Presidential races

Presidential races

Tea Party Patriots hit back on S&P downgrade

The Tea Party Patriots attacked the Obama administration for Standard & Poors downgrade of the national credit rating the day after senior Democrats tried to blame the Tea Party movement for S&Ps move.

The group seized on an editorial in a Chinese government-run newspaper that said the U.S. needed to address its “mounting debts.”

“When Washington, D.C., gets slammed from the right by communists, you know we have a problem with our leadership,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler said. “[Politicians’] muddled thinking comes from a lack of leadership that has failed to face our debt problems or corral overspending.”

Their response comes as recent polls show the debt-ceiling debate hurt the Tea Partys standing with voters. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted the first week of August had 40 percent of Americans disapproving of the Tea Party, with only 20 percent in support.

Democrats were quick to blame the movement for S&Ps actions.

The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a Tea Party downgrade,” David Axelrod, a top adviser for President Obamas reelection campaign, said Sunday on CBS. The United States came close to default, Axelrod said, because strident voices” in the Tea Party were willing to see the country fall short of its debt obligations.

Not one of the Republican presidential candidates stood up in opposition to that,” he said.

Standard & Poor’s blamed both mounting debt and the uncertainty created by the debt-ceiling negotiations for the downgrade from AAA to AA+, the first time the U.S. government has been downgraded since S&P gave it the AAA rating in 1917.

The Tea Party Patriots were the only major Tea Party group that refused to support any form of debt ceiling increase -- the other major Tea Party groups backed Republicans' plan to include a balanced budget amendment and cut spending.

Erik Wasson contributed.

This post was updated at 3:02pm.


Romney super-PAC draws FEC, DOJ complaint

The nonpartisan campaign watchdog Campaign Legal Center asked the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice to look into possible violations of campaign finance law by a group that might have been created for the sole purpose of funneling $1 million to a Restore Our Future, a "super-PAC" created so that people could give unlimited donations toward supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid.

On Thursday, NBC News reported that a corporation that had given $1 million to the PAC had been created just before the donation and dissolved soon after, and might have been an entity created solely to mask the identity of its backers. Although corporations can donate directly to campaigns and PACs, the law still requires disclosure of donors' names.

"This case deserves a good hard look from the agencies charged with enforcing our nation’s election laws and if violations are found they must be prosecuted vigorously to deter such violations in the future — otherwise 'straw companies' will make a mockery of campaign finance disclosure and the specter of foreign campaign contributions will hang over the process," said Paul S. Ryan, FEC program director at the Campaign Legal Center. "The case should serve as yet another wake-up call for Congress to shore up our woefully inadequate disclosure laws in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision before still more scandals emerge, further undermining the country’s faith in representative democracy."

Restore Our Future maintains that it has broken no laws. Charles Spies, the committee’s campaign treasurer, told NBC that his group "has fully complied with, and will continue to comply with, all FEC disclosure requirements."


Perry meets with New Hampshire Republicans

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) met with a group of New Hampshire Republicans on Thursday afternoon in Austin, Texas, according to the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the latest sign the conservative Republican is considering a presidential bid.

Perry's guests included former Rep. Chuck Douglas (R-N.H.), Deputy New Hampshire House Speaker Pam Tucker, Seacoast businessman Sean Mahoney, Seacoast activist Diane Bitter and former New Hampshire postmaster Jim Adams. Republican strategist Paul Young, who organized the meeting, also attended.

Should Perry run for president, New Hampshire could be a tough nut for the Republican to crack. The Granite State has a history of backing less socially conservative candidates in its first-in-the-nation primary, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney owns a house there, has deep connections in the state and holds consistent leads in the polls.

But Perry has one major asset there: Top adviser Dave Carney, who is running Perry's ground game, is based in New Hampshire.


Pawlenty to pull Iowa ads ahead of straw poll

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will pull his radio and television ads off the air three days before the Ames straw poll.

"Ames is all about turnout, so of course in the final few days we're focusing our resources toward getting our supporters to the straw poll," Pawlenty Spokesman Alex Conant told The Hill. "We like the position we're in and the direction we're headed."

Pawlenty has spent more time in Iowa than any other major presidential candidate and needs to do well in the straw poll to fight the narrative that his campaign has failed to break through to the first tier, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising in order to raise his name recognition in the state.

The ads will run through Thursday, the day before the GOP debate in Ames, and there will be plenty of earned media opportunities those days, so it is unlikely to hurt any candidate much not to be on the air. Ames straw poll attendees are highly motivated Republican activists who are unlikely to be swayed by last-minute television ads, so candidates' ability to round up supporters, remind them of the event and get them to come from the far reaches of the state matters more than raising name identification at this point.

But Pawlenty's pursuit of an "or" strategy of one tactic over another rather than doing both is indicative of his campaign's financial situation. He had $1.4 million cash on hand as of July 1, before he began spending more heavily in Iowa, and might need to husband resources at this point. But without a strong showing at the straw poll a few extra dollars might not help the candidate.


Pawlenty, Santorum to join socially conservative bus tour

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) will participate in a Values Voter bus tour that will stop in 22 Iowa cities next week in the lead-up to the presidential debate and straw poll in Ames.

The Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage and Susan B. Anthony List, three socially conservative groups, have organized the tour.

Both Pawlenty and Santorum need strong showings in the Ames straw poll on Aug. 13 to be considered top-tier candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), currently considered the front-runner to win the straw poll, plans to join the tour but is still working out logistics, according to a spokesman for the tour organizers.

The tour will also be joined by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), two of Bachmanns closest allies in Congress. The three co-sponsored a bill to oppose raising the debt ceiling in July.


MoveOn.Org against debt deal

Liberal group MoveOn.Org on Monday announced its opposition to the debt-ceiling deal negotiated by President Obama with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.

"This is a bad deal for our fragile economic recovery, a bad deal for the middle class and a bad deal for tackling our real long-term budget problems. It forces deep cuts to important programs that protect the middle class, but asks nothing of big corporations and millionaires. And though it does not require cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid benefits, it opens the door for these down the road via an unaccountable Congressional committee," said MoveOn.Org Executive Director Justin Ruben. 

"We surveyed our 5 million members and the vast majority oppose the deal because it unfairly asks seniors and the middle class to bear the burden of the debt deal.  Congress should do what it should have done long ago and what it has done dozens of times before — pass a clean debt ceiling bill."

MoveOn is one of the first major liberal organizations to come out against the compromise, while a slew of conservative groups including the Club for Growth have already bashed the deal. Their opposition will further shrink the eye of the needle congressional leaders must thread to pass the agreement by making some liberal Democrats less likely to vote for the deal.


Pro-Romney PAC raises $12 million

Restore Our Future, a "super-PAC" created to help Mitt Romney become president, has brought in more than $12.2 million so far this year and boasts almost that much cash on hand, according to documents it filed with the Federal Election Commission this weekend.

The group, set up by former Romney advisers, can accept unlimited contributions, and many of the checks were for six- or seven-figure sums.

Major donors include the Marriott family, hotel magnates with close ties to the Romneys. Hedge fund manager John Paulson gave $1 million, while Bob Perry, the Texas homebuilder who was the financier for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, gave a half-million dollars. Perry has been a major supporter of Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry (no relation) who, when the homebuilder made the donation in March, was still saying he would not run for president.

The Foxes, a wealthy St. Louis-based family, also chipped in for a combined $200,000.

Restore Our Future cannot officially coordinate with the Romney campaign, but it can spend money on behalf of supporting its candidate. This sum, combined with Romney's own $18 million, makes $30 million that could be spent on his behalf, a much larger sum than any other Republican candidate has for the race.


Herman Cain apologizes to Muslims

Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain met with Muslim leaders Wednesday in Sterling, Va. and apologized for past comments that he would not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet should he win the presidency.

While I stand by my opposition to the interference of Shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim-Americans and their friends, Cain said in a statement after the meeting. I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.

Cain had taken criticism for remarks that Muslims seek to impose Sharia law on Americans. He said in March that he would not appoint any Muslims to his administration, slightly walked back that statement a few weeks later, but shortly afterward said he would only appoint Muslims who renounced Sharia law — and he did not know of any Muslims who would do so.

The candidate is popular with some in the Tea Party movement but has been unable to break into the first tier of the field, and consistently sits in the low single digits in polls. Some within his campaign have long worried his statements on Muslims were a distraction.