The GOP establishment are more afraid of a Gingrich victory than an Obama victory

The signs are telling, conservative media bias and increasing establishment attacks on former Speaker – Newt Gingrich regarding his challenge on GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, to explain the nature of his role and undertakings while heading venture capitalist group Bain Capital. Many in the establishment and media have been quick to jump to Romney’s defence, calling the former speaker’s comments, an attack on Capitalism itself.

Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview in New York today, that the former Speaker of the House is being “totally delusional” about ever winning his party’s nomination.

King when asked if he felt Romney, coming off victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, could now be considered his party’s presumptive Presidential nominee.  “I don’t want to go that far,” King said, adding, “We’ve had so many rollercoaster’s this year.  A month ago Newt Gingrich was the frontrunner. Now he’s just being an assassin, a political assassin out there.”  And King, who has previously lambasted Gingrich, observed, “He has to know he has no chance of getting the nomination but he’s coming down on Mitt Romney with all these charges, charges that a liberal democrat could be making…attacking Romney for being too much a part of the free enterprise system.

To have Newt Gingrich, supposedly a right-wing conservative, making those charges is the height of hypocrisy.”  King said Gingrich is “going out of his way, millions and millions of dollars spent for one purpose, and that’s to bring down Mitt Romney.” However, the real hypocrisy lies in the fact that the conservative media are hiding the sheer scale & ferocity of the attacks Romney’s Super Pac spent in Iowa & New Hampshire attacking Gingrich who only this week got a major financial backer for his bid.

In the lead up to the Iowa caucuses earlier this month, nearly half of the political television ads airing in the state were critical of Gingrich. Former Mayor of New York & one-time presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani chastised Mitt Romney Thursday for a barrage of anti-Newt Gingrich attack ads aired in Iowa on his behalf. “Some of it was unfair,” Giuliani said. “The sheer amount of it. And the fact it’s being done by a PAC and Mitt Romney’s separating himself from it.

During the attacks on Gingrich in Iowa, the same people now jumping to Romney’s defence were standing behind him and his Super Pac’s nasty attacks saying, “It is fair-game in an election cycle to have your record challenged.” However, Gingrich hasn’t been attacking the capitalist system, what Gingrich has been attacking is Romney’s claim of creating 100,000 jobs. Surely, if Gingrich has to explain and defend his career record, then why not Romney? Gingrich seized on a new Romney campaign ad that defends the former Massachusetts Governor’s record when he led the private investment firm, Bain Capital.

The ad states Romney and Bain created “thousands of jobs,” not 100,000 jobs as the former Governor has previously claimed. When asked about the ad, Gingrich laughed. “He’s now himself changing his claim,” Gingrich said.

The former House Speaker called on Romney to produce records from his tenure at Bain to prove his claims. “He’s still not prepared to release any documents from Bain to prove anything,” Gingrich said.

Last month, Romney told Time Magazine he and Bain created 100,000 jobs.

“And so I’ll compare my experience in the private sector where, net-net, we created over 100,000 jobs. We created over 100,000 jobs,” Romney told Time. That jobs claim does not appear in the new Romney ad. “Mitt Romney helped create and ran a company that invested in struggling businesses, grew new ones and rebuilt old ones, creating thousands of jobs,” the spot states.

In an interview with CNN, Gingrich questioned Romney’s claims. “I’m saying that he misstated the facts,” Gingrich said. A New ARG poll finds Romney and Gingrich in a statistical dead heat for the upcoming South Carolina primary.

Many conservative establishment people feel that a Gingrich victory might be scarier than a GOP defeat. Gingrich’s defenders say such fear is a compliment because it shows that he’s a “change agent” threatening the status quo. There is no doubt that those against Gingrich are trying to portray him as the Angry Old Newt however, I’d trust Bill Clinton’s judgement when recently asked if he respected Gingrich, Clinton replied;” I respect his ability to think and do. I eventually hammered out a really productive relationship with him.” The truth is, Gingrich and Clinton although polar opposites in the political sphere proved a winning combination balancing the budget for four successive years, delivered entitlement reform, an issue which the next four term president must tackle, produced a budget surplus and created over 11 million jobs.

American voters must decide if they trust their party establishment more than a man granted with some personal flaws, but brilliant in delivering transformational change on a national level. It is Gingrich’s ability to work in a bi-partisan manner, his ideas and solutions and above all, his willingness to tackle head on the difficult decisions which should make him the only candidate ordinary American’s would vote for to restore America’s economic strength and respect around the world.

The establishment are petrified what a Gingrich presidency would bring to the Washington gravy train. The inner beltway has for too long stumbled along talking big, but doing and achieving little. Gingrich may be a man of many words however; he is also a man who says what he means and does what he says.

The Republican Party hierarchy & playmakers are fearful a Gingrich presidency would solidify the Tea-Party & certain libertarian factions within the party permanently. They do not want this and want to control the status quo. Gingrich is genuinely interested in serving his nation and the American people; he has the record to prove it at a national level. The question quite rightly should be, what will voters get from a President Romney? Challenging a candidate about their claims should not be confused with an attack on capitalism. It is only right and reasonable that Governor Romney should be asked to explain his own claims.
 


Romney will need to beat the strongest campaigner in history should he become the nominee

The result in New Hampshire tonight for Mitt Romney ensured he captured the nation’s first primary election with about 35% of the vote following two tough days, in which the presumptive front runner by the establishment, withstood attack from his Republican opponents.

Romney who has led in New Hampshire, where he owns a summer home, for several months, and where anything less than a double-digit margin of victory might have been viewed as a loss won very comfortably. There is a historical aspect to his victory insofar as, he’s the first non incumbent to win both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary since 1976.

Ron Paul finished a very credible second in his head to head battle with former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman coming third. Paul and his campaign will have to be pleased with their 25% of the vote and second place finish.

Former House Speaker Gingrich finished fourth as he predicted however, his last two days of attacks hurt the Romney Campaign and sets up a fierce battleground fight for what many neutrals perceive as the first real competitive primary in South Carolina on January 21.

The media bias has been incredible in the run up to the New Hampshire primary, Fox News has literally turned into the Romney adoration channel and their commentary while Romney attacked Gingrich with his Super Pac was, it’s part and parcel of any primary race however, their viewpoint with Gingrich’s Super Pac poised to launch Romney attack ads in South Carolina is, Gingrich is being nasty & angry for criticising Romney. Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Ron Paul did not escape Fox News’s condemnation over their sparring with Romney.

The irony for conservative media outlets like Fox rushing to Romney’s defence, is rather then protect and support Romney; they are in fact exposing how weak he could actually be as a potential nominee. Do not misunderstand me, if Romney eventually wins the race, I’ll throw my weight behind his election effort, as I mentioned, this general election in my opinion is unlike any other for generations. America and Western nations are on the economic brink at present, the policies of the Obama administration have proven a failure and we desperately need the American economic engine working on full throttle to get growth, expansion, and job creation underway again in a meaningful way.

I believe all the GOP candidates have very solid economic policies which will be needed to tackle the key issues of managing the national debt, curbing spending and tax reform. What has disappointed me most about the current campaign is how little the discussion has centred on actual policy. If the eventual nominee is to stand any chance of developing their message and vision for restoring America, they need to hone it in the primary race and start talking more about the key issues.

Personally, I don’t think any of the GOP candidates should be attacking each other in the personal manner they are, it only damages themselves, the party and their chances. Romney’s victory in New Hampshire tonight though should not be sold as a ringing endorsement of his candidacy, or his policies. Iowa was a good result for Romney, tonight’s result was expected, and the really important result will come in South Carolina. Romney is currently leading there ahead of Santorum and Gingrich and victory there and in Florida, and one would have to accept that it is highly unlikely with such momentum that anyone could stage a winning comeback.

What Republican’s have to realise is one thing, forget about President Obama’s performance in office, and ignore the current economic statistics and the expected $1 billion war chest. The eventual GOP nominee will have to take on President Obama at what he does best, campaigning and beat him.

I’ve maintained all along, anyone who believes President Obama short of an unexpected scandal or disaster between now and November, is going to be easy to beat in the general election is very badly mistaken.

President Obama is a community organiser by profession, organising, raising funds, communicating a message and rallying people to a cause are his strengths, they are what he can do better then anyone, dare I say it performance aside, he comes across more charismatic and electrifying then most politicians on a campaign trail that I’ve observed.

The GOP establishment and media need to be cautious about what they wish for, it is more important than ever to select the right candidate for the general election. One thing, I learned from New Hampshire, is how organised Romney’s set-up actually is. Popularity is one thing, but victory is only possible with solid organisation & strategy executed well. Romney did it effectively and he’ll need to target the Florida primary to essentially reduce the field of candidates down to the serious contenders.  It is important however to pause and remember that the race could have many twists and turns yet. Victory is not yet guaranteed for Romney and he’ll still have to work hard to secure the nomination.

I liked Romney’s closing remarks about the upcoming election being about “American Greatness,” and his emphasis on the need for everyone to still believe in that America

Post New Hampshire Debates – The GOP have a problem – Winning!

The two New Hampshire debates and mainstream media coverage of the GOP presidential race has convinced me more than ever of one simple fact, the GOP nominee will face an uphill battle to defeat President Obama come November.

Assessing both debates, the ABC News one was without question, the most disappointing one of the campaign to date. The standard and content of the questions was shameful for a presidential debate, and when a major network avoids asking the president’s rivals questions on Obamacare, debt or entitlement reform, it provides an insight into what the eventual nominee can expect in the general election.

Today’s “MeetThePress” debate was much better however, after a fast paced and engaging start, it seemed to run out of steam for the second part of the debate. In fairness, David Gregory and the two moderators made a much better effort to challenge the candidates, and provide a better standard of questions.

The two debates, as events, were disappointing and one can only hope all networks assess how they went and make a better effort for future debates.

I don’t intend to analyze the second debate here instead; I thought it may be useful to discuss some truths and where the GOP race is at present, and look ahead to the challenge and scenario’s in the coming weeks.

On the interesting side, I think Jon Huntsman did himself a power of good during the second New Hampshire debate, and came across as a real patriot for serving his country in his exchanges with Mitt Romney over China.

If Huntsman can finish in the top three in New Hampshire, he could well be the surprise package as I’ve predicted in the GOP campaign. Huntsman is electable as president make no mistake, yes; conservatives may not exactly love his moderate positions however, in this election cycle they may well have to agree to support a candidate who can beat President Obama over their more traditional GOP candidate.

What we know & who can win the general election

Mitt Romney

The mainstream media clearly want Mitt Romney to win. I think Romney is a good candidate and has a lot of positives on his side especially his business background, no matter what allegations are thrown against him. If someone creates even one job or 10,000 they are making a contribution to the economy and they should be commended not criticised for it.

My concern about Romney is two fold, firstly, he is struggling to ignite the support base despite planning his campaign for four years, having the most money of any Republican candidate and the backing of more establishment colleagues and party elders than any other candidate.Despite all these factors he is struggling to fire up the base.  My second concern comes from observing the last four debates in particular is his grasp of foreign policy. Romney can tell us what President Obama is bad at doing however, he can’t tell us what he would do as president. He also tends to buckle and panic when he comes under pressure. I’ll definitely support Romney if he is the nominee however, do I believe he can ignite the enthusiasm and attract enough support to beat President Obama in the general election? I’m yet to be convinced.

Newt Gingrich & Rick Santorum

The truth is former Speaker Gingrich would make an exceptional president in my opinion. I’m not interested in people’s mistakes over a lifetime, I want someone elected this time with the ability, skills and leadership who can make a difference and deliver on what they say without isolating sections of society. The establishment are firmly Anti-Newt no matter how they use their outlets to spin the argument; it is plain and clear for the average person to see. Speaker Gingrich’s biggest challenge is over coming those odds and Senator Santorum.

Senator Santorum did himself a world of good and achieved a massive credible second place in Iowa. We must be clear, can he at this stage of his career beat President Obama in a general election race, truthfully, no! The reality is that both these men may need to make concessions with each other and my honest belief is they would both best be served by uniting.

If they run on a President and V.P. ticket together and win and go on to perform well, the platform would be there for Santorum to be president in the future. If both men fail to reach a consensus, it is likely that both will lose out to Mitt Romney in the primary race. Together, they could both challenge President Obama and I believe, offer a clear contrast in the general election and win!

Jon Huntsman

Yes, my third pick for winning the general election is Jon Huntsman however, it all hinges on him getting a top three finish in New Hampshire. Make no mistake about it; President Obama would not have picked him for Ambassador to China if he and his team weren’t worried about Huntsman making a run for president this time. Also, they would have vetted Huntsman for the role, so there really can’t be too much hidden baggage to attack Huntsman on in a general election campaign.

I would recommend to anyone questioning my logic here to go to C-Span and take time to watch the Huntsman-Gingrich debate. Huntsman is brilliantly clever and respectfully perhaps the most intelligent and knowledgeable candidate in the GOP field except for Gingrich. He has a great economic plan and has an excellent record as Governor.

If the GOP base can take a second look at Huntsman and he starts gaining some interest and accept that like Romney, he is a moderate on some issues, I believe Huntsman could definitely beat President Obama in the general election race. It all comes down to the result in New Hampshire this Tuesday, democracy will decide.

Ron Paul

I do admire the Texas Congressman for his long and consistent record. I think he has some good ideas on domestic issues however; I cannot warm to his foreign affairs positions. I don’t think Paul could beat President Obama in a general election or frankly come close however, Paul will play a very important role in the GOP primary race. He will potentially decide the outcome of the entire primary race and he will insist on certain policy commitments in return. I expect the Texas Congressman to prove the most influential of all the candidates in the eventual destination of the GOP Nomination and to go out on a high.

Rick Perry

I credit the Texas Governor for entering the race and he has achieved many fine things during his tenure there as governor and has improved considerably, as a candidate, at a national level after some disastrous hiccups. Personally, I would like to see the Governor make a final decision whether to bow out or stay in the race following South Carolina’s primary. I think he can attempt another run in four or eight years time and use the experience this time around to prepare for that. Realistically, he can’t win the primary race or a general election campaign this time round after the earlier mistakes.

I appreciate that many people are passionate about their candidates however; the establishment and GOP supporters need to make a conscious decision on whether they want to win back the White House on November 6, 2012, or leave it resting in the hands of President Obama for another four years

An interesting couple of weeks lie ahead.

ABC News/Yahoo Debate GOP New Hampshire post-debate analysis

I stayed up until 02:00hrs (UK Time) tonight to watch with anticipation the expected slug feast that was meant to be the GOP ABC News /Yahoo debate. Sadly, the standard of debate questions were the poorest of any to date, and I actually felt more sorry for the moderators asking the questions, then for the candidates, who had to stand through this whole debacle which was capped off with the most amateurish of finishes.

Ron Paul was put on the spot early by moderator George Stephanopoulos, over his accusation of corruption against Senator Rick Santorum in his campaign ads.

“It was a quote,” explained Paul. “Somebody did make a survey and he came up as one of the top corrupt individuals because he took so much from lobbyists.”

There was a good composed opening by Romney and Santorum on the issue of the latest jobs report although Santorum was reluctant to repeat his criticism of Romney when urged by the moderator.

At that moment, there was a loud noise and the microphone had some feedback, Santorum seized the moment saying, “They caught you not telling the truth, Ron.”

Mr. Paul quickly went after Mr. Santorum as well, faulting him for his “big government” votes while in Congress, controversy regarding his residency, and money he has taken since leaving office.

“I wish I had 20 minutes to answer this,” Mr. Santorum said. “It’s a ridiculous charge, and you should know better.” He defended his earmarks on behalf of Pennsylvania and the work he has done in the private sector.

“You’re a big spender,” Mr. Paul insisted. “You’re a big-government conservative, and somebody has to say it.”

Governor Perry did well citing his record and Washington outsider status in his quest for the presidential role and accused Ron Paul of taking earmarks for his district and then voting against the Bill saying it hinted of hypocrisy. Ouch! Perry also did well on the military question highlighting the $1 Billion in cuts under the Obama administration in three years, not just the recent cuts.

The next heated exchange came between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in a fiery heated exchange following a remark earlier in the week by Paul that Gingrich was a “Chicken Hawk” for supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even though he himself has never served in the military.

Asked whether he stands by the remark, Paul responds:

“Yeah. I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments, they have no right to send our kids off to war. … I’m trying to stop the wars. At least I went when they called me up.”

Newt clearly annoyed but disciplined not to appear snarly coolly responds, “Dr. Paul makes a lot of comments. It’s part of his style,” he says. He adds: “Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false. The fact is, I never asked for a deferment.”

Paul responds, ““I have a pet peeve that annoys me to a great deal, because when I see these young men coming back, my heart weeps for them.”

Gingrich then notes his father’s years in the military and chides Paul: “I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like as a family to worry about your father getting killed, and I personally resent the kinds of comments and aspersions he routinely makes without accurate information, and then just slurs people.”

The debate then turned to a social values question on Contraception which Romney, Huntsman and Santorum all did their level best at ducking the question and trying not to sound too controversial.

Step up Newt Gingrich! “I just want to raise a point about the news media bias,” he says. He goes on to say that there is more “anti-Christian bias” than bias against other religious groups under this current administration and attacks the administration for their treatment of the Christian faith and receives rapturous applause from the audience.

The debate continued with some further questions and probing on the Patriot Act and privacy, with Ron Paul delivering a good response on the right to privacy under the constitution.

The next controversial issues was the right to Gay Marriage which Romney ducked again, and clearly did his level best to view it as a states rights issue with Santorum effectively agreeing with his assessment and Jon Huntsman distinguishing between traditional religious rights and legal rights. Newt stepped up again with a good answer on gay rights and designation and contrasted his position well to the right of marriage.

On the issue of Iraq, a huge talking point will be no doubt Rick Perry’s tearing up of the textbook by saying he’d send U.S. troops back into Iraq. Nobody expected that response and no doubt his team will try and walk back his response.

There was some discussion over tax and economic plans but to be fair to the candidates, the questions were of such a poor standard that we learnt nothing new and the questions didn’t enable us to learn anything factually new.

All the candidates struggled on the issues of Afghanistan, Iraq and foreign policy in general with the exception of Newt Gingrich who gave a master class in the level of thinking and vision a president needs. “If you want to stop Wahabbism, get an American energy policy so no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king and rattled of a number of ideas and solutions with so much ease frankly, it made the other candidates look poor. Romney was again exposed showing he is great at saying what President Obama isn’t doing but can’t tell us what he’d do as President.

Santorum did well when talking about being a president who would bring every American together not be a divider like President Obama saying, “If you want someone that’s a clear contrast, that has a strong record, has a vision for this country that’s going to get this country going – an appeal to blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Michigan and Indiana, and deliver that message that we care about you too, not just about Wall Street and bailing them out, then I’m the guy that you want to put in the nomination.”

Gingrich came out with a very humourous but well driven home point about President Obama’s attempt to develop a radical European socialist system in the United States which went down very well with the audience.

All the candidates did relatively well with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman who despite an encouraging start got completely slammed on the issue of trade with China by Mitt Romney and desperately resorted to speaking Mandarin to try and save the point, he didn’t.

Overall, the debate was the most disappointing so far, largely because of the lame questions being asked & it made of mockery of it, supposing to be a presidential standard debate being put on by the network. It left the viewers and candidates short changed. I couldn’t believe that throughout the entire debate there was no question on Obamacare, debt or entitlement reform.

Newt & Romney are in a league of their own compared to the rest of the field; I just wish we could narrow down the field and have some real substantive debates.

All candidates generally had a good night, Newt was the quality class responder however, Romney was the winner purely due to the fact that, nobody laid a glove on him and he hammered Huntsman on China.

P.S. I’d like to thanks Tina Revers for her input & contribution in producing this analysis.

Disgusting Ron Paul attack Ad against Huntsman brings campaign to new low

The depths of personal attacks in the Republican party race sank to a new low yesterday when a video was released by a supporter of Ron Paul attacking Jon Huntsman, but using footage of his adopted children to question his “American values”.

The video, posted to YouTube by the account “NHLiberty4Paul,” first calls Huntsman the “Manchurian Candidate,” asking: “What’s he hiding?” It then shows footage of Huntsman speaking Mandarin, and photos and video of him and adopted daughter Gracie Mei.

It goes on to ask if Huntsman “shares our values” and is a “man of faith,” before cutting to a picture of him with possibly his adopted daughter from India,  Asha Bharati. It closes with the message: “American Values and Liberty. Vote Ron Paul.”

“It’s just stupid,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a gathering in New Hampshire on Friday.

“If somebody wants to poke fun of me for speaking Chinese, that’s OK. What I object to is bringing forward pictures and videos of my adopted daughters, and suggesting there is some sinister motive there. I have a daughter from China who was abandoned at two months of age and left in a vegetable market, picked up by the police and sent to an orphanage.”

Huntsman joked that Gracie Mei, now 12, is “my senior foreign policy advisor.” But more, she and Asha are “part of my family.”

“I have two little girls who are a daily reminder that there are a lot of kids in this world who don’t have the breaks that we do, and who face a very, very uncertain future  . . . and any sense of upward mobility. Now these two girls are on the presidential campaign trail. I say how cool is that?” he said.

Paul’s spokeswoman for New Hampshire, Kate Schackai, responded saying she didn’t know who was responsible for the footage, but said it was not connected to Paul’s campaign.

“The video was utterly distasteful and no one who actually supports Dr Paul’s principles would have made it,” she said.

Abby Huntsman Livingston later speaking to Fox’s Megyn Kelly on the matter referred to her adopted sisters as the “love of my dad’s life” who came from very unfortunate circumstances, saying they have been “what makes us happy every day” on the campaign trail.

“I was surprised to see this ad. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this, so I think we’re all a little bit stunned by it,” she said, adding that she fears that her sister Gracie, who is 12, will come upon the video.

She also warned the apparent Paul supporters behind the video: “Unfortunately, the Ron Paul supporters don’t realize that these actions really affect the Ron Paul campaign.”  It was brilliant to see a bright young lady putting family before politics and putting the distasteful nature of the attack into excellent perspective, proving she’s a credit to her father.

Later in the day Ron Paul’s campaign called on the person who put up the video to take the spot down, calling it “disgusting.”

More controversy is looming with a five page attack mailing going out to South Carolina residents attacking all of Paul’s competitors with a particularly harsh emphasis on Newt Gingrich. “Newt Gingrich has a long record of liberal appeasement, flip-flopping on key issues, and lobbying for insider millions even calling him a “counterfeit conservative.”

Paul also attacks Texas Governor Rick Perry’s immigration record and Mitt Romney on his flip-flops on abortion and “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.

There is no doubt regardless of the outcome, Rep. Paul will play a decisive part in the eventual destination of the GOP nomination however, at what cost to the party and his legacy.

The New Hampshire Presidential debates – It could be “live free or die” – for some candidates challenge.

The race for the Republican Party presidential nomination heats up this weekend with a set of weekend debates providing what could be, the last chance for some of the Republican presidential hopefuls to prove, who is the best alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary.

The six remaining candidates will go head to head in Saturday’s ABC News, Yahoo and WMUR sponsored debate.  Front runner Mitt Romney who has a residence in the state and was governor of neighbouring Massachusetts, appears to have an unassailable lead according to the latest Union Leader poll with 47 percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters saying they would vote for Romney, compared to 17 percent for Ron Paul and 13 percent for Jon Huntsman.

Saturday’s debate will be followed by another on Sunday in NBC’s – Meet the Press debate, which will be the first time in the campaign that major debates will have been held back to back.

Romney has come under increasing attack since his slim-line victory in Iowa over Rick Santorum and is expected to be very much the candidate under fire in both debates. Romney also suffered a huge blow with the major Newspaper – The Boston Globe coming out in support of Jon Huntsman over Romney, on the eve of the debate.

Romney has the most to lose, not only is he expected to win New Hampshire comfortably, he is expected to win big, so any slip ups in the debates could severely damage his somewhat expectant party nomination. Romney needs to remain on message and appear presidential like as in previous debates. Romney has shown a tendency to be prickly when challenged on his record, and he will need to avoid any reactive snappy comments.

Fresh from his excellent second place finish and injection of campaign cash from donors, it will be an equally big night for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who will find himself front and center of the attention for the first time in these debates. Santorum has struggled for air-time in all the previous debates, but his good fortune and excellent Iowa finish brings with it a higher level of expectation. Santorum needs to win the conservative battle with friend and fellow challenger former speaker – Newt Gingrich to be the clear alternative to Romney. Santorum is a good debater but some possible chinks in his armour may be his social stances on Gay-Marriage, Gay members serving in the military and earmarks during his time as Senator. Social issues do not have the same level of weight in New Hampshire as they do in Iowa, and policy and position stances are very much more under the scrutiny of voters. Santorum needs to remain composed and focus on his policy stances as far as possible to maintain his excellent momentum.

The two candidates who could prove decisive in the outcome of both debates are Ron Paul & Jon Huntsman.

Ron Paul’s campaign has raised a massive $13 million in the fourth quarter, behind only Romney’s fundraising of more than $20 million. New Hampshire’s primary has a considerable number of independent voters and it is likely, Paul will place well regardless of the debates. Paul’s domestic policies are popular, but with the increasing current tension with Iran have come increasing scrutiny and attention on his foreign policy stance which has drawn a sharp contrast between him and the other candidates. My belief is that Paul will go after Perry and Gingrich in these two debates strategically, hoping to deal their campaigns the all important fatal blow. A three horse race as opposed to a six horse race would suit Paul considerably more in his efforts to be the Romney alternative.

Turning to the dark horse of the race Jon Huntsman, it depends which Jon Huntsman turns up to the debates. Anyone who observed the Huntsman-Gingrich debates in December would’ve realised here is a candidate who is as equally intelligent as Gingrich, he has a very unique perspective on Asia-Pacific matters and an exceptional record as former Governor of the state of Utah.

Huntsman in my opinion has been too quick to play the “I’m your guy next door” routine in previous major debates. He needs to show he is serious on the issues, remain focussed and appear presidential like, all at the same time as challenging front runner Romney. Many believe Huntsman and Romney are from the moderate side of the Republican Party however, Huntsman has bet his entire strategy on doing well in New Hampshire. Perhaps Huntsman’s strategy was to wait until these debates before really showing what he is capable of doing. If so, it will prove an effective strategy, if however, he performs as in previous debates his entire campaign will be over once voting is completed next Tuesday.

Texas Governor Rick Perry appeared to be on the verge of pulling out of the race following Iowa’s result. In Perry’s favour going into these debates is the fact that expectations couldn’t be lower. Perry has become a hit on YouTube due to a series of blunders in his campaign and previous debates however, he has absolutely nothing to lose and his last few debate performances have been encouraging. I believe Perry will have a few key attack moments prepared for tomorrow night and he can choose his moment to go on the offensive. I actually expect Perry to surprise a lot of people for all the right reasons in both debates, and it could provide the boost he needs ahead of his make or break challenge in South Carolina later in the month.

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last, former Speaker Gingrich who many are saying he’ll be “Nasty Newt”. Other then Romney and despite the claims of many in the media and establishment, Newt as it currently stands, is the only other real electable candidate at a national level in the race. Newt was clearly hurt by the attacks from Romney and Paul in Iowa over the last month, and where he has tried to run a positive campaign, he now realises he has to not turn negative, but stand stronger.

Newt has a brilliant mind and like all brilliant people, they sometimes make mistakes but America as a nation needs a president who is prepared to change the course of Washington, has the knowledge and ability to do it and above all, someone who will not be afraid to explore new departures for the benefit of the nation.

Newt has performed extremely well during all the previous debates but must be careful not to be overly eager at attacking Romney tomorrow night. Newt in my opinion needs to focus on his own ideas & policies, if challenged on his record or a mistake must be honest and if necessary, apologetic. Most importantly, he needs to avoid appearing snarly.

Newt should focus on President Obama and not the other candidates unless they attack him. The watching public want to see the alternative to President Obama emerge and he needs to draw a clear contrast between what he’d do as president, compared to the president. This is where Romney attacking Gingrich has been clever, he has forced Gingrich to remain on the defensive and appear local while he strides forward appearing to look presidential and national level like.

Newt needs to play to his strengths and avoid going on the attack however; he needs to be prepared for them. Where Newt can win these debates in by focussing on President Obama and being firm but assertive in his responses to any attacks from the other candidates against him. If he follows these points and remains disciplined, he’ll win both debates comfortably and remind everyone, why he can be the real alternative to President Obama.

One thing is guaranteed from both debates; expect them to be highly negative and vicious in some cases. It is make or break time especially for Huntsman so the stakes are getting higher as the field is getting smaller. I’m hoping whatever the outcome; an alternative to Romney emerges over the next three weeks who can make the primary race a competitive one and not a foregone conclusion as the establishment and some in the media want for Romney.

A stunning success for Santorum in Iowa – Romney’s lack of appeal strikingly worrying

The morning shows were full of the reaction to last night’s Republican Iowa Caucuses. It proved to be a transformational night for former Senator Rick Santorum and his campaign, narrowly losing a virtual tie for the top spot to established front runner Mitt Romney by only 8 votes with each capturing 25% of the vote.

Romney received 30,015 votes to Santorum’s 30,007 votes, according to the Iowa Republican Party, Ron Paul finished with 21 percent of the vote, while former Speaker Newt Gingrich came in fourth with 13 percent and Rick Perry was fifth with 10 percent.

Team Romney and indeed the candidate himself were front and center on all the networks trying to sell last nights victory as a great result. In truth, the reality is quite different. Romney despite a massive spending advantage and running his second campaign in the state in four years still didn’t manage to break through the electoral conservative ceiling once again. He won 25% of the vote which essentially means there are 75% of conservatives in Iowa, who lacked a certain enthusiasm about his candidacy.

While the second place finish was a stunning success and just reward for Santorum following months of travelling throughout Iowa, and will provide the huge cash injection his campaign badly needs, lady luck also played her part in his result. Santorum’s rise was largely due to the hammering Speaker Gingrich took in attack ads over the last month of the campaign. There was also little time for the other candidates to attack Santorum before Tuesday’s vote although Ron Paul did make a late effort. This is a luxury Santorum will not enjoy going forward.

The unexpected result while allowing Santorum to claim the mantle of conservative challenger to Romney as the primary race moves on to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida through the balance of the month should not be over estimated either. While Santorum’s strong showing represented a stunning resurgence for a politician whose career came to a dramatic halt six years ago with a devastating loss to Sen. Bob Casey, the steepest margin of defeat for any incumbent senator on the 2006 ballot winning just 41% of the vote. The result on balance overall, does not argue well for the GOP challenge going forward against President Obama.

One thing that certainly helps Santorum for the future against Romney was the announcement by Rick Perry that he would be returning to Texas to figure out what’s next – instead of going straight to South Carolina to campaign following a disappointing fifth-place finish in Iowa.

Perry speaking to his supporters Tuesday night, saying he would return to Texas to “reassess” his candidacy.

“When I began this campaign nearly four months ago, I didn’t do it because it was a lifelong ambition to be president of the United States, I did it because our country was in trouble,” Perry said.

“They’re looking for someone to stand up and give them hope that we can get this country back on track again, but with the voters’ decision tonight in Iowa, I have decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus and determine whether or not there is a path forward for myself in this race.”

Whatever Perry decides, I consider him a gentleman, who regardless of the occasional gaffe brought a sincerity and series of values to the campaign, which raised the profile of the GOP race at a crucial time and gave it some credibility.

Michele Bachmann, came last with only 5% of the vote having won the Ames Iowa Straw Poll only last summer, but was steely in her determination to continue telling her supporter she won’t be dropping out. In her speech, a clearly upset Bachmann said;

“I believe that I am that true conservative who can and who will defeat Barack Obama in 2012,” and over the next few days, just be prepared, the pundits and the press will again try to pick the nominee based on tonight’s results. But there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party’s nomination and I prefer to let the people of the country decide who will represent us.”

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin urged Bachmann to consider her presidential challenge yesterday saying,” She has a lot to offer, also, but I don’t think it is her time this go-around. She added: ‘And I believe that unless she, too, wants to spend her own money or borrowing money and perhaps go into debt, which – heaven forbid – you do that to your family?’

Speaker Gingrich was resolute in his challenge going forward making it clear he will try his best to take apart Romney’s record, labelling him the “Massachusetts Moderate.”

“We are not going to go out and run nasty ads,” said Gingrich, “but I do reserve the right to tell the truth,” Gingrich said to loud cheers from his supporters.

“And if the truth seems negative, that may be more of a comment on his record than on politics,” Gingrich added.

So looking ahead to New Hampshire; we have Santorum definitely with the momentum as the anti-Romney candidate for now. Ron Paul and his supporters have proven they are a force to be reckoned with in this campaign and cannot be dismissed or ignored. Newt is in fighting spirits and ready to change tactics and take on Romney and Paul on their records; with Perry seemingly ready to quit and, Michele Bachmann virtually but respectfully. irrelevant.

Romney will win New Hampshire, but it will not be by the 30 point margin some were predicting a few weeks ago, as the field shrinks and the race stretches out, Romney’s chances of winning through the primaries and getting the nomination reduce.

Do not dismiss Jon Huntsman’s make or break strategy in New Hampshire either, if Huntsman actually manages to spring a surprise positive result, he could do Romney serious damage and who would bet against him winning the moderate vote within the GOP either.

The real challenge and best chance of a Republican Party victory against President Obama in November firmly rests with the right conservative side of the party and on the candidate’s ability to raise money, get organized and stay disciplined.

In Santorum’s words, Game on!

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