- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THE ROMNEY BRAND

The mainstream media has a crush on Mitt Romney. Wooed by his studied civility, canny debate and polished oratory, the press is reveling in the Romney brand, which has a valuable shelf life in an endless campaign. He wears well on the long march. Mr. Romney is “far more presidential than anyone else,” says CBS News. “He’s the most fluent and most at ease,” gushes the Daily Guardian. And Mr. Romney offers “a fresh air of confidence,” allows the New York Times. It’s worked for the candidate, though. He’s getting more face time.

In the last three Republican presidential debates, Mr. Romney accrued a total of 41 minutes of precious solo time on camera, compared with 34 minutes for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 24 minutes for Rep. Michele Bachmann and 21 minutes each for Jon Huntsman Jr. and Herman Cain. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum garnered 20 minutes each, Rep. Ron Paul 18 minutes — this according to University of Minnesota political scientist Eric Ostermeier, who tabulated the amounts.

Mr. Romney is also dominating the endorsements watch. Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert declared his allegiance to the Romney camp on Wednesday, joining New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, former Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Mel Martinez of Florida, Reps. Michael G. Grimm of New York and Judy Biggert of Illinois and former Rep. Susan Molinari of New York. They’ve all endorsed Mr. Romney. And that’s just this week.

STAR-SPANGLED IMAGE

OK, enough with America-bashing, apology tours, negative press and pollsters that paint the U.S. as a failing, second-rate nation. Nonsense. For the third year in a row, the U.S. leads the world in “global image” and the nation with “the best overall reputation.” So says the 2011 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, based on the ratings of 50 nations by 20,337 people in 20 countries. Respondents were asked to gauge the countries in such categories as governance, culture, people, immigration, investment, exports and tourism.

“The strengths of America’s international standing continue to be innovation, opportunities and vibrancy,” says index founder Simon Anholt, who also reveals that Germany is in second place, followed by France, Britain, Japan, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden.

CAUSE CELEBRITY

Well, naturally. Of course. The Wall Street protesters have the public support of a spate of celebrities. And now we know who are the richest of the lot, according to a handy-dandy list assembled by Celebritynetworth.com, a site that tracks the plump pocketbooks of actors, athletes, politicians, the famous and the infamous. Now they have connected the dots between protesters and well-heeled stars.

Topping the list of “The 10 Richest Celebrities Supporting Occupy Wall Street” is Yoko Ono, who’s worth $500 million, followed by Russell Simmons ($325 million), Roseanne Barr ($80 million), Deepak Chopra ($80 million), Kanye West ($70 million), Alec Baldwin ($65 million), Susan Sarandon ($50 million), Michael Moore ($50 million), Tim Robbins ($50 million) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat ($35.5 million).

GORE PRESENTS GRANHOLM

Al Gore continues to beef up Current TV, the San Francisco-based progressive cable channel he founded six years ago. And he may end up a star himself. Former MSNBC gadfly Keith Olbermann joined the primetime lineup a few months ago. Now, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has been tapped for a nightly show, “The War Room,” which sounds like something snitched from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Oh, wait. Mr. Blitzer’s show is “The Situation Room.” But no matter.

“We will actively engage viewers with a blend of smart analysis and relevant commentary from guests on the cutting edge of politics, business and entertainment. Democrats will love it. The far right will hate it. Those in the middle will appreciate it,” Mrs. Granholm predicts.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Gore would not reveal what other former politicos were on his “wish list” for future talent. But the former vice president did reveal that he was not above jumping into the fray himself as an occasional on-camera presence during upcoming 2012 election coverage.

“I’ll twist his arm a little,” says the network’s president, David Bohrman. “He’ll be on in key moments.”

8 PERCENT

Lawmakers, lawmakers. Read it and weep: Gallup finds that 81 percent of Americans now disapprove of the job Congress is doing — or not doing. Thirteen percent approve. This is an all-time low, but nothing new. The findings match a pair of similar polls that revealed the same negative numbers in August and almost a year ago.

There’s particular irritation among the huge, noisy, burgeoning baby-boomer crowd, meanwhile. Congress garners an 8 percent approval rating among those over age 55, Gallup found, the lowest percentage of all.

POLL DU JOUR

• 74 percent of Americans plan to hand out candy on Halloween.

• 69 percent plan to attend Halloween festivities or parties.

• 68 percent say the U.S. economy has not had an impact on their Halloween plans.

• 50 percent will decorate their yard; 47 percent will carve a pumpkin.

• 44 percent will dress in costume; 15 percent will dress their pet in a costume.

• 35 percent will throw or attend a Halloween party.

• 33 percent will take their children trick-or-treating; 23 percent will visit a commercial haunted house.

• $9.2 billion: Total amount Americans will spend on Halloween costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards in 2011.

Source: Retail Federation of America poll of 9,374 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 6-11.

Ballyhoo, hoopla, disgruntled admonishments, sullen commentary to jharper@washingtontimes.com.