TEPID ON OBAMA
"If the election for president were to be held today, over half of Americans — 52 percent — would be unlikely to vote to re-elect President Obama, 2 in 5 would be likely to vote for him and 7 percent are not at all sure," observes Regina A. Corso, senior vice president of the Harris Poll, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans on such sentiments for a two-week period ending Friday.
Is this a reality check for the White House, where Republican spectacle makes for entertaining viewing? Despite all the Grand Old Party's political theater, the state of the nation does not appear lost on Americans. Mr. Obama has work to do.
"Looking at this by party, 9 in 10 Republicans and over half of independents would be unlikely to vote for him, as would 20 percent of Democrats. Also, in the likely 2012 swing states, 53 percent say they would be unlikely to vote for the president," Ms. Corso continues, adding that just more than one-third say Mr. Obama will be re-elected while 41 percent think he won't.
THE PERSISTENT BREW
Certain glib Democrats predict every twist on the Republican campaign trail. Among other things, they map out the triumphant trajectory of Mitt Romney, followed by his convenient defeat on Election Day by President Obama. Yeah, well. There are still factors that even liberals can neither control or predict — such as the persistent tea party, which continues to flourish despite claims to the contrary in the mainstream media. Sarah Palin and now Herman Cain bolster interest while grass-roots tea partyers are still influential, and the presidential hopefuls know it.
Mr. Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were scheduled to face off Sunday evening in the Tea Party Patriots' "Presidential Tele Forum" and follow-up straw poll of Florida tea partyers. The evening's questions came from activists in the Sunshine State "tired of the media trying to force them to choose a particular candidate," a spokesman says. Results of the poll will be released before voters head to the primary on Tuesday.
"The race has been heating up, and the tea party showed itself a dominant force in South Carolina. Florida will be no different, and the front-runners will have to display their grasp of tea party principles to earn the support of conservative Floridians," observes Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Patriots, who represents 3,400 local groups nationwide. Hear the audio in the aftermath here: TeaPartyPatriots.org.
While the GOP bickers over who or what upholds the Gipper legacy, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., is putting the finishing touches on the 101st birthday celebration of one Ronald Wilson Reagan, scheduled Feb. 6. The public event is now standing room only.
On hand for cheerful doings: the Camp Pendleton (Calif.) Marine Division Band and Col. Nicholas F. Marano, the commanding officer at Camp Pendleton. There also will be a color guard, a brass quintet, a 21-gun salute, a wreath-laying ceremony, a chaplain's prayer and a keynote address by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Where the heck are they in the screaming finish leading up to the Florida Republican primary Tuesday? Newt Gingrich will be in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, Fort Myers and Orlando. Mitt Romney will be in Jacksonville, Dunedin, Tampa and the Villages. And Rep. Ron Paul? He'll be in Colorado: Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs.
"Thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum, for living the Christ-like example of sacrifice and right priorities. Nothing is more precious or important than the life of an innocent child."
(Sarah and Todd Palin, in a message to the Republican hopeful and his wife Sunday after he left the Florida campaign trail to tend to his 3-year-old daughter Bella, hospitalized in Philadelphia for pneumonia.)
"Ann and I send prayers and best wishes for Bella's good health to Rick and Karen Santorum and their entire family."
(Mitt Romney, in a message to Mr. Santorum, via Twitter.)
It is a vibrant but uneasy mix when libertarians and conservatives are at the same convention, or even in the same room. Now inquiring minds want to know: Are libertarians part of the conservative movement? The American Enterprise Institute puts this question to a formal debate, pitting syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg against Reason magazine editor Matt Welch to hammer out the conclusion.
Mr. Goldberg contends that libertarians are indeed part of the broader conservative movement's push for limited government. Mr. Welch, however, insists that libertarians have a "unique" understanding of politics that makes them incompatible with the conservative mindset.
Organizers say seats for this Feb. 8 debate will go quickly; it will be followed by a wine and cheese reception, incidentally. POLL DU JOUR
• 67 percent of likely Republican voters in Florida "strongly support" their candidate and are unlikely to change; 71 percent of Mitt Romney fans and 68 percent of Newt Gingrich's supporters agree.
• 42 percent of Florida GOP voters overall support Mr. Romney, 27 percent support Mr. Gingrich.
• 49 percent of liberal/moderate Florida Republicans support Mr. Romney, 20 percent Mr. Gingrich.
• 47 percent of conservative voters support Mr. Romney, 28 percent Mr. Gingrich.
• 24 percent of "very conservative" voters support Mr. Romney, 36 percent Mr. Gingrich.
• 39 percent of tea partyers support Mr. Romney, 32 percent Mr. Gingrich.
• 27 percent of those who "strongly support" the tea party support Mr. Romney, 40 percent Mr. Gingrich.
• 34 percent of evangelical Christians support Mr. Romney, 28 percent Mr. Gingrich.
Source: An NBC News/Marist poll of 2,795 registered Florida primary voters conducted Jan. 25-27.
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