CNN’s GUT CHECK | for Monday, March 12, 2012 | 5 p.m.
— n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: Barbara Starr reports on CNN's Security Clearance new details about the alleged Afghan shooter: “The soldier was in a noncombat vehicle rollover in Iraq in 2010. He was diagnosed with TBI (traumatic brain injury), treated and found fit for duty. He is a qualified infantry sniper - trained to hit to kill at about 800 meters.” FULL STORY
MARK (@PrestonCNN) & MICHELLE (@MJaconiCNN)
What caught our eye today in politics
We left you last with a question about Newt Gingrich. How long will he stay in the race and who is he hurting? Our e-mail inbox bulged with responses as Gut Check readers weighed in as to whether the Gingrich candidacy is more harmful to Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney.
Here is Republican strategist David Frum’s take: “The long race is hurting Mitt Romney, the likely winner, by pushing him into positions he will regret later: e.g., his commitment in Michigan to a second big tax cut that will be hard to defend in the general. But the fact is both Santorum and Gingrich represent important strains of opinion in the party. Their issues need to be argued out. I only wish Romney were arguing back.”
Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen writes: “If Gingrich wins states tomorrow, he isn't going to drop out. The fact is that Republicans are reaping here what they sowed by pushing for the Citizens United Supreme Court decision granting unlimited super PAC spending. Were it not for the funding of a few people, these candidates would not be in this position. Perhaps the pressure should not be on the candidates, but rather on their benefactors.”
Both sides give interesting lenses in which to watch the four presidential contests Tuesday (in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa). There are 110 delegates at stake. Regardless of final results, David mentions that he feels Romney needs to command the stage, and Hilary points to the complicated map and lack of unified narrative that gives each candidate a different incentive to stay in.
New polls out this morning in Alabama and Mississippi show that there is no clear leader. Gingrich and Romney are in the top two slots, but both within the margin of error:
AMERICAN RESEARCH GROUP – ALABAMA
Likely GOP primary voters
Choice for nominee
Sampling error +/-4% pts.
And then, in Mississippi, the same polling firm has Romney on top, but Gingrich is within the margin of error:
AMERICAN RESEARCH GROUP- MISSISSIPPI
Likely GOP primary voters
Choice for nominee
Sampling error +/-4% pts.
With mixed results, the drumbeat will most likely turn first to the delegate math and then to the directional fight for the Republican Party. We will hear lots more of what Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday: “Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally it’s not.” Regardless of Romney’s success Tuesday, any delegate win from Gingrich and Santorum moving forward can stop Romney from securing the 1,144 delegates needed to “clinch” the nomination mathematically (See for yourself: http://www.cnn.com/calculator). Therefore, “math” won’t settle the fight. Words, leadership and political momentum all will pave a way either to a rollicking convention or a grand ol’ party compromise. All of which make it a good time to work in the news business.”
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics.com: Polls show tight race between Gingrich, Romney in Deep South
Despite calling contests in the South "a bit of an away game" last week, Mitt Romney appears to be in a virtual tie in two polls released Monday for this week's Alabama and Mississippi primaries.
Leading Drudge: Justice Dept opposes Texas voter ID law LINK
Leading HuffPo: Slippery Situation Spills Over LINK
Leading Politico: Ex-inmates: Blago's in for a jolt LINK
Leading New York Times: Pitched Appeals in 3-Way Race in Deep South “On the day before two crucial Southern primaries, the leading Republican candidates sought to motivate supporters in what has become a fiercely contested three-way race in Alabama and Mississippi. Two of the candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, appearing at an energy forum here on Monday morning, jockeyed to position themselves as the fiercer foe to take on President Obama, while a third, Mitt Romney, stumping an hour’s drive east along the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Ala., made another stab at Southern folksiness, telling a crowd he dined on catfish ‘for the second time’ and it was ‘delicious.’ ”
Leading The Birmingham News: Alabama Supreme Court race: Roy Moore plans to ride horse to polling station LINK
Which CNN anchor started in the news business writing traffic reports for Washington commuters?
The political bites of the day
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON IN NEW YORK: “Let me say that, like many Americans, I was shocked and saddened by the killings of innocent Afghan villagers this weekend. … We send our condolences to families who have lost their loved ones and to the people of Afghanistan. … This is not who we are, and the United States is committed to seeing that those responsible are held accountable.”
- Closing pitch in Mississippi: Global warming is bogus–
RICK SANTORUM IN BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: “When all of the rage was man-made global warming, we had a lot of people including some in this race who jumped on board. Who said ‘Oh yeah we need to control carbon dioxide,’ which means we don’t want you taking more stuff out of the ground is what that means. And so they can all go out and say we’re for drilling now, we’re for doing all this stuff, but when it was tough to stand up and say you were for energy production, when it was tough to say that stuff in the ground is an asset not a liability, I stood up and said the science is bogus. ... I said this isn’t climate science this is political science and we called it for what it was and I opposed any cap and trade, unlike other people in this race.”
- Move over Jeff Zeleny, Gingrich as presidential psychiatrist–
NEWT GINGRICH IN BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: “I've concluded the only way you can describe Barack Obama is a technical term called 'cognitive dissonance,' which is a psychological behavior when what you believe is so powerful that you reject facts that conflict with your belief system.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Jamie Dupree @jamiedupree
DOWN SOUTH: You may as well call the GOP battle in Alabama & Mississippi the "Grits" Primary is.gd/pgXWMt
Jacob Harris @harrisj
I am sad that Hawaii's primary is a week after Ohio's for all the "Oh Hi!" headlines that could've been. #nerdshame
Hawaii Times @HawaiiTimes
Hawaii GOP caucus voters matter for first time – Honolulu Star sns.mx/D9lwy5
Chris Megerian @ChrisMegerian
After dire warnings, controller says California secure even though tax revenue dipped in February. lat.ms/ze1V5f
Although she didn't have her own chopper, CNN's Candy Crowley synthesized the hold-ups on the Beltway into traffic alerts for local area radio station WASH-FM. Now you can see Candy breaking down the political logjams (equally as frustrating) on Sunday mornings on CNN's “State of the Union.” She also wrote up the overnight fire and murder report for the area – draw your own conclusions on how that informed her turn to political reporting in a field she has dominated ever since. One of our favorite things about Candy is her ability to pack an important question into as few as syllables as possible; such as the time she looked at Mississippi’s then-Gov. Haley Barbour who did an artful dodge of her previous question, and she paused, and then asked: "Huh?"
Candy’s way of wiggling so much into such a tiny question was on display Sunday when she was pressing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the extent of help - or lack there of - from the Obama White House in Reid’s fight for the Senate this cycle. Candy’s question: "Did they tell you no money?" (Full Transcript).
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Tips or comments? Send them to Michelle; send complaints to Preston, because he is already in a bad mood.