- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2012

PALMETTO BREW

His bipartisanship in full flower, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cautioned Republicans against courting “extremism” and the tea party influence when he appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But Mr. Reid may have something else to worry about: the new tea party. The movement is in the midst of re-invention, judging from the big doings at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention, now under way in Myrtle Beach.

“We want to let the nation know that the tea party has moved beyond the initial public rally phase and into firmly establishing organizational substructure and networking,” says organizer Joe Dugan. “This event will set an example for other states to improve their collaborative efforts and lines of communication, and thus their influence on the 2012 elections and beyond.”

The convention has already drawn a powerful cadre of Republicans that includes Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Jim DeMint, and Reps. Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan, Tim Scott and Joe Wilson. Presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum visit Monday afternoon.

They stand before a savvy audience, incidentally. Tea party Republicans “are far more knowledgeable about the candidates and the campaign” than mainstream Republicans, says a new study from the Pew Research Center that found that almost three-fourths of the tea partyers correctly answered at least three out of four basic questions about the Republicans campaign — compared with 31 percent of the non-tea party Republicans. See the research here: www.people-press.org.

THE LOATHE FACTOR

“It seems like it is going to be this titanic struggle between the loathing they have for Mitt Romney and the utter hatred they have for Barack Obama.”

- HBO host Bill Maher, contemplating the current mindset of Republican voters.

DEBATES AD INFINITUM

The two-hour Fox News presidential debate broadcast live from Myrtle Beach at 9 p.m. on Monday is No. 17 in the series of primetime bouts for the six remaining GOP hopefuls. But wait. There’s lots more. The Fox debate, moderated by anchor Bret Baier and Wall Street Journal political analyst Gerald Seib, will followed by debate No. 18 on Thursday in Charleston (CNN), debate No. 19 in Tampa on Jan. 23 (NBC) and debate No. 20, three days later in Jacksonville, Fla. (CNN).

FOREVER YOUNG

In the words of hopeful marketers, “70 is the new 50,” which would in theory make Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul an optimistic 56 years of age. Still, political observers now wonder if the plain-spoken, sharp-witted, indefatigable septuagenarian is too old to become president, noting that Ronald Reagan was a mere 69 when he took office.

But in the past 24 hours, Mr. Paul has won the endorsement of state Sen. Tom Davis, a leading fiscal conservative in South Carolina. He remains a top-tier candidate in multiple polls. His devoted followers still make a big joyful noise about their man, who had a direct answer for a gaggle of journalists who demanded to know whether his age mattered:

“I feel very good. Your health depends on your mental status as well, too. So, theres nominal ages and then your mental health, but I feel excellent. The only thing frustrating about the campaigning is I dont get quite as much exercise as I get when Im not campaigning so energetically. But I feel great,” replied Mr. Paul, who is a medical doctor.

THE CAMPAIGN BUDGET

The presidential campaign may be annoying, but it can boost the economy in all 50 states, says a new analysis from the Atlantic based on figures from President Obama’s 2008 campaign, the Center for Responsive Politics and interviews with vendors, demonstrating how “one campaign might choose to spread most of its cash around.”

The typical high-money candidate spends $435 million on advertising, the magazine says, a figure that includes $225 million to fund those mysterious “media strategy” firms, $8 million for campaign signs and $16,000 for temporary tattoos for fans.

Candidates spend $65 million paying staffers, from lowly field organizers to campaign managers, who can command $100,000 a year. Another $61 million goes to travel costs, mostly airfares, though rental cars and the proverbial $1,000-a-day motorcade are also pricey. An additional $54 million covers operations, from campaign headquarters to food and furniture.

And party time? White House hopefuls can fork out $34 million on events; consider that deluxe flushable porta-potties cost $2,000 a day while a single rental for a jumbo 30- by 40-foot Americans flag as a patriotic backdrop rings up at $1,000. And one has to spend money to make money. The candidates also drop $30 million on fund-raising efforts, from mailers to robo-calls. Last, but not least, polling costs them $28 million spread among specialized pollsters.

POLL DU JOUR

• 28 percent of Republican voters say an endorsement by former President George W. Bush would make them “more likely” to vote for the candidate.

• 59 percent say it would make “no difference,” 11 percent say it would make them “less likely” to vote for the candidate.

• 23 percent say an endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would make them more likely to vote for the candidate.

• 61 percent say it would make no difference; 15 percent say it would make them less likely to vote for the candidate.

• 22 percent say an endorsement by their minister, priest or rabbi would make them more likely to vote for the candidate.

• 70 percent say it would make no difference; 6 percent say it would make them less likely to vote for the candidate.

• 13 percent say an endorsement by their local newspaper would make them more likely to vote for the candidate.

• 73 percent say it would make no difference; 13 percent say it would make them less likely to vote for the candidate.

Source: A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 6-8; the sample included 265 Republicans.

Caterwauls, happy press releases, spare comments to jharper@washingtontimes.com.