GOP Presidential Candidates Shamed Into Acknowledging Disaster

As I wrote on Wednesday, as fires devastated Southern California this week, Democratic presidential candidates used their websites and e-mail lists to express concern for the victims of the fires and disseminate information on how to help them; the Republicans, on the other hand, were conspicuously silent on the matter, revealing what we already knew: when it comes to compassion, there is a left/right divide.

Turns out this fact wasn't lost on the media. From The San Francisco Chronicle:

...none of the leading GOP presidential candidates offered formal public condolences or expressions of concern for the fire-damaged state until Thursday - four days after wind-whipped blazes caused an estimated 500,000 to be evacuated in Southern California.

Even Republicans had to admit it was embarrassing. Said prominent California GOP blogger, Jon Fleischman:

"How candidates and officeholders react in the midst of a tragedy tells you a lot about whether they are focused on themselves, or on the people around them," he wrote.

The GOP candidates were put on the defensive and, as The Chron puts it, were "forced into damage control mode."

The campaign of Mitt Romney sent out a statement noting that the former Massachusetts governor has acknowledged the fires, noting this week that his son, Matt, had been evacuated from his home in Rancho Bernardo. The candidate's wife, Ann Romney - who was in California on Tuesday as fires raged - posted a comment on Thursday, and her son wrote a brief blog about his evacuation experience.

But Romney didn't issue a formal expression of concern. Neither did former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani until Thursday, when his Web site posted this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the wildfires in California. The firefighters are performing an absolutely heroic effort as they face dangerous and unpredictable conditions."

His campaign included a link to the American Red Cross for donations to fire victims.

Asked why McCain - although he is planning a fundraiser in the state - has not publicly acknowledged the fires, spokesman Brian Rogers said, "The senator obviously cares a lot about the people of California and feels for their loss. And we do have something up on our campaign Web site that calls on folks to contribute."

Now if you go to some of the candidates' websites, they do have prominently placed links to The Red Cross and an acknowledgement that the disasters occured, although I must say, I'm somewhat surprised to find Mike Huckabee, ya know, the minister, not among them. Instead, he still has the link to his interview with Glen Beck (the guy who said some of those losing their homes in Southern California hate America) and an unfortunate choice of a headline -- "The Heat Is On!" -- linking to a post about recent attacks on Huckabee.

I mean, at least when Obama sent out an invitation to his Los Angeles office opening (which is tomorrow by the way) with an ill-timed reference to his stump speech staple "All Fired Up!", the campaign quickly changed course.

Once it was clear a disaster was unfolding, the wording was changed and the block party plans dropped, she says. Instead, those attending the office opening are being asked to bring clothing and non-perishable food to donate to fire victims.

The fact is, it's a wonder any of the candidates deigned to express any modicum of compassion for the victims, but it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they were late to the disaster response table. It seems to run in their party.

Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said of the Republicans' glaring lag in recognizing California's woes: "Haven't we already had enough of a president who is slow to respond to a crisis?"

Indeed.

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Brownback "Comfortable" With Pro-Choice Rudy

After Sam Brownback dropped out of the presidential race last week, Rudy Giuliani requested a meeting with him, if not for an endorsement then for some statement of acceptability, which Giuliani knows is probably the best he can get out of the religious right crowd. And Brownback has obliged.

"I'm much more comfortable," Brownback said. "Justices are key. He's stated publicly many times about his support for strict constructionists like, I believe he said Roberts. John Roberts is a personal friend."

As to whether we should expect an endorsement...

Asked whether he could support such a candidate, Brownback said: "I don't know that he would -- I'll let the mayor describe himself -- whether he'd describe himself as a pro-choice mayor, or a pro-choice candidate."

So, Rudy, do ya?.

"I've described it in the past," Giuliani said. "I've opposed abortion. I'd like to see a society in which there is no abortion. I think you have to get there by changing people's minds and hearts. I'm not in favor of changing the law and the right that presently exists.

"But I do think I'm in favor of everything else that would limit the number of abortions, that would increase the number of adoptions and that would move us in the direction of many fewer abortions," Giuliani said. "And if we could get to no abortions based on people's decision-making, I'd be in favor of that."

For someone supposedly so tough, that's a remarkably weak answer, but good to know he's in favor of expanding adoptions to gay couples!

The result here, of course, is two people saying things that neither appears to fully mean for apparently self-beneficial reasons, and the Romney campaign, via surrogate, has pounced.

From Greg Sargent at TPM:

Jim Bopp, one of Mitt Romney's top social conservative supporters, just lashed out repeatedly at Brownback in an interview with me for his kind words about Rudy's abortion views, accusing Brownback in scathing terms of putting "personal benefit" before the pro-life cause.

"There's obviously something more going on here than fidelity to the pro-life cause," said Bopp, a legendary pro-life activist and lawyer who is an important voice for Romney because he vouches for his conservatism. "Brownback is angling for some personal political benefit by cozying up to Giuliani." [...]

"Giuliani is unequivocal -- he wants abortion to be legal," Bopp continued. "Brownback claimed that the raison d'etre of his campaign was protecting human life. "So the only way that you can look at what he is saying now and what he is doing now is that he is prepared to compromise the pro-life movement and cause to advance his own personal political agenda."

Up to now, Giuliani has won the support from people who don't fully agree with him because there's something respectable in his refusal to pander. But clearly, his campaign has calculated that he still has much work to do making himself more acceptable to the Christian conservative crowd but in the process seems to me to have abandoned that one quality that I thought made him stand out from the field: again, the refusal to pander. While he of course hasn't fully abandoned his pro-choice views with these remarks, his wishy washiness here may end up alienating both the conservatives he's trying to woo and the moderates who are uncomfortable with the party's fealty to the religious right. And he might just have made Romney appear downright principled by comparison.

Update [2007-10-26 13:20:46 by Todd Beeton]: As MissLaura reminds us, Rudy has been downright panderific lately, telling a Boston crowd that he was rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series. To most New York Yankees fans, of course, that's heresy. It doesn't seem right that such a comment should impact a presidential campaign, but this actually could, especially if it seems to be part of a larger pattern.

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John McCain Exploits Self In New Ad

If you watched the recent Republican debate, you saw John McCain utter what admittedly was the line of the night:

A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend one million dollars on the Woodstock concert museum.

Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was, I was tied up at the time.

In an understandable effort to capitalize on this moment, McCain's campaign has now built an ad around it called, what else, "Tied Up." You can watch it below:

The ad sort of clumsily weaves a message about what liberals were supposedly doing in the 60s vs. what real Americans were doing in the 60s into what is essentially an anti-pork ad, all the while using that creepy black and white footage of McCain as a POW. Well, if you're going to exploit anyone's suffering for political gain, I guess it might as well be your own, but his tendency to use this imagery in his ads is becoming pathological. Look at McCain's page of TV and radio ads, and you'll see that every single ad featured uses this footage to some extent. I understand the instinct to use it but in this case, I sort of feel like less might be more. No one needs reminding of John McCain's status as a war hero and contrary to their intent, these ads make me cringe a bit at McCain's willingness to use the footage in this way rather than evoking in me feelings of admiration for his courage. For me, the concept of John McCain as war hero is a lot more powerful than the reality of it.

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LA Times/Bloomberg National Primary Poll

The new LA Times/Bloomberg poll (pdf is HERE) has been released showing Hillary Clinton with a 31-point lead over Obama who tumbles below 20% and Rudy Giuliani now holding a 2:1 lead over his nearest rival, Fred Thompson.

The Democrats:

(469 RVs, Oct. 19-22, MOE 3%)

CandidateOctoberRCP 6-poll Ave.Clinton4848.5Obama1721.2Edwards1312.2

While Clinton's level of support here is consistent with her national recent average, the story here is Obama's fall, showing further evidence of an emerging crisis in confidence among voters in his campaign. The analysis expands on where Clinton is gaining and Obama is losing support.

Among the groups that give Clinton a strong margin of support are self-described moderates, voters age 45 to 64, non- whites and those who earn less than $40,000 a year.

Women are her core constituency. Women who earn less than $40,000 a year back Clinton over Obama by a margin of 40 percent to 18 percent. She has a similar lead among women making $60,000 or more.

Obama has slipped 12 points among voters age 18 to 44. He has also lost support among whites, males and college-educated voters.

Clinton picked up 17 percentage points from the last survey in June among younger voters and made big gains among college graduates, men and those who earn more than $60,000 a year.

The Republicans:

(364 RVs, Oct. 19-22, MOE 4%)

CandidateOctoberRCP 7-poll Ave.Giuliani3227.6Thompson1518.4McCain1313.6Romney1113.0Huckabee75.4

This is becoming an outright brawl for second place. it appears, lacking a consensus alternative to Giuliani, that he is securing his front-runner status, although the poll analysis stresses just how soft his support is.

In a potential trouble sign for Giuliani, the poll finds that 38 percent of Republican primary voters say they would only vote for an opponent of abortion and gay rights. Giuliani has a record of supporting both. Almost one-third of voters who say they want abortion to be illegal back him, suggesting that some may not yet be familiar with his views. Moreover, more than 60 percent of all Republicans and almost the same share of Giuliani backers say they may end up voting for another candidate.

"Right now, Giuliani leads in all groups, but that support is soft," said Pinkus, the Los Angeles Times Poll director. "The Republicans' choices are very, very squishy. Things could change."

A couple other tidbits: Clinton's Fav/Unfav is 48/44 and she beats every Republican in head-to-head match-ups; the closest any Republican gets is Giuliani who loses by 6%.

The raw data isn't up yet but I'll post when it becomes available.

Update [2007-10-23 20:44:48 by Todd Beeton]: October pdf can be found HERE.

[editor's note, by Todd Beeton] I've removed the June numbers (pdf HERE.) They're fairly irrelevant because they either include unannounced candidates (i.e. Gore and Gingrich) or limit the candidates to 3 (Democrats) or 4 (Republicans.) A comparison to an average of recent polling is more instructive than that of a 4 month old poll anyway.

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GOP Fox News Debate Thread

The debate out of Orlando, FL is live on Fox News or online HERE starting at 8pm ET.

Update [2007-10-21 22:31:23 by Todd Beeton]: I've got to give this one to Romney. He appeared presidential, didn't whine as much as he usually does, and even looked less airbrushed, ie more human, than usual. And he didn't run away from the healthcare plan he signed as governor of Massachusetts, he demanded credit for it. He's among the only ones up there to get the importance of domestic issues/policies to the voters. Giuliani running on war/9/11 can get him only so far. And Romney's the only one projecting a fairly broad, yet well-articulated message, as he put it on the post-show: "A message of changing Washington to bring strength to our economy, to our military and to our families." Thompson did better here than he did in his first debate appearance but was still stumbly and full of "umm"s and "uhh"s, McCain actually came off as really old and blah to me tonight, Huckabee didn't have enough air time to make much of an impression, and Giuliani did his usual schtick, which is more about applause lines than engaging in any substantive way. Romney seemed to be actually be engaging in a conversation.

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