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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Republican National Convention

Iowa determined to go first in GOP presidential nomination race


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,, 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.


Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

Chris Christie won't run but doesn't mind being asked

Herman Cain: 'I'm the president of the United States of America!'

-- 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

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


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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Quietly and steadily, Mitt Romney continues to creep ahead in developing Republican race

Republican Mitt Romney campaigns in Colorado 6-11

The summer has just begun. It's still very early. A lot can happen in the 14 month run-up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Yada Yada Yada.

But right now Republican voters seem to have decided a) they're more interested in winning than refining social issue purity, b) the economy is the top topic (also No. 2  and 3 actually) and c) they seem to be lining up for now behind Mitt Romney as their guy. More than half say they're dissatisfied with the overall field, so nothing is set in cement yet.

Romney, a former governor who finished behind another former governor, Mike Huckabee, and the old pilot back in the 2008 GOP race has actually been quietly running ever since.

He's been raising money for himself and others and making endless small talk from table to table at countless Lincoln Day dinners and beyond. People don't forget that. And if a candidate remembers their name at the next encounter, he or she has won a vote.

Romney's been the presumed frontrunner all year and some polls show him now pulling ahead of the rest of the field after just one New Hampshire debate.

This morning comes a new Bloomberg National Poll documenting that nearly six-out-of-ten Republicans (59%) hold a favorable view of the successful businessman who salvaged the 2002 Winter Olympics and made a private fortune. While only 16% hold a negative view of him.Michele Bachmann

This, of course, paints a large crosshair on the 64-year-old Romney's back and chest too for the other much lesser known GOP wannabes to attempt to boost his negatives in the upcoming debates.

Another helpful finding if the party of Lincoln is interested in actually defeating the Illinois guy: Romney is already 10 points more popular than unpopular among those decisive independent voters.

The new Bloomberg survey finds Romney's party and the tea party wing in less favor among many voters.

Primary races are a time of testing for candidates and learning the galactic array of local issues that form the political templates of crucial early states -- Iowa, where Romney will not be competing hard, New Hampshire, where he seems to rule, South Carolina, Florida and beyond.

This is Romney's second political prom and he looks more comfortable and confident than the others so far.

While the media tends to focus on scheduled events like debates, straw polls and candidate forums, many primary voters use those events to confirm impressions they've already developed through a series of anecdotal experiences watching and listening over many months.

Thus, the new folks -- Michele Bachmann will be officially running next week and probably Rick Perry later -- have some ground to catch up. Bloomberg found Bachmann already has 43% favorable vs only 12% unfavorable.

She's been out speaking quietly at state events for more than a year now and, according to some long-time pols we've checked with, impressed many with her speaking style, personal story, energy and ideas.

After all the hoo-hah and excitement surrounding the fresh, new change agent in the 22-month long 2008 primary and general elections -- and the disappointment of many in him and the economy since -- we may be seeing now the quiet evolution of Republican voter comfort with a more stolid style of change.


Sarah Palin's letter from God

The telltale signs of a Rick Perry 2012 campaign

Obama admits thinking like a Republican some days i.e. one term for himself

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: John Moore / Getty Images; Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images (Bachmann).

Ronald Reagan's birth centennial, Part I: Politics came late in his life

The Reagan family Christmas card 1916 father Jack wife Nelle oldest son Neil and the future president, DutchSunday is the birth centennial of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, cause for numerous political, memorial and academic observances across the country this weekend.

The Ticket invited one of the nation's top presidential scholars, Prof. Robert Schmuhl of the University of Notre Dame, to examine the political legacy of Reagan as he relates to others of his generation, exclusively for Ticket readers.

(Scroll to bottom for Schmuhl's biography and book information.) We've also included several videos by and about Reagan.

This item is Part I of Schmuhl's writing.

Part II appears here now.

Please use the share buttons above to pass these on, and perhaps leave your own Reagan memories or thoughts in the comments section below.

-- Andrew Malcolm


Politics came late in life

Born a century ago, on Feb. 6, 1911, Ronald Reagan took the political stage well into his 50s after a multimedia career performing on a variety of other stages. Broadcaster, actor, public speaker, Reagan understood the importance of effective stagecraft long before he became, in his phrase, “a citizen-politician.”

Yet Reagan first captured the public’s attention as a political player by doing what he’d mastered years earlier as an entertainer-endorser.

Delivering a speech supporting Sen. Barry Goldwater for president in 1964 wasn’t that different from serving as General Electric’s spokesman in appearances across the country and as host of TV's “General Electric Theater.” (Watch Reagan's practiced television skills in this 1979 announcement of ...

... his candidacy for the 1980 election against Democrat Jimmy Carter.)

Reagan’s 1964 oration, approving Goldwater and defending conservatism, was nationally televised near the end of the campaign. Though Lyndon Johnson soundly defeated Goldwater and Reagan’s name doesn’t even appear in Theodore White’s “The Making of the President 1964,” that one speech proved to be the political springboard for Reagan personally and for the movement he eventually led.

Smiling, jaunty, avuncular, Reagan then and later was always more complicated than he seemed. He was a political man with definite ideas and more than a modicum of ambition.

Indeed, just two years after his 1966 election as California’s governor, he won his state’s ...

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Reince Priebus elected new RNC chairman

Reince Priebus the new chairman of the Republican National Committee

Reince Priebus.

Republicans went to the Heartland today for their next party chair, choosing Wisconsin attorney Reince Priebus to head the Republican National Committee for the next two years into and through the crucial 2012 presidential election cycle. His tenure begins effective immediately.

Priebus, the Wisconsin state party chairman since 2007, won on the seventh ballot with 97 of the 168 votes. Eighty-five were needed for victory. Second was ex-Michigan state chair Saul Anuzis and third was former Bush campaign official and GOP operative Maria Cino, who was endorsed by new House Speaker John Boehner.

Former RNC chairman Michael Steele concedes 1-14-11

The current chairman, Michael Steele, had mounted a surprising and hopeless reelection campaign after November's resounding election victories.

But the 24-month tenure of the first African American to head the party of Lincoln was troubled from the get-go with missteps, administrative errors, speaking gaffes, alienation of other established party leaders and, worst in the eyes of party faithful, terrible RNC fundraising efforts that prompted many large donors to give elsewhere. The party says it is currently more than $20 million in debt.

After the fourth of seven ballots today, Steele withdrew, saying, "I hope you appreciate our legacy. After all the noise, after all the difficulties, WE WON!" He received a standing ovation.

Priebus had momentum coming into the voting at the RNC's regular winter meeting. A staunch conservative, Priebus helped engineer a pickup of two House seats in his state last November, as well as recapturing the governor's office after eight years and defeating longtime incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold.

"We have to get on track," Priebus declared after his win, vowing to focus on fundraising immediately for what experts expect to be a billion-dollar presidential campaign in 2012 -- on both sides. Immediately after the tally, Boehner issued a statement of firm support for Priebus.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Liz Sidotti / Associated Press (Priebus); Alex Wong / Getty Images (Steele).

Las Vegas gets its first national political convention

Libertarians rehearse for their 2012 national convention in Las Vegas

Finally, the desert city of Las Vegas breaks the ice and gets its first national political convention.

The Libertarian Party will gather there the first week of May 2012 to nominate its national ticket of guaranteed losers.

The Libertarians' choice of Nevada along with the Republicans' choice of Tampa for their 2012 nominating convention in late August means the country's two major parties have now settled on their meeting sites.

The only one left is the fringe third-party Democrats, who haven't agreed yet on one of four cities: Cleveland, Charlotte, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Some unions recently expressed opposition to North Carolina as a right-to-work state, and....

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Following up with author Max Blumenthal on the conservative movement in the Obama era


Last year we interviewed Max Blumenthal about his first book, "Republican Gomorrah."

The book explored, in depth, the extreme conservatives within the Republican Party, their motives, and the GOP's future.

Blumenthal has recently added an epilogue, in which he writes of gun shows in rural Nevada, online conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama's birth certifcate, and right wing hecklers he faced on his book tour.

He also makes observations about the moment the healthcare bill was passed. He writes:

After the passage of the health care bill, the Tea Party floated into a gray zone between authoritarianism and anarchy. Crusading to restore a holy social order, they promoted disorder. Claiming to protect democracy, they smashed windows of elected representatives. Warning of death panels, they called in death threats. With the atmosphere of violence thickening, Palin took to her Twitter account to issue a battle cry: "Don't Retreat, Instead -- RELOAD!" Thus concluded the first phase of the Obama era that was to usher in a peaceable kingdom of bipartisanship.


"Republican Gomorrah" is now available in paperback.

-- Lori Kozlowski


Photo (left): Author Max Blumenthal. Credit: Nation Books. Photo (right): Book cover of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party. Credit: Nation Books.

Hey, it's show biz! GOP music to welcome Democratic First Lady Michelle Obama

Mixing politics and music can produce some odd results.

As 3,500 Marines and their family members at Camp Pendleton waited up to two hours Sunday afternoon for the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama -- and San Diego's Democratic Rep. Susan Davis and, oh, don't forget Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who's up for reelection this year -- they were entertained with recorded music. Mostly country-Western.

The selection was, as more than one Marine noted, rather odd given the fact that C-W artists, as a group, are largely associated with the Republican Party. Several of the songs were from GOP stalwarts Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the USA”) and the duo Montgomery Gentry. The latter was big at the St. Paul GOP convention in 2008, which nominated Navy veteran and longtime POW John McCain.

The music notwithstanding, the first lady got a warm reception in the hot sun. She navigated the sometimes tricky world of Marine nomenclature, including pronouncing the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force as “one mef.”

Davis, alas, was not as lucky. While praising the Marines for their service, she enthused that many had received their “globe, eagle and anchor” emblem  at the boot camp in nearby San Diego. The correct listing, which every Marine knows, is  “eagle, globe and anchor.”

Then again, she earned points by being introduced by Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford as a “military spouse.” Her husband Steve, a doctor, served a hitch in the Air Force early in their marriage.

Here, as previously published by The Ticket, is the full text what Obama told the crowd.

-- Tony Perry

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Sarah Palin's candidates having bad week. Could darling of 'tea party' voters be losing her touch?

South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley gets get endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
During primary season, Sarah Palin's endorsement was seen as a gift from the heavens in Republican circles -- the seal of good housekeeping for "tea party" activists. Candidates who received the former Alaska governor's blessing soon soared in the polls, as money and volunteers poured in. Ditto the spotlight of national attention.

Now, it's easy to wonder if Palin's political Midas touch has turned to rust.

In Kentucky, the self-professed oracle for tea party anger has gotten himself in trouble with his mouth. First Rand Paul questioned the 1964 Civil Rights Act for forcing private businesses to integrate public spaces. Then he defended BP, the petroleum company that has been leaking thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month. As the White House escalated the rhetoric against BP for failing to cap the spill, Paul said criticizing business is "un-American." Finally, as the Ticket noted Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who, you may recall, backed Paul's opponent in the race -- virtually ordered Paul to cancel all national TV interviews, including one scheduled for Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

In Idaho on Tuesday, tea party congressional candidate Vaughn Ward lost the Republican primary. This despite Palin's endorsement but after disclosures, as Ticket reported Tuesday, that Ward plagiarized not only position papers but Barack Obama's famous address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the one that launched the president's national career.

In South Carolina, gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley -- Palin's pick in a crowded field of Republican contenders -- is battling allegations from a former consultant that Haley, a married woman with two children, had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with him. Palin says she warned her of smears to come.

The tea party activists have undoubtedly brought passion to politics, as has Palin. But national Republicans are starting to worry that a too-conservative message could cost them elections. So it's not uncommon these days to see Palin and the Republican Party on different sides in primary fights.

In the state of Washington, for instance, Palin is backing Clint Didier, a former Washington Redskins player. On her Twitter account she called him a "patriot running for U.S. Senate to serve his state & our country for all the right reasons!" Like Paul, he veers toward libertarianism, arguing that "we need to stop trying to police the world and telling other nations how to manage their affairs. It is depleting our wealth and draining our national spirit. America is a republic; therefore let’s stop trying to spread 'democracy.'" Meanwhile, establishment Republicans want Dino Rossi, a two-time candidate for governor who they think can actually beat Sen. Patty Murray in November.

Maybe this is why Democrats are starting to think that 2010 may not be the blowout against them that was widely predicted. In Pennsylvania, in a special election to fill the seat long held by Democrat Jack Murtha, Mark Critz managed to defeat tea party favorite Tim Burns. Afterward, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, "The hype ... hit the brick wall of reality."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: South Carolina's Nikki Haley after getting Sarah Palin's endorsement. Credit: Associated Press

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Move over, Sarah Palin; Club for Growth is the new rainmaker in conservative 'tea party' country

2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin Speaks in Wisconsin by Joshua Lott, Getty Images 

Club for Growth is a leading free-market group that promotes limited government and no tax hikes.

And, increasingly, the Washington-based advocacy group is a political force to be reckoned with in Republican circles. Oh, sure, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is still a rock star among the party faithful.

But Palin is a personality, the fresh new face of the 2008 campaign. In 2010, Club for Growth is an advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, tort reform, and fiscally responsible government spending -- just the issues voters are angry about. In that environment, an endorsement from Club for Growth and its deep-pocketed political action committee can mean money, momentum and lately, a hint of inevitability.

In Massachusetts, Club for Growth publicly scolded the Republican National Committee for not pouring money into Republican Scott Brown's campaign to beat Democrat Martha Coakley, who ran under the Ted Kennedy brand.

“I would have to think all hands are on deck in Massachusetts,” said spokesman Michael Connolly.  “If they aren’t, then there are more problems at the RNC than people think. They have a responsibility to get this guy elected.” The Club for Growth deployed a lot of resources. Brown won.

In Florida, Club for Growth backed Republican Marco Rubio in the primary, helping him pile up such....

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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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