Archive for the ‘newt gingrich’ tag
ROME (AP) ? Silvio Berlusconi says he’s running to be premier again ? for the good of Italy.
The media mogul confirmed to reporters Saturday that he’ll try for a fourth term. Berlusconi quit in disgrace as premier last year after failing to save Italy from its sovereign debt crisis. He has since been convicted of tax fraud and now faces plunging poll numbers.
He yanked support for Premier Mario Monti’s technocrat government on Thursday, increasing the prospects for early elections.
Monti calls the political crisis triggered by the loss of Berlusconi’s support “manageable” and says his government has rescued Italy from financial disaster.
Berlusconi says “the campaign is already on” and he’s running “out of a sense of responsibility” toward recession-plagued Italy.
LAS VEGAS ? Now it’s on to Colorado, Minnesota and Maine.
With back-to-back victories fueling him, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is looking toward the next states that hold GOP nominating contests as main rival Newt Gingrich brushes aside any talk of abandoning his White House bid __ all but ensuring the battle will stretch into the spring if not beyond.
Shortly after losing big to Romney here, the former House speaker emphatically renewed his vow to campaign into the party convention in Tampa this summer. His goal, he said, was to “find a series of victories which by the end of the Texas primary will leave us at parity” with Romney by early April.
Gingrich continued to shrug off Nevada’s caucus results in an appearance on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.”
“This is the state he won last time, and he won it this time,” he said of Romney. “Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday where we’re in much more favorable territory.”
But first, Gingrich must make it through Colorado and Minnesota, which both hold caucuses Tuesday. Maine follows on Saturday during a month that promises to be as plodding as January was rapid-fire in the presidential race. Romney will look to maintain his position of strength, if not build upon it, as his rivals continue working to derail him even as their options for doing so narrow with each victory he notches.
The former Massachusetts governor held a double-digit lead Sunday morning over his nearest pursuer as the totals mounted in Nevada, where fellow Mormons accounted for roughly a quarter of all caucus-goers. Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul vied for a distant second. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trailed the field.
Santorum won the leadoff caucuses in Iowa and has trailed in the contests since then. He nonetheless insisted on Sunday that “our numbers are moving up continually.”
“I think we’re going to show improvement. This race is a long long way from being over,” Santorum said on Fox News Sunday.
And on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul maintained the results show voters are still up for grabs.
“I get energized because I know there’s a large number of people who are looking for another option,” Paul said.
With votes from 71 percent of the precinct caucuses tallied, Romney had 48 percent, Gingrich 23 percent, Paul 19 percent and Santorum 11 percent. Turnout was down significantly from 2008, when Romney also won the state’s GOP caucuses.
More than 24 hours after caucuses began, results from the state’s most populous county were still being tallied. The outcome could affect the second- and third-place finishers.
“Our goal is to finish verification,” said Clark County GOP spokeswoman Bobbie Haseley. “There is no modern technology when it comes to how the voting took place and the counting.”
Romney’s victory capped a week that began with his double-digit win in the Florida primary. That contest was as intense as Nevada’s caucuses were sedate __ so quiet that they produced little television advertising, no candidate debates and only a modest investment of time by the contenders.
A total of 28 Republican National Convention delegates were at stake in caucuses held across the sprawling state. Romney won at least 10, Gingrich at least four, Paul at least three and Santorum at least two. Eight were still to be determined.
That gives Romney a total of 97, including endorsements from Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Gingrich has 30, Santorum 16 and Paul seven. It will take 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
Preliminary results of a poll of Nevada Republicans entering their caucuses showed that nearly half said the most important consideration in their decision was a candidate’s ability to defeat President Barack Obama this fall, a finding in line with other states.
About one-quarter of those surveyed said they were Mormon, roughly the same as in 2008, when Romney won with more than a majority of the vote in a multi-candidate field.
The entrance poll was conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press at 25 randomly selected caucus sites. It included 1,553 interviews and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Associated Press writer Cristina Silva in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
Whenever he was asked about the impact of his race on the 2008 election, President Obama would predict that while his race may cost him some votes, it might gain him some votes, just like a lot of other characteristics over which he has little to no control. Of course, as we later learned, there was another trait President Obama has little control over that had, and continues to have, the potential to cost him and other candidates even more votes than race: perceived religious beliefs. The fact that one in five Americans believe President Obama is not a Christian and view that as a justification for questioning his leadership and patriotism represents a political landmine for the president, one that increasingly his 2012 GOP opponents are in danger of stepping on as well.
Newt Gingrich’s win in South Carolina has now made the unthinkable not just possible but virtually certain: a non-evangelical Christian is poised to become the Republican nominee for president. Of the four remaining candidates, just one Dr. Ron Paul, is a protestant. Two, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are practicing Catholics, while former frontrunner Mitt Romney is Mormon. Though I know this will elicit a lot of angry comments from Paul supporters, by now everyone besides them seems to know that he has as much chance of becoming the GOP nominee as I do. This means that the party for which faith has been as fundamental as family values (in messaging at least) will soon join the thousands of Americans each year who embrace another religion for love, or more specifically for marriage; in this case, a political marriage of convenience. (It’s worth noting that Gingrich did this, quite literally, converting to Catholicism at the behest of his third wife.)
But here’s a question. As we have evolved into a country in which divorce, out-of-wedlock births, premarital sex and other religion-inspired one-time taboos have lost most, if not all, of their stigma, why do we continue to be a country in which our religious beliefs significantly affect how we vote? A Gallup poll taken just months ago found that 22% of Americans — across party lines — will not vote for a Mormon candidate. Keep in mind that like discussions of race and sex, religion is a topic about which some people lie out of embarrassment, which means the number of Americans possessing some religious bias about Mormons, or any other group, is likely even higher than the numbers contend.
A 2007 survey found that 46% of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is Muslim but that pales in comparison to the number who said they were less likely to vote for an atheist: 63%. As of 2011 that number is still holding pretty steady at 61%. In fact a separate study released just last month found that atheists are as distrusted by Americans and Canadians as rapists. Yes, rapists. (Click here to see a list of atheists who have been elected to office along with other religious trailblazers in American politics.)
Religious prejudice has officially become one of the last remaining bastions of surface-based voter bias, with the number of Americans saying they would not vote for a racial minority, a woman, or a gay American decreasing significantly in recent decades. This is somewhat surprising for a number of reasons. For one, it is arguable that religious labels alone mean very much. For instance, Sen. Ted Kennedy and his brothers were devout Catholics, yet their interpretation of their faith and its role in their politics is miles apart from the interpretation of Sen. Santorum.
But perhaps the most ironic thing about all of this is that according to yet another study, an overwhelming majority of those who believe in God are ignorant of basic Biblical facts, and facts about other religions. A 2010 Pew study found only 2% of those surveyed could answer 29 of the 32 questions asked correctly. Most could answer about half. This means that people who aren’t well-versed in their own religious beliefs, or anyone else’s, are making decisions in the voting booth fueled by prejudice that isn’t even well-informed prejudice.
You know who is well versed in religion, and well-informed too? Atheists, that’s who. They were among the top scoring groups on Pew’s religion pop quiz. Mormons also scored well. (You can test your own knowledge with questions from the quiz here.)
So this begs the question. If most of us are not knowledgeable enough of our own faiths to truly know if another faith is at odds with our own, then how can a vote based in part on someone else’s designated religion be rooted in anything other than prejudice?
Though the Romney campaign has certainly been plagued by its own share of candidate-made missteps, it is hard to believe that were he a Methodist, instead of a Mormon, that Mitt Romney would be struggling the way that he is. As far as candidates go, he is practically perfect on paper, checking every box a political consultant could dream of for a “Franken candidate” resume, except of course one. (Some political analysts have even speculated that his tax release debacle was bungled in part out of fear of allowing already jittery evangelical voters to see just how much of his fortune the governor has donated to the Mormon Church over the years.)
When family values obsessed, evangelical die-hards who normally consider one divorce grounds for suspicion, two divorces grounds for derision, and proven adultery grounds for candidate ineligibility, choose Newt Gingrich over the guy who’s been with his wife for life but just so happens to be Mormon, that tells you something about the role religious prejudice continues to play in American politics. The bigger question of course becomes whether or not Mitt Romney will ever have the temerity to say so out loud, or if it will take losing the nomination for him to finally understand and acknowledge that forms of bigotry still exist in America, and still hold people back.
For some people it may be their skin color keeping them from a job that they need. For others it may be their religion keeping them from the presidency they so desperately want.
Question: Would you be willing to vote for a candidate who practices a different religion than your own or doesn’t practice one at all? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate, a novel about a black, Jewish candidate for president. She is a contributing editor for Loop21.com where a version of this post originally appeared.
Follow Keli Goff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/keligoff
NEW YORK ? The Republican presidential debates have served up riveting television and exposed the contenders’ strengths and weaknesses, with no one benefiting more than Newt Gingrich. His in-your-face style has excited GOP voters who want a scrappy fighter to take on President Barack Obama in the fall.
At the same time, no one has found himself more boxed in by the format than Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor’s cautious but generally mistake-free performances earlier in the contest were seen as evidence of his resilience. But that steadiness recently has given way to a string of awkward gaffes and unforced errors, mostly surrounding his income taxes and the vast wealth he earned running a venture capital firm.
Gingrich, Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were set to square off twice this week before Florida Republicans have their say in the primary Jan. 31. Debates were scheduled for Monday night in Tampa, and Thursday night in Jacksonville.
Romney’s advisers at one point signaled that he might skip both Florida debates. His campaign has recruited Brett O’Donnell, a former debate coach to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain, to help him prepare. Since losing South Carolina’s primary to Gingrich on Saturday, Romney has ratcheted up his criticism of Gingrich, all but promising feistier debate performances from him this week.
The debates ? 17 so far ? have offered political junkies a dose of “must-see” TV and exposed the candidates’ warts and all.
Ask Herman Cain, a former pizza executive with no political experience who bounced briefly to the top of the field after several witty and memorable debate performances. Or Rick Perry, who saw his once promising candidacy unravel on stage as he stammered to recall the third of three federal agencies he’d eliminate and ended with a memorable “oops.”
The debates also have influenced media coverage of the race. An analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that the tone of coverage of a candidate almost directly corresponded with the assessment of their debate performances. The center also studied Twitter postings around the debates, and found an extraordinary amount of instant debate commentary reverberating through that platform.
The debates have cast a particularly sharp focus on the Republican field, in part because there is no primary on the Democratic side. In the 2008 presidential race, there were 26 debates in which Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other candidates mixed it up in memorable fashion.
The debates have been particularly important to residents of early voting states, which saw a flood of TV advertising from the campaigns and independent groups but much less face-to-face campaigning from candidates than in years past.
Data bears that out.
In New Hampshire, which held the nation’s first primary Jan. 10, 84 percent of those surveyed said the debates were important to their vote, according to exit polls sponsored by The Associated Press and the broadcast networks.
In South Carolina, 65 percent said the debates were important in determining their vote. Among the most conservative voters, including evangelical Christians and tea party backers, the figure was closer to 70 percent.
That group of voters backed Gingrich in Saturday’s primary in the strongest numbers, in part because of two memorable debate exchanges.
At a CNN debate last Thursday in Charleston, moderator John King asked Gingrich to comment on an interview his former wife had given to ABC News alleging that he had asked her for an open marriage. Gingrich let loose, channeling conservative rage at the “elite media.”
“I think the destructive, vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.” Gingrich snarled at King. The audience roared its approval.
At an earlier Fox News Channel debate in Myrtle Beach, Gingrich rebuffed a question from panelist Juan Williams on whether black voters might be insulted by Gingrich’s frequent references to Obama as the “food stamp” president. Obama is the nation’s first black president; Williams is also black.
“The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. Now, I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable,” Gingrich said, adding: “If that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
The reaction in the audience was so positive that Gingrich’s campaign produced a television ad drawing from the exchange.
Gingrich even spoke of his own debating skills at his South Carolina victory party.
“It’s not that I am a good debater,” he said. “It is that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people.”
While Gingrich’s strong debate performances have temporarily deflected questions about his history and character, few expect that to last. Gilbert Cranberg, an emeritus professor of mass communications at the University of Iowa, said good debaters don’t necessarily make good presidents.
“You want a president to be deliberative, to consult, not to make snap judgments,” Cranberg said. “Debates are showbiz.”
AP deputy director of polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington contributed to this report.
CHARLESTON, S.C. ? On the eve of a Southern showdown, Mitt Romney conceded Friday he’s in a tight race with Newt Gingrich for Saturday’s South Carolina primary in a Republican campaign suddenly turned turbulent.
It’s “neck and neck,” Romney declared, while a third presidential contender, former Sen. Rick Santorum, swiped at both men in hopes of springing yet another campaign surprise.
Several days after forecasting a Romney victory in his state, Sen. Jim DeMint said the campaign’s first Southern primary was now a two-man race between the former Massachusetts governor, who has struggled in recent days with questions about his personal wealth and taxes, and Gingrich, the former House speaker who has been surging in polls after a pair of well-received debate performances.
The stakes were high as Republicans sought a challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama. Television advertising by the candidates and their supporters exceeded $10 million here, much of it spent in the past two weeks, and mailboxes were stuffed with campaign flyers.
In a bit of home-state boosterism, DeMint said the primary winner was “likely to be the next president of the United States.”
Indeed, the winner of the state’s primary has gone on to capture the Republican nomination each year since 1980.
A victory by Romney would place him in a commanding position heading into the Florida primary on Jan. 31. He and an organization supporting him are already airing television ads in that state, which is one of the country’s costliest in which to campaign.
If the former Massachusetts governor stumbles in South Carolina, it could portend a long, drawn-out battle for the nomination stretching well into spring and further expose rifts inside the party between those who want a candidate who can defeat Obama more than anything else, and those whose strong preference is for a solid conservative.
Romney sounded anything but confident as he told reporters that in South Carolina, “I realize that I had a lot of ground to make up and Speaker Gingrich is from a neighboring state, well known, popular … and frankly to be in a neck-and-neck race at this last moment is kind of exciting.”
Left unspoken was that he swept into South Carolina 10 days ago on the strength of a strong victory in the New Hampshire primary and maintained a double-digit lead in the South Carolina polls for much of the week.
Campaigning in Gilbert, S.C., on Friday, Romney demanded that Gingrich release hundreds of supporting documents relating to an ethics committee investigation into his activities while he was speaker of the House in the mid-1990s.
“”Of course he should,” he told reporters. Referring to the House Democratic leader, he said, “Nancy Pelosi has the full record of that ethics investigation. You know it’s going to get out ahead of the general election.”
That was an attempt to turn the tables on Gingrich, who has demanded Romney release his income tax returns before the weekend primary so Republicans can know in advance if they contain anything that could compromise the party’s chances against Obama this fall.
Gingrich’s campaign brushed off Romney’s demand, calling it a “panic attack” brought on by sinking poll numbers.
“Don’t you love these guys?” the former speaker said in Orangeburg. “He doesn’t release anything. He doesn’t answer anything and he’s even confused about whether he will ever release anything. And then they decide to pick a fight over releasing stuff?”
In January 1997, Gingrich became the first speaker ever reprimanded and fined for ethics violations, slapped with a $300,000 penalty. He said he’d failed to follow legal advice concerning the use of tax-exempt contributions to advance potentially partisan goals, but he was also cleared of numerous other allegations.
At the same time he fended off a demand on one front Friday, Gingrich was less than eager to face further questions made by his second wife, Marianne, who said in an ABC interview broadcast Thursday night that he had once sought an open marriage so he could keep the mistress who later became his current wife.
He denies the ex-wife’s account.
On his final lap through the state, Santorum campaigned as the Goldilocks candidate ? just right for the state’s conservative voters.
“One candidate is too radioactive, a little too hot,” he said, referring to Gingrich. “And we have another candidate who is just too darn cold, who doesn’t have bold plans,” he added, speaking of Romney.
His campaign also announced endorsements from conservative leaders in the upcounty portion of the state around Greenville, where the heaviest concentration of evangelical voters lives.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, dismissed Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the fourth contender in the race. “There are four, three of whom have a chance to win the nomination,” he said, including himself.
Paul, who finished third in the Iowa caucuses and second in the New Hampshire primary, has had a limited presence in South Carolina.
But he flew to six cities on a burst of campaigning on the race’s final day, and drew applause for having returned to Washington, D.C., earlier in the week to vote against Obama’s requested increase in the debt limit.
“When you hear the word principle, you think of Ron Paul. He’s the embodiment of that,” said Derek Smith, a 26-year-old engineer for the Navy in Charleston. “If he were to run as a third-party candidate, I would vote for him unconditionally.”
Paul has said he has no intention of doing that.
Interviewed on C-SPAN, Santorum said the race “has just transformed itself in the last 24 hours.” It was hard for any of the campaigns to argue with that.
In a bewildering series of events on Thursday, Romney was stripped of his victory in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses by state party officials, who said a recount showed Santorum ahead by 34 votes.
Then came an unexpected withdrawal by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who endorsed Gingrich. But Gingrich was suddenly caught in a controversy caused by his ex-wife’s accusations.
At a two-hour debate that capped the day, Gingrich drew applause when he strongly attacked ABC and the “liberal news media” in general for injecting the issue into the final days of the South Carolina campaign.
By contrast, Romney faced a round of boos from the audience when he stuck by earlier statements that he would wait until April to release his tax returns.
Romney has stumbled several times in recent days, including once when he said he paid an effective tax rate of about 15 percent. That’s half what many middle-income Americans pay, but it’s what the law stipulates because his income derives from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate than wages.
Gingrich posted his own tax returns online during the Thursday debate, reporting he paid 31.5 percent of his income to the IRS.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Kasie Hunt, Thomas Beaumont, Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.