Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks in Bluffton, S.C., as part of a three-day swing through the state. Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images.
Newt Gingrich is looking to bring some certainty to a Republican presidential race that has been anything but settled.
“I’m going to be the nominee,” the former House speaker told Jake Tapper of ABC News in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday. “It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.”
Gingrich is certainly correct about his standing in the polls. According to Real Clear Politics, his average spread in recent polls is more than 6 percent over Mitt Romney.
It’s worth noting that Republican caucus-goers in Iowa are still a month away from weighing in, and if one were to glance back at where things stood a month ago, Herman Cain was leading most national polls. Cain’s rise followed similar surges by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and even real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump.
Sensing a possible threat, Romney has started to go after Gingrich directly, referring to the former Georgia congressman as “a life-long politician” who has spent decades in Washington.
For his part, Gingrich told ABC News that he doesn’t plan on returning fire. “I don’t object if people want to attack me, that’s their right. All I’m suggesting that it’s not going to be very effective and that people are going to get sick of it very fast. And the guys who attacked each other in the debates up to now, every single one of them have lost ground by attacking. So they should do what they and their consultants want to do. I will focus on being substantive and I will focus on Barack Obama.”
Still, it’s clear Gingrich doesn’t want to be labeled as a Washington insider at a time when anti-establishment sentiment in the country is high. “The way I think, the degree to which I challenge the establishment and the degree to which I’m willing to follow ideas and solutions to their natural consequence without regard to Republican or Democratic political correctness makes me probably the most experienced political outsider in modern times,” Gingrich said Thursday in an interview with Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson.
Gingrich’s move to the front of the GOP pack has happened so suddenly that his staff is still trying to keep pace, reports Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman.
Even as Gingrich takes on the status of a national frontrunner, he continues to drive his skeletal campaign operation forward with seemingly individual force. He writes memos to staff outlining his vision for the campaign. He fields and personally answers emails from influential supporters. He largely relies on a core group of longtime friends and confidants — including his wife, Callista — for support.
But as Gingrich prepares to do battle with Mitt Romney’s well-funded, national-scale primary campaign, the powerhouse candidate needs an organization to match, and the former House speaker’s mom-and-pop political operation is now rushing to narrow the gap.
At the moment, Gingrich has only a spare operation in the early primary states — he didn’t have an Iowa headquarters until this week. At a recent Republican Party of Iowa dinner, several Republicans discussed how impressed they were by Gingrich and said they wanted to help his campaign, if only they could find someone to contact.
As former Des Moines Register political guru David Yepsen once put it, the key to campaigning is “organize, organize, organize, and get hot at the end.”
Gingrich needs to hope that he hasn’t gotten too hot too soon. And if he is able to maintain his place atop the polls, he then must count on the second part of Yepsen’s equation being more important than the first.
ELIMINATING THE OPTIONS
The Senate blocked two payroll tax extension proposals late Thursday night, forcing Democrats and Republicans to compromise if they want to extend or enhance the tax cut before it expires at the end of the year.
Jackie Calmes of the New York Times explains what happened:
Votes late on Thursday left the issue at an impasse. The Senate voted 51 to 49 for Democrats’ measure to further reduce Social Security payroll taxes next year for both workers and employers and to impose the surtax, but the tally was short of the 60 votes needed. One moderate Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, supported it. A Republican alternative, which would have extended the current more modest tax cut and slashed the federal payroll to pay for it, was rejected 78 to 20, with more than half of Republicans opposed.
The maneuvering suggests that the parties will agree to some continued relief before the current payroll tax cut expires on Dec. 31. But how much of a cut and how — or if — it will be paid for remain to be settled, with some in both parties saying that the tax break would further weaken the Social Security system’s financing.
The payroll tax fight is likely a preview of the 2012 campaigns for Congress and the White House. Democrats will be eager to paint Republicans as supporting the wealthy over the middle class during hard economic times.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., chastised Republicans after the vote.
“I was encouraged to see one Republican join Democrats in asking millionaires to pay their fair share. But because every other Republican continues to insist on protecting millionaires, middle class families could face a $1,000 tax increase next year. Democrats will not stop fighting to avoid that outcome. I hope Republicans will decide that the economic security of hard-working Americans is more important than protecting the wealthiest one percent,” Reid said.
Republican leaders have expressed support for extending the tax but want to pay for it through spending cuts. As evidenced by the split vote for the Republican measure in the Senate, however, the party is divided over whether to extend the cut. Bernie Becker and Russell Berman of the Hill newspaper highlight the divide:
“You’re allowing more Americans, frankly, every working American, to keep more of their money in their pocket,” (House SpeakerJohn Boehner, R-Ohio) added. “Frankly, that’s a good thing.”
Boehner’s comments stood in contrast to those of both veteran and rank-and-file Republicans, who said there was little evidence the payroll tax cut in 2011 had boosted the economy.
“If they could show me a lot of increases in jobs or something, that’s a different matter,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, said Wednesday. “But I don’t think they’ve been able to show that.”
The Washington Post reports that negotiations continue on a way forward on the tax cut, which saved the average working family around $1,000 last year, and that lawmakers are also looking for a way to extend the emergency unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the year.
Herman Cain acknowledged Thursday that he helped Ginger White with “month-to-month bills and expenses,” but did not tell his wife about the assistance.
The revelation came during an hour-long interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Cain again rejected allegations by White that the two had a 13-year extramarital affair, insisting that they were just friends.
Pressed about dozens of text messages exchanged between the two over the last few weeks, Cain said White had been reaching out for financial help. “She wasn’t the only friend who I had helped in these tough economic times, and so her messages to me were relating to ‘needed money for her rent’ or whatever the case may be. I don’t remember all the specifics.”
Cain told his staff earlier this week that he would reassess his presidential bid, given the toll the accusations were taking on his campaign and family.
Asked by the Union Leader if leaving the race was a possibility, Cain responded, “Yes, it is an option.”
“You will know by next week,” he added.
Cain has said he wanted to discuss the matter in person with his wife, Gloria, before making a final decision, a meeting that he said would take place Friday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has fallen to become one of the lower tier candidates in the 2012 Republican primary, is hoping he can win back some fans in Iowa and the rest of the early primary states with a new ad. In it, he makes fun of his disastrous debate gaffe in November when he couldn’t remember the name of the third government agency he would eliminate as president.
He remembered it this time. “Department of Energy” Perry states confidently after a clip of debate moment plays:
The ad aired as part of Perry’s appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Said Perry campaign communications director Ray Sullivan, “While the rest of GOP field is busy handling scandals, inconsistencies and contradictions on important issues, Gov. Perry’s appearance on Leno and his special Leno ad show he is confident enough to use the attention from last month’s Michigan debate to highlight his status as the true outsider conservative in the Republican field.”
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
- President Obama is in Washington, delivering remarks on investments in energy upgrades to public and private buildings at 11:10 a.m. and speaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Interior Department at 2:20 p.m.
- Michele Bachmann is in South Carolina for a pair of book signing events: Rock Hill at 3 p.m. and in Greenville at 6:30 p.m.
- Rick Santorum speaks to students and faculty at Merrimack High School in New Hampshire at 9 a.m., hosts a Toys-for-Tots drive at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Bedford at 6 p.m. and does some shopping to support locally owned businesses in Concord at 7:30 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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