- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SCANDAL METER

In the scandal kingdom, he’s only a duke, perhaps. Indeed, Rep. Anthony D. Weiner dominated recent news coverage, even knocking the economy off press radar. The New York Democrat’s dubious saga accounted for 17 percent of coverage measured by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, with the economy snagging 11 percent. But wait. That only makes Weinergate “the fourth-most covered scandal involving elected officials,” the numbers reveal.

“The biggest political scandal of the last 4 1/2 years was former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s corruption case (28 percent of coverage), also known as ‘Blago-gate,’ in which he allegedly tried to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat,” says Pew analyst Mark Jurkowitz.

“No. 2 was former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s admission that he used prostitutes (23 percent), followed quickly by his resignation from that office. News of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest for lewd behavior in an airport was the No. 3 scandal, at 18 percent,” Mr. Jurkowitz adds.

Pew pollsters, meanwhile, also have determined that 57 percent of Americans say erring politicians get caught more often these days because they are under “more scrutiny,” while 19 percent blame it on the “lower moral standards” of elected officials. Twelve percent reject both options; among those who offer an explanation, “the most frequently cited refer to elected officials’ ego or arrogance,” the survey said.

BACHMANN‘S PROWESS

Yeah, she won. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota emerged with some vim and vigor after the “debate” among seven Republican presidential hopefuls Monday night. That’s the consensus among those who sat through the tidy encounter. Why, 41 percent of the 11,000-plus respondents in a NationalReview.com survey said Mrs. Bachmann was the victor, followed by Mitt Romney at a distant 19 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 17 percent. But did she really triumph - or was it the overriding “brand” of a certain grass-roots movement?

“The clear winner of the Republican debate last night was not a candidate, but was instead the tea party movement,” says Mark Meckler, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “The issues and positions were defined by the movement, and the differences between the candidates were measured only in the degree of their adherence to tea party principles.”

HUNTSMAN HEARTBEAT

The former ambassador will no doubt strike a pose and go for the gravitas. In less than a week, Jon Huntsman Jr. plans to announce his campaign for president at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty looming in the background. It strikes a chord with Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, whose book “Rendezvous with Destiny” shows Reagan kicking off his 1980 fall campaign in the very same spot, shirt sleeves rolled up and Old Glory flapping in the summer breeze.

“There is a populist conservative void on the right yet to be filled to take on Mitt Romney,” Mr. Shirley observes. “But it remains to be seen if Jon Huntsman is the man to make Reaganites’ hearts go pitter-patter.”

RUBIO’S MOMENT

“We have made no progress on the issues of our time because, frankly, we have too many people, in both parties, who have decided that the next election is more important than the next generation. And our lack of progress on these issues has led to something even more troubling - a growing fear that maybe these problems are too big for us to solve. Too big for even America.

“Well, there is no reason to be afraid. Our story, the story of America, it is not the story of a nation that never faced problems. It is the story of a nation that faced its challenges and solved them. Our story, the story of the American people, is not the story of a people who always got it right. It is the story of a people who, in the end, got it right.”

- Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, in his “maiden speech” before the Senate on Tuesday.

BIG SCREEN PALIN

The audience demand grew so quickly for “The Undefeated” - an independent film chronicling Sarah Palin’s political career - that the Americans for Prosperity Foundation has booked a 1,000-seat ballroom to accommodate the crowd when the group screens the movie on Friday. The film is a sparkling draw for the organization’s RightOnline conservative technology conference, staged in Minneapolis this weekend.

BigHollywood.com founder Andrew Breitbart will introduce the movie, which will be released to AMC theaters nationwide on July 15.

The event itself has drawn some luminaries. Also attending the two-day gathering: Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah; Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline of Minnesota; Thaddeus G. McCotter of Michigan; and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; former Minnesota Gov.Tim Pawlenty; Herman Cain; Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II; and HotAir.com founder Michelle Malkin.

POLL DU JOUR

• 49 percent of likely voters say the U.S. should remove troops from Western Europe and “let Europeans defend themselves.”

• 28 percent disagree; 22 percent are not sure.

• 49 percent say the U.S. should still belong to NATO.

• 27 percent do not see a need for the U.S. to belong to the organization; 24 percent are undecided.

• 46 percent have a favorable view of NATO; 37 percent an unfavorable view.

• 62 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of NATO; 52 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view.

• 35 percent are confident that NATO “will do all it can” to help the U.S. in Afghanistan and Libya.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted June 12-13.

Annoying prattle and ballyhoo to jharper@washingtontimes.com