There may be some formalities left in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida, but the stage for the general election is now set and two stories yesterday almost perfectly previewed what the next 10 months are going to be about.
First in Washington, President Obama accepted the resignation of his Chief of Staff William Daley. Daley had been brought in to improve Obama’s relationship with the business community. Thanks to Obama’s unprecedented expansion of government spending, debt and power, that effort was dead before Daley could even unpack. So now Obama has brought in a committed liberal, Jack Lew, as his new Chief of Staff … his fourth Chief of Staff in less than three years. No previous president (including two-termers) have had more than four Chiefs of Staff. But don’t expect the liberal media to do any stories on White House dysfunction. Daley is out and Lew is in because Obama plans to run a populist campaign demonizing the free enterprise system. He previewed this approach in a campaign speech in front crowd of roughly 700 who payed $100 a ticket to see him at the Capital Hilton yesterday. “We are not a country that was built on the idea of survival of the fittest. We were built on the idea that we survive as a nation. We thrive when we work together, all of us,” Obama said. Of course, Obama’s idea of working together is not voluntary exchange through a capitalist system, but top-down government command-and-control through a powerful and unchecked administrative state.
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney was under attack from some of his Republican rivals for saying, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Romney was speaking of the ability to choose between health insurance companies, but Jon Huntsman saw an opening to attack Romney’s record at the private equity firm Bain Capital. Huntsman told reporters, “Governor Romney enjoys firing people; I enjoy creating jobs.” Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry also echoed the Huntsman-Obama line of attack on Bain, accusing Romney of having “looted” companies and firing workers for his own gain. Romney’s campaign later released a memo directly responding to Gingrich’s attacks writing, “The free enterprise is being put on trial by President Obama. And their first witness is Newt Gingrich.”
Romney should easily be able to defend his tenure at Bain Capital in a Republican primary. But as The American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis has pointed out, his campaign is going to have to do a better job telling Bain’s story in the general election.
National polls: A new CBS poll shows that, of all the Republican candidates, only Mitt Romney is beating President Obama in a head-to-head match-up 47% to 45%. And a new Gallup poll finds that Romney is the now the only candidate that a majority of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans nationwide see as an “acceptable” GOP nominee for president.
New Hampshire: Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tells The Washington Examiner‘s Susan Ferrechio that, “Romney is leading because social conservatives are fractured.”
Gingrich: The New York Times reports that, despite his new-found skepticism about capitalism, Newt Gingrich served on an advisory board for a private equity firm just like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital.
Huntsman: Jon Huntsman will not appear on the Arizona primary ballot because his campaign failed to get his notarized signature on the application. Arizona votes February 28th.
Paul: Ron Pauls cut yet another interview with CNN short yesterday, when Dana Bash asked about Paul’s trouble connecting with voters.
Santorum: Rick Santorum lowered expectations for New Hampshire yesterday, telling reporters that just “coming here to New Hampshire” and being allowed to participate in “two good debates” is “victory.”
Virginia: The National Republican Senate Committee released another web video Monday, attacking Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine for his connections to President Obama.
Around the Bigs
The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Step Up Their Borrowing: A new Federal Reserve report found that U.S. households have stopped saving and are back to adding on more debt.
The Washington Post, Rat population has ‘exploded’ around Occupy D.C. camps: according D.C. Department of Health Director Mohammad Akhter, the rat population around the two Occupy D.C. camps at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza has “exploded”since protesters began their vigil in October.
Indianapolis Star, House Democrats end 3-day walkout: Indiana Democrats returned to the state capitol Monday, but they made no promise to allow the legislature to work and they say they could bolt at anytime if Republicans continue to push a right-to-work law.
The Los Angeles Times, Brown tax hike plan may bring in less than estimated: California Gov. Jerry Brown says his sales and income tax hikes could bring in $6.9 billion a year. The Legislative Analyst’s Office says it’s likely to generate just $4.8 billion.
The Club For Growth issued a statement on Gingrich’s new anti-Bain ad, including: “Attacking Governor Romney for participating in free-market capitalism is just beyond the pale for any purported ‘Reagan Conservative.’ Newt Gingrich should stop his attacks on free markets and apologize to Governor Romney for them.”
At The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru wonders what damage Gingrich is doing to his long-term brand: “The way he’s campaigning now makes it less and less likely he will be able to find a home there after this campaign is over. He’s making himself radioactive. And it’s less and less clear that he’s operating on any rational understanding of his own interests, as opposed to gratifying his emotions.”
Talking Points Memo reports that Newt Gingrich is going “Full ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Against Romney.”
New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait says, “Gingrich Swift Boats Romney.”
The Washington Post editorial board argues that Super PAC’s create the appearance of corruption in Washington.