How do you solve a problem like recovery?
Any draft-dodging, scandal-riddled candidate from a small state and saddled by limited appeal to his party’s base can beat an incumbent who refuses to acknowledge economic woes during a recession. It takes a virtuoso to take out a sitting president boasting 24 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.
Or a regionally attuned candidate whose own private-sector experience is nonpareil in the field. But today’s jobs report—up 227,000 last month—presents political challenges for Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee. His “this president has failed” message works much better on days when the trend line is in the opposite direction.
Gamely, Romney’s camp trotted out the familiar—and undeniable—data points: 37 straight months with national unemployment over 8 percent, the threshold President Obama said the stimulus package would prevent the country from crossing. And tagging an incumbent for broken promises is a pretty effective strategy.
Now if he could just get a clear shot.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Romney Could Win His ‘Away’ Game in the South
[National Journal, 3/9/12] It would be a massive understatement to say Romney, a Mormon from the Northeast, is not a natural fit with the GOP primary electorate in the South, as National Journal’s Jill Lawrence writes. But polls in both Alabama and Mississippi show very close races, in some cases with Romney in the lead.
How Daunting Is Santorum’s Delegate Math?
[New York Times, 3/9/12] Nate Silver does his usual micro-detail analysis of the race and concludes that for Rick Santorum to have a chance at overtaking Romney in the delegate count, he must virtually sweep the rest of March, win Wisconsin in April, and make Maryland close. That’s a pretty tall task.
Don’t Blame Mitt (Entirely)
[National Journal, 3/8/12] Romney’s failure to quickly secure the prize begins with him and his flaws as a candidate, including flip-flops on issues and tone-deaf remarks. But some things are out of Romney’s control, as National Journal’s Beth Reinhard and George E. Condon Jr. write: being a Mormon from Massachusetts, super PACs, and new rules that have turned the nomination process into an agonizing crawl.
Republicans and the Latino Vote: Next Stop, Negative Numbers?
[National Journal, 3/9/12] Republicans can’t dig themselves any deeper into a hole on the Latino vote without going into negative numbers, as National Journal’s Jill Lawrence writes. A new Fox News Latino poll of 1,200 likely Latino voters shows no GOP candidate winning more than 14 percent against Obama.
Santorum Camp Circulates Gingrich Newsletter on Individual Mandate
[National Journal, 3/9/12] As the GOP's top two anti-Romney candidates go head-to-head for the same conservative pool of voters in the Deep South, the race is getting increasingly nasty: Santorum’s campaign today circulated a statement quoting from a newsletter article Gingrich wrote in 2006 praising then-Gov. Romney and his health care individual mandate in Massachusetts.
Mississippi Governor Endorses Romney
[National Journal, 3/8/12] Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed Romney in the Republican presidential primary on Thursday. “People are gonna embrace him,” Bryant said at a Romney rally. “If you saw the crowd here tonight, he speaks to them. He has a Reagan-esque type of ability to connect to the local person.” At the same event, Romney attacked Obama on the economy.
Romney: Regulators Should Make ‘Friends’ With Business
[National Journal, 3/9/12] Campaigning today in the Deep South, where he faces tough opposition from more conservative rivals for the GOP nomination, Romney is promoting an anti-regulatory theme and a vision of a new environment in which regulators “see businesses and enterprises of all kinds as their friends.”
Four Ways the Republican Nomination Process Could End
[National Journal, 3/8/12] New rules finalized by the Republican National Committee just last year mean the rest of the GOP primary fight will play out in one of four ways: Romney secures the nomination through sheer attrition; Romney scores surprising wins that push his rivals out of the race; a brokered convention; or either Gingrich or Santorum surges and takes the lead.
GOP Spotlight turns to Mississippi, Alabama
[CNN, 3/8/12] Both states have the potential to play a key role in the race. Santorum argued to supporters in Alabama that a win there and in Mississippi would make the nomination a two-person race: “And when it becomes a two-person race for the Republican nomination, the conservative will win that nomination.” Romney, meanwhile, may benefit from a Gingrich-Santorum draw.
Hill Has Eyes on Presidential Campaign
[Wall Street Journal, 3/8/12] In a critical election year, Congress will be a front in the 2012 presidential battle as much as it is a legislative body: Senate Democratic leaders are contemplating measures to highlight Romney’s wealth and income-tax rate, while House Republicans are preparing hearings to showcase what they call Obama’s failure to create jobs.
On Rubio and the Vice Presidency
[National Journal, 3/9/12] National Journal’s Monthly Vice Presidential Power Rankings ruffled some feathers among the Florida press corps in its post dropping Sen. Marco Rubio down to the second spot. Hotline editor Reid Wilson offers a defense of the decision.
The Parallels Between Romney and George H.W. Bush
[New York Times, 3/8/12] Both Romney and the elder George Bush started out as awkwardly disconnected, wealthy Republicans who struggled to earn the trust of the conservatives in their party. Romney must now do what Bush tried to do: bridge the two worlds inside the GOP.
For Gingrich, It’s Win Now or Go Home
[Wall Street Journal, 3/8/12] A number of conservative Republicans and Gingrich’s own campaign acknowledge that the candidate has to win Tuesday’s primaries in both Mississippi and Alabama to remain credible as a presidential candidate.
Romney: The Anti-Obama
[National Review, 3/9/12] Rich Lowry makes the argument for Romney as the anti-hype candidate, workmanlike, the one you wouldn’t even really want to have a chocolate milk with. And that’s OK, he writes, compared to the unrealistic expectations attached to Obama four years ago.
Romney Fights ‘Loser’ Label
[Politico, 3/9/12] Romney has the math of a winner, but he is increasingly projecting the aura of a loser. Over months of campaigning, he is seen as less commanding as a leader and less plausible as a future president than when he started.
Who Will Win in Rural Kansas?
[Washington Post, 3/9/12] For Ron Paul, who has yet to win a contest, Kansas is the latest caucus state on which he’s pinning his hopes, but the Sunflower State’s rural electorate could give Santorum a big boost. Both candidates are barnstorming the state today ahead of its Saturday caucuses.
Super PAC Hate-Spending
[Slate, 3/9/12] A helpful interactive graphic from Slate shows a breakdown of the amount super PACs spend on opposition (or “hate”) advertisements. So far, 54 percent of all money has been spent on hate ads.