While Republicans had hoped to be well into a general-election battle against President Obama by now, conservatives can count on an array of outside groups to help fend off Obama until the nominee is chosen.
American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-aligned group projected to raise as much as $300 million this cycle, had long expected to help the eventual nominee battle Obama in the weeks after the convention -- serving as a bridge between the primary and general election campaigns.
This week, as the president touts his energy policy in swing states, Crossroads GPS, the group’s nonprofit arm, made a six-figure ad buy blasting Obama over gas prices. Earlier in the week, the Republican National Committee began airing TV ads in six swing states criticizing Obama on the anniversary of his 2010 health care law.
Initially, such onslaughts were scheduled for the cash-refueling stage after the convention.
But the unexpectedly long primary has them rethinking that strategy, said Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio. The group is now determining when it should begin its campaign against Obama. “The nomination fight is taking longer than expected,” Collegio said. “We still expect to do that. The question is not whether we’ll do it, but when.”
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
DeMint Calls for GOP Assessment, Praises Romney
[CNN, 3/22/12] Romney met with conservative heavyweight Sen. Jim DeMint today on Capitol Hill, and did not receive an outright endorsement, but garnered praise from the tea-party favorite. DeMint said he was "excited" at the prospect of a nominee Romney.
Illinois Primary Win May Have Turned the Tide
[Los Angeles Times, 3/21/12] Romney’s Illinois win has all but ensured the nomination, "Etch A Sketch" gaffe and all. Math and the political calendar work against Rick Santorum and appear to be steadily, irreversibly tilting the race in Romney’s favor, writes Mark Z. Barabak.
[National Journal, 3/22/12] National Journal’s Michael Hirsh writes that Romney has two personas: the data-driven pragmatist and the newly-minted ideologue. Voters don’t know who would govern -- and the uncertainty could kill his candidacy.
Santorum and the RNC
[National Review, 3/21/12] If the current trend stands, Santorum won't be able to take down Romney before Tampa. But if the race goes all the way to the convention floor, that's where Santorum plans to usurp the current frontrunner, with the help of some very special super delegates.
It Won’t Work, Rick NEW!
[New York Post, 3/22/12] A month and a half ago, Santorum's strategy – to gain momentum as Romney succumbed to continued mistakes and got weaker and weaker as a candidate –seemed like a great idea. But despite his many stumbles, Romney hasn't fallen yet, and that strategy is beginning to look futile.
Santorum’s Campaign of Faith in Louisiana
[Time, 3/21/12] Santorum is pitching his faith in Louisiana, a state defined by deeply conservative and Catholic demographics. His efforts there in advance of Saturday's primary have helped him gain their support, despite his lack of a sturdy organization in the state.
Jews for Jesus Paid Rick Santorum NEW!
[Politico, 3/22/12] Santorum was paid to speak in 2010 to a group known for trying to convince Jews to accept Jesus – one of $95,000 worth of speaking engagements Santorum failed to disclose previously.
Romney Etches Out the History of the Bush Bailout
[National Journal, 3/22/12] Answering critics who are gleefully calling him the the "Etch A Sketch" candidate, Romney stood fast on one of his long-held positions Wednesday, defending George W. Bush's financial bailout of Wall Street in 2008. But Romney ignored -- or etched out -- much of the financial history that led to the bailout.
Romney’s Indispensable Delegate Counter
[Washington Post, 3/21/12] If Romney manages to capture the Republican nomination, it probably won’t be because of his dynamite personality or the magnetism of his message. Instead, he will owe his victory to a superior campaign organization personified by the obsessive plodding of his diminutive delegate counter, Katie Biber.
The 1976 Convention and What it Means for 2012
[New York Times, 3/21/12] Every political reporter’s dream is a contested convention; here’s a thumbnail history of the 1976 GOP convention fight between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and the lesson it holds for this year’s race.
Maker of Romney Parody Video Surprised by Quick Success
[Chicago Tribune, 2/21/12] The Chicago Tribune tracked down the man who made the now-viral “Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up,” a video that mashes quotes from the former Massachusetts governor to Eminem’s hit tune. Hugh Atkin, a 28-year-old Aussie studying at the University of Oxford, said there were “a lot of happy accidents” when creating the video.
'Etch A Sketch' a Rare Misstep for Romney Adviser
[New York Times, 3/21/12] The gaffe was a rare mistake by Eric Fehrnstrom, a normally disciplined communications strategist. Fehrnstrom has been with Romney since before he was governor of Massachusetts, defiantly defending his boss from accusations of flip-flopping through two grueling presidential campaigns.
Texas Billionaire Doles Out Election's Biggest Checks
[Wall Street Journal, 3/22/12] A Texas billionaire, 80-year-old Harold Clark Simmons, has given hefty donations to the super PACs supporting GOP candidates during their moments in the spotlight, including $500,000 this week to super PACs backing Romney. But it doesn’t really matter to him which man wins the nomination -- as long as he defeats President Obama.
Santorum Shakes His Way Through New Orleans Area
[New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/21/12] Rick Santorum swung through the New Orleans area on Wednesday talking energy, embarking on his "Etch A Sketch Tour of America,” and learning about Louisiana seafood. Up for grabs during Saturday's primary are 20 of Louisiana's 46 delegates, the balance of which will be awarded in next month's caucuses.
When Romney Liked High Gas Prices NEW!
[The New Republic, 3/22/12] “I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay," Romney said during his time as Massachusetts governor in 2006.
G.O.P. Nomination Becoming a One-Man Race
[New York Times, 3/21/12] Nate Silver argues that at this point, Romney seems so inevitable that the only candidate who could take him down would be himself.
What's Next for Gingrich?
[Roll Call, 3/22/12] The Rothenberg Political Report's Stuart Rothenberg writes that, increasingly, Newt Gingrich has become Mr. Irrelevant in the GOP nominating contest: He won’t get out the race, but he won’t fight for the nomination either.
How the Candidates, Super PACs are Spending Their Money NEW!
[NBC, 3/22/12] NBC found the top five expenditures for each of the campaigns and their super PACs, revealing Santorum's campaign spent over $3 million on PR, Romney spent over $3 million on advertising and media buys, and Obama spent over $2 million on marketing.
Why Louisiana Could Stop Romney’s Southern Slide
[Washington Post, 3/22/12] Romney is going to the South again, and if past is prologue, it means he’s walking into another loss. But there is an argument to be made that Louisiana is more fertile ground for Romney than any of the six Southern states where he has lost to this point.
Gingrich Makes Campaign Stop in Lafayette
[The Advocate, 3/22/12] Gingrich, despite a fourth-place finish in Illinois, and increasing calls for him to drop out of the race, is on a multi-day swing through Louisiana leading up to the primary, with stops scheduled for today and Friday.