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Entries in Primaries (82)

Tuesday
Feb072012

Three States Vote: Can Romney Hang On?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Voters in three states made their picks for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, as Mitt Romney tried to win enough votes to deny his rivals any momentum going into the first lull of the primary season.

The results of the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and the primary in Missouri are expected to be known Tuesday night, and while the four candidates are competing for delegates -- 76 between the two caucuses -- the real prize is the evolving media narrative that accompanies a surprise victory, or a better-than-expected finish.

Tuesday is the first day this year when there are contests in more than one state.

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul skipped last week's Florida primary to campaign elsewhere, and that strategy could pay off. Santorum's efforts in Minnesota and Missouri have caught the attention of the Romney campaign, which put Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on a conference call to talk trash about the ex-senator from Pennsylvania.

Romney, once again the undisputed front-runner after wins in Florida and in Nevada, won the 2008 caucuses in Colorado and in Minnesota handily. But a win in just one of those states Tuesday night might not be enough to keep him on cruise control if he falters in the other two. His campaign tried to lower expectations by arguing that no candidate can win them all.

"Of course, there is no way for any nominee to win first place in every single contest -- John McCain lost 19 states in 2008, and we expect our opponents to notch a few wins too," Romney's political director, Rich Beeson, wrote in a memo for reporters.

Not helping Romney's situation is Newt Gingrich, who abandoned hope in all three states and has moved on to Ohio. His absence -- he's not even listed on the ballot in Missouri -- potentially frees up conservative voters to side with Santorum, who has been itching for a good headline since his resurgent victory in Iowa, the first state to vote in the GOP primary.

"Santorum probably resonates well with many Republicans here," said John Petrocik, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Missouri. "This is a culturally conservative place. Conservative religious groups, they're certainly a factor in Missouri, so I could imagine him doing fairly well."

The previous voting contests were all scheduled in cluster, but after Tuesday's races there is a lull, which will allow the story of the outcomes in these three states to linger for weeks before another primary. Maine has a week of caucuses that ends Feb. 11, but after that the next voting isn't until Feb. 28, in Arizona and in Michigan.

It's also unlikely that any of the candidates will drop out of the race after Tuesday's votes. Gingrich, who dethroned Romney as the front-runner after a South Carolina win, has vowed to contest every state; Santorum is expected to get at least enough votes to prove that he can stay competitive; and Paul hasn't shown signs that he'd quit despite not yet winning a single primary or caucus.

All of which is unpleasant news for Romney, who has been forced to respond to venomous attacks from his rivals instead of focusing his attention on President Obama. Four years ago, Romney ended his 2008 bid for the GOP nomination shortly after losing to John McCain on "Super Tuesday," which was Feb. 5 that year. This time around, "Super Tuesday" isn't until March 6.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Glimmer of Hope in Texas Redistricting Battle Could Preserve April Primary

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- There was a glimmer of hope Monday for a resolution in the long and tangled battle over Texas’ redistricting maps, when state Attorney General Greg Abbott and members of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund agreed to a set of interim congressional maps.

The rare moment of consensus between the state and the Latino leadership organizations comes just in time to possibly preserve the Lone Star State’s April primary date, which was originally scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 6 but was moved back a month because of the redistricting fight.

As the second-largest state, Texas is fighting to preserve its relevance in a GOP primary race that is beginning to be dominated by Mitt Romney. And while Texas pushes to stay in the heat of the battle, so too is GOP candidate Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich vowed Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that his campaign would push on through Super Tuesday and said that after Texas voters take to the polls, his goal is to be “about tied in delegates” with Romney.

But the Texas redistricting battle is far from over and thus the state’s primary date is far from certain. Some minority groups still oppose the state’s newest compromise maps and the lingering disagreements may force the Texas primary into late May or June.

MALDEF, which represents Texas’ Latino leadership organizations in the redistricting lawsuit, issued a statement Monday saying it was “amenable” to the new maps and would not challenge them.

“While neither plan is perfect, the Task Force feels it is time to move forward with Texas primaries and let the voters decide the outcome under a legally valid map that protects all existing minority opportunity districts … [and] complies with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution,” the statement said.

But Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which represents Texas’ Latino elected officials, said the newest maps “are a beginning point, not an end.”

“The Attorney General presents an illusion of an inclusive map; the reality is that it falls short of recognizing minority growth in Texas,” Martinez Fischer said in a statement posted to the group’s Facebook page. “While all the parties support a primary as soon as possible, we want to ensure that Texans have fair and legal redistricting maps.”

Abbott said in a statement Monday that the newest maps “incorporate reasonable requests” from opposing parties “without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature” and make changes “only where necessary” to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The original maps, drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature last summer, were immediately challenged by a cohort of Latino advocacy groups which claimed the maps illegally diluted Hispanics’ voting power.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in January that the legislature’s maps violated the Voting Rights Act and sent the maps back to the San Antonio court where a compromise is being hammered out.

Texas gained four new congressional seats following the 2010 Census -- more than any other state -- in large part because of the state’s booming Hispanic population, which accounted for 65 percent of Texas’ population growth over the past decade.

The San Antonio court will hear an additional round of arguments on the compromise proposals Feb. 15. If no consensus is reached then, the Texas primary will again be delayed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

For Ron Paul, Next Five Weeks Are Critical

ABC/Matthew Putney(WASHINGTON) -- In terms of numbers of votes, Ron Paul has already eclipsed his previous run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, garnering two to three times as many in the first five presidential preference contests.

In Nevada, he got more votes this time than in 2008, but he was runner-up there last time, and placed third this weekend.

But one thing remains the same -- he has still never won a state.

Paul called his third-place finish in Nevada “disappointing,” but campaign manager Jesse Benton said to ABC News he is “very pleased” with how the race is shaping up and pointed to the next five weeks -- starting with the caucuses Tuesday in Minnesota, where Paul has focused considerable energy over the past week -- as being critical for the campaign.

Benton said the campaign is immediately focused on the contest Tuesday in Minnesota, followed by Missouri, Maine, Washington, North Dakota, Kansas, Hawaii and Missouri. But the list of immediate priorities ends with Louisiana on March 24.

The timeline would match Paul’s presidential efforts four years ago, when the congressman started “winding down” his presidential campaign on March 6.

Nevada is just another disappointment for the Paul campaign, which hasn’t been able to parlay his sprawling grassroots network of supporters into wins.

When asked on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos if finishing third in Nevada would be a disappointment, despite finishing second there four years ago, Paul said: “If you go from second to third, that would be disappointment.”

Benton said Paul did win at least five national delegates in Nevada and sent a majority of delegates to the state convention.

Although the presidential race has just started and Romney has a long way to go before securing the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination, it’s going to very difficult for Paul to catch up.

So far, the Texas congressman has eight projected delegates compared to Romney’s 143. And going forward, Romney’s organization and money equals, if not surpasses, that of Paul’s.

Asked by Stephanopoulos when he will notch his first win, Paul said: “It’s hard to say exactly when,” adding, “We have to just wait and see and continue to do exactly what we’re doing.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Why Tuesday Night Could Be a Good One for Rick Santorum

Steve Pope/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Newt Gingrich has positioned himself as Mitt Romney’s biggest threat to the nomination, but come Tuesday when Republicans in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri come out to vote, it’s Rick Santorum, not Gingrich, that represents the biggest threat to Romney’s winning streak. Moreover, a strong performance by Santorum in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses will help him narrow the delegate gap with Newt Gingrich.

While we haven’t seen any traditional polling in Minnesota, based on the behavior we are seeing from the Santorum and Romney campaigns, the Santorum campaign looks poised for a strong showing there. The Romney campaign has spent much of Monday attacking Santorum’s record in the Senate -- and sending former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to help with that attacking -- which suggests they take the Santorum threat seriously.

Furthermore, Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, has spent $131,172 on television advertising in Minnesota and nothing in Missouri or Colorado. On the other hand, the super PAC supporting Rick Santorum  -- The Red, White and Blue Fund -- has spent money on advertising in Missouri and Minnesota: $51,000 and $123,000 respectively.

The Gingrich super PAC, which spent millions on TV ads in Florida and South Carolina, has yet to spend a dime in any of these states. No phones. No mail. Nothing. In fact, it’s more than likely that Gingrich’s battle cry of “45 states to go” will have to be changed to “OK, so we still have 42 more chances to win a state."

Santorum is also boosted by the fact that Gingrich is not on the ballot in Missouri, which means that he doesn’t have to compete for the “consensus conservative” vote with Gingrich. The good news for Gingrich, the Missouri contest is a “beauty contest” where no delegates will be awarded. Instead, delegates will be determined in state caucuses on March 17.

Romney is expected to win the Colorado caucus, but whether he’ll be able to reach the 60 percent that he took in 2008 is another matter. Santorum can boast of support from influential Christian conservative leaders in Colorado Springs, like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. El Paso County, home of Colorado Springs, casts the biggest percentage of GOP votes in the state.

The big bummer for Santorum, however, is that these low-key contests won’t get anywhere close to the level of coverage of the previous five contests. Reporters and cable outlets are not currently swarming the Twin Cities, St. Louis or Denver. Ultimately, that makes it harder for Santorum to get the kind of national boost that Romney and Gingrich got with their victories.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb032012

Rick Santorum Fails to Qualify for Indiana Ballot

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Rick Santorum did not fulfill the requirements to make the ballot in Indiana, the Indiana Republican Party announced Friday.

The primary is not scheduled until May 8.

Candidates needed 500 verified signatures from each of the nine congressional districts in the state.

The Indiana GOP told ABC News that Santorum fell short in the seventh congressional district, where the state capitol and largest city, Indianapolis, is located.

The state does not allow write-in candidates, but Santorum told reporters Friday in Fulton, Mo., that the campaign is challenging the decision. He blamed falling short of the signature requirement on re-districting and signatures that were disqualified. The former Pennsylvania senator said he’s confident he will end up on the ballot.

“From our perspective -- and they invalidated a whole bunch of signatures -- we’re going to review,” Santorum said. “We’re only 24 short. They invalidated 200 that they said were not good because of ditto marks, things like that. We’re going to go back and look. We have to make up 24 signatures and I think the fundamental issue is you can’t have petitions circulated and have one district be one thing and then half way through have the district change and not count the signatures that were given at the time that they were in fact in that district. So we’ve got some very credible, I’m sure solid, legal challenges, and I have no doubt that we’ll be on the ballot there.”

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all made it on to the Indiana ballot.

Santorum has consistently said that he will continue to stay in the race for the long haul and collect delegates up until the convention, but this marks the second state where he won’t be on the ballot and, therefore, not eligible to collect delegates.

He also did not qualify for the ballot in Virginia where there are 49 delegates at stake (only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified). In Indiana there are 46 delegates at stake.

Both Virginia and Indiana are states where delegates are allocated proportionally, as opposed to “winner takes all,” meaning these are states Santorum could ride out of with delegates despite not claiming victory.

Just last month in South Carolina, Santorum told reporters how important it was to get on the ballot in every state, pointing out that despite having a “campaign that was surviving on oxygen through a swizzle stick” they made getting on ballots a priority.

“We actually made the decision in December while we were sitting at two and three percent in the polls, in the national polls, not to put money in Iowa and actually to put money to getting on state ballots -- in December when people were saying you need to get on TV, if you don’t do well in Iowa you aren’t even going to get on these states, and we always believed in that, so I think you have to look at, given the resources we had, it’s amazing the states that we are on,” Santorum said. “And I think it shows a hopefulness and an optimism that our campaign always believed when every reporter was asking us, ‘Why are you in this race?’ We were putting $5- and $10,000, which was a ton of money for us back in December, [into] Oklahoma, Louisiana and places like that, so it’s really paid off for us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

 

Friday
Feb032012

Gingrich Calls Romney ‘Obama Lite,’ ‘Little Food Stamp’ and ‘Rich Guy’

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich took to the podium in a Las Vegas honky-tonk bar Friday to slam Mitt Romney.

Gingrich again criticized Romney for his controversial comments about poor people he made to CNN Wednesday.

“If you’re a genuine conservative, first of all, you don’t say that you don’t care about the poor,” Gingrich said. “My goal, the exact opposite of Gov. Romney, my goal is not to ignore or forget the poor. My goal is to turn the safety net into a trampoline to allow the poor to rise and be like the rest of us.”

Gingrich said Romney’s controversial comments about the poor were an “example of what we don’t want in a general election candidate.”

“So Gov. Romney [was] trying to recover from his boo-boo as the elite media did exactly what Obama will do this fall and kept replaying, ‘I don’t really care about the poor,’ which is, by the way, not a very clever thing for somebody who’s very wealthy to say,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich also took the opportunity to hit Romney on his connection with Wall Street billionaires, saying, “Wall Street isn’t Main Street.”

“We did not create Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so rich guys like Mitt Romney and Goldman Sachs could make money,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich compared Romney to President Obama several times in his speech, saying the Republican Party did not need to elect an “Obama lite.”

Gingrich also compared Romney and Obama on food stamps. Gingrich often calls Obama “the best food stamp president in history” as a part of his usual stump speech. But Friday, Gingrich added Romney into his rhetoric, calling him a “little food stamp.”

“We now know from Gov. Romney, he joins President Obama. Obama is big food stamp, he’s little food stamp -- but they both think food stamps are OK,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think food stamps are a future for America. They’re a necessary bridge back to getting a job and back to being independent of the government.”

Gingrich will continue to campaign Friday night at a church service in Las Vegas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

 

Thursday
Feb022012

Newt Gingrich to Challenge Florida GOP for Proportional Delegates

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is preparing to challenge the Republican Party of Florida after losing the Republican presidential primary there to Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

The “winner-take-all” state had 50 delegates, all of which went to Romney, who won the state with 46 percent of the vote. The Republican National Convention voted to make early voting states proportional for the 2012 election. Florida was penalized for keeping the “winner-take-all” status. If Florida allotted proportional delegates, Gingrich would likely have picked up 16 delegates, while Romney would have walked away with 23 delegates, leaving the other 11 delegates to be split among Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

“Florida was held before a certain date,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said. “Therefore, we’re asking the state of Florida Republican Party to enforce the existing rule.”

Hammond told reporters Thursday at a campaign stop in Las Vegas that the campaign is mailing a letter to the Republican Party of Florida, asking it to enforce the RNC proportional rule.

Before the letter had even been sent, the Florida RNC Chairman Lenny Curry responded in a statement that the state would not budge.

“Florida was winner-take-all before Election Day, we were winner take all on Election Day, we will remain winner take all,” Curry said. “As Bill McCollum confirmed to Fox News Thursday, had the outcome been different on Tuesday, he would not be seeking publicity for a challenge to the rules adopted by Florida’s Republicans. It is a shame when the loser of a contest agrees to the rules before, then cries foul after losing.”

When Hammond was asked if the campaign would be pursuing challenging the Florida RNC had they won, his response was “probably not.”

Gingrich has one event Friday in Nevada -- a grassroots rally in Las Vegas.

The Gingrich campaign insisted in Florida that it is competing in every state even though the number of public events have been minimal in Nevada so far.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

Gingrich Robo-Call: Romney Took Kosher Food from Holocaust Survivors

AFP/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Just when you thought it couldn’t get any nastier, some Florida voters Tuesday have been greeted with pre-recorded telephone calls saying Mitt Romney took kosher meals away from Holocaust survivors.

“Holocaust survivors who for the first time were forced to eat non-kosher because Romney thought $5 was too much to pay for your grandparents to eat kosher,” the robo-call said. “Where is Mitt Romney’s compassion for our seniors?” The call ends with these words: “Paid for by Newt 2012.”

When asked about the call, Gingrich told ABC News, “I don’t know anything about it” and suggested we “check if the allegation [about denying kosher meals to Holocaust survivors] is true.”

Newt Gingrich himself has made similar allegations on the campaign trail in Florida, albeit without referencing the Holocaust.

“Romney as governor imposed on Catholic hospitals provisions against their religious strictures and Romney as governor eliminated kosher food for retired Jewish senior citizens,” Gingrich told a crowd in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday. “He has no understanding of the importance of religious liberty in this country.”

It is true that in 2003 Romney rejected $600,000 in additional funds for Jewish nursing-home residents to get kosher meals. The New York Post reported on Romney’s veto of the funds this month. But the Post reported the funds were ultimately reinstated by the Massachusetts legislature.  Presumably, some Jewish nursing home residents would be survivors of the Holocaust. But Romney never singled them out.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond confirmed to ABC News that the robo-call came from the Gingrich campaign. He noted that the call was not “over the line” and added that the Massachusetts state legislature later voted to override the decision to cut funding for kosher meals.

“It’s sad to see Speaker Gingrich lashing out in a desperate attempt to try and save his floundering campaign,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told The Huffington Post. “Speaker Gingrich will say anything to distract voters....His record is one of failed and unreliable leadership and simply one Americans can’t risk.”

According to ABC News pollster Gary Langer, Jewish voters accounted for three percent of the Florida GOP primary vote in 2008.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

Mitt Romney: He Was ‘Vastly Outspent’ in S.C., But Analysts Disagree

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- As Florida voters cast their ballots on Tuesday, Mitt Romney spoke on the lessons he learned from the race he lost to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina just 10 days ago.

“In South Carolina we were vastly outspent with negative ads attacking me and we stood back and spoke about President Obama and suffered the consequence of that,” Romney told reporters outside his Florida campaign headquarters. "If you’re attacked, I’m not going to just sit back, I’m going to fight back and fight back hard.”

As it turns out it was Romney who vastly outspent his opponents.

According to sources tracking media buys during the South Carolina primary, Romney and his allies, which include two super PACs, purchased more than $4.6 million of television airtime during the run-up to the state’s Jan. 21 primary. The two pro-Romney super PACs, Restore Our Future and Citizens for a Working America, chipped in millions.

By comparison, the Gingrich campaign and a pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, spent more than $2.2 million in the state.

The Romney campaign alone spent more than double the Gingrich campaign on TV advertising. Romney did not begin running negative TV ads against Gingrich until after his South Carolina loss, but with the super PAC supporting him, he spent the vast majority of his money on negative attacks.

Romney is also swamping Gingrich on the Florida airwaves. According to media buying sources, Romney and the Restore Our Future super PAC has spent four-and-a-half times more than Gingrich and the Winning Our Future super PAC -- a difference of more than $12 million.

Many of those ads have forcefully attacked Newt Gingrich, including one that uses news file footage from 1997 when Gingrich was convicted of ethics violations in the House of Representatives.

“It would be wonderful if campaigns were nothing but positive,” Romney said on Tuesday, “but that’s certainly not the reality.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan302012

Romney Sings Instead of Swipes on Sunshine State’s Primary Eve

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(THE VILLAGES, Fla.) -- On the eve of the Florida primary, and after days of lobbing insults at Republican presidential rival Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney ignored the former speaker altogether.

Gone were the jabs about Gingrich complaining about debate crowds -- Romney has said Gingrich was acting like “Goldilocks” when he complained first about a quiet debate audience and then about one that was too loud.

Not heard were the accusations that Gingrich was “selling influence” during his time consulting for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

And there were no suggestions that Gingrich “look in the mirror” to examine why Floridians are not throwing their support behind the former speaker.

Instead, Romney sang.

He sang a verse of “America the Beautiful” as hundreds upon hundreds of residents of The Villages sat in lawn chairs listening, many wearing winter coats to ward off the "chilly" 65 degree weather.

And in what could be called another sign of his confidence in the Sunshine State, Romney will not hold any campaign events on primary day, while Gingrich has several scheduled.

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