CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 2, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
JUST IN… NEWT GINGRICH BOWS OUT WITH A HUMAN TOUCH.
ON ROMNEY: “I am asked sometimes is Mitt Romney conservative enough? And my answer is simple – compared to Barack Obama? This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical leftist president in American history.”
ON THE MOON: “I am cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space. My wife has pointed out to me approximately 219 times, give or take three, that moon colony was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought, frankly, in my role as providing Saturday Night Live it was helpful. But the underlying key point is real. The fact is if we are going to be the leading the country in the world we have to be the leading country in space.”
ON HIS FUTURE: “I'm going to argue for a romantic American future of doing things that matter.”
ON BEING THE ASTERISK IN THE SOUTH CAROLINA STREAK: “I have to thank the voters of South Carolina and I have to apologize to them. We will have broken their tradition of always picking the nominee. This will make me feel slightly guilty every time we go through South Carolina. They were tremendous, they were enthusiastic, the size of victory historic.”
ROMNEY RECATION: “Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life.”
DEVELOPING… CHINESE DISSIDENT CHEN GUANGCHENG GIVES AN EMOTIONAL INTERVIEW WITH CNN’S STAN GRANT.
CHEN GUANGCHENG: “I’m very disappointed at the U.S. government. … I don’t think they protected human rights in this case.
GRANT: What would you say to President Obama?
GUANGCHENG: I would like to say to him: Please do everything you can to get our whole family out. LINK
Prior to then-Sen. Barack Obama winning Virginia in 2008, who was the last Democrat to win the state in a presidential election?
GOP consultant Alex Castellanos calls him the Republicans’ most vulnerable incumbent. His campaign calls him a “proven leader.” And today, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar caught our eye for showing glimmers of both.
Lugar is an interesting case study for 2012. Jennifer Duffy, the brilliant senior editor of the Cook Political Report, tells Gut Check, “Lugar’s situation is not unlike (Utah Sen.) Bob Bennett’s in 2010. He is widely respected in the Senate on both sides of the aisle and around Washington. On some issues, he’s respected around the world. How many other Nobel Peace Prize nominees are there in the Senate? At the same time, a long tenure in Washington produces a long voting record for tea party candidates like Richard Mourdock and his allies to attack.”
And attack they have. Six days before the state’s Republican primary, Mourdock, Indiana’s state treasurer, held a conference call to trumpet the endorsement of the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist.
“I am personally endorsing Treasurer Mourdock, and Americans for Tax Reform will be working to highlight the fact that Dick Lugar has raised taxes in the past and considers that an interesting option for the future,” Norquist said.
Mourdock then followed the call with a message to supporters that struck the tone of the tea party movement: “This campaign isn't about me, it's about US. It's about US vs, the Establishment, and we are winning.”
Lugar’s campaign is in some ways playing catch-up. Duffy is very blunt in her assessment of Lugar’s political campaign: “It doesn’t help that he hasn’t seem prepared for the race and has not run the kind of campaign he needs to run. He might have learned some things from watching the very deliberate way (Utah Sen. Orrin) Hatch went about his convention challenge. After all, Hatch learned a lot from Bennett’s loss.”
Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, told us that “when (Lugar) knew he was in trouble and knew that the movement was going to challenge him, instead of reaching out to them and maybe move to the right … he essentially kicked the movement. And we are sick of these elitists in Washington, D.C., who think they know better than us, and I think the people in Indiana have had it.”
Lugar campaign spokesman Andy Fisher jumped at the Norquist endorsement as a chance to attach their challenger to the Washington establishment Mourdock has been fighting. Fisher’s e-mail this morning was titled “DC-Based Tax Group Endorses Tax Cheat.” Fisher wrote: “While Richard Mourdock said he could back raising taxes on Hoosier families and then took his own illegal tax deductions, Senator Lugar has a proven record of fighting for lower taxes and less spending. Hoosiers don't want their senators beholden to DC special interests.”
That “proven record” and “proven leader” has earned the attention of the political class eager to make sense of an election year that has defied narrative.
The movement Kremer represents is watching closely. “Of course we would like to defeat Dick Lugar,” Kremer said. “I always tell people that you don’t judge us by the number of people at our rallies, judge us by what happens on election day.” And for Indiana Republicans, and those watching them, that day comes on May 8.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: House chairmen praise Secret Service response to prostitution scandal
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has cooperated properly with congressional investigators probing the prostitution scandal in Colombia last month before President Barack Obama's visit, influential House members said Wednesday. LINK
Leading Drudge: Obama Admits Fabricating Character In Memoir
One of the more mysterious characters from President Obama's 1995 autobiography, “Dreams From My Father’” is the so-called “New York girlfriend.” Obama never referred to her by name, or even by pseudonym, but he describes her appearance, her voice, and her mannerisms in specific detail. But Obama has now told biographer David Maraniss that the “New York girlfriend” was actually a composite character, based off of multiple girlfriends he had both in New York City and in Chicago. LINK
Leading HuffPo: Richard Lugar, Indiana Senator, Facing Tough Primary Challenge Against Richard Mourdock
Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's allies have largely disappeared from the television airwaves just days before Tuesday's primary, a sign that even friends of the six-term Republican think he's in trouble and could lose to tea party-backed challenger Richard Mourdock. LINK
Leading Politico: Obama’s Osama surprise
Mitt Romney has led the parade of Republicans accusing President Barack Obama of politicizing the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death for political gain — delighting in what they view as Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” moment. LINK
Leading New York Times: In Pursuit of Mayor Bloomberg, the Reluctant Endorser
In an election year when partisanship has burned white hot and the economy has sputtered, two presidential candidates who agree on very little, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, have reached a rare consensus: they are both determined to score the endorsement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, whose name is all but synonymous with Wall Street clout and nonpartisan politics. LINK
The political bites of the day
- Romney: ‘The Carter good old days’ -
MITT ROMNEY COMPARES PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA TO FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER AT A CAMPAIGN STOP IN VIRGINIA: “What the president did was - one item after another, make it harder and harder for small business to thrive and to grow and start up. It was the most anti-small-business administration I have seen probably since Carter. Who would have guessed we would look back at the Carter years as the good old days.”
- Biden toasts to Cinco de Mayo… sort of -
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AT A CINCO DE MAYO BREAKFAST AT THE NAVAL OBSERVATORY: “It is bad luck in the Irish tradition to toast with water … so I am not going to do it. I can hear my grandfather Finnegan’s voice saying `Joey, no!’ But let me tell you what my toast was going to be – to friendship. To Mexico and to America. Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. Welcome.”
- Gingrich regrets not being smarter -
NEWT GINGRICH REFLECTS ON HIS CAMPAIGN IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN PAGE: “I have regrets about not being smarter about how to run … Mitt Romney met the first criteria of being a good candidate: He won. Now you have to respect that … We sure didn't give it to him. We did everything we could to slug it out with him, and he ended up being tough enough and being good enough at raising money.” LINK
- Michelle Obama says the Supreme Court is at stake in November -
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA OFFERED THIS WARNING TUESDAY IN LAS VEGAS: “Don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack appointed and how for the first time in history our daughters and sons watch three women take their seat on our nation's highest court. But what we cannot forget is that all of that is at stake this November, all of that is on the line.
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Shep Smith after Newt speech: "I feel like I've just been transported from some other world. What just happened?"—
Dan Hirschhorn (@DanTheDaily) May 02, 2012
Jonathan Strong (@j_strong) May 02, 2012
Not one word about foreign policy matters as Romney stays on economic matters for his whole event in Virginia—
Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) May 02, 2012
Barrett and Walker virtually tied in new april 26-29 Marquette poll in June matchup; Walker with single-digit lead over Falk—
Craig Gilbert (@WisVoter) May 02, 2012
I am happy to endorse @RichardMourdock today. Richard is a true conservative and we can count on him to stand up for our values.—
Michele Bachmann (@TeamBachmann) May 02, 2012
If I left DC ystrdy 2go2 Afghanistan, I wouldn't b there yet. Pres O is already back. #ImissAirForceOne—
Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) May 02, 2012
President Lyndon Baines Johnson won Virginia in 1964, beating Barry Goldwater by more than 7 percentage points. It was a landslide victory for Johnson that year - he won over 61 percent of the vote and 44 states.
In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama captured 53 percent of the vote to beat Sen. John McCain in Virginia. With the 2012 presidential election now about six months away, Virginia continues to be important for Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"The densely populated suburban swath outside Washington is hardly the only piece of the Virginia political puzzle - the Richmond metro area and Hampton Roads in the southeast are also critical - but because of the number of voters and their swingy tendencies, northern Virginia is guaranteed to be showered with attention from the presidential campaigns," writes CNN's Peter Hamby in a recent story on the swing state.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called the Washington suburbs "tremendously important" for Romney.
"You've got a million people in Fairfax alone," he told Hamby. "You've got a couple million in those ring counties. Republicans must do well and at least break even up there to win. You can't get blown out there, as has happened in a couple past elections."
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