THE MORNING LINE -- November 28, 2011 at 8:02 AM ET
Gingrich Looks to Build on Momentum
Republican presidential hopeful and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista sign books Friday after speaking at a Hilton Hotel in Naples, Fla. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
By picking up a coveted newspaper endorsement over the weekend to go along with his front-runner status in many recent national polls, Newt Gingrich heads into the final month of 2011 with plenty of momentum.
On Sunday, the former House speaker, long considered the "ideas man" of the Republican Party, received the backing of the influential New Hampshire Union Leader, which praised Gingrich for his "innovative, forward-looking strategy."
The paper made no mention of current New Hampshire front-runner Mitt Romney, but by making the issue of consistency a key component of its endorsement, the editorial board seemed to be sending a direct message to the former Massachusetts governor, who has long been dogged by charges of flip-flopping.
"We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job," publisher Joseph W. McQuaid wrote. "We don't have to agree with them on every issue. We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."
Gingrich's willingness to go out on a limb was on display in last Tuesday's debate in Washington, where he stated a position that would allow some illegal immigrants with long-standing ties to the United States to remain in the country legally.
That position has made him the target of attacks from some of his Republican rivals, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who told the PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown that Gingrich has the "most liberal position on illegal immigration of any of the candidates in the race."
Bachmann kept up the pressure on Gingrich over the weekend, highlighting a 2004 letter signed by Gingrich in support of former President George W. Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform.
"This letter is a clear indication that Speaker Gingrich has a deep history of supporting amnesty," Bachmann said. "I don't agree that you should make 11 million workers legal because that in effect is amnesty and will only encourage more illegal immigrants to come here."
With her poll numbers in single digits, Bachmann needs to peel off some of Gingrich's support among conservative voters, especially in Iowa, where Gingrich's position may put him at odds with a large part of the electorate.
It will be more interesting to see how much Romney decides to challenge Gingrich on the immigration issue -- and others -- given the Union Leader endorsement.
A recent WMUR poll in the Granite State showed Romney with 42 percent support among Republican voters, followed by Gingrich at 15 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 12 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 8 percent.
If those numbers start to shift more in Gingrich's favor, look for Romney's strategy to also change, as his path to the nomination largely depends on winning New Hampshire.
Lawmakers return to Washington this week after members of the so-called 'supercommittee' failed last week to reach an agreement on at least $1.2 trillion in long-term deficit reduction.
Their proposal would almost certainly have dominated the conversation on Capitol Hill through the end of the year. Instead, the agenda will be consumed with more immediate fiscal matters, such as extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.
The payroll holiday, enacted last year, reduced by 2 percent the share employees contribute to Social Security, which resulted in an extra $1,000 in the annual paycheck of the average worker -- at a cost of $112 billion.
Supporters contend the measure spurs consumer spending and creates more jobs, and that doing away with it now would cause further harm to an already fragile economic recovery. Opponents, meanwhile, argue the holiday has had little stimulative impact in the year since it went into effect.
That debate spilled over into the Sunday morning talk shows. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who was a member of the supercommittee, said the tax cut should not be extended for two reasons.
"The problem here is that the payroll tax doesn't go into general revenue, it supports Social Security. And you can't keep extending the payroll tax holiday and have a secure Social Security. That's the first problem," Sen. Kyl told "Fox News Sunday."
Kyl also objected to how Democrats would pay for the holiday -- with a surtax on the top 1 percent of wage earners.
"By taxing the people who provide the jobs, you put off the day we have economic recovery and job creation in this country," Kyl said. "And that's precisely what the Democratic plan would do. It would hit those people, the small businesses who we all acknowledge are the ones who create the jobs coming out of economic difficulty."
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said allowing the payroll tax cut to expire would result in a tax increase on those who need the money most.
"I can't believe that at a time when working families in this country are struggling paycheck to paycheck, when we need them to have the resources to buy thing in our economy, to create wealth and profitability and more jobs, that the Republican position is, they'll raise the payroll tax on working families? I think that just defies logic."
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats would push the payroll tax cut until Republicans got on board.
"I think it's very hard for Republicans to vote against this given their past history of defending the tax cuts for the wealthiest among us," Schumer said. "If they don't, if it doesn't pass once, we're going to put it on the floor again and again, and we would be open to other ideas of paying for it if this one fails."
The battle lines were not perfectly red and blue, as Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., told ABC's "This Week" that he could see the payroll tax cut being extended.
"I think that probably some package of that with other features might very well pass," Toomey said.
MITT VS. MITT
The consistency issues for Romney mentioned above are also the subject of a new Democratic National Committee TV ad being released Monday.
Politico's James Hohmann has the details:
The Democratic National Committee is putting an undisclosed sum behind a TV ad in six markets that attacks Mitt Romney as an inconsistent flip-flopper, escalating their attacks on a frontrunner they see as a vulnerable. The 30-second TV ad will run in Albuquerque, NM; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; and Milwaukee, WI on a mix of broadcast and cable.
The spot is a movie-style trailer for a longer four-minute web video. You can watch the full TV ad here:
If Romney eventually emerges as the GOP nominee, it's a safe bet these attacks will receive an encore appearance from Democrats next year.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama welcomes leaders of the European Union to a summit at the White House.
Rick Santorum holds a meet-and-greet in Barrington, N.H., at 8 a.m. and hosts a town hall in Franklin at 3:30 p.m.
Herman Cain attends a fundraiser in McLean, Va., at 6:30 p.m.
Newt Gingrich participates in a town hall hosted by Rep. Tim Scott in Charleston, S.C., at 7 p.m.
Jon Huntsman holds a town hall in Merrimack, N.H., at 7 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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