Presidential races

Presidential races

Alabama Republican hopes for straw-poll groundswell at CPAC

Alabama Republican Dale Peterson, whose failed campaign for state Agriculture Commissioner last year made national waves after his shotgun-toting campaign ads went viral, is working hard to upend some actual presidential contenders this weekend.

Peterson is running a write-in campaign in the Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll race, the results of which will come late Saturday afternoon.

The reason? He thinks the current crop of rumored GOP presidential contenders are nothing more than "the same old repackaged retreads, with the same tired message."

Asked if there's anyone in the rumored field he might want to support, Peterson said, "Nope. Not a single one of 'em."

Peterson's booth is one of the most popular attractions in CPAC's exhibition area, giving out hundreds of his trademark cowboy hats complete with a "write-in Dale Peterson" campaign button.

"If we can get enough folks to write us in and have a good showing, maybe we can wake some people up," Peterson said.

He thinks Republicans have only "a slim shot at beating the president this next time around; but if we don't change the dynamics, we have no shot."

Peterson, who has formed his own 527 group, wouldn't rule out another campaign in 2012 and promised to make more noise on the airwaves again next year.

"To be honest, I don't even know what I'm doing," he said. "But I know American wants something different."

Here's one his most-viewed campaign ads from last year:


Gingrich to decide on presidential run by early March

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich will decide by early March whether he'll run for president next year, he told Fox News.

He said that he and his wife will start discussions later this month.

“Callista and I will start discussing it the last part of February," Gingrich said Thursday evening on Hannity. "We'll talk with our family. We'll think this through.  And by very early March, you will know something pretty definitive.  But I think as we are coming down now to a period of three or four weeks.”

Gingrich addressed the Conservative Action Political Conference on Thursday and gave no hints to his 2012 plans.


Romney jabs president in CPAC speech

Mitt Romney got in several jabs at President Obama and emphasized his business credentials in addressing the conservative gathering.


Rocky Mountain West still leaning Democratic

Colorado is still leaning Democratic but will likely be a battleground state in the 2012 presidential election.

Obama bested Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) there in 2008 and maintains a high approval rating. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey, the president has a 51 percent approval rating, with 45 percent of those polled saying they disapprove of his performance.

The Democratic-leaning firm tested Obama against several of the GOP presidential contenders, with Mitt Romney coming closest but still trailing the president by six points, 47 percent to 41 percent.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ill.) rounded out the top three contenders, trailing Obama by 9 and 14 points, respectively. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is down by 19 points against Obama in Colorado, according to the survey of 517 Colorado voters conducted Feb.4-6.

Obama beat McCain by about 9 points in Colorado in 2008.


Nebraska GOP pushing electoral reform

Nebraska Republicans are pushing hard to eliminate the state's system of awarding presidential electoral votes by congressional district.

State Sen. Beau McCoy (R) has introduced a bill to revert Nebraska's current system to a winner-take-all allocation. On Friday, the legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee announced it would take up McCoy's bill Feb. 23.

Republicans hold a five-four majority on the committee. The state GOP has been gently pressuring its members to move the bill on to floor vote, where officials are confident it will pass because the party enjoys its largest majority in 25 years.

To that end, the state GOP has provided activists with templates for writing letters to newspaper editorial boards and state lawmakers encouraging passage of the bill. And state GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson said at the party's annual meeting last month that he intends to "hold our Republican state senators accountable" for their votes on the bill.

GOP officials said they are conscious of treading on sensitive ground, lobbying state lawmakers who traditionally operate in a nonpartisan atmosphere.

"There's historically been some sensitivity to either party weighing in on issues in the Legislature," Jordan McGrain, executive director of the Nebraska GOP, told The Ballot Box. "We really pick our spots, and this has been something too important to sit on the sidelines."

McGrain brushed off the Democrats' suggestion that the move is motivated by "sour grapes" over President Obama winning the state's 2nd congressional district in 2008. "We just want to do it the way the other 48 states do it," he said of the Electoral College reform. "It remains a partisan issue."

Still, McCoy told the Lincoln Journal Star in January: "We would not want to see Obama reelected (in 2012) by one electoral vote in Omaha."

There's been speculation that if lawmakers do away with the current system, it could hurt the reelection chances of Sen. Ben Nelson and other Democrats running statewide. It could also have a small effect on the 2012 presidential race. Obama's campaign in 2008 invested heavily in the Omaha region, driving up Democratic turnout.

The Nebraska legislature has twice before passed bills to scrap the current system, but Nelson, who was governor at the time, vetoed both measures. The current governor, Dave Heineman, is a Republican.


Freshman Republican sees momentum for axing presidential public financing

Between the Republican majority's pledge to slash spending in the House and the likelihood that neither of 2012's presidential nominees will opt into the public campaign financing system, Rep. Tim Scott  (R-S.C.) sees momentum for a measure to eliminate it altogether.

"We're talking about $600 million over the next 10 years," said Scott. "That's a lot of money in the real world. So if Congress is going to function in the real world, you've got to think that 600 million dollars is worth saving."

Scott, a member of the Rules Committee, helped make the case for the measure at a hearing Tuesday and rejected the Democratic argument that the bill would have a negative impact on the public's trust in the electoral system. 


Georgia Gov. promises to back Gingrich presidential run

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich runs for president, he'll have the support of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R).

Speaking at a breakfast with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Deal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Gingrich was a "friend" whom he would gladly support should the former lawmaker enter the race for president.

The AJC reported last week that Gingrich was canvassing Georgia Republicans for support and is considering basing his campaign out of Atlanta.

"He's, of course, a long-time friend and a supporter of my efforts to become governor of this state," said Deal. "It's no secret he is taking exploratory actions to determine whether or not he's going to pursue the presidency of the United States and we talked briefly about that."

Gingrich is one of several Republicans who have said they are strongly considering a run for the presidency. On Monday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) released a video at an event in New Hampshire to promote his book Courage to Stand. The ad and its airing location suggest that Pawlenty has decided to run for president.

--Updated at 7:26 p.m.


First GOP presidential debate to be May 2

The first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 cycle will be held May 2, 2011, at the Reagan library, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced Monday.

“We have established a wonderful tradition — of which I know Ronnie would be so proud — of using the Library as a first-in-the-nation forum for candidates to introduce themselves and their visions for America to a national audience,” former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

The Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, Calif., was also the venue for the first Republican debate of the 2008 campaign cycle.

MSNBC will air the debate — NBC News anchor Brian Williams will moderate, along with Politico editor-in-chief John Harris. A Telemundo reporter will also join in the questioning.

The library plans to host a second GOP debate on the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries.

No Republican has officially announced for the 2012 presidential nomination.