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Entries in Primaries (82)

Monday
Jan302012

Gingrich Cites Days-Old Poll as New in Florida Speech

ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The majority of polls released in the lead-up to the Florida primary have shown Mitt Romney increasing his lead over Newt Gingrich, but during his third stop of his fly-around Florida tour Monday, Gingrich cited a days-old poll that he said had come out just hours before his speech as showing him tied in Florida with Romney.

“Tomorrow is a really, really big day, and let me just say, the polls are all over the place. We just got word of a brand-new poll that came out about an hour ago that said we are now tied 35 percent,” Gingrich said, as some in the crowd started to chant, “Newt! Newt! Newt!”

The poll was actually released Friday and conducted early last week, when the margin between Gingrich and Romney was much smaller than it is one day before the primary.

A Quinnipiac poll of likely Republican voters in Florida released Monday found Romney with a 14-point lead over Gingrich, receiving 43 percent of support compared to 29 percent garnered by the former speaker.

Gingrich said the Romney campaign viewed their path victory through a plan to “destroy Gingrich,” causing them to deploy millions of dollars in advertisements on what Gingrich labeled as “falsehoods” after witnessing Gingrich’s rise in the polls and win in South Carolina.

Traveling throughout the state by plane the day before the primary, Gingrich appeared at the event in a Tampa airport hangar an hour and forty-five minutes late. The airport hangar was partitioned into three areas with giant blue curtains, with the small crowd of over 200 people only filing into the center section. Some of the volunteers who spoke before Gingrich’s arrival took to the podium more than once, and at one point, a volunteer even asked people in the audience if they would like to speak about Gingrich.

Gingrich was introduced by Michael Reagan and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who endorsed Gingrich on Saturday evening.

“The liberals, the administration, President Obama, they want you to believe the game is over. The game is just getting started,” Cain said as he tried to rev up the audience while they waited for Gingrich to conclude media interviews.

Over the past week, the crowd sizes at Gingrich’s event have vacillated. Early last week, Gingrich had more than 5,000 people at a park in Naples, but four days later, he found himself speaking to just 50 people at a Hispanic town hall in Orlando. Gingrich’s crowd counts were back up Sunday, when thousands of senior citizens waited in the sun for the former speaker in a parking lot adjacent to a Barnes & Noble in The Villages retirement community.

But despite the low turnout at his Tampa event Monday, Gingrich tried to keep his supporters upbeat about his prospects in the primary, telling the audience that a win in Florida will send a message to the establishment figures and financial titans who balk at a Gingrich victory.

“With your help, we’re going to win a great victory tomorrow,” Gingrich said. “We’ll send a signal to George Soros, to Goldman Sachs and to the entire New York and Washington establishment that money power can’t buy people power.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan272012

Santorum Appeals to Cuban Americans Ahead of Florida Primary

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Rick Santorum appealed to Cuban-Americans Friday by telling the Latin Builders Association conference that they remind him of the people he grew up in the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania.

“Whenever I come down to the Cuban community here it seems like my home when I was growing up,” Santorum said at the Latin Builders Association Conference. “It’s a neighborhood of people who believe so strongly and love their faith, their family. It’s a sense of just a connectiveness to the community that I experienced when I was a kid growing up in that ethnic community I grew up in. It’s a wonderful lesson for our country.”

Santorum made his pitch to the state’s influential conservative voting bloc in the state ahead of Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

Accompanied by his eldest daughter Elizabeth he didn’t mention the issue of immigration, but did say Cuban Americans “as much as any community understands freedom and passion.”

The former Pennsylvania senator has previously criticized President Obama’s decision to ease restrictions on the country, 90 miles from Florida’s shores.

He called Venezuela, “Cuba Part B” and said they are a “willing partner with radical Islamists.”

“Why would they get together?” Santorum asked telling the crowd that Hugo Chavez is coordinating with Iran. “Because they both hate America and see America as a threat to a vision of the world and they both want to oppress and control and seek power so they have gotten together and coordinated.”

Santorum said “both the Bush administration and the Obama administration systematically ignored that area of the world” and he vowed as president not to do the same.

The Latin Builders Association is the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States and after Santorum’s address they decided to endorse him for president. The group said there was a “very spirited debate,” but in the end they decided to back Santorum. Newt Gingrich also spoke to the group Friday. Mitt Romney addressed the conference during the last campaign, but not this cycle. The group said all of the candidates were invited to speak.

Santorum did not criticize any of his opponents, but said the field needs a “sharp contrast” to the president and “someone who believes in the founding principles of our country.”

“Newt Gingrich I consider a friend, Gov. Romney is a good man and Ron Paul certainly brings a unique perspective to the equation,” Santorum said to laughs. “I just felt like it was important to have someone with a little different approach.”

Santorum heads to his home state of Pennsylvania where he holds a fundraiser Friday evening. He is going to spend part of Saturday in Virginia, where he now lives, attending another fundraiser and getting his tax returns from his home computer and preparing to release them. He returns to Florida late Saturday night.

He told reporters Thursday he may not be in the state on primary day, instead possibly traveling to one of the upcoming caucus states like Colorado, Missouri or Nevada where he has a chance to collect delegates. Florida is a winner takes all state, meaning the victor on Tuesday will head out of this important primary and general election state with all of its delegates. Since the state broke party rules by pushing its primary forward there is a slight chance it will not be winner takes all, something Santorum cites as one of his reasons for campaigning here, but there is almost no real chance of this.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan272012

Florida See-Saw Tipping in Mitt Romney’s Direction

Charles Dharapa-Pool/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- Call it a ping-pong match or the swing of the pendulum, however you want to describe the volatile race in Florida, Mitt Romney now seems to have the upper hand.

Just days ago, it looked like Newt Gingrich might have enough momentum coming out of South Carolina to claim the top prize in the Sunshine State. But with four full days of campaigning to go until next Tuesday’s primary, Gingrich’s star seems to be fading.

Romney has opened up a 38 to 29 percent lead over Gingrich among Republican likely voters in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday. Compare that to the results of a poll taken just days ago showing Romney with 36 percent of likely primary voters to Gingrich’s 34 percent.

“Of course, with four days before Election Day, there is time for another reversal,” Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown said. “Three in 10 voters say they might change their mind.”

But it’s unlikely that between now and Tuesday Gingrich will have a better chance than he had Thursday night to break through and the debate was an enormous missed opportunity for him. It was Romney who pulled the attack dog rug right out from under Gingrich’s feet.

And it was Romney who finally looked like a candidate who wants to win this election, experts say. He was aggressive and disciplined, and never allowed Gingrich to get the upper hand.

Several of Romney’s answers were as knife-sharp as we’ve seen at any debate during the primary season, particularly his laundry list of projects, including the lunar colony, that Gingrich has proposed.

“In South Carolina, it was a new interstate highway, and dredging the port in Charleston. In New Hampshire, it was burying a power line coming in from Canada and building a new VHA hospital in New Hampshire so that people don’t have to go to Boston,” Romney said. “This idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that’s what got us into the trouble we’re in now.”

“A big idea,” Romney concluded, is not always “a good idea.”

Gingrich, by comparison, fell flat. The fired up and aggressive Newt we saw on the campaign trail this week was not on the stage last night. In his place was a passive and hesitant candidate. Even his attempt at turning the audience against the moderator didn’t work.

With the debates now history, the fight to win the fourth nominating state will largely be waged on the ground as the campaign machines of both candidates try to drive turnout on Tuesday and engage in a fierce war on airwaves. Without the political winds at his back, Gingrich could fall prey to Romney’s superior resources and organization.

Neither of those were enough to guarantee him wins in Iowa or South Carolina, but they might be in Florida.

The Florida Debate in 60 Seconds

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan252012

Fla. Poll: Gingrich and Romney in Close Race in the Sunshine State

Ethan Miller/Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(NAPLES, Fla.) -- A new CNN-Time magazine-Opinion Research Corporation poll out on Wednesday shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in a statistical dead heat for the lead in Florida less than a week before voters here cast their ballots.

Romney is laying claim to 36-percent support compared to 34 percent for Gingrich.

But, like other polls out within the last few days, the survey shows Gingrich taking a large bite out of Romney’s lead here just within the last week. In another CNN-Time-ORC poll taken Jan. 13-17, Romney stood at 43 percent with Gingrich trailing at 18 percent.

Wednesday’s poll, which was taken from Jan. 22-24, shows something of a silver lining for Romney.

On the first day pollsters were out in the field (Sunday) Gingrich was up 38 percent to 32 percent, but on the second two days (Monday and Tuesday) it was Romney who had the advantage, 38 percent to 29 percent. It’s more evidence that Monday’s GOP debate in Tampa helped Romney and that Newt-mentum may be ebbing.

Romney insiders also believe polls show a slight trend in their direction.  But the volatility of this year’s campaign season makes them feel this is no slam-dunk. They need to have a strong week and, most important, a strong debate Thursday night in Jacksonville.

In Wednesday’s poll former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped eight percentage points, slipping from 19 percent in mid-January to 11 percent Wednesday. Ron Paul, who is not competing in Florida, is going nowhere in the Sunshine State: he’s held steady at nine percent from one week ago.

The fresh CNN-Time-ORC results track closely with a new Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters out on Wednesday morning that also showed Romney at 36 percent compared to 34 percent for Gingrich.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Santorum: Not His Job to Correct a Woman on Obama’s Religion

AFP/Getty Images(LADY LAKE, Fla.) -- Rick Santorum became annoyed at reporters Monday for asking him why he didn’t correct a woman at a campaign event who called President Obama an “avowed Muslim.”

“Why do you guys ask these ‘gotcha’ questions, like it’s my job to go out and correct everybody who says something I don’t agree with?” Santorum said to reporters after the event. “I don’t think it’s my responsibility. Why don’t you go out and correct her? It’s not my responsibility as a candidate to correct everybody who makes a statement that I disagree with.”

The woman told Santorum that Obama is not “legally” the president, that he “totally ignores” the Constitution, and that “he is an avowed Muslim.” She asked Santorum why Obama is still president, and the candidate responded by saying, “I’m doing my best to get him out of the government right now.”

“He uniformly ignores the Constitution,” Santorum said, not correcting the woman on Obama’s religion. “He did this with these appointments over the, quote, recess that was not a recess, and if I was in the United States Senate, I would be drawing the line.”

Obama is a Christian but hasn’t been able to persuade many Republicans that he is. An August 2010 Pew poll showed 18 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim, up from 12 percent the month before he was elected.

During the 2008 campaign, a woman asked GOP nominee John McCain a question and called Obama an “Arab.” McCain immediately corrected her, saying, “No, no ma’am, he’s a decent, family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is about.”

Santorum told ABC News it wasn’t his “responsibility” to “correct” every questioner that says something “crazy.”

“There are lots of people who get up and say stuff in a town hall meeting and say things that I don’t agree with, but I don’t think it’s my obligation, nor should it be your feeling that it’s my obligation to correct somebody who says something that I don’t agree with,” Santorum told reporters.

At the end of his town hall at an American Legion Hall in Lady Lake, Fla., several Occupy protesters screamed, “Mic check” and “Stop the hate!” while throwing glitter.

He told reporters they “have the right to protest.” They have interrupted several of his events, including his speech the night of the South Carolina primary, where he came in third.

Despite calls for him to get out of the race and back Newt Gingrich, Santorum was very clear after his event Monday that he intends to be in the race “long term” and he’s looking beyond the primary in this state, which is on Jan. 31.

He spent most of his speech, before taking questions from the audience, focused on health care and criticizing the president on his health care reform legislation. Most of the people there were senior citizens, a large part of Florida’s population.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Florida Primary: Romney Focuses on Housing Crisis, Attacks Gingrich on Freddie Mac Ties

ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The issue of the housing crisis has stayed largely on the backburner in the 2012 campaign cycle, but that's likely to change this week as candidates head to Florida, one of the states hit hardest by the housing bubble.

Mitt Romney was quick to jump on that bandwagon, playing up the housing issue as he kicked off the week of campaigning in the Sunshine State, and hitting his chief rival, South Carolina primary winner Newt Gingrich, hard on his past ties to beleaguered housing giant Freddie Mac.

Romney's message can have far-reaching impact in Florida, where the housing market remains in doldrums and unemployment is at 10 percent, higher than the national average of 8.5 percent.

"It's very big because so many communities are just so hard hit by it. People see it up close and personal," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. "There's just this nagging thing that the federal government can help the rich and help the poor but when it comes to the middle-class person whose losing their home, they haven't done squat. So they [the candidates] are going to be aiming that message toward the middle-income, middle-age voters."

Over the last four years, Florida has consistently been among the top four states in foreclosures. In 2011, it ranked seventh in RealtyTrac's list of states with the highest foreclosure rates. One of the main reasons for that drop, experts say, is the backlog in the market that will push many foreclosures to this year.

One in every 360 housing units received a foreclosure filing in December, according to RealtyTrac, and the problem is particularly amplified in cities such as Miami and Palm Beach.

Romney, who advocates a hands-off approach, will have to walk a fine line in a state that's particularly sensitive about this issue. The former governor earned liberal ire in October for suggesting that the foreclosure process should just "run its course and hit the bottom."

"The idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we're going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we're going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we're going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can't make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven't worked," Romney said at a debate in Nevada, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Romney, however, sang a different tune in 2008, which may not only disconnect him from conservatives but is also unlikely to sit in well with Florida voters.

The former governor suggested four years ago that one way to help the housing market would be "by loosening and relaxing some of the requirements of the FHA program so that more loans can be guaranteed and more people can stay in their homes without having to foreclose."

Many economists say it was exactly those lack of restrictions that caused the housing bubble. In Florida, the problem of loose mortgage standards was especially compounded and is one that is still being played out in courts to this day.

Those questions, however, have yet to be posed to Romney, who is on the offensive against Gingrich for his past work. The former Massachusetts governor questioned Gingrich's claims that he did not lobby and called on him to release his contract with Freddie Mac, as well as his list of clients.

Some of the documents pertaining to Gingrich's work with Freddie Mac were released Monday evening.

Gingrich has said that, as an adviser, he warned Freddie Mac that its model would collapse, a warning that Romney charged Monday should've been made public. He went another step further and said the former House speaker should actually return the money he made from Freddie Mac.

Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, has already been attacking Gingrich for nearly a month in the Sunshine State.

Gingrich has said that the decision to release his contract is in the hands of his former company, the Center for Health Transformation, and he denied once again that he did any lobbying.

Connecting with people in a state that has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates will be a tough job for Romney and Gingrich, both of whom are millionaires.

Jobs are a prime agenda for Floridians. Only four other states -- California, Nevada, Mississippi and Rhode Island -- have an unemployment rate higher than Florida's while Illinois and North Carolina are tied. For Romney, that challenge is magnified even more. The former governor has said he would release his tax records on Tuesday, which would, on one hand, satisfy his rivals' demands, but on the other hand could expose the amount of wealth he has, which his competitors could use to present him as disconnected with voters.

Gingrich and Romney went head-to-head Monday night for the first time in Florida in an NBC News debate at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Santorum Betting Hard on South Carolina, But Won’t Readily Admit It

AFP/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- Rick Santorum is betting heavily on South Carolina, buying up $1.5 million worth of television ads ahead of next week’s primary, but one would be hard-pressed to get the former Pennsylvania senator to admit just how important winning this state is to his prospects of sealing the GOP nomination.

Asked if he, like opponent Newt Gingrich, believes South Carolina is a “must-win state,” Santorum punted, calling this critical primary state just “the third state out of 50.”

“I wouldn’t call that the must-win category. We’re going to do well here and we’re going to fight,” he said.

Santorum is hoping that this socially conservative state will deliver him an upset victory, telegraphing to future primary states that the nomination of frontrunner Mitt Romney is not a foregone conclusion.

Santorum, who on Wednesday opened five new campaign offices in this state and named 169 new county captains, is betting on a grassroots ground game strategy similar to the one that delivered him a virtual tie for first place in Iowa.

At an event in Ridgeway Wednesday, he insisted the race here was still anyone’s game.

“It's good to get back here and get on the ground,” he told a small crowd at the YesterYear Restaurant.

“Some of you have seen this movie Forrest Gump. That’s what it is every week — you don’t know what you’re going to get. We’ve had some great contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and all of that is really a primer to South Carolina. We feel this is a place where the field is wide open,” he said.

Despite spending more time in New Hampshire than any candidate other than Jon Huntsman, Santorum played down his fifth-place finish there, insisting he spent no money in the state, ran no ads, and was competing against Huntsman and Romney, who “lived there.”

Santorum is trying to sell himself as a conservative in contrast to his portrayal of Romney as a “Boston moderate,” but in addition to Romney he has to contend with other conservatives vying for the same voters.

“South Carolina is open for anyone and it’s an opportunity to go out and earn it,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Ron Paul Predicts ‘Top Tier’ Finish in South Carolina

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- A confident Ron Paul Wednesday predicted a “top tier" finish in the South Carolina primary.

Fresh off his strong second-place showing in the New Hampshire primary, Paul said his campaign is “gathering momentum,” adding he sent a positive message out of Iowa and New Hampshire and he hopes to do the same in South Carolina Jan. 21.

The Texas congressman told a crowd of more than 200 people in an aviation hangar near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport that his support was expanding beyond “a tireless irate minority.”

“The numbers are growing. They grew exponentially in New Hampshire and they’re going to grow continuously in South Carolina as well,” said Paul.

Although the congressman promised to be “very, very, busy” before the Jan. 21 primary, he headed home to Texas for another multi-day break from campaigning.

It’s going to be a tough battle for the libertarian-leaning congressman, whose foreign policy views and anti-war positions might be expected to hurt him in a state with large military institutions and a heavy defense industry.

Paul took issue with that characterization, stating he receives more money from active military than all the other candidates combined.

“They are not going to believe the rumors that I don’t care about national defense because they know that I support the military and the military supports me wholeheartedly,” said Paul.

Paul has launched an aggressive TV ad campaign in the state aimed mainly at Rick Santorum. The ads state the former Pennsylvania senator has “a record of betrayal,” accusing him of collaborating with union leaders and being one of the “most corrupt” members of Congress.

When asked if Republican voters might he turned off by the negative tone of the ads, Paul replied, ”I didn’t know there was one.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Ballot Rules: Easiest, Toughest States for Candidates

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Friday U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. is expected to issue a ruling on the Virginia ballot challenge brought by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Perry, joined by his GOP opponents Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, filed a court order in late December requesting access to the ballot in Virginia’s March 6 primary, after failing to qualify in the commonwealth earlier that month.

The four GOP presidential candidates assert that Virginia’s ballot rules impose a “severe burden” and are unconstitutional. Indeed, Virginia’s requirements to get on their ballot are numerous and specific; the state requires each candidate to submit 10,000 signatures to the state board of elections, including 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, and signatures can only be collected by registered or eligible-to-register Virginian voters.

With the decision from Judge Gibney on the way, ABC News took a look at other states, besides Virginia, that have a difficult set of requirements to gain access to their ballot, as well as the states with simplest ballot requirements.

Arizona

Arizona has one of the simplest rules for ballot qualification. There is one ballot requirement: candidates must submit a nomination paper, complete with a notarized, original (photocopied sheets not allowed) signature from the candidate. Jon Huntsman failed to qualify in this state because the paper turned in on his behalf was not notarized.

Illinois


Illinois is a difficult state, with requirements similar to (though not as stringent as) Virginia. To qualify for the presidential preference ballot, a candidate must submit no fewer than 3,000 and no more than 5,000 signatures. On top of that, to qualify for ballot access in a specific congressional district, a candidate must submit 600 signatures per district, for each of the state’s 19 congressional districts.

Louisiana

Louisiana falls into the category of states with the easiest requirements. The state gives candidates two possible ways to qualify for the ballot in their presidential primary. Candidates can either turn in a total of 1,000 signatures from members of their respective party throughout the state. These signatures must include residents of each of the state’s eight congressional districts. Or, if a candidate prefers, they can submit a filing fee of $1,125.

New Hampshire


The first-in-the-nation primary ballot is easy to qualify for: Candidates must submit a declaration of candidacy along with a $1,000 filing fee to the New Hampshire secretary of state. This low qualifying threshold tends to result in a long list of names on the ballot.

South Carolina

South Carolina is a wild card -- for a well-financed candidate the state’s qualifications are easy; for a candidate whose campaign is low on cash, the state is difficult. That’s because South Carolina, while they have no signature requirements, has a lofty filing fee. Candidates who pay the Palmetto State’s filing fee before May 5 save a bit of a money -- they are only required to pay $25,000. For candidates who submit their payment afterwards, the price jumps up $10,000 to $35,000.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

Mitt Romney Projected to Win New Hampshire Primary

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- ABC News projects that Mitt Romney will win the nation's first primary in New Hampshire, marking the first time since 1976 that a Republican candidate has won the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary back to back.

Based on the exit poll data and ABC News' analysis of the vote in so far, Rep. Ron Paul is projected to be second and Jon Huntsman will place third.

Crowds at Romney's gathering in New Hampshire erupted in cheers as the results were announced.

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In a race in which electability was the top concern for voters, most picked the former Massachusetts governor as the GOP candidate most likely to beat President Obama. Underscoring GOP unhappiness with the current administration, exit polls showed that eight in 10 New Hampshire primary voters were either dissatisfied or downright angry with the Obama administration, mainly stemming from economic discontent.

Independents turned out in greater-than-usual numbers in the primaries, a trend that could bode well for Romney in November if he nabs the nomination. Independent voters are expected to play a crucial role in this swing state for both the incumbent president and his challenger. 

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Exit polls showed that concerns about electability, economic discontent and a less conservative but more divided base than in Iowa last week helped shape the New Hampshire primary.

Though experts say the race is far from decided, the Granite State has a good track record of picking the eventual nominee on the Republican side.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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