- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DEBATE EVOLUTION

Welcome to another Republican presidential debate, the 20th for the remaining candidates, and the seventh hosted by CNN, which broadcasts the two-hour event from Mesa, Ariz., at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, moderated by John King. Is there anything new here? Oh, but yes. Both debates and debaters are “fundamentally different” than they were months ago, CNN’s Washington bureau chief and executive producer Sam Feist tells Inside the Beltway.

“Much has happened in both the campaign and the world since the early days, with progressively fewer candidates. Who’s up, who’s down? Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have all been front-runners in the past month, and their issues constantly change,” Mr. Feist says. “Republican voters can learn about their candidates in two ways. One, they can learn through a debate, where all four show what kind of leader and communicator they would be in office. Or they can learn from 30-second ads, many paid for by super PACs.”

Mr. Feist adds, “I come down on the side of the debate as a better way to discover the strengths and weaknesses of these candidates, who have all become better at their craft over time. It’s been interesting to watch them develop. These debates, I’d say, are better for the voters, better for the country, and ultimately, better for democracy.”

THE HORSE RACE

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has got a little lead on former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as the rivals head to the Arizona debate. Among Republican voters likely to vote in the state’s presidential primary, 36 percent support Mr. Romney, 32 percent back Mr. Santorum, 18 percent favor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 6 percent prefer Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Are voters fickle? Maybe not: Fifty-eight percent “definitely support” their choice, but 34 percent “might change their mind,” says a CNN/ORC poll of 467 Arizona Republicans conducted Friday through Monday.

BIG MESSAGE

Amid splashy missives from Disney, looming above the fuzzy red heads of meandering Elmo impersonators comes this stark message: “Don’t Believe the Liberal Media.” Indeed, two massive billboards emblazoned with the five-word motto went up on New York City’s Times Square on Tuesday, courtesy of the Media Research Center.

The conservative watchdog expects 1.3 million onlookers to see their message during the next month, part of a $5 million public campaign to hold the liberal media accountable.

“There is no better location for this billboard than the liberal medias own backyard,” says Brent Bozell, president of the group. “This is the most important election in our lifetime and the American people are sick and tired of the left-wing media deciding who will govern our country.”

LAWMAKER LOATHING

Americans still hate Congress. But they appear to hate the entire body of lawmakers more than individual representatives, says a new Harris Poll. The numbers are just plain lousy: Ninety-three percent of the 2,056 respondents give Congress a negative job review, with Republicans and Democrats reporting identical sentiments.

All were kinder to their local lawmakers, though: Almost two-thirds gave their own representative a thumbs down, with 64 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats agreeing.

“Members of Congress are probably happy a lot of the focus is on the presidential race at this point in time. Their consistent string of historically low approval ratings is not the main political focus,” observes Regina Corso, senior vice president of Harris Polls.

“That will change as the election nears. With the constant partisan infighting on Capitol Hill as well as general sense this is the most do-nothing Congress in years, November is shaping up to have the potential to bring a large number of surprises and upsets,” she predicts.

WEST EXPLAINS ALL

“The politics of demagoguery dividing America will only hasten our eventual demise. The Keynesian economic philosophy of tax and spend of which President Obama and other liberal progressives subscribe will not lift us to new economic heights,” says Rep. Allen B. West, in a message to his constituents about Mr. Obama’s new budget.

“The indomitable entrepreneurial spirit of the American innovator and worker must be unleashed with tax, regulatory, monetary, and fiscal policies that enable investment and ingenuity. It is intellectually dishonest to compare personal income tax rates to capital gains tax rates to justify raising capital gains from 15 percent to 30 percent. The resulting effect on investment in America will be catastrophic,” the Florida Republican says.

As to Mr. Obama’s four years of trillion-dollar deficits, Mr. West observes, “Please, dont tell me about what was ‘inherited.’ Continual excuses are indicative of a person who takes no responsibility for his actions.”

GOOD OLD GEORGE

Yes, Wednesday is the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. And yes, someone has created a no-frills cocktail for the occasion. From Drinkoftheweek.com, comes the, uh, George Washington Cocktail:

Combine 1 1/2 ounces of dry vermouth, 1 ounce of brandy, one-quarter ounce of simple sugar syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with a cherry — a “nod,” the inventing mixologists say, to Washington’s legendary encounter with a cherry tree at an early age.

POLL DU JOUR

• 38 percent of Americans say the economic situation in the U.S. is “getting worse.”

• 53 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of Democrats agree.

• 38 percent overall say the economic situation is “getting better.”

• 18 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats agree.

• 22 percent overall say the situation is “staying the same.”

• 8 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Poll Position survey of 1,242 registered voters conducted Feb. 12.

Predictions, words of wisdom to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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