What do Republican politicians do when they need to pick it up a step? You’ve got it: they propose more tax cuts.
So it’s no great surprise that Mitt Romney is signaling that he’s coming out with a new, “bold” tax proposal to coincide with his stretch drive towards primaries next week in Michigan and Arizona, not to mention the upcoming Super Tuesday (March 6).
The chosen herald for this news appears to be that intrepid supply-sider, Larry Kudlow of National Review, who reports, with barely restrained excitement, that Mitt’s new tax cuts will be “across-the-board with supply-side incentives from rate reduction, and that it will help small-business owners as well as everyone else.”
You may wonder why Romney didn’t find space for this stuff in his previously released 159-page economic plan. Looking at that beast for the first time in a while, it already includes making the Bush tax cuts permanent; abolishing estate taxes; a partial abolition of taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; and lower corporate tax rates. Ah, but there it is, the placeholder for new goodies: “a conservative overhaul of the tax system over the long term that includes lower, flatter rates on a broader base.”
Now lots of folks in both parties think it might be possible to have lower income tax rates if the lost revenues are offset by aggressive elimination of tax expenditures, from fossil fuel subsidies to the mortgage interest deduction, all of them zealously defended by some powerful lobby. It will be interesting to see if Romney moves in that direction, or instead (as one might guess from Kudlow’s enthusiasm) relies on the old voodoo magic of supply-side economics, and pretends lower rates will pay for themselves. Since he’s in full primary pander mode, it’s unlikely he’ll propose anything a signfiicant number of GOP primary voters will find objectionable.
By: Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 21, 2012
Money may not be buying Mitt Romney much Republican love, but it’s going a long way toward helping him buy the next best thing: endorsements in the GOP primaries.
Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC and its affiliates states have lavished close to $1.3 million in campaign donations to federal, state and local GOP politicians, almost all since 2010. His recipients include officials in the major upcoming primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, and in three southern Super Tuesday states where he was trounced four years ago.
In New Hampshire, a U.S. senator, a congressman, 10 state senators and three executive councilors shared $26,000 in donations from Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC in 2010 and 2011 combined. All 15 have showered Romney with endorsements leading up to Tuesday’s primary
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came out for Romney last month – a year after his Free and Strong America PACs funneled $36,000 to the Tea Party darling’s 2010 election bid. And 19 state and Washington, D.C., lawmakers in three Super Tuesday states – Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia — are backing Romney after his PAC poured a total of $125,500 into their coffers for elections held in 2009 and 2010.
“This is as old as politics itself,” Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute of Money in State Politics. “He’s just taking it to a whole new level.”
Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University political scientist, said Romney’s gambit is a smart strategy for a deep-pocketed candidate. “He’s investing wisely and trying not just to run up the numbers where he’s strong, but trying to build it up where he’s weakest,” Zelizer said.
Nowhere has Romney spent as heavily – and harvested the rewards – as in Tuesday’s must-win state of New Hampshire. Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC and its Granite State affiliate invested some $53,000 to help local officials win races, and another $13,000 for congressional and Senate candidates.
New Hampshire state Sen. Sharon Carson said in a press release that she took the time to examine the “backgrounds and qualifications of each of the candidates” running for president before she backed Romney on Dec. 27. She received $1,000 from Romney’s federal Free and Strong America PAC for her winning 2010 reelection bid.
Kelly Ayotte – a Tea Party Republican who won a U.S. Senate seat – received $5,000 from Romney’s PAC in 2010 for her winning bid and $2,500 from the PAC in 2011, according to federal records. She endorsed Romney in November.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass also endorsed Romney in November. He received $3,500 from Romney’s PAC in 2010 and and $2,000 2011 from Romney’s PAC. State Senate President Peter Bragdon endorsed Romney Dec. 1. He received $1,000 from Romney’s Free and Strong America / New Hampshire PAC on Oct. 4, 2010.
Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political scientist, said Romney needs 35 to 40 percent of the vote to be viewed as the winner. Romney’s strategy of snatching up local endorsements has resonated with Granite State residents, and that’s reflected in the widening gap in the polls.
“They want to suck all the oxygen out of the primary,” Scala said. “And so far they’ve succeeded.”
After his crushing 2008 campaign defeat, Romney created the Free and Strong America leadership PAC to contribute to local, state and federal officials’ campaigns.
According to the Federal Election Commission and OpenSecrets.org, the PAC donated $890,299 to some 167 congressional and Senate candidates in 2010, while distributing another $404,226 in 2010 to state and local candidates, according to state campaign finance records collected by FollowTheMoney.org.
If Romney’s been chided for being too moderate, he’s shown little moderation when it comes to the mother’s milk of politics: money.
“Clearly, the one thing Mitt Romney has to his advantage is money, and the best way to use it in the early stages is to spread it around to build up a political organization,” said Michael Dennehy an unaligned New Hampshire GOP operative. “Now, it appears he’s reaping the benefits.”
Romney is already earning dividends in states where he suffered embarrassing setbacks in 2008. In South Carolina, for example, Romney placed a distant third behind Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
Romney trumpeted the backing of Haley in December. The pair are touring South Carolina Friday and New Hampshire this weekend. His Free and Strong America PAC raised a lofty $36,000 for her in 2010.
Romney also is bolstering his support in three March 6 Super Tuesday states where his showing was dismal in 2008.
In Georgia, where Romney finished a distant third behind Huckabee and McCain, Free and Strong spent $36,000 in 2010 on 24 state candidates. So far, 11 have endorsed Romney ahead of the primary. Another nine congressmen received $25,052 in 2010 from the PAC, and four are backing Romney.
In Tennessee, another Super Tuesday state where Romney also finished third, Romney netted the backing of U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Jimmy Duncan. They were among GOP state and federal Tennessee candidates who split $17,500 from Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC in 2010.
In 2008, Romney placed fourth behind McCain, Huckabee and Ron Paul in Virginia. But this year he snagged the backing of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Rep. Barbara Comstock, who were among the recipients of some $27,500 donated by the Free and Strong America PAC.
So far, the spending has paid off not just in endorsements but in the development of a campaign infrastructure, experts said. This will help Romney against less well-funded rivals when the primaries are in several states simultaneously and particularly on Super Tuesday, when surrogates are vital in many places at once.
But there’s a risk, Zelizer warned, that over-spending could get Romney painted as an out-of-touch elitist trying to buy his delegates.
“He doesn’t want this to backfire and look like he has so much money, he’s buying an election, he’s buying a nomination,” Zelizer said.
There’s also controversy. For while the practice of contributing to campaigns in exchange for endorsements isn’t new, the New Hampshire and Alabama Democratic Parties have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission. They charge that the Free and Strong PACS coordinate with the state affiliates to circumvent federal and state campaign laws. The PACs have denied any wrongdoing.
Dennehy, the GOP operative, said that rather than complain, others should wonder why they’re not exerting their political muscle as effectively as Romney.
“He’s the only one who donated a sizable amount of money to dozens of elected officials,” Dennehy added. “Let’s face it. When no one else gives you money, you don’t think long and hard who’ll you’ll give your endorsement to.”
By: Edward Mason, Salon, January 7, 2012
Virginia will hold its Republican presidential primary on Super Tuesday (March 6), it would appear to be one of the more important contests. But the state’s unwise ballot-access laws have ensured that Virginia will be largely ignored.
By late Thursday, it looked as if Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry had collected the necessary signatures and would join Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on the Virginia GOP ballot. On Saturday morning, we learned otherwise.
Newt Gingrich will not appear on the Virginia presidential primary ballot, state Republican Party officials announced Saturday, after he failed to submit the required number of valid signatures to qualify.
The announcement was made on the Virginia Republican Party’s Twitter account. On Friday evening, the Republican Party of Virginia made a similar announcement for Governor Rick Perry of Texas.
Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum also came up short, which leaves Paul and Romney as the only GOP candidates whose names will appear on the primary ballot.
For Gingrich, this is a rather awkward setback. He expected to do very well in Virginia — Gingrich has, after all, lived in the state for many years — and assured supporters on Thursday that his name would be on the ballot. Complicating matters, the Gingrich campaign responded to the news by saying it would “pursue an aggressive write-in campaign,” not realizing that this is forbidden under Virginia election law.
Making matters slightly worse, Gingrich’s campaign director posted an item to Facebook that said, “Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected set-back, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action.”
Yes, after having been denied a ballot slot, Gingrich’s thoughts turned to Pearl Harbor. There’s a good reason I describe the disgraced former House Speaker as a lousy historian.
But this story is about more than just Gingrich’s failure. The larger point is that Virginia has ridiculous ballot-access laws, which will exclude five of the seven Republican presidential candidates from even appearing on the state’s ballot. If all seven had qualified, Virginia would have been home to a spirited contest — with candidates making many appearances, buying plenty of ads, and making lots of state-focused promises.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 26, 2011