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Friday, August 25, 2006

Bits and Pieces: Tons of 'em

I remember when the Sales Tax Holiday was signed by Romney a few weeks back . . . but I didn't realize that what he signed was the largest such law in the nation (among the many states that have one as reviewed in the USA Today)

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, signed a law that creates the nation's biggest tax holiday. All retail sales under $2,500 will be exempt from the state's 5% sales tax Aug. 12-13.

Also from the USAToday, a review of 2008 hopefuls actions in the early primary/caucus states highlights how the political landscape may change in this next election cycle. Alabama will stand poised to be "a player" in the Presidential Primaries in '08:

Six prospects also showed up over the past year in Alabama, which recently moved its 2008 presidential primary from June 3 to Feb. 5.

Alabama looms large for Republicans as well. Arizona Sen. John McCain has given $107,750 to state and local candidates and committees there since January. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a leading campaigner for GOP Senate candidates, is squeezing in three fundraisers Tuesday for state legislative candidates. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at a state party fundraising dinner, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is planning a trip.

One of the more palatable Democratic possibles, Evan Bayh is "employing" (literally) and interesting strategey:

Besides giving money, Bayh has found, trained and paid 50 campaign operatives in a program called Camp Bayh. Besides the three in Nevada, he's sent one to South Carolina, 15 to New Hampshire, 25 to Iowa and six to Indiana.

Bayh's Iowa contingent is "by far" the largest any Democrat has ever fielded, Bayh spokesman Dan Pfeiffer says. Most are working on legislative races. All, like their counterparts in the other states, are gaining knowledge and contacts that will be invaluable if Bayh runs and they stick with him.

Bayh isn't the only one getting creative . . . Romney's state PAC idea has given him an advantage over many other GOP hopefuls:

Romney has created political action committees in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina. They can raise lots of money fast because they aren't subject to federal contribution limits. He's spent most of his money on state and local races: $192,650 in Iowa, $95,000 in New Hampshire, $168,715 in Michigan and $131,500 in South Carolina, Romney's records show.

Romney and McCain are fighting a money battle in Michigan and South Carolina, which usually follow Iowa and New Hampshire in the GOP primary lineup. McCain, who won Michigan in 2000, has given at least $158,000 to state and local party committees there, according to federal records and McCain's staff. In South Carolina, which he lost in 2000, McCain has already spent nearly $150,000 on state and local campaigns.

Another interesting find was someone pointing out the irony of Romney's "Polygamy Problem" among the GOP frontrunner field.

Romney's "name recognition" must be improving some . . . because he's starting to do a little better in phone "cold call" polls about the 2008 GOP race. According to some recent Strategic Vision polls Romney placed in 3rd (behind McCain and Giuliani) in New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and 4th (behind those two and homeboy Newt). In about 8 weeks Romney has made some progress in Georgia (from 5th and 4% to 4th and 6%). Granted, not huge numbers, but Romney is definitely headed in the right direction (just a few months ago it was not uncommon for him to get 0-2% in these polls)!

This New York Times piece reveiws the landscape for the 2008 presidential race and had a few Romney tidbits:

Mr. Romney has four full-time workers in Iowa and three in South Carolina, his aides said. And the candidates themselves do seem to be everywhere, in what officials in both parties take as a sign of how times have shifted . . . Mr. Romney announced that he had created a 75-member Michigan Steering Committee, widely viewed as the cornerstone of a Romney-for-President operation in the state.

There may be a dwindling opportunity to nail down big names — Mr. McCain’s aides said this week that Robert B. Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state, was the latest big name to join the McCain camp. But it is also important to be perceived by contributors and political journalists as viable and gaining support.

Mr. Romney’s supporters were understandably cheered when David Yepsen, the influential columnist for The Des Moines Register, wrote a column showering Mr. Romney’s efforts with praise, calling him the best organized of any Republican candidate in the state and declaring that he was “well on his way toward winning the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses.”

Mr. Romney, clearly enjoying his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, went to Cedar Rapids to campaign with Representative Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate for governor. There, Mr. Romney announced, to the audible gasps from an audience of devoted Republicans, that his committee was giving $500,000 to the Nussle campaign.

One of the top members of Mr. Bush’s campaigns, Matthew Dowd, who was his chief strategist, is the object of at least interest of both the McCain and Romney campaigns, Republicans say. “Matt is the biggest fish out there who hasn’t signed,” said one of Mr. McCain’s associates, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal campaign deliberations.

But Mr. Dowd, along with two of the other top lieutenants in the Bush presidential campaign — Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, and Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee — have told friends they are unlikely to do another campaign.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Dowd follow the rest of Bush's team to McCain . . . further flaming the fire of a "quid pro quo" between McCain and Bush

In other news:

Amid a gaggle of events and gatherings one stood out: a Romney event on Aug. 18 at a coast resort. Nearly 1,000 people showed up and Romney's CommonwealthPac garnered more than $1 million. The locals were stunned: Where did that come from?

Romney's performance at the state's semi-annual GOP Convention in Century City on Aug. 20—he received a rousing standing ovation following his keynote address and kudos as well from the arch-conservative California Republican Federation—kept the political buzz mounting. One local congressman remarked that Romney "is the most gifted politician I've ever met."
. . .

But the impression is growing of significant Romney momentum among Republican elites and grassroots alike, and some pros compare Team Romney's prowess to George Bush's organizational edge in 1999. Now that the internet has changed profoundly the nature of grassroots, no campaign can play a waiting game.

Romney recently touted his record of fiscal conservatism in Iowa:

Romney touted his own record for cutting unnecessary spending in his home state. He said he has eliminated redundant agencies such as combining the state’s three highway departments to save money.

Romney said he doesn’t support cutting costs in areas such as homelessness prevention but has advocated for better use of the money. In Massachusetts, the state spent $20 million on hotel rooms for 599 rooms a night for homeless people to stay after shelters were too full.

Romney said he reorganized the system so that those people who had stayed at the shelter the longest would qualify for the hotel room instead of the newcomers. Now, the state has eliminated the need for hotel rooms, Romney said, and the money has gone to improving housing options for the homeless and low-income people.

“We’ve gotten people out of homelessness,” he said.

OK . . . that's enough for now.

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