      Mitt Romney
      Tom Tancredo
      John Cox
      Ron Paul
      Mike Huckabee
      Duncan Hunter
      Tommy Thompson
      Sam Brownback

Straw Poll Ballot (alphabetical order)

      Brownback
      Cox
      Giuliani
      Huckabee
      Hunter
      McCain
      Paul
      Romney
      Tancredo
      Fred Thompson
      Tommy Thompson

While the winner is essentially a foregone conclusion (to the point where Romney has announced he's scaling back his organization for the event), the results among the rest of the field will be decisive. Chris Cilizza has an interesting article that breaks it down.

More over the flip...

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Mitt Romney Confronted Over "Osama" Sign

Jerid at Buckeye State Blog saw the picture of Mitt Romney holding up a supporter's sign that said "No To Obama, Osama and Chelsea's Moma" and got pissed that Romney would endorse a sign comparing any American to Osama bin Laden, let alone Democratic presidential candidates. So what did he do -- headed down to a Romney event video camera in hand, got a front row seat and confronted Romney directly.

Watch it:

The best Romney could do in his response to Jerid was to essentially tell the crowd "I'm not actually paying attention to you when I meet you at these events":

I'm going to be taking many pictures with all of you and I don't really spend too much time looking at the signs and the t-shirts and the buttons. So I don't have anything particularly to say about a sign somebody else was holding.

Jerid rightfully didn't let him get away with that:

You were holding the sign and smiling...You took a picture standing next to the sign holding it up, smiling.

Which does raise an interesting point, in this age of user-generated content (whether old school or new,) about the extent to which the views expressed by a supporter should carry over to the candidate, but Romney's attempt to downplay his endorsement of the message on the sign is laughable -- how can holding up a sign and smiling not imply an endorsement?

This episode also reveals just how not ready for prime time Romney is. How could he not have had a better answer for Jerid's question at the ready? Instead, all he could do was resort to the same phrase McCain used when asked about his famous "bomb bomb bomb Iran" incident, the desperately dismissive: "Lighten up." That's all he has. Makes it even clearer what a gift a Romney nomination would be.

Update [2007-7-23 16:59:36 by Todd Beeton]: Jerid isn't done with Romney quite yet. He just posted a copy of a picture of the infamous Osama/Obama sign with Romney's signature on the back, which he signed for Jerid at an ice cream shop yesterday prior to the event captured on video above. As Jerid says:
Romney claims he doesn't support all the signs his supporters hold up? Normally that'd be reasonable. However, when you, as a candidate, hold a sign up, smile, and get your picture taken with a sign comparing Americans to Osama Bin Laden that sends a different message. It's even more damning when you'll sign copies of the picture on the road.
Nicely played, Jerid.

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Rudy Giuliani (R-Gibberish)

Rudy Giuliani's recent strategy when discussing war has been to be evasive about Iraq preferring instead to focus on what he likes to call "the terrorists' war against us." His message has pretty much been "9/11 9/11 stay on offense 9/11" but that seems to be changing ever so slightly. Perhaps his handlers and pollsters have realized what's been pretty clear for a while now: that while the fearmongering may have worked in 2004, people began to emerge from their post-9/11 fog in 2006 and are even less susceptible to those arguments today. So Giuliani seems to be trying a new schtick -- maintaining support for Bush's wars yet criticizing the way they've been waged, and from the sound of it, he is wholly uncomfortable doing so. He is literally making no sense.

Here's what he had to say in an interview with The New York Times about what he perceives to be our inability to "multi-task" wars:  

"Neither one of these two wars -- the one in Afghanstan/Pakistan or the one in Iraq -- was nearly at the level of the planning we had done for the two wars we would have to fight at once," he said. "We should have organized ourselves so that we could accomplish in Iraq what we had to accomplish without taking anything away from accomplishing in Afghanistan and Pakistan what we had to accomplish."

Now today, Greg Sargent over at TPM Election Central, brings us this nugget from an interview with USA Today:

"This cannot be like a horror movie. You know, in the horror movie you kill the monster, and the hand re-emerges. And if you're not looking, the hand grows back and then the monster's there again. That cannot be allowed to happen."

Check out USA Today's generous translation of what might qualify as Giuliani's point:

Some of Giuliani's comments echoed critics of the war in Iraq who argue that the invasion drew attention and resources away from the battle against the home base of al-Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, Giuliani speaks for me!

We can no doubt expect more of this maneuvering from the Republican candidates in the coming months although it's hard to imagine any of them doing a worse job of expressing it than Rudy has.

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The Giuliani Campaign Reads Pollster.com

On Tuesday, Pollster.com's Charles Franklin explored the question of whether Giuliani is the next McCain. Looking at Giuliani's consistently falling poll numbers, both nationally and in the early states, Franklin sees an "eery similarity" between Giuliani's trend now and McCain's prior to his collapse and wonders if there's enough evidence there to anticipate a McCain-like fall on the part of Giuliani over the coming months.

In the "he's screwed" column:

- Since early March, Giuliani's support has fallen by an estimated 8%. McCain's fell by 10% since January.

- the rate of decline has been a bit steeper for Giuliani than for McCain.

- Giuliani's national slide is also mirrored in the early primary states, as is the case with McCain.

- Thompson is trending up in Florida and South Carolina, while Giuliani slumps in those states. And his prospects against Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire are looking poor as well.

On the bright side, Giuliani's fiscal health is in stark contrast to McCain's and his national decline does seem to have leveled off. All of which leads Franklin to render this reasonable verdict:

So while the national trend may be stabilizing, the Giuliani campaign is confronted with serious challenges in at least four of the first five states.

Not exactly Chicken Little, yet today, Brent Seaborn, Director of Strategy for the Giuliani campaign, apparently worried about a self-fulfilling narrative taking hold, responded constructing his own somewhat disorienting counter-narrative:

As the race developed early in the spring, the race quickly but briefly, developed into a two-way race...As McCain's trend line declined Mitt Romney's slowly rose and Fred Thompson entered the race, [which] has effectively made this now a four-way race...After months as the frontrunner and the addition of a fourth candidate to the GOP primary it is notable that we are in roughly the same spot we were in before our bounce and when this was still a three-way race. In a four-way (or as your graph suggests a five-way race), a trend line from the first of the year until now, excluding our "announcement" bounce, is virtually flat.

Whoo. Well, it's not much of a defense, is it, but I guess makes his point that Giuliani is right where he wants to be, competitive with the rest of the field and the nomination is up for grabs. Notice how he stresses McCain's residual strength in national polls and downplays Romney's weakness in the same, and acts like they're all in it together because Giuliani's strategy, as Bob Schrum put it on Meet The Press on Sunday, "to shortchange Iowa and New Hampshire and go to Florida" is premised upon other candidates winning some of those early states.

While Seaborn projects a "what, me worry?" attitude, the very fact that he felt the need to respond betrays the opposite, but I'll agree with him that Giuliani's polling trend does not necessarily signal an impending McCain-like trajectory. McCain started with sky high expectations and never met them, while Giuliani has exceeded them when he's needed to, i.e. in Q1 with his polling and in Q2 with his fundraising. So he probably has another solid quarter to work with before voters and the media turn on him as they have McCain. The question that faces Giuliani is what else does he have other than 9/11, which is increasingly being revealed to be the facade that it always was (as his bizarre answer to a war-related question by the New York Times demonstrates.)

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