- - Sunday, December 4, 2011

POLL

Gingrich on top at holiday concert

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the big winner in an informal and unscientific GOP presidential-preference poll at radio and TV talk-show host Sean Hannity’s Holiday Concert Salute to the Troops fundraiser on Capitol Hill on Saturday night.

Mr. Hannity polled the audience of about 1,100 gathered in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Washington Hotel for the benefit concert for retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance nonprofit as to their preference for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. As measured by cheering and a show of hands from the audience, Mr. Gingrich registered far and away the most support. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in a distant second, while all the other contenders - with one exception - got only a smattering of support. The mention of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s name drew no applause.

“We got the same reaction last night in Pittsburgh,” Mr. Hannity said at the concert, which featured a 45-minute set from pianist John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting and a 40-minute set from pop and Christian contemporary singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith.

STATE

Clinton flies home to fete honorees

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined in celebrating the nation’s top artists receiving the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday while home for less than 36 hours between diplomatic travels.

Between her historic visit to Myanmar and a trip to Germany to discuss Afghanistan’s future, Mrs. Clinton hosted a dinner Saturday for some big names from Broadway, jazz, pop, classical music and Hollywood. On Sunday, Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, Sonny Rollins and Meryl Streep were saluted by President Obama and their fellow artists with tribute performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

After visiting the isolated Southeast Asian country also known as Burma, Mrs. Clinton said such U.S. artists have worldwide influence by using their freedom of creativity and expression. She said she met Myanmar’s leading comedian and hip-hop artist, who have been banned from performing for years.

“You may not know it, but somewhere in a little tiny room in Burma or even in North Korea, someone is desperately trying to hear you or to see you, to experience you,” Mrs. Clinton told the Kennedy Center crowd. “And if they are lucky enough to make that connection, it can literally change lives and countries.”

CBS will broadcast the show on Dec. 27.

CAMPAIGN

Huntsman to visit New Hampshire, not Iowa

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is planning to have a town hall meeting in New Hampshire next weekend while his rivals participate in a debate in Iowa that ABC is to televise nationally.

Mr. Huntsman on Friday said he will meet with voters this Saturday in New Hampshire, a state central to his political strategy. Mr. Huntsman has written off Iowa and has spent neither time nor money there.

As a result, he was unlikely meet the qualifying threshold in Iowa of 5 percent in a poll of state caucus goers or in a national poll.

Mr. Huntsman also has accepted an invitation to do a one-on-one debate with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire. The two will meet in Windham for a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with tea party activists on Dec. 12.

CAMPAIGN

Bachmann: Former Cain backers moving her way

GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said Sunday many people who had supported Herman Cain in the race are getting behind her candidacy.

With Mr. Cain now out of the race, Mrs. Bachmann said Republican voters see her as the tea party candidate and the “most consistent conservative” in the contest.

The congresswoman from Minnesota said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Cain’s supporters considered him as an outsider and that her conservative positions are most reflective of his stance.

Mr. Cain abandoned his White House bid Saturday under the strain of sexual misconduct allegations.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama defends his faith in America amid GOP barbs

Republican presidential candidates are accusing President Obama of portraying America as just another nation and they’re trying to raise questions about his patriotism.

The criticism has led Mr. Obama to defend his faith in America and confront GOP candidates who are seeking to undercut his leadership heading into the 2012 presidential election.

Republican Mitt Romney has accused the president of considering America “just another nation.” The former Massachusetts governor frequently has said America is an “exceptional nation.”

Mr. Obama used a recent trip to Asia to highlight America’s role as the strongest and most influential nation in the world. He has said the rest of the world looks to the U.S. for leadership. He speaks frequently of the American values that the world admires.

From wire dispatches and staff reports