- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It is a rare occurrence, but some authentic polling numbers reveal that Republican voters miss Mitt Romney, even as he earns some newfound public appreciation for his canny prediction that Russia could prove a viable threat to the U.S. Those warnings were made two years ago. None of this will please Mr. Romney’s campaign-weary wife Ann, and it likely will vex the burgeoning roster of GOP hopefuls, which now numbers around two dozen.

“Third time a charm for Mitt Romney?” asks the jaunty text in a New England College survey of 350 likely New Hampshire Republican voters released Tuesday.

“The GOP field in the 2016 campaign for president is filled with plenty of choices and no clear leader Our most recent poll reserved a slot for the former Massachusetts governor. And what do you know?”

The survey found that Mr. Romney was in the lead with 22 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, at 16 percent and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in third at 13 percent.

“This race is wide open and for now, it looks like the only thing that really shakes up the race is the presence of Mitt Romney as an option for voters,” says poll director Ben Tafoya.

The rest of the findings: Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, is in fourth place with 10 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, each took 7 percent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker earned 5 percent, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal 3 percent, and Rick Santorum received 2 percent.

Mr. Romney’s support consistently “cuts across all ideological sides” and “across the board, the poll found. One other survey broached the persistence of Romney appeal. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released four months ago revealed that among registered voters, Mr. Romney bested President Obama in a theoretical rematch, 49 percent to 47 percent.

“These numbers are interesting,” one GOP analyst tells Inside the Beltway. “But they also suggest that at this point, voters know Romney better than the other hopefuls, which should prompt those guys to get serious about defining their message.”

BUMPER PATROL

“Don’t steal, the government hates competition”

— Bumper sticker spotted by Inside the Beltway reader Michael Taranto in Plymouth, Mass.

STICK A FORK IN THE BUDGET

Yes, President Obama’s big fat fiscal year 2015 budget is finally done. Now it’s time for critics to stick a fork in it.

“The president has just three years left in his administration, and yet he seems determined to do nothing about our fiscal challenges. This budget isn’t a serious document; it’s a campaign brochure. In divided government, we need leadership and collaboration. And in this budget, we have neither,” declares Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“This budget never balances — ever,” declares Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee Republican, who reports that Mr. Obama’s budget increases spending by $791 billion over the budget window — and by $56 billion above the Bipartisan Budget Act levels in 2015 alone.

It also calls for $1.8 trillion in new taxes, adds $8.3 trillion to the debt in the next decade and burden the citizenry with $1.8 trillion in new taxes, says FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe.

“President Obama’s budgets got zero votes in 2011 and 2012. Not zero Republican votes, zero votes, period. With progressive pipe dreams like his latest budget proposal, it’s not difficult to see why,” Mr. Kibbe notes. “The White House budget not only represents the failure of the executive branch to lead in a responsible way, but reveals the contradiction between what the president promises, and what he actually does.”

American for Prosperity president Tim Phillips also rues the findings and a preoccupation in the nation’s capital on annual deficits and partisan politics rather than responsible, pro-growth tax policy.

“To make matters worse, the president released this budget a month late, signaling that he’s just not interested in getting D.C. spending under control,” Mr. Phillips says.

PUT A MICROSCOPE ON THE BUDGET

President Obama’s budget does not bug some folks, namely the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which knows much about bugs of the microscopic variety. The organization is delighted that the budget offers $30 million for Centers of Disease Control and Prevention initiatives that examine antibiotic resistance, a most worrisome phenomenon that occurs when overused or inappropriately prescribed medications simply stop working against superbugs.

The group called for more attention to the impending public health crisis “on behalf of the millions of patients who suffer from resistant infections,” noting, “this budget request is an important step forward, and we urge Congress to fully fund it.”

HEADLINE DU JOUR

So it comes to this already? “Here are all the people who think Putin has straight up lost his mind.” And so reads the headline from Mediaite’s new analysis of this unfolding phenomenon.

“Hypotheses abound as to why Russian President Vladimir Putin defied international treaties and dared global isolation by invading the Crimean peninsula last weekend, ranging from ‘he thinks he can act with impunity due to inconsequential U.S. leadership’ to ‘he’s a shrewd opportunist playing well a weak hand.’ Then there’s the growing theory that Putin has simply gone round the bend,” points out columnist Evan McMurry, who researched the trend.

Among those who, uh, believe in that last theory: He cites public statements from German chancellor Angela Merkel, America’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Powers, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and CNN host Kate Bolduan.

RUMSFELD-IAN BREVITY

“Putin is punching way above his weight class and the United States is punching way below ours.”

Donald Rumsfeld, in a tweet addressing the aforementioned Russian leader.

MASS MEDIA

Just in time for Ash Wednesday, it’s the arrival of “Il Mio Papa” or “My Pope” on international newsstands. Yes, the very popular Pope Francis gets his own full-color, glossy magazine, published each week and complete with a pull-out poster, fan mail and cartoons. The new magazine hails from Rome-based Mondadori Publishing, which also is behind the Italian celebrity magazine “Chi,” among a half-dozen other news offerings. The company expects to sell 750,000 copies a week.

“The current Pope is a figure who, thanks to his empathy, as well as the power, the courage and the simplicity of his message, has won over everyone, both the faithful and non-believers,” says editor Aldo Vitali.

POLL DU JOUR

69 percent of Americans say Hillary Rodham Clinton is “tough”; 55 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats agree.

56 percent of Americans overall say she is “honest”; 30 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats agree.

51 percent overall say Mrs. Clinton should run for president in 2016; 26 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agree.

43 percent overall say she should not run; 70 percent of Republican and 19 percent of Democrats agree.

38 percent overall say that if Mrs. Clinton runs, she has “no chance” of winning; 74 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

35 percent say she has a “good chance”; 8 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,002 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 27-March 2.

Shrewd commentary, babble to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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