Inside the Beltway

NOT THE LAST ONE

The mainstream media is bored with Republican presidential discourse and already has declared that CNN’s big debate on Wednesday was the “last one.” It was not. The final sanctioned debate in Portland, Ore., on March 19 is still on, this one sponsored by The Washington Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and the Oregon Republican Party. None of the presidential hopefuls have revealed if they’ll attend. Yet. Then again, none have said “No, now go away,” either. This debate is still an opportunity for each to distinguish his personal “brand” and ultimate takeaway message; it is also a strategic decision likely to be made after Super Tuesday on March 6, insiders say.

PARTISAN TATTOO

One in five Americans now has a tattoo, and a vast majority — 86 percent — don’t regret getting some ink. They appear to attach little personal significance to their skin designs: vast majorities, in fact, scorn the idea that a tattoo makes them feel more athletic, intelligent, healthy, spiritual, strong, attractive, rebellious or sexy. Interestingly enough, more women have tattoos than men — 23 percent to 19 percent, respectively.

Is there a partisan difference here? Why, yes. A little. Among Republicans, 17 percent have a tattoo, among Democrats 22 percent, among independents, 21 percent. The nation also appears to be indifferent to permanent decoration. Three-fourths of the 2,000-plus respondents said a tattoo does not prompt “deviant” behavior. This is all according to Harris Polls; see the numbers here: www.harrisinteractive.com

FORGET ‘BROKERED’

Some Republicans dream that their favorite rogue candidate — let’s say New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin — suddenly emerges from the campaign murk to win the GOP presidential nomination at a brokered convention. This is a dream of the minority. Though they’re not keen on the existing field of candidates, most Republicans prefer that one of them secures enough delegates to pocket the nomination. Then it’s on to Tampa, Fla., and the luscious, giddy national convention that is now a mere 85 days away.

Gallup supplies the numbers: Two-thirds of Republicans want the nominee to be decided before the clan gathers in August; 29 percent disagree. The majority are still tepid with the choices: 55 percent wish someone other than Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Rep. Ron Paul was running. Forty-four percent are “pleased” with the selection.

“It is unlikely that one candidate will win enough primaries and caucuses between now and Super Tuesday to clinch the nomination, because of a reduction in the number of winner-take-all contests and because of the competitiveness of the campaign to date,” observes Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones. “As a result, the 2012 nomination contest likely will be the longest for the GOP since the 1976 Gerald Ford-Ronald Reagan showdown.”

Is there a risk that the contentious campaign could damage the party in the eyes of America? Maybe not: 57 percent of Republicans say the extended campaign is not harming the party, 40 percent disagree.

“But the level of dissatisfaction is not so great that Republicans are hoping for a situation — a brokered convention — that would allow another person to be the Republican candidate for president this fall. Nor do Republicans seem overly concerned that an extended nomination fight will harm the party,” Mr. Jones notes.

THE DNC PERSPECTIVE

“With the GOP primary season dragging on, the tea party in charge, and no clear leading candidate, you can expect things to only get more extreme. The last congressional races taught us what can happen if we don’t fight back early enough and hard enough. We’ve seen what it’s like to work with the tea party in the House. Imagine a tea party president. It could happen this year without your leadership.”

(New fundraising message to party members from Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard).

CANDIDATE TRACKER

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