- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2011

OBAMA LOOT

It’s colossal, it’s stupendous: The official “Obama for America” campaign store far exceeds any merchandising efforts among Republican presidential hopefuls. Forget those plain bumper stickers and ball caps. Among the 144 items on sale now for President Obama fans: Obama-themed wrapping paper, martini glasses, dog bandanas, soy candles, yoga pants, golfballs, dog and cat collars, grill aprons, six-pack coolers and a beverage can cooler emblazoned with the motto “cheers champ” and the image of Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Then there’s dinner, of course.

“What would you ask Barack and Michelle? If you’re selected to have dinner with the Obamas, you’ll be in a position very few people have ever been in: sitting at the dinner table with the President and First Lady of the United States, having a genuine, personal conversation” reads the newest heartfelt query to Democrats from Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, currently conducting the third “Dinner With Barack Sweepstakes.”

WHAT $10,000 BUYS

Mitt Romney’s sudden fierce bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the Republican debate on Saturday paid off - for Democratic opportunists and political rivals. In a mano-a-mano moment, Mr. Romney wagered $10,000 that his Lone Star state opponent simply did not understand the Romney theory about health care; Mr. Perry cooly declined. But it was a sizzling tidbit. Fueled by commentary from obsessed news analysts and agile social media, critics transformed Mr. Romney’s challenge into a symbol of well-heeled Republican elitism.

“This was Romney’s most out-of-touch debate moment thus far. Only a millionaire two hundred times over makes an impromptu bet for $10,000,” says Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “A multimillionaire like Mitt Romney may not know what $10,000 can buy for the average middle-class family, but Granite Staters do.”

Not to be outdone, Americans for Progress quickly established a Twitter account called “What10kbuys” as a forum for Romney bashing. Among gleeful tweets from operatives and observers alike: The bet money could buy “a flock of chicks in Cameroon,” a “nice 2004 Honda coupe” and “four and a half months of unemployment benefits.”

Mr. Romney’s distant rival Jon Huntsman Jr., who did not qualify for the debate due to low polling numbers, also joined the fray. His campaign launched www.10Kbet.com, an instant online repository of press mentions about the $10,000 moment.

But such petty political drama has short shelf life, and the value of $10,000 will soon shrink to, oh $100. Mr. Romney is already moving ahead on the campaign trail; he arrived in New Hampshire on Sunday for multiple stops. Besides, yet another moment of truth looms in a mere 72 hours: the six prime GOP hopefuls face off once again for debate No. 15 hosted by Fox News and the Iowa Republican Party, set for Sioux City on Thursday.

TAKE IT FOR GRANITE

Someone else is also on the move. Newt Gingrich has scurried to New Hampshire to woo voters anew on Monday, and face the aforementioned Mr. Huntsman in a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester. Some insist it will be like a match between a badger and a greyhound, but no matter.

Mr. Romney also has a big event in Manchester.

He picks up the endorsement of the the city’s mayor Ted Gatsas, who is convinced the candidate is the better businessman, thus, better for the national economy. The pair meet at a well-known local restaurant for breakfast, complete with a hefty side order of endorsement.

Mr. Gatsas joins other powerful New Hampshire folk already backing Mr. Romney: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Gov. John H. Sununu, former Sen. Judd Gregg, Rep. Charles F. Bass, nine state senators and 58 state House members - a group that includes House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt says a tally from the New Hampshire Union Leader.

SEE C-SPAN

Could C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb get his ultimate wish? The determined gentleman already has asked the Supreme Court to open its hallowed hearings for his broadcast cameras by March, when the constitutionality of health care reform at last comes up for scrutiny. Americans of every political persuasion agree with Mr. Lamb: the complex testimony has too much economic and political impact to unfold behind closed doors.

A new Gallup poll reveals that 72 percent of the public supports televising the health care testimony; the number includes 77 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats. The nation’s highest court could be cornered.

“While the Supreme Court will likely get to decide this matter itself before the hearings take place in March, rebuffing Congress and public opinion could fuel the movement afoot in Congress to pass a law requiring the Supreme Court to permit cameras,” observes Gallup analyst Lydia Saad. “In turn, that would likely set off a major constitutional challenge of its own between Congress and the high court.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 52 percent of South Carolina voters are Democrat, 43 percent are Republican, 11 percent are independent.

• 48 percent disapprove of the job President Obama is doing as president, 44 percent approve.

• 46 percent would vote for Mr Obama in an Obama/Newt Gingrich match; 42 percent would vote for Mr. Gingrich.

• 45 percent would vote for Mr. Obama in an Obama/Mitt Romney match; 42 percent would vote for Mr. Romney.

• 38 percent of Republican primary voters would vote for Mr. Gingrich in the primary, 22 percent would vote for Mr. Romney.

• 14 percent are undecided, 9 percent would vote for Ron Paul and 6 percent each for Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

• 35 percent would vote for a candidate with Herman Cain’s endorsement, 30 percent says it makes no difference, 29 percent says his endorsement is a negative.

Source: An NBC News/Marist College poll of 2,529 South Carolina Voters, including 957 Republican voters, conducted Dec. 4 to 6.

Gift ideas, press releases, querulous complaints to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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