Romney Video Reignites Battle Over ‘Insider’ Label

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 2, 2012 at 9:34 AM EST

Mitt Romney walks off of his campaign plane at Idaho Falls Regional Airport on March 1. Romney is campaigning in North Dakota, Idaho and Washington ahead of Super Tuesday. Photo by Getty Images.

The Morning Line

With just a few days until Super Tuesday and on the eve of a caucus in Washington state, the presidential campaign returns to the question of who is the bigger insider.

ABC News on Friday morning went live with a not-before-seen video that it called “long-forgotten tape from the 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race” that depicts Mitt Romney boasting about getting federal funds.

The ABC story that accompanied the footage led with this quote from Romney as he addressed the New Bedford Industrial Foundation in October 2002: “I am a big believer in getting money where the money is. … The money is in Washington.” The video was “surreptitiously shot by Democratic opponents of Romney,” ABC reports.

Romney continued, “I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities,” a message that is quite different from what voters hear from the candidate on the trail today while he lauds himself as the only candidate who hasn’t lived in Washington. It’s his rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Romney says, who are the real D.C. insiders.

You can bet those Republicans will mention this video as they talk with voters about why they think they deserve the nomination.

The Friday morning news comes after Santorum’s team cried foul over a last-minute 4-2 decision by Michigan Republican Party officials to award Romney both of the state’s at-large delegates, a change in rules after Romney eeked out a narrow victory there Tuesday.

From the Free Press’ story explaining what happened:

Saul Anuzis, a member of the credentials committee, said the party’s rules were passed in early February to award the two at-large delegates to the statewide winner, but that a memo sent, in error, to the candidates’ campaigns said the delegates would be distributed proportionately. “While we regret the error in the memo, it does not change what was voted on by the committee,” Anuzis said. “This is much to do about nothing.” Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley called the delegate situation “The kind of backroom dealing, political thuggery that just cannot happen in America.” “We never thought the Romney campaign would rig the outcome of the election by changing the rules after the vote,” he added. “It’s very clear the rules were not followed by the establishment so they could prop up their hand-picked candidate.”

With 10 states ready to award more than 400 delegates on Tuesday, a change in one may not seem like the biggest deal. But as the hopefuls are collecting as many as they can to reach 1,144 delegates, every one counts.

That’s one reason why Georgia is as important on the election calendar as Ohio. Should Gingrich, the former House speaker who represented the state in Congress, win big there next week, he’ll take the lion’s share of Georgia’s 76 delegates.

But Professor Charles Bullock of the University of Georgia isn’t sure Gingrich can crack 40 percent. Ray Suarez talked Thursday night with Bullock and John Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University, about the first real test of the candidates in the South.

“I think he will be the leading candidate, but he may see Santorum creeping up on him,” Bullock said of Gingrich. “And if Gingrich can’t do well in Georgia, then I don’t think there’s any encore for him. I think maybe this will be the last of his nine lives.”

Watch the segment here or below.

In other Gingrich news, a Texas tea party member on Friday morning announced a new pro-Gingrich super PAC. Brandon Todd issued a press release directing supporters to www.winningfreedom.org and www.newtgingrich360.com to make a difference in “the most important election of our lifetime.”

OHIO POLL

After their Michigan slugfest, it appears Santorum and Romney are locked in a rematch in Ohio. Santorum leads Romney 35 to 31 percent in a poll released Friday by Quinnipiac University.

Gingrich captured the support of 17 percent of survey respondents, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 12 percent.

Santorum holds advantages over Romney among self-described conservatives (40 to 27 percent) and Tea Party supporters (42 to 25 percent). Romney, meanwhile, leads among moderates, 46 to 26 percent.

Given the narrow margin between the two leading contenders, and the fact that a third of respondents said they might change their mind by next Tuesday, it appears the battle in the Buckeye State is still up for grabs.

WHAT OHIO VOTERS ARE SEEING

While Northeast Ohio is a heavily Democratic part of the state, the region is still home to plenty of Republicans, and the GOP candidates and the super PACs supporting them are clearly going after those voters on the air.

The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future had three different ads running during the 6 a.m. hour on Cleveland’s local NBC affiliate. The spots included a positive one about Romney helping a former business partner find his missing daughter (a recycled Romney campaign ad from 2007), plus two attacking Santorum for being a Washington insider. “Twenty years in Washington changed Rick Santorum,” a narrator says in one of the ads. The Romney campaign is taking a similar approach in its ad targeting Santorum.

Romney is under fire from both sides. The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future has an ad up that uses clips from people saying they don’t “trust” Romney and have trouble connecting with him. “Romney’s not the type to pump his own gas,” one woman says.

Big Labor is also going after Romney. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is running an ad jabbing Romney for his opposition to the auto bailout.

As far as the news coverage itself, Romney and Santorum were briefly mentioned about 40 minutes into the hour, with the anchors noting that each had campaign events in Northeast Ohio on Friday.

OFFICE VISITS

Terence spent Thursday morning visiting the Columbus campaign headquarters of Romney, Santorum and Paul to get a sense of how much their ground operations had picked up in Ohio.

The morning started with a stop at Romney headquarters in a nondescript shopping plaza a few miles west of downtown Columbus, where a handful of volunteers were busily working to get the office set up after last week’s grand opening. Reynoldsburg resident Les Davies, one of Romney’s Ohio delegates and cousin of the candidate’s wife, Ann, stopped in to check on the status of new yard signs and bumper stickers.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said the campaign had a “substantial” voter outreach effort underway, including home-based phone banking.

Santorum’s Columbus operation is based out of a sprawling business park in the northeast part of the city. About a half dozen volunteers were set up at folding tables making calls.

At Paul’s campaign headquarters, Mike Folker, a local radio personality, was the only one on the scene. He said the downtown office had been open for about two months and the effort was focused on phone banking and “sign bombing” high traffic areas around the city.

Columbus construction worker Rich Walker dropped by looking for a yard sign and a bumper sticker. He said he was drawn to Paul because “he has the most ambitious plan to cut spending” of all the GOP candidates.

ON BREITBART AND CANDIDATE PHOTOS

In the NewsHour’s Daily Download segment Thursday, Jeffrey Brown (@jeffreybrown) talked with Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn about Andrew Breitbart’s legacy. The Daily Download team (@dailydload) also talked about how photos can humanize politicians.

Watch here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols writes that President Obama “told a gathering of Wall Street donors that Democrats can’t unilaterally stop accepting money from big-dollar political- action committees, according to two people at the event.” “Obama told about 80 donors at a fundraising dinner in New York yesterday that he didn’t want to run for re-election at a disadvantage to Republicans, according to the people, who described the president’s comments on condition of anonymity because the event was private,” Nichols reports.

  • A new survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds Romney leading in Washington state with 37 percent to 32 percent for Santorum, 16 percent for Paul, and 13 percent for Gingrich, a reversal from a poll that found Santorum at 38 percent to Romney’s 27 percent.

  • The Associated Press interviews GOP voters across the country and finds them weary of a long, drawn-out primary fight.

  • The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow writes about Oklahoma’s contest on Tuesday.

  • Vice President Joe Biden rapped Santorum’s suggestion that it’s snobbery to call on all Americans to get at least a year of vocational training or go to college, reports O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa. “I think there’s an ideological divide between Rick Santorum and all of America on this. I don’t think it’s between the parties,” Biden told her. “Look, I’ve been going college campuses and high schools all across America for the past six months talking about what the facts are. Six out of the 10 jobs over the next 10 years are going to require…either a certificate or a degree beyond high school. It’s that simple.”

  • The pro-Romney Restore our Future super PAC went after Santorum in a fundraising email as a “professional politician who has been part of the problem in government and has abandoned his conservative principles.” The email announced a new site for attack ads, http://www.rickfacts.com/. Sound familiar? The PAC also used newtfacts.com.

  • NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff (@judywoodruff) opines on the independent voters who helped propel President Obama to victory in 2008. “This year, there’s good reason to believe those same voters who sided with Obama — rather than the 44 percent of independents who went with Sen. John McCain — will determine the outcome. First, it’s safe to assume almost all self-described Republicans and Democrats will vote for their party’s candidate. And it’s almost as safe to assume that the McCain independents in 2008 will be reluctant to switch to Obama four years later,” Judy writes.

  • The Obama campaign team has been using the GOP primaries to excite the base. The Virginia campaign is making a big push to register voters over the weekend, asking residents of nearby D.C. and Maryland to help out. DC for Obama, an unaffiliated group boosting the president, also is getting in on the action, writing supporters, “It’s time to show what this movement is made of … every new voters who shows up to cast a ballot brings us one step closer to victory.” In Massachusetts, the campaign deployed Gov. Deval Patrick to address Democratic house parties this week.

  • Are you following @burlij? He’ll be our man on the ground in Ohio through Sunday. Also follow @merrillnewshour and @judywoodruff as they report on the Buckeye State.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • The generic Congressional ballot is tied at 47 percent for each party in a new Gallup poll.

  • The Associated Press reports that former presidential hopeful John Edwards’ trial will begin April 12.

  • Chad Condit, the son of former California Rep. Gary Condit, appears set to launch a campaign for Congress as an independent in California’s Central Valley, Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad reports.

  • Sen. Olympia Snowe pens a Washington Post op-ed explaining her decision to retire instead of seek re-election.

  • Former George W. Bush White House aide Pete Seat has launched a new website to offer a “Heartland perspective” on politics.

  • Christina is moderating a panel at South by Southwest in Austin next month. Here are the details, tell all your friends.

NewsHour political desk assistant Alex Bruns contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney holds a pair of events: a meeting with voters in Bellevue, Wash., at 11:25 a.m. and a rally with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Cleveland, Ohio, at 7 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio at 1 p.m. and addresses the Lake County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in Eastlake, Ohio at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich attends four events in Georgia on Friday. He begins his day in Savannah at 9:30 a.m., then stops in Brunswick at 2:30 p.m. and finishes up with a pair of evening rallies in Valdosta at 6 p.m. and in Columbus at 8 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has a pair of Washington State town hall meetings scheduled, in at 3 p.m. and in Ridgefield 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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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.