I Breaking News from Newsmax.com, January 27, 2012
II Comment from Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, January 28, 2012
Romney Campaign Run by Charlie Crist’s Political Aides
As Mitt Romney puts the South Carolina primary in his rear-view mirror and hits the accelerator in a bid to win Florida, he may discover himself crashing headlong into the bitter legacy of Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor who defected from the GOP and was soundly defeated for the U.S. Senate by Marco Rubio. Romney’s “Charlie Crist” problem is this: Romney’s chief campaign strategist and several of his most senior campaign staff were Crist’s top political advisers – the same ones who crafted Crist’s moderate, ignore-the-tea-party strategy epitomized in Crist’s famous “hug” of President Barack Obama. That strategy led Crist, once the most popular Republican governor in the nation, to defeat.
Crist’s erstwhile political team was led by controversial GOP strategist Stuart Stevens. Stevens and partner Russ Schriefer are the principals in the high-profile Stevens & Schriefer Group consultant firm and are playing the lead role in crafting Romney’s primary and national campaign strategy. According to the Stevens & Schriefer website, the firm had a long history with Crist, serving as chief strategists for his bids for education commissioner, attorney general, governor, and later for the U.S. Senate.
Other senior Crist political aides from his failed Senate campaign now hold key posts in Romney’s campaign. Amanda Henneberg, who had served as Crist’s press secretary, now is a spokeswoman with the Romney 2012 campaign. Likewise, Andrea Saul, who was Crist’s communications director, now is Romney’s press secretary. The Stevens & Schriefer firm has played a central role in several GOP presidential campaigns, including Romney’s failed bid in 2008. It also holds a strong track record of winning campaigns, mainly for more moderate Republicans.
The firm specializes in helping Blue State Republicans woo moderates, swing voters, and Democrats to help the GOP win statewide elections. Stevens & Schreifer advised Republican Chris Christie in his bid for New Jersey governor. The firm’s appeal to the GOP conservative base, however, may be mixed at best – especially when its role in Crist’s unsuccessful 2010 Senate bid is factored in.
When former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio announced his bid to challenge Crist for Senate in May 2009, he trailed the popular Republican governor in positive name recognition in the Sunshine State by 36 points (13 percent to 49 percent), according to the Mason-Dixon polling company. Nevertheless, Crist went on to suffer one of the worst political meltdowns in recent history.
For his Senate bid, Stevens crafted a moderate Crist message that proved very much at odds with the tea party sentiment then sweeping Florida and the nation. Many analysts believe the Stevens strategy was played out, creating a mortal wound for Crist, when he gave Obama the infamous “hug.” It came during a Feb. 10, 2009, rally in Fort Myers in support of the president’s controversial $850 billion stimulus program. Crist joined Obama on stage, praised the plan, and physically embraced the president. That was a defining moment for Crist and his Senate campaign: He had embraced the opposition but had ignored the party’s conservative base.
During the campaign Jeb Bush, the influential former Florida governor, gave an exclusive interview to Newsmax and declared that Crist had committed an “unforgiveable” act by supporting the Obama stimulus. Bush’s remark triggered a downward spiral in the polls from which Crist never recovered. In April 2010, before the Republican primary vote, Crist left the Republican Party and ran as an independent. Rubio defeated him decisively in the November election. When Crist bolted from the Republican Party, Stevens and his firm resigned from the Crist campaign, as did senior aides Saul and Henneberg.
With Florida’s Jan. 31 primary shaping up to be a bitter and critical battle between the establishment GOP represented by Romney on one side and the Main Street/tea party Republicans who are backing Gingrich, the race looks like it could be a do-over of the bitterly contested 2010 Florida Senate race. The primary drama may offer a replay of Crist-Rubio, with Crist’s former associate Stevens crafting the Romney message and Jose Mallea, who was Rubio’s Senate campaign manager, leading the Gingrich campaign in Florida. For example, when a November poll briefly showed former House Speaker Gingrich leading Romney in Florida, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos tweeted sarcastically: “Don’t worry, Stuart [Stevens] will deliver [a] Crist endorsement.”
To some, the Florida race has all the markings of a repeat of the Crist-Rubio showdown. Veteran political strategist Roger Stone tells Newsmax that the Romney campaign has been “tone deaf when it comes to conservatives. The Miami-based Stone adds: “Stuart Stevens, while he is a smart guy, he is not a conservative. He does not come from the conservative movement, he does not understand the conservative movement.”
So far, Romney’s national campaign playbook has been eerily similar to Crist’s strategy, embracing swing, middle-of-the-road voters while keeping the GOP’s conservative base at a distance. The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But Gingrich has emphasized that his campaign is surrounded by conservatives, and that the GOP leadership ranks during his tenure as House speaker were filled by conservatives as well.
During an appearance on shows and in a recent debate, Gingrich trumpeted the fact that he has been a “Reagan populist conservative” and that Rubio’s former campaign manager runs his Florida campaign.
Will Romney move more to the right after his resounding defeat to Gingrich in the Palmetto State? His strategy will unfold in the days ahead, but most analysts expect Romney to focus on Gingrich’s shortcomings. In December, the Miami Herald reported that “Charlie Crist’s Marco Rubio-bashing team” was heading up the Romney campaign. The story described the Crist tactics that Stevens helped devise against Rubio as “Call him a crook and a hypocrite.” This playbook seems to have been dusted off for implementation.
II Comment from Rev. Donald E. Wildmon
January 28, 2012
II Comment from Rev. Donald E. Wildmon
January 28, 2012
Breaking News from Newsmax
Rev. Wildmon: Palin Is Right, Newt Being ‘Crucified.’
One of the nation’s most influential Christian and family leaders, the Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, says Sarah Palin is right, Newt Gingrich is being “crucified” by the Republican establishment and forces allied with Mitt Romney. Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, has strongly endorsed Gingrich for president, and this week has been urging fellow believers to vote in Florida’s primary for the former House Speaker. Wildmon has spent decades on the front-lines of the battle to protect American families and says Gingrich is the best choice for Christian conservatives who want a president to stand against a rising tide of secularism and anti-Christian sentiment.
On Thursday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stated on the Fox Business channel: “Look at Newt Gingrich, what’s going on with him via the establishment’s attacks. They’re trying to crucify this man and rewrite history and rewrite what it is that he has stood for all these years.” In an interview with Newsmax Friday, Wildmon told Newsmax “That’s very tough language. But I think it’s probably pretty accurate.” Wildmon said Gingrich is up against entrenched political forces who are “absolutely” trying to dictate who wins the GOP nomination. “The mainstream media and the established Republicans would rather have anybody than Newt,” Wildmon said. “This is what really worries them. [Thursday] they went on a rampage, got five or six well known people, former colleagues of his, criticizing him. They’re going after him. That’s going to be his biggest obstacle to overcome.”
Asked why he didn’t endorse former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, as have several other Christian leaders, Wildmon replied: “You’re basically going to vote for the man you think can do the best job. I believe that Newt, of all the candidates, can do a better job of getting the country back to where it’s supposed to be.” Wildmon has also stated that Gingrich passes two key criteria: he’s the only candidate who can defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
Rev. Wildmon is aware that some have criticized Gingrich for his personal life and “baggage.” But Wildmon says he has met privately with Gingrich and believes he is a changed man and has accepted Christ as his savior. “I think it’s genuine and sincere,” Wildmon told Newsmax, “Only Newt and God know his heart. But by every visible aspect, I think it’s genuine.”
Wildmon also expressed grave doubts about the strength of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s commitment to social issues that Christians care about. Wildmon asserted that Romney “will not be reliable. Romney is Obama-lite.” The conservative family advocate said the stakes in the 2012 election are huge. “If we lose this race,” he said, “if Mr. Obama gets a second term, or if Mr. Romney gets in, it’s the end of Western civilization as we know it.”
Wildmon added that he gives the former House Speaker a 50-50 chance of winning the nomination, due to the powerful establishment interests arrayed against him.
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