- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

ON WITH THE SHOW

Tea Party Express organizers describe the Republican debate in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night as a milestone — clear evidence that the grass-roots movement holds definitive sway over serious politics, despite critics who claim otherwise. Staged with CNN, the event is scheduled on the first anniversary of the massive “9/12 Tax Payer” march on Washington; it is a patriotic, high-tech extravaganza. Sparkling red, white and blue dominates the big hall that will pulsate with multiple video screens, a jumbotron-type display for tweeted questions and a thousand-member audience. A “red zone” down front holds a tea party gaggle, set to question the eight White House hopefuls with gusto.

“President Obama will certainly face a stiff challenge in the general election, no matter who the Republican nominee is. No one appreciates that more than the president and his top campaign advisers. They will have a real fight on their hands,” says CNN anchor and debate moderator Wolf Blitzer.

But things are just getting started in the Sunshine State. The candidates face off again at a Fox News/Florida Republican Party debate in Orlando on Sept. 22, then strut their stuff at a three-day “Presidency 5” event complete with straw poll. The American Conservative Union is a major presence, staging a “Conservative Political Action Conference-FL” with speakers that include the group’s chairman, Al Cardenas and the eight major candidates, plus fellow hopefuls Gary Johnson and Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter. Also scheduled to speak are Sen. Marco Rubio, pundit Ann Coulter and the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre among many others.

EYES ON RUBIO

Acting presidential? Vice-presidential? The aforementioned Sen. Marco Rubio has maintained a thoughtful, strategic media presence since he took office. Nothing willy-nilly. Building gravitas. The Florida Republican continually has prompted GOP watchers to wonder about his role in the election, and the value of his endorsement if he ultimately declines “Romney/Rubio 2012.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Rubio delivers what his handlers deem “a major foreign policy speech” at the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, N.C. The title? It’s “America’s Role in the World.” The lawmaker is not thinking small here.

“This will be the third and last of a series of three major speeches by Senator Rubio outlining his vision of America. The first was his maiden Senate floor speech in June, and the second was last month’s speech at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on “The Role of Government in America,” Mr. Rubio’s office advises.

KEEPING TRACK

The White House strategy to save money by spending money is under way. Brace for impact. Stay informed. And keep in mind that since taking office, President Obama has signed into law 21 new or higher taxes while the White House currently has 5,000 more regulatory actions waiting in the wings — this according to Americans for Tax Reform, which is tracking it all.

Many of the new taxes have been spun off Obamacare, including a tax hike of $60 billion on health insurers, excise taxes on both charitable hospitals and tobacco, tax hikes on medical device manufacturers and Medicare payrolls. New regulations will affect technology, banking, energy and labor.

“According to the 2011 Cost of Government Report, the president’s projected $2.5 billion increase in regulatory budgets in 2012 will cost the economy 6.2 million jobs over five years,” the nonprofit coalition says. “What’s more, Mr. Obama has suggested regulatory reviews take credit for regulations never really enacted. The ‘billions’ in savings he imagines under this guidance are imaginary, while the costs of actual rulemakings imposed on employers are real.”

See the numbers and details here: www.atr.org.

MORPHING ENEMY

“Since 9/11, the political discourse of American politics has, arguably, descended to its lowest level since the Civil-War era when Abraham Lincoln was typically depicted as a ‘know-nothing, Bible-spouting baboon,’” says Paul J.J. Payack, founder of the Global Language Monitor, which tracks our chatty trends.

He adds, “It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of this debasement of political speech and rhetoric, but it has been suggested that in the face of a nearly invisible, constantly morphing enemy, we have turned the attack inward, upon ourselves, and our institutions.”

GRASS-ROOTS PULL

Memo to politicians who relish slick sound bites: News coverage of “Washington politicians and their rhetoric ” has waning influence on the American public, says a study by Michigan State University, just published in Public Opinion Quarterly.

“Instead, citizens are more apt to be swayed by news stories about grass-roots protests and local events,” says Corwin Smidt, an assistant professor of political science who compared the impact of Washington debate and activism on public opinion polls.

“What this says is that maybe politicians can’t use the bully pulpit to influence public opinion through the news media as much as many people thought they could,” Mr. Smidt continues. “The news media are still the gatekeepers … but everything they cover does not have the same effect. It actually may be the storyline within the news that provokes opinion.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 66 percent of Americans say “America has changed for the worse since 9/11.”

• 18 percent say the nation “is a better place today”; 11 percent are unsure, 6 percent say the U.S. has not changed.

• 55 percent say Muslims in the U.S. have been treated fairly “over the past 10 years.”

• 77 percent of Republicans agree.

• 28 percent overall say Muslim Americans have been treated unfairly.

• 54 percent of Democrats agree.

• 53 percent overall say the world would be better off if “other countries became more like this one.”

• 30 percent are undecided; 18 percent say the world would be worse off is other nations emulated the U.S.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 7 and 8.

Strategic soundbites, growing annoyances to jharper@washingtontimes.com.