Presidential races

Presidential races

Club for Growth strongly praises Herman Cain

The fiscally conservative, deep-pocketed group Club for Growth strongly praised Herman Cain in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

"Herman Cain is surging in the polls because his clear message of limited government and economic freedom is resonating," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. "Cain has articulated a strong vision for putting America back on the path to prosperity. A clear message promoting economic growth, like the one Herman Cain is presenting, is essential to defeating Obama. Republican primary voters ought to give Herman Cain a close look. We are."

When asked if their statement meant the Club might endorse Cain, spokesman Barney Keller coyly (and repeatedly) replied "Anything's possible."

Cain's biggest hurdle towards becoming a first-tier candidate is his fundraising. The Club's strong praise for him could serve as a good housekeeping seal of approval for Tea Party supporters and help him further gain traction, and should they decide to endorse and spend money on his behalf it could help him close the gap with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in inexpensive early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

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Obama cabinet member: Perry flaming out

Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor and President Obama's trade ambassador, said that Rick Perry's campaign is quickly flaming out.

"Too often the brightest stars are comets. But they flame out the fastest because they consume themselves on their own energy. I think there are some lessons to be learned there in life and in politics," Kirk told reporters during a flight from Washington, D.C. to Dallas on Tuesday. "How quickly and how brightly we burn."

Perry has seen his poll numbers take a nosedive in recent days after a rough ten-day stretch following weak debate performances, a loss in a Florida straw poll he was expected to win easily, and a Washington Post article detailing a racially charged name of a ranch his family leased.

A strong fundraising quarter could reverse those tides and show Perry will have some staying power. But if Perry can't turn around his current trajectory, Kirk could be right about his campaign.

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Early-voting states continue jockeying for position

The early-voting states of South Carolina, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire are still working out when they will host their primaries and caucuses afer Florida decided to move its primary up to Jan. 31.

Nevada's GOP chairman announced Saturday that the Silver State's caucus will be moved to January, meaning it will continue to hold early-voting clout but will lose half its convention delegates, as Florida did from its move.

South Carolina will announce its date at 11 a.m. on Monday, and it too is expected to give up half its delegates to move ahead of Florida's date, most likely by about a week. Its exact date will affect Iowa and New Hampshire, which will go before then.

Florida's move will force the other states into early January — or even late this year. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said on Friday that depending on what the other states do, he might move the Granite State's primaries up into December.

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With Florida moving primary up, debates target Sunshine State

Florida will host two presidential debates right before its Jan. 31 primary.

CNN and the Republican Party of Florida announced Friday they will host a Jacksonville debate in late January, right before the primary. The announcement came just hours after the state party officially moved its primary date to Jan. 31.

NBC, National Journal, St. Petersburg Times and The Florida Council of 100 announced shortly afterward that their previously scheduled Tampa debate will take place Jan. 30, the eve of the primary.

Florida will be stripped of half its GOP National Convention delegates because of its move up. But the state is banking on having a big early impact on the GOP nomination — and the debate sponsors hope it does too.

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Santorum popular in Iowa but struggling in polls

Rick Santorum continues to struggle in the latest poll of Iowa Republicans, but GOP leaders there say he could be positioned to make a move in the Hawkeye State.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who is best known for his strident social conservatism, slipped to 2 percent support in an American Research Group poll of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa released Thursday, putting him in seventh place in the poll.

But well-connected Iowa Republicans who have not endorsed any candidate said that voters who meet Santorum often warm to him, and that his heavy investment in the state could pay dividends, much like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's time in Iowa helped him win there in 2008. Santorum has spent 58 days in the state in the last year, far more time than any other candidate this cycle.

"Santorum is the one guy that when he gets out there people put him on a higher level — they weren't expecting to support him and after they engage with him they have second thoughts that they might," said Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member who heads the prominent socially conservative Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. "He's been as persistent as anybody here and that earns him credit."

Sam Clovis, a Sioux City-based conservative radio host, said that though Santorum has helped himself with strong debate performances, his real asset is that he "comes across as being genuine" and his face-to-face efforts with Iowa voters are helping him.

"He's personalized this, he's doing Iowa politics, he's out knocking on doors," he said. "I think he's done extremely well out there."

Still, Santorum needs to start translating warm feelings into actual support by proving he can be a viable candidate — and while his retail politics strategy costs much less than a campaign with a larger infrastructure, money still matters.

Bob Vander Plaats, a 2010 gubernatorial candidate who heads the socially conservative umbrella organization Family Leader, said the only thing holding back the Pennsylvanian is fundraising.

"If Santorum gets enough resources he could be the Mike Huckabee of this thing," he said.

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