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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: New Hampshire

Iowa determined to go first in GOP presidential nomination race

   Hillary-Clinton-New-Hampshire-2008

Herman Cain upset the Republican presidential apple cart with an impressive win Saturday in the Florida straw poll. Now it looks like the Sunshine State could once again disrupt the march toward picking an opponent for President Obama.

According to published reports, Florida's presidential primary could move to Jan. 31, more than a month ahead of schedule. A panel named by Gov. Rick Scott and GOP legislative leaders is expected to complete the move Friday, and that could put the state in hot water with the Republican National Committee.

(UPDATE: And the panel indeed did move the primary to Jan. 31)

According to RNC rules designed to prevent a chaotic rush during primary season, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can hold elections before March 6.

But Florida, which will play host to the 2012 Republican National Convention, in Tampa, wants to have a more central role in picking the nominee. To achieve that, it would run afoul of the RNC, which will dock it about half of its 116 convention delegates.

Speaking to the Miami Herald, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Merritt Island) said: "That's the price we have to pay. I feel bad for those folks who might not be able to be delegates. But ... we'd love to give the entire Republican Party membership in Florida the ability to have an influence on who the nominee would be."

Florida also pulled a similar move in 2008, moving its primary to Jan. 29, and helping to lock up the nomination for Sen. John McCain. Though all the Florida delegates made it to the convention floor in Minneapolis-St. Paul -- with about half being characterized as "honored guests" -- the RNC seems in no mood to make a deal this time.

Also speaking to the Herald, RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said: "Any state that violates the rules will lose half their delegates. This is not a negotiation. These are the rules."

The current schedule has the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 6, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 18, and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28.

Determined not to be knocked off its perch as the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Iowa will do what it takes to keep its place of honor.

In a statement, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said: "The four sanctioned, early states have been very clear that we will move together, if necessary, to ensure order as outlined in RNC rules. If we are forced to change our dates together, we will."

In a Sept. 29 interview on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren," GOP candidate Sen. Rick Santorum (obviously not a disinterested observer), said: "For the life of me, I don't understand what Florida's trying to accomplish, because whatever they're going to accomplish, they're going to fail. ... All you've effectively done is cut off one month of the lead-up time to this primary process."

He also defended the role of the smaller states, saying: "They've had a pretty good track record of taking the responsibility very seriously. ... These states are smaller states. It's manageable for them to meet the candidates, to kick the tires, to find out who these people really are."

Theoretically, Iowa could go as early as the first week of the year.

Democrats avoid all this hullabaloo by having their incumbent run unopposed (at least so far). But if former Clinton advisor Dick Morris is to be believed, the Democratic race could become as complicated as the GOP's.

In a Sept. 21 article on his website, DickMorris.com, the former Democrat strategist writes: "As bad news piles up for the Democrats, I asked a top Democratic strategist if it were possible that President Obama might 'pull a Lyndon Johnson' and soberly face the cameras, telling America that he has decided that the demands of partisan politics are interfering with his efforts to right our economy and that he has decided to withdraw to devote full time to our recovery.

"His answer: 'Yes. It’s possible. If things continue as they are and have not turned around by January, it is certainly possible.' "

Though Morris is leaning toward prediction territory, he's not the first person to publicly suggest the same thing.

On Sept. 18, Steve Chapman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune (a sister paper of the Los Angeles Times, under the Tribune Co. umbrella), wrote a piece called "Why Obama Should Withdraw."

He wrote: "In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.

"Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket."

And who did he think that someone should be? The answer can be found in the picture at the top of this post, a shot from the New Hampshire primaries of 2008.

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-- Kate O'Hare

Photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea visit Democratic supporters in Nashua, N.H., on primary day, Jan. 8, 2008. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Top Obama strategist sees a 'titanic struggle' next year

RMS Titanic Sets Sail on its first and last voyage April 10 1912

A top former White House aide to Barack Obama sees a "titanic struggle" emerging as the Democratic incumbent confronts awful economic numbers and Republican political opposition that seems bent on defeating the guy for some reason.

David Axelrod, who used to work in the White House but has since fled back to Chicago as the reelection campaign's top political strategist, uttered his unfortunate floating metaphor to a New Hampshire audience Tuesday.Not David Axelrod Titanic Capt Edward J Smith

Speaking at a college in Manchester, Axelrod also used a sailing metaphor:

"In 2008, we had the wind at our backs. Now, we don't have the wind at our back. We have the wind in our faces, because the American people have the wind in their faces."

With two out of three Americans thinking the country is on the wrong track under Obama and more than half disapproving of Obama's overall job performance, exactly what winds Axelrod had in mind are left to wild speculation.

Unemployment above 9% when an 8% maximum was promised? A healthcare bill that was supposed to reduce costs but hasn't and waivers for special Americans with connections? An unfolding scandal over a half-billion dollar loan to a fundraiser's company? A fondness for regulation and a desire to raise taxes and a kind of chronic indecision over many things except giving more speeches at fundraisers appealing for more time because so much is undone?

Axelrod, a recovering newspaper reporter who used to cover Chicago politics, did not have time in his remarks to explain that those winds in Americans' faces came from his boss' failed economic stimulus and growing business fears of rampant regulations.

Because he lives and works in Chicago and helped elect Democrats of the maTitanic Movie Sinking shipchine that has ruled that city for 80 years, Axelrod is apparently unfamiliar with the role of a competitive opposition political party to, well, oppose incumbents with its own plans.

The Obama strategist kept a straight face as he feigned surprise that Obama opponents in Washington would actually, well, oppose the Real Good Talker's plans to spend trillions more dollars that the country doesn't have.

"We honestly thought," Axelrod said with a straight face, "when we got to Washington, we'd get some cooperation from folks across the aisle."

That kind of phony naivete sounds normal in the Windy City where uncooperative citizens can find themselves and their licensed businesses enduring a plethora of building and health inspections and citations, along with unexplained stoppages in garbage collections, etc.

In the interests of bipartisanship and passing the president's doomed jobs bill, Axelrod called the D.C. opposition "the most ideological, partisan group of Republicans in my lifetime." Axelrod was born Feb. 22, 1955.

Still, despite all those adverse winds in the Windy City and across the country, Axelrod said he was confident that President Obama would sail through these troubled waters and not become yet another Democratic president like Truman, Johnson or Carter, who were terminated by popular demand after one elected term.

“We’re on the right side of the fight and I believe we’re going to win that fight,” he said.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

Photos (from top): The Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

Edward Smith, captain of the doomed Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

An image from director James Cameron's movie "Titanic." Credit: Merie W. Wallace

N.H. poll shocker: Perry falls, Romney surges as does Jon Huntsman

Mitt Romney at a Florida Townhall 9-11

Well, here are a couple of -- no, make that several -- new wrinkles in the Republican presidential contest in New Hampshire:

With the next televised debate tonight in Florida on Fox News, a new poll of likely New Hampshire Republican voters shows Mitt Romney surging to a commanding 27-point lead over his closest GOP rival, who is not Rick Perry.

The Texas governor, whose mid-August entry saw him rush to the top of numerous national Republican polls, was pushed way down in the new Suffolk University Poll to fourth place deep into the single digits, barely ahead of the not-even-running Sarah Palin.

But here's a surprising, potentially significant development for the New Hampshire contest. Jon Huntsman, who's been swimming around the bottom of the field like a foraging flounder barely registering in most polls, has himself surged.

He's moved all the way up to 10% and third place -- ahead of Perry.

According to the new Suffolk University/7News poll of 400, the field there now stacks up this way:

Romney at 41%, up five points since June; Ron Paul at 14% and Huntsman at 10%, both up six points since June; Perry 8%; Palin 6%; Michele BJon Huntsman once caught a Fish This Big 7-11achmann 5%; Newt Gingrich at 4%; and Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer both at 1%.

Romney's lead is impressive, though not surprising. He lives in New Hampshire part time, was all over the state's media as governor and a Senate candidate next door in Massachusetts and has made major investments there of time, staff and money.

Huntsman's soft-spoken, laid-back campaign style, which flops during televised debates, suits New Hampshire sidewalks perfectly.

He seems to have all the time in the world to talk with this one fellow here and then his wife, who comes along. That goes over well in the state where personal conversations are not only expected but demanded of visiting primary pols.

It was about this time in 1999 that John McCain's living-room-to-living-room efforts began to register ominously on the radar of his opponents. And then on a chilly January election day there, the first exit polls were so disturbing that George W. Bush's strategist Karl Rove did not finish his breakfast.

McCain ended up taking New Hampshire that night from another Texan in cowboy boots by a humbling 15 points.

Romney scored an impressive 69% favorable in the Suffolk survey, compared to 56% unfavorable for Palin. He looks poised and presidential in these debates. But if Huntsman defeated Romney there 3 1/2 months from now or even came close, that could prove crippling for Romney's second bid for his party's nomination.

If Perry can do well in South Carolina and maybe snatch Iowa from Bachmann, that sets up a real potential showdown with Romney in Florida, where tonight's 6 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time debate is co-sponsored by Google and the state party.

Nine Republicans will be on the Orlando stage, as ex-New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson qualified for a podium with a 1% standing in a set of polls.

Oh, and there's a straw poll at tonight's gathering too. Can you say Ron Paul?

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It's everybody vs. Rick Perry in latest debate

New numbers find a Rick Perry-Mitt Romney race emerging

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Joe Raedle / Getty Images (Romney at a Florida town hall); Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press (Huntsman at an Iowa debate)

Sarah Palin gives a rousing non-campaign campaign speech in Iowa

Sarah-Palin_Indianola-Iowa-2

Sarah Palin brought it and then didn't take it on the campaign trail.

After a rain delay, an undercard that left the crowd impatient for the main event, some songs and a showing of the "Iowa Passion" video, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate hit the stage at the Tea Party of America's "Restoring America" event at the National Balloon Classic Field in Indianola, Iowa, to chants of "Run, Sarah, run."

Today, Saturday, Sept. 3, is three years to the day from Palin's roof-raising speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, which launched her into national prominence. As on that night, Palin opted for a light-colored top. But in Iowa, it was not an oyster-colored silk designer jacket, but a rib-knit cream sweater. And if you didn't know Palin hadn't yet announced, you'd be forgiven for thinking she's knee-deep in the race.

(Scroll down for video at bottom.)

The crowd got many of the themes it came for, including the "restoration" of American, American exceptionalism and the virtues of working people and small towns, along with the Palin bedrock issue of developing American energy resources.

She also went straight at President Obama and his policies, decrying his handling of the economy -- including "Obama's bullet train to bankruptcy" -- and referring to his "winning the future" theme, saying, "President Obama, is this what you call winning the future? I call it losing, losing our country and with it the American dream."

Palin praised the tea party movement, calling it an "American awakening" and relating it to such Tea-Party-Indianola-Iowa-1 historic events as the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement (smart move, since this was a tea party rally).

She called it a movement of ordinary Americans, saying, "You got up off your couch; you came down from the deer stand; you came out of the duck blind; you got off the John Deere; and we took to the streets."

While declaring herself allied with individual Americans, Palin echoed themes that worked for her when running for governor of Alaska, decrying "corporate crony capitalism" and the "permanent political class."

She aimed this at the Obama administration, accusing the president of rewarding big donors with subsidies and bailouts.

"Barack Obama has shown us cronyism on steroids," she said.

But you may remember Palin's biggest gubernatorial challenge was in the primary against....

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Rick Perry broadens national lead over Romney, Bachmann, Palin

Texas Republican governor Rick Perry demonstrates his brand of intense campaigning 8-15-11

Fourteen days after announcing his Republican presidential candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has expanded his lead in a new national poll, while both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin slide slightly and Michele Bachmann is in single digits.

A new CNN/ORC International Poll of Republicans out today shows Perry now holds the support of more than one-in-four (27%), up significantly from the 15% he had before his Aug. 13 announcement at the Redstate Gathering of conservative writers in South Carolina.

Romney, who had 17% then, now has 14%. Sarah Palin, who's expected to make her candidacy plans or lack thereof known at an Iowa tea party rally Saturday, has slipped from 12% to  10%.

Bachmann, the Iowa native and early tea party favorite, has the support of 9%, down from 12% in mid-July. The congresswoman's win at the Ames Straw Poll seems to have provided a short-lived bump.

In a poll that removes Palin and non-candidate Rudy Giuliani from the race, Perry's support jumps to 32% and Romney's to 18%.

The latest poll numbers reveal the tectonic shifts caused by Perry's energetic entry as the nation's longest-serving governor. Perry's support is strongest among tea party supporters but crosses a broad swath of the GOP and appears to be drawing support away from Bachmann and even perennial candidate Ron Paul.Rick Perry campaign Logo

The numbers also highlight the potential dangers of Romney's strategy so far of focusing heavily on New Hampshire and attacking President Obama while largely ceding Iowa and South Carolina to other GOP hopefuls.

His strategy is based on the belief that, in the end, Republican primary voters will eschew the excitement of the moment and choose someone, anyone, they believe can defeat the Democratic incumbent on Nov. 6, 2012.

The new CNN/ORC Pollalso shows that despite his dedicated disciples' determination, Paul's national standing has faded by half from early August, from 12% down to 6%.

A recent Gallup Poll of Republicans found a similar commanding lead for the Texan with a broad base of support among GOP incomes, gender and educations. And a new Rasmussen Reports survey found 38% of likely U.S. voters agree with Perry's professed goal of making Washington as inconsequential as possible in Americans' lives.

Even further changes in allegiance are likely in coming days as Labor Day and the fall campaign season arrive.

In addition to  Palin's long-teased decision Saturday, this weekend features a tea party candidate forum in South Carolina run by Sen. Jim DeMint where for the first time Perry will mix it up with GOP competitors like Bachmann and persistent critic and fellow Texan Paul. Romney is taking a pass on that event.

Then comes a flurry of debates including one at the Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 7 and another in Tampa, Fla.

The same CNN/ORC poll found that fewer that three out of four Democrats favor Obama's renomination. The 72% who do is statistically about the same as the 70% who said that in early August but down from the 81% who liked that idea in early June. Likewise, those favoring a different Democrat as presidential nominee has surged from 18% in June to 27%.

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Rick Perry: 'We cannot afford 4 more years of this rudderless leadership'

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Rick Perry shows his intense campaign style. Perry's campaign logo.

Credits: Jim Young / Reuters; Andrew Malcolm/Los Angeles Times

Rick Perry joins the GOP fray: 'This is gonna be a fun ride!'

Rick Perry RedState 8-13-11

"This," Rick Perry told me as he took the stage to launch his presidential campaign, "is gonna be a fun ride!"

Then the three-term conservative governor of Texas was bounding onto the stage, saying, "Let's get this thing started." He told the RedState Gathering, an enthusiastic crowd of conservative writers, and a national TV audience:

It is time for Americans to believe again, to believe that the promise of our future is far greater than even the best days of our past. It is time to believe again in the potential of private enterprise, set free from the shackles of an overbearing federal government.

And it is time to truly restore our standing in the world and renew our faith in freedom as the best hope of peace in a world beset with strife.

The crowd stood, chanting, "Perry! Perry! Perry!"

"America is not broken," Perry exhorted, "Washington, D.C., is broken.”

Full text of Perry announcement is here.

They didn't need no schtinking straw vote in Charleston on Saturday afternoon. Perry becomes the ninth candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa next year.

Given his executive record of tax-cutting, his undefeated record as a statewide candidate in the nation's second-largest state, his fundraising prowess and the lingering thirst among many GOP members for a charismatic, true conservative, Perry immediately joins the top tier.Rick Perry campaign Logo

He immediately flew off to New Hampshire to Pamela Tucker's home for the kind of living room politics beloved in the Granite State, home of the first primary next winter.

On Sunday, Perry will speak at a Lincoln dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, before returning to New Hampshire next week.

"I will work every day," Perry told the Charleston crowd, "to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your lives as I can, and free our families, small businesses and states from a burdensome and costly federal government, so they can create, innovate and succeed. With the help and courage of the American people, we will get our country working again."

The 61-year-old former Air Force pilot, lieutenant governor, state representative and agriculture commissioner said he comes from Paint Creek, Texas, a tiny town so small it doesn't even have a ZIP pcode. And speaking of Washington, he lit into President Obama for the recent unprecedented downgrade of the federal government's credit rating:

In reality, this is just the most recent downgrade. The fact is for nearly three years, President Obama has been downgrading American jobs, downgrading our standing in the world, downgrading our financial stability, downgrading confidence and downgrading the hope of a better future for our children.

The governor recited some of his state's legislative achievements, including balancing the budget with no new taxes and enacting 'loser-pays' lawsuit reforms. And, of course, jobs. Texas has created 40% of all new jobs in the United States in the past two years. Yet, Perry said:

"One in six work-eligible Americans cannot find a full-time job. That is not a recovery. That is an economic disaster."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Andrew Malcolm / Los Angeles Times (Perry).

GOP debate scores big ratings for Fox News

  Fox-News-GOP-debate-Iowa

The Thursday, August 11, GOP debate at Iowa State University not only saw fireworks on the stage but also generated some heat in the ratings for host network Fox News Channel.

After getting praise from such unlikely sources as the Washington Post and Time magazine for the aggressive, informed performances of anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, Fox also got a lot of attention from TV viewers, as tracked by Nielsen.

The two-hour debate, which began at 6 p.m. Pacific time only on Fox News, attracted nearly 5.1 million viewers -- with a healthy 1.4 million of those in the advertiser-approved 25-54 demographic -- making it the most-watched debate of 2011.

It not only outscored Fox News' previous debate on May 5 in South Carolina (67% higher in the target demographic), it also well outpaced CNN's New Hampshire debate on June 13, which attracted just over 3.1 million viewers, with 918,000 in the 25-54 demo.

Working in Fox News' favor was the huge amount of chatter about the GOP race heading....

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Rudy Giuliani thinks GOP should 'get the heck out of people's bedrooms'

Rudy Giuliani thinks GOP should get the heck out of people's bedrooms

Rudy Giuliani has been married three times. Maybe that's why he doesn't want the government in his bedroom? Or maybe that's why he doesn't feel he should be telling Americans what marriage is?

Either way, the former New York City mayor feels that his political party should get out of the marriage business.

"I think the Republican Party would be well advised to get the heck out of people's bedrooms and let these things get decided by states," Giuliani told Candy Crowley on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

"We'd be a much more successful political party if we stuck to our economic, conservative roots," the 67-year-old native New Yorker said.

Recently New York passed a same-sex marriage bill that allows gays and lesbians to wed legally. Giuliani consistently had stated that gays and lesbians should opt for civil unions as opposed to traditional marriages. Did watching that historic event play out change his mind about gay marriages?

"I think it's wrong, but there are other things that I think are wrong that get decided by democratic vote," Giuliani said. "I see more harm, however, by dwelling so much on this subject of gays and lesbians and whether it's right or wrong in politics."

In 2009 when he was considering running for New York governor, Giuliani had no problem mixing the controversial subject with politics.

Continue reading »

Mitt Romney jokes about being 'recognized' at women's beach volleyball in Beijing Olympics

Bush

Mitt Romney appears to be having a good time on the campaign trail being one of the GOP presidential front-runners.

In a speech captured by Kasie Hunt of Politico that at times seemed plucked from a (discarded) David Letterman monologue, the former Massachusetts governor was self-depricating while kidding that he often gets recognized on the road.

In one aside, he mentioned that he (like then-President George W. Bush) was in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games taking in "one of my favorite events -- women's beach volleyball." His wife, Ann, insisted, he joked.

"I noticed that some Americans in the crowd had recognized me and were pointing at me had taken out their cameras and were taking my picture," Romney told an audience at the Portsmouth, N.H., Rotary Club. 

Continue reading »

Jon Huntsman's big day, Republicans and Mormons and trouble for Utah's Orrin Hatch

Jon Huntsman and wife Mary Kaye greet a motorcycle rider in New Hampshire, 6-11

Some elected folks we know have confessed that the best day of any election campaign is the day a candidate announces. All things seem possible. Optimism reigns. The usually nattering media is attentive.

Today Jon Huntsman, who's been registering near zero on the scale of Republican name-recognition, gets his shot at the best day of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

The former Utah governor and overseas ambassador for two presidents will launch his bid in New Jersey near the Statue of Liberty and then fly up to New Hampshire to do it again in the nation's first primary state.

Wednesday Huntsman will do it a third time in South Carolina, apparently leaving Iowa to the homegrown Michele Bachmann and next-door neighbor Tim Pawlenty. It will be interesting to see how Huntsman, the only major GOP candidate with any real foreign policy experience, tries to differentiate himself from the possible candidates like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the existing field, including fellow former governor and Mormon Mitt Romney.

Speaking of Mormons, good news for Romney and Huntsman: A recent Gallup Poll found Republicans to be the political affiliation most open to supporting a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the voting booth.Utah Republican senator Orrin Hatch

Fully 80% of GOP voters said they could vote for a Mormon, while a near identical 79% of independents agreed. However, only 71% of Democrats said they could vote for a Mormon.

The biggest difference in sentiment appeared in education level, with the more educated open to a Mormon candidate and the lesser educated less so.

Speaking of Mormon candidates, at this time last year one of the most endangered politicians seeking reelection was the nation's highest-ranking Mormon, Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Majority Leader. As it happened, he ended up having little trouble winning a fifth term from Nevada.

Now comes word that a senior Republican senator, Orrin Hatch of next-door Utah, may be in some trouble going for a seventh term in the general election, even if he survives a primary challenge. Last year, you may recall, Utah Republicans dumped Hatch's junior colleague Robert Bennett for Mike Lee.

A poll out last weekend from the Deseret News/KSL-TV finds that 59% of Utah voters feel it's time for a change after 36 years of Hatch. In a matchup against his most likely GOP challenger, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republicans are virtually tied at 41% Chaffetz and 40% Hatch.

Even if Hatch survived that contest, the new poll finds that the man who became a senator at the end of Gerald Ford's presidency would as of now barely tie his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Jim Matheson, at 47% apiece.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Brian Snyder / Reuters (Huntsman and wife Mary Kaye greet a New Hampshire voter); Associated Press (Hatch).

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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