The NBC News Elections Desk reports that in the Michigan primary, with 30 delegates at stake, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney will split that state's delegates 15 apiece.
Michigan allocated its delegates winner-take-all by congressional district.
The NBC News Elections Desk reports that in the Michigan primary, with 30 delegates at stake, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney will split that state's delegates 15 apiece.
Michigan allocated its delegates winner-take-all by congressional district.
The Romney campaign says the former Massachusetts governor now owns two shotguns purchased in the past five years, since he last ran for president.
Earlier today, per NBC's Garrett Haake, a questioner asked what the candidate would do to protect gun rights (and allow people to protect their families from a tyrannical government).
"I believe in the second amendment," Mitt Romney said. "I’ll protect the second amendment. I have guns myself. Not going to tell you where they are. Don’t have them on myself either, alright."
This raised the question of whether Romney purchased a weapon in the past five years or if he was retelling a tale from his last run for president.
In January 2007, Romney said, per the Boston Globe: "I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I'm a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms."
It turned out, however, that he didn't actually own the gun he was referring to; it was his son Josh's.
"Asked by reporters at the gun show Friday whether he personally owned the gun, Romney said he did not," the Globe wrote. "He said one of his sons, Josh, keeps two guns at the family vacation home in Utah, and he uses them 'from time to time.' The guns are a Winchester hunting rifle and a Glock 9mm handgun, which Romney uses for target shooting. Romney also described himself as a sportsman who learned to shoot as a boy rabbit hunting in Idaho with a .22 rifle. He fondly recalled shooting quail last year at a Republican Governors Association event in Georgia.
" 'I ... had a good time and actually knocked down a couple of birds,' he said."
Romney, who no longer owns that vacation home, also recalled: "As a boy, I worked on a ranch in Idaho and shot rabbits with a single shot .22 rifle. After a while my cousin said 'you're not very good at that. Try using this semiautomatic.'"
Romney, in trying to appeal to conservatives, had a tough time the last time he ran proving his gun-toting bona fides.
His quotes were circulated from his 1994 Senate race that he said he didn't "line up" with the NRA, and, famously described himself as a "rodent and rabbit hunter ... small varmints, if you will."
"I'm not a big-game hunter," Romney said. "I've made it very clear, I've always been a, if you will, rodent and rabbit hunter all right. Small, small varmints, if you will. And I began when I was, oh, 15 or so, and hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times. I also hunted quail in Georgia, so I've-- it's not really big-game hunting, if you will. It's not deer and large animals. But I've hunted a number of times of various types of small rodents."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NBC that he was caught off guard by Sen. Olympia Snowe's retirement announcement yesterday, but said he understands her decision.
He is now searching for a GOP candidate ahead of the March 15 filing deadline in Maine.
"I was very surprised," Cornyn said, "because up until yesterday afternoon, mid-afternoon, she gave every indication that she was running for re-election. But obviously after much thought and soul-searching decided that she would retire."
He added, "As you know, she's had a long run in public life at the state legislative level and also in the House and now in the Senate. So while I'm disappointed because I think she's been a very solid member of the Senate and our Congress, its understandable."
Cornyn conceded that a once-safe seat in Maine will now be a battle for Republicans given the state's independent nature and Democratic leanings in presidential elections. But he said he still believes the GOP can win.
"I don't really get this idea that Republicans can't run and win in Maine, because demonstrably, they can," he said noting that Paul LePage, a Tea Party Republican, won as governor in 2010 -- and Republicans Snowe and Susan Collins hold the U.S. Senate seats.
Cornyn rejected the scenario that Republicans may need to win as many as six seats or more to take back the Senate, if they were to lose Maine, Sen. Scott Brown's seat in Massachusetts, or the open toss-up race in Nevada.
So who will jump in now for Maine? Cornyn said he doesn't have anyone "in" yet, but he is burning up the phones and sending emails.
"Republicans who come from Maine have a more moderate appeal than someone in Texas," said the Texas senator. "That shouldn't be surprising."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man who would set the agenda as majority leader if Republicans take back the House, said today at a news conference with House Speaker John Boehner, that the Republicans were "surprised and disappointed" by Snowe's decision, noting that he's confident she would have been re-elected comfortably.
"We hate to lose Sen. Snowe," McConnell said. "She's been an extraordinarily effective member, been right in the middle of bipartisan legislation over the years. I think she would have been re-elected comfortably. We were surprised obviously and disappointed, but, in the end, members in public life have to kind of make a decision about whether they want to continue, and she had a great run, and we wish her well. We're going to miss her."
And he likely hopes the GOP doesn't come up one race short of a majority.
POWELL, TN -- The morning after a narrow popular-vote loss to Mitt Romney in his rival's home state of Michigan, Rick Santorum painted the outcome as a draw and predicted a strong performance in next week's Super Tuesday contests.
"We actually won half the congressional districts so we are going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates and he's going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates," he told an audience of around 1000 supporters at a Baptist church outside of Knoxville.
"We have a lot of wind at our back heading here to Tennessee and we are going to be taking it all across these Super Tuesday states and we're going to have a great day a week from yesterday!" he added.
The actual delegate count is not yet finalized, according to NBC News. By the network's count, each candidate has accumulated 13 delegates in Michigan, with the final calculations in some congressional districts still to be completed.
Speaking to reporters after the rally, Santorum called the outcome "a huge win for us" and dismissed a reporter's question about his loss to Romney among Catholic voters in last night's Michigan exit polls.
"You want to talk about one segment of the population?" he said, smiling and rolling his eyes. "Come on... This is a huge win for us. Let's play it the way it is. Don't give Romney all the spin!"
Santorum argued that Romney -- who outspent his opponents by a wide margin in his home state -- won the popular vote because of a heavy advantage only in Oakland County, the Detroit suburb where Romney grew up.
"We went into Michigan -- I don't know if you guys are listening -- we went into Michigan and we were able to pull off the impossible!" he told the press.
The Pennsylvania senator's top political adviser, John Brabender, underscored the point on a conference call held during Santorum's address to the church audience.
"Michigan is a lot different than when you went to bed last night," he said. "A tie can only be seen as a disaster for Mitt Romney."
Conference calls to brief the press are a rarity for the Santorum campaign, which is anxious to maintain the narrative that their candidate is still threatening Romney's front-runner status. While reporters asked about other topics, Brabender and national communications director Hogan Gidley were quick to keep the attention on the Michigan outcome.
"We're also trying to avoid another Iowa," Gidley said, referring to the Hawkeye State's caucus results that showed a Santorum victory after a weeks-long recount.
Reversing course, former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) announced today that he will, in fact, run for the open Senate seat in Nebraska.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D) announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection.
Nati Harnik / AP
Though Kerrey mentions his 'commitment' to Nebraska, Republicans will surely note that Kerrey, for the past decade, has lived in New York City, where he was president of The New School.
Here's Kerrey's statement:
"Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit. This afternoon, I will file to become a candidate for the United States Senate in Nebraska. I came to realize that my previous decision was the easy one, not the right one. My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face was too strong to dismiss. My family supports this decision 100%. I look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks. We have a lot of work to do."
Though Kerrey mentions his "commitment" to Nebraska, Republicans will surely note that Kerrey, for the past decade, has lived in New York City, where he was president of The New School.
It's welcome news for Democrats, a day after they got a big target in Maine because of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) announced she was not seeking reelection.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, at the ready with oppo research on Kerrey's record, dismissed Kerrey as a "liberal" who has lived in "Greenwich Village for so many years" and being "simply out-of-step with Nebraska."
"After making a backroom deal to get Nebraska’s senior senator to vote for ObamaCare, it appears Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid has made a deal with an even more liberal Democrat Bob Kerrey," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. “As Nebraskans reacquaint themselves with Kerrey they will quickly recognize that living in Greenwich Village for so many years tends to change a person. Whether it’s his support for cap-and-trade, his advocacy for a government-run health care system or his desire to raise taxes on Nebraska small businesses, Bob Kerrey is a loyal supporter of the Obama agenda and he’s simply out-of-step with Nebraska.”
Three weeks ago, Kerrey had announced he would not run. He said then:
"I have given the decision of becoming a candidate for the U.S. Senate very serious thought and prayer," Kerrey said in an email, per AP. "For many reasons I nearly said yes. In the end I choose to remain a private citizen. To those who urged me to do so, I am sorry, very sorry to have disappointed you. I hope you understand that I have chosen what I believe is best for my family and me."
If President Obama wins reelection, Republicans need to win a net of four seats to take control of the Senate. If a Republican wins the presidency, the GOP needs to pick up three.
Republicans are favored to win in North Dakota and would have been heavily favored in Nebraska to takeover seats currently held by Democrats. But the entry of Kerrey makes the race competitive and -- at least -- will be someplace Democrats hope Republicans will now have to spend some money and reduce their firepower elsewhere.
There are several toss-up states, for example, where control will likely rest, particularly -- Montana (D-Tester), Missouri (D-McCaskill), Virginia (D-Open), Nevada (R-Open), Massachusetts (R-Brown).
The favorite to win the GOP primary in Nebraska is Attorney General Jon Bruning, but he faces a primary, notably from state Treasurer Don Stenberg.
Kerrey served in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2000 and ran for president in 1992. It's not the first time Kerrey's name has come up for a Nebraska Senate seat and he declined.
But he has lived in New York City for the past decade, serving as president of The New School, far from his Nebraska roots. (He's currently President Emeritus at The New School.)
Amid better economic news, a declining unemployment rate, and an ongoing -- and combative -- Republican primary campaign, voter confidence in President Obama now stands at a nearly one-year high.
This comes after he reached his all-time low in September.
His score in the msnbc.com Voter Confidence Index is now -21, continuing a five-month trend of an improving VCI.
Besides immediately following Osama bin Laden’s death, the last time Obama’s score was this high was in January 2011.
In September, Obama’s VCI hit -63, a low for his presidency. In October, it jumped nine points to -54, then -53 in November, -45 in December, -30 in January, and -21 in February.
The closer the VCI gets to zero or positive territory, the better historically for presidents up for reelection.
Obama’s current VCI is still 10 points off from George W. Bush’s score of -11 in October 2004, a month before he was narrowly reelected. But it’s far better than the VCIs for Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. Both lost reelection.
Other presidents up for reelection:
1980 - Jimmy Carter -76
1984 - Ronald Reagan +62
1992 - George H.W. Bush -84
1996 - Bill Clinton +18
The VCI is calculated by looking at three numbers in polling – the president’s job approval, the direction of the country, and voters’ preference for which party should control Congress, the so-called congressional ballot. For more on the VCI, including detailed historical data, a month-by-month look at President Obama’s VCI, and details on how it’s calculated, click here.
TOLEDO, OH -- Escaping Michigan with a pair of wins after a bruising several days of back-and-forth engagements with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney today acknowledged his victories and moved to once again refocus his campaign on a singular issue: the economy.
Calling his wins last night in Arizona and Michigan "very good news," Romney used exit polling data to suggest his motivating issue in this election -- fixing the economy -- might return to the forefront of this campaign.
"Interestingly, the people who said the economy and jobs were their No. 1 issue, they voted for me overwhelmingly. And that's one of the reasons I'm running."
And with that, Romney launched into an event billed as a rally, but which seemed more like an economics seminar. He discussed China, energy. and tax policy. And other than one swipe at an unnamed rival who "spent his career in Washington," he ignored his GOP opponents.
Romney also hammered home a newer, simpler slogan: "For me this is all about more jobs, less debt, and smaller government," Romney said more than once, including in his closing remarks.
For the former Massachusetts governor, last night's wins may not provide much in terms of momentum here in Ohio. In an event billed as a "grassroots rally," only some 150 supporters showed up to cheer on Romney.
After the event, as Romney shook hands along the ropeline, the press corps swarmed around a different political celebrity -- Joe the Plumber, who gamely answered questions about the state of play in Ohio, and whether or not he planned to endorse a candidate (he does not) for some 15 minutes.
Chairman of the Rules Committee Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) announced on the House floor this morning that he is retiring.
Joshua Roberts / Getty Images
Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Committee on Rules announced he will not run for reelection February 29, 2012.
This is another blow to Republicans, who just lost Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) yesterday to retirement. But the move wasn't unexpected. Unlike Snowe's retirment, Dreier's was one of the worst-kept secrets on the Hill.
Dreier joins a handful of other Republicans from California who are retiring as a result of redistricting. Dreier's district went away as a result of redistricting.
While a handful of members, who are in similar situations, are running in neighboring districts, Dreier had few other options.
In his floor speech, he said he made the decision, because Americans are asking for change in Congress.
"We all know that this institution has an abysmally low approval rating," Dreier said, "and the American people are asking for change in Congress. And so, I'm announcing today that I will leave the congress at the end of this year."
Dreier was first elected to Congress in 1980. Now in his 16th term, he was considered a top choice in 2005 to take the Majority Leader position, which was instead given to Roy Blunt reportedly because of Dreier's more moderate views. Dreier has been chairman of the House Rules Committee -- which regulates House floor proceedings, debates and votes -- since 1999.
Romney wins ugly in Michigan… But that win silences the talk about a white knight riding to the GOP’s rescue… February took a toll on Romney… Did Santorum lose Michigan more than Romney winning it?... On to Super Tuesday… And Snowe’s retirement gives Democrats a better than 50%-50% chance of holding the Senate in November.
Mark Blinch / Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney addresses supporters at his Michigan primary night rally in Novi, Michigan, February 28, 2012.
*** Winning ugly: With so much riding on last night's outcome in Michigan, Mitt Romney got exactly what he needed to avoid political disaster -- a win. After all, a win is a win, and Romney pocketed two of them with a blow-out victory in Arizona (47%-27% over Rick Santorum) and a nail-biter in Michigan (41%-38%). But it wasn’t pretty for the former Massachusetts governor in the state where he grew up, where his father had served as governor, and where he won by nine percentage points in 2008. If this were college football, last night’s Michigan contest was akin to the No.2-ranked team in the country winning on a last-second field goal (the score 41-38) against an unranked opponent at home, on Homecoming. That No. 2 team survives, gets to regroup, and keeps its championship hopes alive. But the way it won -- UGLY -- despite all of its advantages raises doubts among the sports writers and even fans about its chances against the No. 1 team. Then again, the goal is to make it to the BCS game and see what happens. And Romney essentially did that by winning in Michigan last night.
*** But that win silences the talk about a white knight riding to the rescue: The biggest impact of Romney’s narrow victory in Michigan: It silences the talk of a white knight riding to the GOP’s rescue. While such an outcome might not have occurred even if Romney lost -- was a Christie/Daniels/Jeb Bush really going to jump in this late in the game? -- last night pretty much closed the door on that kind of speculation, even if Romney struggles next week on Super Tuesday (which is entirely possible). The other result: It drives home the point to all that Romney has PLENTY of work to do to close the deal with rank-and-file conservatives and convince his party that he can be a strong nominee. At his media avail yesterday in Michigan, Romney admitted that. "The candidate sometimes makes some mistakes, and so I'm trying to do better and work harder and make sure that we get our message across." Yet Romney also appears to have a message problem and a campaign problem. (Does the campaign appear competent because it is, or does it look that way in comparison to the other GOP campaigns?) And the campaign has to ask itself: How did they come this close to disaster… in MICHIGAN????
*** February took a toll on Romney: As we end the month of February, it’s worth noting the toll it took on Romney. When February began, the Conventional Wisdom was that it was tailor-made for the former Massachusetts governor. It started right after Romney’s big win in Florida; the only two big primaries in the month were on Romney turf (Michigan and Arizona); it featured just one debate (preventing a Gingrich or even Santorum from using it to build momentum); and in between were minor contests (in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri) that no one would pay attention to. But here’s what happened: Victories in those supposed minor contests gave Santorum all the momentum he needed to give Romney a run for his money in Michigan; Romney committed numerous verbal gaffes (“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” two Cadillacs, NASCAR team owners); his staff made mistakes (the Ford Field speech); and national polls showed an erosion of support from independent voters. Bottom line: He started the month looking strong and ends it looking weak.
*** Team Romney turns its attention to Obama: The Romney campaign has a new web video -- also serving as a fundraising solicitation -- that turns its attention to President Obama and notes how Team Obama and its Democratic allies tried to help defeat Romney in Michigan. Speaking of fundraising solicitations… Romney made what appears to be his first primary-night pitch for supporters to actually go to his website and give money. As we've been reporting for the last week, there is reason to believe Romney has a money problem, and we know he does not want to write a check like he did four years ago. It is amazing, by the way, that the frontrunner for the GOP nomination is likely to have fewer individual donors than two of his opponents (Santorum and Paul) when the next reports come out (March 20).
Top Talkers: Mitt Romney takes home two wins in Michigan and Arizona after the state's primaries, and the Morning Joe panel – including Time's Mark Halperin, MSNBC's Michael Steele, and Random House's Jon Meacham – discusses Romney's win and why Santorum didn't walk away with Michigan the way some expected.
*** Did Santorum lose Michigan? As for Santorum, you could make the argument that he lost Michigan more than Romney winning it. In past contests, we’ve seen the Romney campaign destroy all of its opponents. But in this case, Santorum hurt himself with self-inflicted wounds. His debate performance in Arizona. His college/snob line. His attack on JFK’s 1960 speech. Just look at the exit polls in Michigan: Romney crushed Santorum among “somewhat conservatives,” 50%-32%. That suggests he turned off rank-and-file Republicans who might not be excited about Romney, but who aren’t as conservative as Santorum and were turned off by the rhetoric. Next week’s Super Tuesday contest in Ohio becomes a must-win proposition if Santorum wants to be the GOP nominee or even simply REMAIN the chief alternative. The good news for him: It’s more than doable. Polls taken before last night’s contests show him ahead in the Buckeye State; the demographics there are very similar what we saw in Michigan; and Romney doesn’t have a built-in advantage in the state. But here’s the bad news: Romney’s victories last night could give him the momentum that he needs to erase Santorum’s lead. What’s more, Romney and his allies currently enjoy a 6-to-1 ad spending advantage in Ohio (see below) when that edge was just 2-to-1 in Michigan -- and even smaller than that in the final week of the contest.
*** The delegate battle: Here’s one final point about Michigan: NBC News can declare that Romney and Santorum have each won six of Michigan’s congressional districts, giving them 12 delegates. (And when you add the one at-large delegate each won, they stand at 13 each.) But there are two undecided districts (the 5th and 13th) -- one where Romney is leading by some 60 votes (with more to be counted), and one where Santorum is up some 40 votes. So, yes, it's still possible for Santorum to win more delegates in Michigan than Romney.
*** On to Super Tuesday: So now we move to next week’s Super Tuesday contests -- and even before that the Washington caucuses this Saturday. The big Super Tuesday prize is Ohio, given that it seems all the candidates (sans Paul) will be campaigning there. And here is the early campaigning strategy: Romney stumps in Ohio (today and Friday), North Dakota (Thursday), Idaho (Thursday), and Washington state (Thursday); Santorum heads to Tennessee (today) and Ohio (Friday); Gingrich hits Georgia (today, Thursday, and on Super Tuesday); and Paul campaigns in Washington state (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), Alaska (Saturday and Sunday), and Idaho (Monday and Tuesday). By the way, keep an eye on Tennessee. It's the ONE Southern State on Super Tuesday -- excluding Virginia -- where Romney could overperform. And if he wins it, he could actually begin to put this nomination away for good.
*** Super Tuesday ad spending: As in the other contests, Romney and his allies have a sizable spending edge in the Super Tuesday states.
Ohio: Restore Our Future $2.25 million; Romney $1.2 million; Winning Our Future $498,000; Santorum $275,000; Red, White and Blue Fund $255,000
Georgia: Restore Our Future $1.5 million; Winning Our Future $1.1 million; Romney $327,000; Santorum $152,000; Gingrich $15,000
Tennessee: Restore Our Future $915,000; Winning Our Future $464,000; Santorum $130,000; Gingrich $3,000
Oklahoma: Restore Our Future $378,000; Winning Our Future $323,000; Santorum $90,000, Romney $8,000; Gingrich $2,000
Idaho: Romney $37,000
TOTAL: Restore $5 million; Romney $1.5 million; Winning $2.4 million; Santorum $647,000; Red, White and Blue $225,000; Gingrich $20,000
*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney hosts two events in Ohio, rallying in Toledo and Bexley… Gingrich remains in Georgia, making stops in Atlanta, Covington and Gainseville… Santorum rallies in Nashville, TN… And Paul hits Washington, DC.
*** Two points on Snowe’s retirement: We want to make two points about Olympia Snowe’s retirement announcement yesterday. One, it gives Democrats a better than 50%-50% chance of holding the Senate in November. If Democrats win in Maine and Massachusetts, then they’ve moved the bar to Republicans needing to win five seats (if Obama loses) and six (if he wins). We can see how Republicans get to four (North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, and Missouri). And we can see how they maybe get to five (adding Virginia or Wisconsin or Ohio). But six? That would mean that Republicans would need to win in a New Mexico or a Florida or a Michigan. It's a tall order; they didn't sweep all the toss-ups in 2010, which was a much BETTER landscape for the GOP. Two, Snowe’s stated reason for not seeking re-election in 2012 -- increased polarization in the Senate -- couldn’t have been scripted better by David Plouffe or David Axelrod. “I do find it frustrating … that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions," she said yesterday. There’s a reason why President Obama released a statement on Snowe’s announcement yesterday when he didn’t do the same for other announced GOP senators (Kyl and Hutchison).
*** The latest GOP aisle-crosser to leave the Senate: And by the way, Snowe is just the latest of the regular Republican aisle-crosser to leave the Senate (by retirement or loss) since 2008. Here are some of the others: Bob Bennett, George Voinovich, Judd Gregg, Arlen Specter (though he switched parties), Mel Martinez, Chuck Hagel, Gordon Smith, and John Warner. And get this: Susan Collins now becomes the last remaining Senate Republican who voted for the stimulus back in 2009.
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day: 251 days
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*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and McCain 2008 Chief Strategist Steve Schmidt on last night’s results, where things go now and what Sen. Snowe’s sign-off says to their party… Jeff Berman, delegate director for the Obama campaign in 2008, on his new book “The Magic Number” and the Republican delegate fight… More 2012 analysis with BuzzFeed/Politico’s Ben Smith, msnbc’s Alex Wagner and NY1’s Errol Louis.
*** Wednesday's "Jansing & Co." line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews Ralph Nader, Rep. Ed Markey (D, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, Time magazine’s Rana Faroohar, and the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart.
*** Wednesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts talks with former RNC Chair Michael Steele, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, Richard Wolffe, DCCC Chair Steve Israel, Ron Reagan and Chief Warrant Officer David Cooper (being honored at White House Dinner for Veterans)
*** Wednesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Politico’s Glenn Thrush, Radio Host Kurt Andersen, the Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy, the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott, and Santorum Communications Director Hogan Gidley
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the Romney campaign’s Gail Gitcho, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, New York magazine’s John Heilemann, Politico’s Jonathan Martin, Sen. Patty Murray, and Rep. John Lewis.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Michael Smerconish, Bill Ballenger from Inside Michigan Politics, RealClearPolitics’ Erin McPike, and retired Staff Sgt. Eric Alva (who was the first soldier injured in Iraq War).
The Arizona results (with 82% in): Romney 47%, Santorum 27%, Gingrich 16%, Paul 8%.
The Michigan results (with 95% in): Romney 41%, Santorum 38%, Paul 12%, Gingrich 7%.
The Detroit Free Press’ six-column, front-page headline: “Tough win for Romney.”
The Detroit News’ front page: “Romney brings home win.”
The Grand Rapids Press: “Romney’s double win no knockout.”
The Arizona Republic’s front page: “After Romney’s wins, tests await.”
The New York Times: “Mitt Romney fought back a vigorous challenge from Rick Santorum in Michigan on Tuesday, narrowly carrying his native state, and won the Arizona primary in a pair of contests that reasserted his control over the Republican presidential race as it advances to critical Super Tuesday contests next week. His victory over Mr. Santorum here in Michigan was far from commanding, but it was most likely sufficient to dampen the rising clamor from across the Republican Party about his ability to win over conservatives and connect with voters.”
“Mitt Romney may have won ugly in Michigan, but his narrow victory will temper the mounting criticism of his candidacy, even though his resilience is about to be tested again in some of the biggest prizes of Super Tuesday,” Politico’s Martin writes. “But even though this most wobbly of front-runners will face a new set of challenges next week, Romney eased GOP fears Tuesday. He leaves his childhood home having averted disaster and with the second example in a month of bouncing back from adversity.”
GINGRICH: And so it begins… “Newt Gingrich defended his moon colony idea Tuesday against Mitt Romney's heavy criticism, telling a crowd of Georgia supporters that Romney ‘is the kind of guy who would have fired Christopher Columbus,’” The Hill writes.
PAUL: On FOX, Ron Paul said there’s no deal between him and Romney and certainly no deal or promises for his son Rand. “[T]he last thing I've done is talked to Mitt Romney. Besides, he wouldn't talk to me about that. That's just fiction, and it's mostly been promoted by somebody, I guess, who's super involved in conspiracy theories. That's Santorum doing that,” GOP 12 writes. “But it doesn't make any sense at all.... my son can take care of himself. He doesn't need me to make deals for himself. That's the last thing in the world that I would think about doing.”
ROMNEY: Per the Detroit News, "Romney crushed Santorum in Metro Detroit, picking up nearly 50,000 more votes in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. But Santorum beat Romney by 18,000 in the other 80 counties, scoring double-digit wins in more than 20 counties, revealing the division within the party between its moderates in southeast Michigan and the more conservative Republicans in west and north Michigan."
The importance of Oakland County: Not only did more people vote in Oakland County, the more affluent Detroit suburb, than any other county in Michigan’s GOP primary race last night (about one-in-seven votes came from there), but it also provided Mitt Romney with his margin of victory. With 95% in, Romney won Michigan by 32,393 votes. He won Oakland County by 31,565 votes.
The Boston Globe: “Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the Michigan and Arizona GOP primaries, staving off a strong challenge from Rick Santorum in Michigan and gaining crucial momentum in his drive to win his party’s presidential nomination.”
SANTORUM: The Boston Globe looks at how Santorum’s Kennedy remarks have upset religious leaders.
Bloomberg takes issue with Santorum’s higher-education remarks: “Republican candidate Rick Santorum’s attack on President Barack Obama’s promotion of a college education conflicts with the broad appeal and economic value that higher education holds for young Americans.” It makes this point: “The median annual pay of those 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree was $56,472 in 2009, 70 percent more than those with a high school diploma, Census Bureau figures for 2009 show.”
“Republican presidential hopefuls today turn their focus to the biggest contests yet — Ohio and the rest of the 10 states that vote next week on Super Tuesday,” the New York Post writes. “In Ohio, the crown jewel of Super Tuesday, the brawl between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum promises to get even bloodier.”
“[T]he narrow nature of the win in Michigan, where [Romney] was born and won handily in 2008, demonstrates continued weakness in his candidacy,” the Boston Globe notes. “And now he heads into a phase of the campaign where it will be difficult to land any knockout blows and clinch the nomination: Super Tuesday. The March 6 vote by 10 states, including Massachusetts, will preface a potentially agonizing spring for the Republicans. It is the proverbial ‘long slog’ Romney’s campaign says it has been preparing for since last year.”
Bloomberg makes the same point: “Mitt Romney’s double-barreled victory in the Arizona and Michigan primaries yesterday gave him a burst of momentum in the Republican presidential race as the contest shifts to Southern states and Ohio, where his appeal among evangelical and working class voters will be tested anew.”
And the AP: “Mitt Romney is trying to capitalize on twin victories in Arizona and Michigan as the GOP nomination race expands to the 10 states that vote on Super Tuesday. Rival Rick Santorum, who narrowly lost in Michigan, faces splitting the conservative vote with Newt Gingrich as the former House speaker counts on Southern primaries to revive his campaign.”
The New York Daily News: “Mitt Romney seized a pair of wins Tuesday night, but his closer-than-expected margin of victory in his native Michigan left the Republican race for the White House far from over.”
GEORGIA: "Returning to Georgia Tuesday for several days of campaigning, Newt Gingrich accused Pakistan of hiding Osama bin Laden before U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated him during a daring night raid last May and said the United States should reevaluate its relationship with Islamic countries," writes the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
IDAHO: Romney's son Josh wrapped up a two-day swing in Idaho.
OHIO: An ominous lede for Romney in the Columbus Dispatch's Michigan story. "Momentum is with Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential race migrates to Ohio. For now."
The Cincinnati Enquirer offers a primer: "The core of the Republican vote in Ohio is in two places: the suburbs and exurbs of the state’s big cities – places like West Chester, Mason and Deerfield Township – and in the vast expanse of rural and small-town areas in southern Ohio and western Ohio, running alongside Interstate 75 from Dayton to Toledo. Those small towns and rural counties can easily be overlooked, but they are chock-full of what are sometimes called “values voters’ – fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics who respond well to candidates like Santorum, who has been preaching from the stump that religion has a place in government."
TENNESSEE: The Tennessean: "Early voting ended in Nashville on Tuesday with a substantial drop-off in GOP voters from four years ago, while other counties have seen an increase from the 2008 election. By the end of the day Monday, about 4,200 Davidson County residents had voted in the Republican presidential primary. That’s fewer than half of the more than 9,000 people who voted early or absentee during the 2008 GOP primaries in Davidson County Other Middle Tennessee counties didn’t see that kind of drop-off, as voting was up in Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson counties compared with four years ago."
WASHINGTON: "If Mitt Romney thinks he can jog a victory lap, and put in a leisurely appearance here late in the week, he should think again," reports the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "Washington's contrarian history likely will deliver a message: It's far from over. The Evergreen State has lots of trees, but Romney won't find them the "right height."
Ron Paul is going up in Washington state with an ad that takes aim at all three of his rivals, including Romney.
MAINE: The Portland Press-Herald’s front page on Snowe: “True statesman is bowing out.”
The Bangor Daily News: “U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe stunned Maine’s political establishment on Tuesday by announcing she would not seek re-election in a decision likely to have ramifications on both congressional races here and on the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.”
“Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican senator from Maine known for her ability to work across party lines on key issues impacting New England and the nation, surprised many of her colleagues yesterday with her announcement that she would not seek reelection this fall,” the Boston Globe writes. “Despite laying a strong foundation for her campaign these past few months, the three-term senator decided she’ll leave after 33 years in Congress, partially blaming the bitter partisanship that has permeated Washington.”
President Obama joined members of Congress in reacting to Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's announcement that she would not seek re-election this year. The Maine senator has been in public service for nearly four decades.
Stressing her history of working with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, Obama released a statement that read in part: “From her unwavering support for our troops, to her efforts to reform Wall Street, to fighting for Maine’s small businesses, Sen. Snowe’s career demonstrates how much can be accomplished when leaders from both parties come together to do the right thing for the American people.”
The President’s reaction is notable because he does not typically release statements when Republican lawmakers announce their retirements.
There was no paper statement when the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, Sen. Jon Kyl (R), announced he was retiring last February. The White House was equally mum when longtime Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) announced last January that she would not seek re-election.
One reason for the difference may be that Snowe has a history of breaking with her Republican counterparts and voting with the Democrats. The Washington Post points out that only Sen. Susan Collins -- also of Maine -- voted with Democrats more than Snowe last year.
Obama's statement also celebrated Snowe’s long career in public service: “Elected to the State House in 1973, Olympia went on to be the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.”
NBC News projects that Mitt Romney has won Michigan.
With 84% of the vote in at about 10:47 pm ET, Romney was up 41%-38% over Rick Santorum, narrowly escaping what could have been a crushing blow to his candidacy in the state where he grew up.
A quick look at religion in the exit polls:
- Mormons made up 14% of Arizona GOP primary voters; Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, won them with 91%. Those numbers are up slightly from 2008, when Mormons were 11% of total, and Romney got 88% of them).
- In Michigan, GOP primary voters who identified as Catholics (30% of the total) voted for Romney (43%-37%) over the staunch conservative Catholic, Rick Santorum.
- But Santorum won evangelicals/born-again Christians (42% of total) by a wide margin -- 50%-32% over Romney.
Did the Santorum campaign's effort to get Democrats to vote for him -- as well as the left's push to support Santorum over Romney -- work?
It has produced results, according to the exit polls. But it's unclear -- so far -- if it was enough to help Santorum win in tonight's Michigan primary.
Per the exits, 9% of GOP primary voters in Michigan are Democrats, and Santorum gets a whopping 53% of these folks, compared with 17% for both Romney and Paul. (By contrast, 60% are self-described Republicans, and Romney wins them over Santorum, 47%-37%.)
Santorum also overperforms among those who describe themselves as "somewhat liberal."
This crossover effect, in fact, has produced this striking phenomenon: Santorum is winning the most conservative voting groups ("very conservative" voters, evangelical Christians), as well as the most liberal groups.
Meanwhile, Romney is doing well with all the voting groups in between (somewhat conservatives, moderates, non-evangelicals).
The GOP primary race in Michigan, Mitt Romney's home state, is "too close to call," NBC News projects.
Polls in the run up to Michigan have shown a tight race between Romney and Rick Santorum.
NBC News does project, however, Romney to be the winner in Arizona.
Since Arizona is winner-take-all, Romney will win all 29 of the state's delegates.
Interesting fact: Despite the -- warranted -- focus on Michigan over Arizona, Romney will actually win more delegates out of Arizona than Michigan, no matter the outcome, because Michigan is winner-take-all by congressional district.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As Michigan and Arizona voters went to the polls today, the gloves came off between the two top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.
The first blow came this morning in Livonia, Mich., when Mitt Romney called Rick Santorum "an economic light weight." The remark kicked off a day of verbal sparing and boxing metaphors between the two both stumping in the Wolverine State. "I don't think he understands the process of job creating," Romney added.
It was later that Santorum responded to the former Massachusetts governor, calling him "a lightweight on conservative accomplishments."
The latest candidate to surge in the polls attempted to spin Romney's comments as an attack on his wealth.
"I'm not a heavyweight," Santorum said. "I’m not a multimillionaire. I'm someone who has gone out and worked hard and learned my economics from shining shoes."
(Santorum may not be as wealthy as Romney or even Newt Gingrich, but the former Pennsylvania senator made more than $1 million in 2010 and half of 2011.)
Of the two states holding primaries today, it is Michigan that has received the bulk of attention. Santorum is threatening in the state where Romney spent his youth and his father served as governor. As a result, the contest here has gotten increasingly negative, with each candidate running scorching television ads in the state.
Romney is pointing to a robo-call from the Santorum campaign as the latest example of the mudslinging. The call features a message calling on Democrats to vote against Romney in the Tuesday primary.
Romney said on Fox News that the calls are "outrageous and disgusting, a terrible dirty trick at the last hour."
But Santorum and advisers contest the move was nothing more than an attempt to reach out to a broad base of voters. "I don't remember Mitt Romney running around and doing anything but trying to encourage Democrats and independents to vote for him in New Hampshire," Santorum contended.
A win for Santorum in the state would be a tremendous boast for a candidate still struggling to to keep compete with the money and organization of his chief rival. However, campaign advisers argue that the race is close enough that they don't need an actual Santorum win to claim a victory.
"I think it's already a win by the fact that it's this competitive with Mitt Romney in his home state," senior Santorum strategist John Brabender said on MSNBC.
Both candidates will take their campaigns to Super Tuesday states tomorrow, with Romney heading to Ohio and Santorum to Tennessee.
ROME, GA -- While his Republican presidential rivals await voter returns from Michigan and Arizona, Newt Gingrich is continuing to fight for his political life in the South while on a bus tour across his home state of Georgia.
Evan Vucci / AP
GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday in Rome, Ga.
“Georgia is the biggest group of delegates up on Super Tuesday so this is a big deal. And it really, really matters,” Gingrich told an overflowing crowd this morning in Dalton.
The lyrics, “I am a real American. Fight for what's right, fight for your life!" from the popular Hulk Hogan entrance song -- “Real American” -- blasted through the speakers as the former House Speaker walked off stage from both of his events Tuesday.
Many believe Gingrich must do well in the primary in the Peach State next week in order to continue his campaign.
The state has the most number of delegates out of the 10 states that vote on March 6th to be awarded. While Georgia awards all of its 76 delegates proportionally, if a candidate can win 50% of the statewide vote, all of the delegates will be awarded to that candidate.
The Speaker is so “deliberately focused” on Georgia, and the Southern states, that he forwent campaigning in Michigan and Arizona, letting Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum fight it out in the states instead.
“We decided not to compete in Michigan because we thought it would be important to focus here [Georgia] and to focus in Tennessee and in Oklahoma, in Idaho, and Ohio and the states that are going to be on Super Tuesday,” he said.
But the Gingrich campaign, as the Speaker even admitted today, needs help financially. “Ideas” and “people power” – the two secret weapons Gingrich says he has to capture the nomination – can only go so far until funds dry up.
Keeping with Gingrich’s pitch of lowering gas prices back to $2.50 a gallon, gas cans were turned into donation buckets at his campaign events Tuesday.
“We really have a broad based grassroots campaign. And so using Facebook, using the internet, using twitter, using emails – all these things really help and they’re really, really low cost,” Gingrich said. “We’re going to have some buckets out back – actually gasoline pails that we’ve cut open to collect money. So if any of you want to help us collect this message, we’d love to have your help cause every penny’s going to go right back into advertising this week to help win the primary.”
Gingrich wraps up his four-day bus tour in the state he represented in Congress for 20 years Friday before heading to the one Super Tuesday state above the Mason-Dixon line that the campaign hopes to compete in – Ohio.
In a surprise to political observers, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has announced she will not be seeking re-election this year, giving Democrats a potential pick-up opportunity as they try to hold on to control of the U.S. Senate this election season.
"After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate," she said in a statement.
And Snowe cited the increased political "polariziation" as the reason for her retirement.
"As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion, and I am filled with that same sense of responsibility today as I was on my first day in the Maine House of Representatives. I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and 'my way or the highway' ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions."
She continued, "With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."
Currently, Democrats hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Republicans would need to pick up four seats to take control of the Senate if Obama wins re-election -- and three if he doesn't (since the vice president gets to cast the tie-breaking vote).
Sounding at times like he was on the campaign trail, an impassioned President Obama praised the 2009 federal bailout of the American auto industry -- and in the process implicitly criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, an opponent of the measure.
The president’s speech, in front of 1,700 members of the United Auto Workers union, came right before the Republican primary in Michigan, an important general-election state where Romney is running neck-and-neck with Rick Santorum in tonight's primary.
Obama condemned the conservative pushback against the $80 billion auto industry bailout -- which begun during the Bush administration -- saying that had the government not intervened, another option would have been to “do absolutely nothing and let these companies fail.”
“And you will recall there were some politicians who said we should do that,” Obama said as the audience booed.
He quoted one specific course of action, which happened to also be the title of Romney’s 2008 op-ed in which he called for a “managed bankruptcy” of the auto industry.
“Some even said we should ‘let Detroit go bankrupt’” Obama said to continued boos. “You remember that?” he continued.
Obama seemed to make another indirect reference to Romney when he said that some politicians claim the unions wanted the bailout simply to line their own coffers.
“You've got folks saying, 'Well, the real problem is -- what we really disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits -- that saving the auto industry was just about paying back the unions,'" Obama said.
“Really?” he continued as the audience laughed. “I mean, even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you know what.”
While Romney has frequently criticized Obama for engaging in what he calls “crony capitalism,” charging Obama gives favorable treatment to “union bosses” in exchange for campaign donations, Romney has taken pains to clarify that he is not targeting individual union members.
“Look, unions play an important role. I have no problem with union members. I feel they make a real contribution. But union bosses, let me tell you, that's a different group,” Romney said at a Detroit-area event on Feb. 23.
While Obama’s speech did feel at times like a direct rebuke of some of Romney’s campaign lines, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today denied that the references -- including the title of Romney’s op-ed -- should be interpreted as a reproach of the former Massachusetts governor.
“Others may have also certainly shared that sentiment if not the same sentence,” Carney said of “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
Carney added that Obama’s remarks on the auto bailout reflected his desire to weigh in on a policy decision that happens to be a hot-button political issue as well.
“This is a matter of public debate right now and it is certainly appropriate for the president to make his policy positions known and to engage in that public debate.”
The auto bailout may be a topic in both political and policy discussions, but President Obama did overtly acknowledge his own political fortunes several times during his twenty-five minute speech.
He told the crowd that he had visited GM’s Hamtramck factory in Detroit, the home of the Chevy Volts, where he was allowed to sit in the car but not drive it, per Secret Service direction.
“Five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself,” Obama said, looking beyond this November’s election.
That off-the-cuff remark prompted the crowd to begin chanting, “Four more years! Four more years!”
*** UPDATE *** The political dimension to Obama’s speech was only underscored when, hours after the speech, Jim Messina, the Obama re-election campaign manager, tweeted, “POTUS was fired up at the UAW today” with a link to the campaign’s Tumblr site, at the top of which was a moving picture featuring portions of today’s speech.
Mitt Romney is pretty upset about Rick Santorum robo-calling Democrats to try and get them out to vote for him. Romney called it "a real effort to kidnap our primary process."
This might be why. In 2000, John McCain won Michigan by 8 points, 51%-43%, over George W. Bush. And about 10 percent of the people who voted for McCain were Democrats.
About 1.3 million voted in the 2000 Michigan primary. Nearly one-in-five -- 17% -- voters told exit pollsters they were Democrats. (That would be about 75,104 people; 82 percent of them went for McCain, meaning 61,586 Democrats voted for McCain.)
McCain's total vote was 650,805, so the 62,000 or so is about 9.5%. (Of course, these aren't exact numbers because exit polls have a margin of error but they're pretty close.)
Only about half -- 48% -- of the 2000 Michigan primary voters identified as Republicans; 35% were independents.
All eyes remain fixed on tonight's Michigan primary, including the conservative blogosphere's. And the question is: Who will win tonight -- Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?
The Washington Times’ Brett M. Decker believes Romney’s name recognition in the Wolverine States will give him the slim victory.
“Romney might dodge this bullet, but it came too close for comfort given how prominent his family name is in his home state. His father, George W. Romney, later a member of President Nixon’s Cabinet, was a popular three-term governor. Before politics, the senior Romney was president of American Motors Corporation (former parent company of Jeep), the closest one gets to being royalty in the world’s largest car making region. This local pedigree is a major reason why Mitt Romney beat Sen. John McCain by nine points in the Michigan primary four years ago. The political dynasty is so respected in the state that radio personality Ronna Romney, the ex-wife of one of Mitt’s brothers, won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1996 in large part because of the name.”
But not all conservative bloggers are convinced Romney can clinch a victory tonight. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey at Hot Air writes:
“Assuming that the Monday-only numbers and the early voting figures from PPP are accurate and predictive, a turnout like the one in 2008 would result in a narrow victory for Santorum, 38.9% to 35.2%. That would produce a nearly even split in delegates, but give Santorum a boost heading into Super Tuesday. If he can’t close the deal in Michigan, then next week will be a very tough sell.”
John Tabin, conservative blogger at the Spectator echoes what most conservative bloggers are saying: “The stakes today are fairly high for both candidates.”
“If Romney can't pull it out in Michigan, where he won in 2008 and where his father was once governor, it's hard to see him winning the kind of near-sweep on Super Tuesday next week that would restore the air of inevitability that keeps not-quite-sticking to his campaign. If Santorum wins Michigan, it will begin to seem possible that he might snag the nomination out from under Romney (not least because a Santorum win today would almost certainly precipitate a significant fundraising bounce). Conversely, if Santorum can't win today, his sweep of the February 7th contests begins to look less like a sign of a campaign with real staying power and more like a blip (which is about what Newt Gingrich's South Carolina victory looks like at the moment).”
Regardless of the outcome, Jennifer Rubin, a conservative writer for the Washington Post, says tonight’s winner still faces big challenges ahead.
“Rick Santorum may lose one or both races today, but that does not mean he is out of the running for the nomination. Likewise, Mitt Romney could win both contests and still face a slow slog to the nomination.”
Part of this is attributable to the delegate selection rules, which, after tonight, will still leave the leader more than a thousand delegates short of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that any candidate will sweep Super Tuesday, so even after next week’s contests the race will remain far from “over.” That is not to say that the results tonight won’t affect fundraising, press coverage and polling. But the desire to over-interpret wins and losses should be moderated.”
Rick Santorum said he regretted saying he wanted to "throw up" as a result of late President John F. Kennedy's speech about separation of church and state.
He told conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, per The Hill: "I wish I had that particular line back."
*** UPDATE *** Per NBC's Sarah Blackwill, here's the audio, per ThinkProgress:
He went on to say:
"…if you read President Kennedy’s text, while there were certainly some very important things and good things he said in that, there were some things that triggered in my opinion the privatization of faith and I think that’s a bad thing. I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama, not by Rick Santorum."