A gang of governors could surprise the pundits—but they’ve got their own vulnerabilities.
You may have been hearing—say, in a few million places—what a sad and weak field the Republicans have mustered for 2012.
And it’s not just left-wing media types. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says: “It is slowly dawning on the Republican mind that the party’s choice may effectively come down to Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. This prospect produces a range of emotions running from disappointment to panic.”
But what if they’re all wrong? What if the MSM is clueless? What if the GOP contingent is stronger than it looks?
The Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost makes the case for the current crop of 2012ers. He makes two key points:
“Crossover appeal. Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Romney all won statewide elections by performing better than the party normally does in each state.
“Records as governors. All three of these candidates earned a national reputation as governors, which will give them all an opportunity to point to their executive records in contrast to President Obama's.”
Both true. Except that they’re not really running on their gubernatorial records. Romney, most obviously, is spending much of his campaign trying to explain away his Massachusetts health plan. Nor is he advertising his pro-choice stance as governor, which he has since abandoned. Huntsman, in his brief time on the trail, hasn’t talked much about Utah. Pawlenty does campaign as the guy who held the line on taxes and spending in blue-state Minnesota—but is often pressed on having raise cigarette taxes (which he calls a fee) and leaving his successor a deficit of nearly $5 billion.
Another key point by Cost:
“No ‘gotcha votes.’ There's a second advantage that comes from not having been in Congress. When you're in the House or the Senate, you end up having to vote on pretty much every divisive issue that the country deals with. Many of these votes are irrelevant -- having to do with the legislative process or being for/against bills that have literally no chance of becoming law.”
That’s true, but there is an alternative playbook for use against governors. I know this because George Bush 41 used it against both Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton. A determined oppo team vacuums up every bad thing that ever happened in the state—tax increases, low test scores, pollution, corruption, a murderer’s furlough—and hangs it around the former governor’s neck. Here’s the tag line of a 1992 Bush ad that pictured a lone buzzard against a bleak landscape: “Now Bill Clinton wants to do for America what he has done for Arkansas. America can't afford that risk.”
It’s true that governors make better presidential candidates, which is why four of the five men to make it to the White House before Obama had previously served in Atlanta, Sacramento, Little Rock and Austin. But it hardly promises a free ride.
The former president says more senior citizens will die under Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal. But Howard Kurtz reports that he also has a warning for Democrats.
Bill Clinton is wading into the red-hot Medicare debate, slamming Republicans for hypocrisy but not sparing his own party.
The Third Way is back, however briefly.
At a "fiscal summit" Wednesday sponsored by the Pete Peterson Foundation, Clinton said President Obama's effort to trim Medicare spending helped cost his party the House. "The Republicans ran to the left of the Democrats last year," he said. "They excoriated us for all these savings now embedded in Congressman Ryan's budget."
Clinton threw a roundhouse right at Paul Ryan's plan, approved by the House, to turn the health care program for the elderly into a voucher system. Not only would that approach fail to cut costs, he said, "people will use less, get sicker and die quickly. Or they will be poorer because they'll have to spend so much of their money on health care."
Donning a pundit's hat, the former president said a Democratic victory Tuesday in a suburban Buffalo district that had been in GOP hands for half a century took place for one reason: "It was about Medicare."
Then came the patented Clinton pivot from a man who worked with Newt Gingrich in forcing his party to swallow welfare reform. "I'm afraid the Democrats will draw the conclusion that because Congressman Ryan's proposal is not the right one, that we shouldn't do anything. I completely disagree with that."
It was a wonky session as Clinton, questioned by PBS's Gwen Ifill, waded deep into the weeds of such issues as health care reform. He mused about scrapping the payroll tax in favor of taxing "things," what he called a "progressive VAT tax." And he couldn't resist a few plugs for his administration's economic record.
For all the talk about the dangers of red ink, Clinton flashed a yellow warning light. "In classic economic terms, this is the worst time to cut the deficit," he said. The reason: "The economy is so weak." He believes the heavy lifting should take place next year, which, of course, happens to be an election year.
Ryan took the stage moments later and defended his plan. (Would have been so much more interesting if the two men had debated!)
The Wisconsin Republican cast his approach as progressive, saying he would cut Medicare subsidies for "wealthy people" and boost them for those who are "less wealthy." he said that recipients, like federal employees, could choose among competing plans. "The power comes to the senior, not to the government bureaucracy," he said.
But critics say the elderly's purchasing power will be eroded over time. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo asked Ryan about a Congressional Budget Office study saying his plan could double out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens.
Ryan disputed this, saying: "It's comparing Medicare to a fiscal fantasy. The current system is unsustainable."
A battered candidate insists he's still alive and kicking
Newt Gingrich now finds himself channeling Mark Twain, insisting that "reports of my campaign's death are highly exaggerated."
As if to demonstrate that he has a strong political heartbeat, the former House speaker called the Democrats a "fundamentally irresponsible" party pushing health care "rationing" and, for good measure, branded President Obama "patently dishonest."
Despite the fact that he was attending his 36th Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday morning, Gingrich insisted he was a "people's candidate," not a Washington figure. In a bit of rhetorical jujitsu, he said the negative coverage of his mistakes over the past week made clear that "I'm definitely not the candidate of the Washington establishment."
Gingrich has now gotten with the (Paul Ryan) program to turn Medicare into a voucher program, despite dissing it on Meet the Press as "right-wing social engineering." He said seniors can choose among 258,000 items at Wal-Mart "but we have a giant bureaucracy in Washington that controls every aspect of their health." (One of the things that makes the Ryan plan hugely controversial, of course, is that the elderly are generally satisfied with Medicare as we know it.)
Gingrich sort of conceded he faces some heavy lifting in changing hearts and minds on the subject, saying that neither party should impose a major program "against the will of the American people."
One interesting twist is the way in which Gingrich now praises the president he helped impeach. He cited his ability to compromise with Bill Clinton on welfare reform and balancing the budget as evidence that he's no mindless partisan. "We romanticize this stuff. Ronald Reagan was a very partisan president."
Gingrich pronounced himself "totally mystified" over the Tiffany's flap, which drew a series of questions Sunday on Face the Nation. He may have run up a tab as high as $500,000, but "I owe no personal debts, none...It's all after-tax income, none of it is public money...I love my wife." He pivoted into an argument that he had made money - enough to afford expensive jewelry - by creating jobs through his organizations, "the opposite of the Obama model."
Gingrich spent part of the time saying he would no longer answer "gotcha" questions - which he defined as reporters asking him about long-ago votes or comments - and briefly donned his media critic's hat, chiding the New York Times for devoting "one quarter" of its front page Sunday "to Lindsay Lohan."
"We live in a society in which gossip replaces serious policy and everyone wrings their hands about how hard it is to have a serious conversation."
Which may be true. But the Times piece was about the rise of outlets such as Radar and TMZ making money and obtaining confidential records about celebrities such as Lohan. No matter: Newt seemed pleased with himself for whacking the paper.
For all the focus on the punditocracy, it helps when actual voters turn out
It’s perfectly clear that Newt Gingrich is toast, history, kaput, right?
I mean, he infuriated conservatives by trashing “right-wing social engineering” and spent the rest of the week apologizing and explaining that he was or was not referring to the Paul Ryan plan or something else.
But I’m not joining the obituary writers. Perhaps because I remember reading too many stories in 2007 about how John McCain was finished, before he limped his way to the GOP nomination.
Newt has dug himself a hole, but even with pundits shoveling dirt on top of him, he could climb out.
What’s striking is that the former speaker is drawing big crowds in Iowa. That may merely reflect his celebrity; I saw him get a rock-star reception at CPAC. Or it could be that Gingrich generates a certain degree of grass-roots enthusiasm, even as the commentators and establishment types view him as an unguided missile.
Gingrich himself may lean toward that view, judging by some comments he made Friday in Waterloo, Iowa: “It's going to take a while for the news media to realize that you're covering something that happens once or twice in a century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas,” he said. “I expect it to take a while for it to sink in.”
This may reflect an inflated view of his candidacy, but it’s also true that Gingrich does traffic in big ideas. He just stumbles when he tries to explain them to lesser mortals.
Contrast Gingrich’s rough ride with the media treatment of Jon Huntsman, which has been quite respectful. The consensus is that he’s a long shot for the nomination but a smart and worthy candidate.
So how is the former ambassador doing on the trail? Atlantic’s Josh Green has this report from New Hampshire:
“If his debut last night as an unofficial presidential candidate is any indication, Jon Huntsman will have to work hard to win over New Hampshire voters -- not because he served in the Obama administration or holds moderate views, but because he'll have to crawl over swarms of reporters just to get to them. Billed as a low-key ‘meet and greet’ at Jesse's Restaurant, the media that showed up easily outnumbered the diners. It was a little ridiculous. While introducing Huntsman, the event's host had to ask reporters to step back so that actual voters could hear him speak.”
Green says Huntsman presented himself as “pleasant and reasonable… steered clear of specifics and displayed a diplomat's talent for speaking well without saying much.”
Reporters like pleasant and reasonable and an absence of inflammatory language. But if the voters aren’t showing up—and yes, it’s early—that’s not a good sign.
When George Stephanopoulos asked Huntsman the “why you?” question, he got such language as “we are at a very serious inflection point in terms of where this country goes.” Zzzz.
Excitement is an important part of any presidential campaign. We’ll see how much Tim Pawlenty generates when he becomes a declared candidate on Monday. I would guess Michele Bachmann will whip up more when she, as everyone now expects, jumps into this race.
Why, exactly, are the media outing the woman who gave birth to the out-of-wedlock son?
Well, it’s everywhere.
If you want to know the name of the housekeeper who bore Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child—and take a look at a picture of her in a white coat, white pants and tight-fitting pink top—it’s a click or two away.
Thanks to Radar Online, which revealed the woman’s identity in a joint investigation with Star magazine, every media outlet on the planet can now satisfy your curiosity.
But should they?
The housekeeper, who was recently let go by the former California governor, did not ask to be at the center of a white-hot political scandal. She has made no statement, filed no lawsuit, trotted out no publicist, sold nothing to the tabloids, made no appearance on Oprah. She had an affair with her boss and got pregnant, but she is as far from a public figure as you can imagine. What gives the media the right to obliterate her privacy?
And to point out the obvious, there is a boy of around 14 involved. Thankfully, the Radar photo that went viral blurs his face, but if you know the mom’s name, it’s not going to be too hard to figure out who the kid is.
The Daily Beast, while linking to the Radar piece, initially published the woman’s name and picture until Executive Editor Edward Felsenthal made the decision Tuesday night not to do so.
I agree with the decision. But apparently we’re in the minority. The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story and spoke to the housekeeper (who initially denied the story and then had no comment after Schwarzenegger acknowledged paternity) has not published her name. Nor has The Washington Post. MSNBC and CNN have not identified her on the air.
But ABC has named the woman and shown a different picture of her on Good Morning America. Fox News has shown the photo on the air. CBS has run the photo online. The New York Times, usually so reticent on sex-scandal stories, has named her and run the picture. So have the Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL, TMZ and countless other outlets. There may come a point where it’s been so widely disseminated that it’s pointless to stick your finger in the media dike. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Contrast this with the handling of a simultaneous sex scandal, that involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. No American media outlet of which I’m aware has named the maid who says he sexually assaulted her at a Manhattan hotel. But a handful of French news organizations—including Paris Match and the French edition of Slate—have named the single mother from Guinea.
The case is very different. DSK is being held at Riker’s. The woman says she was attacked--her lawyer has spoken publicly about the investigation—and there is a long tradition in the American press not to name alleged victims of sexual assault. (It’s not airtight, though, as the 1991 flap over NBC and The New York Times identifying the accuser in the rape case against William Kennedy Smith—he was acquitted—made clear.) But if she is deserving of privacy, why isn’t Arnold’s former housekeeper?
The honest answer is that the Schwarzenegger story is so red hot, given the betrayal of Maria Shriver, that it has melted whatever restraint the media might ordinarily have mustered.
Correction: An earlier version of this story suggested that The Daily Beast refrained from publishing the housekeeper’s name. Her photo had been posted only briefly, as the story said, but her name was reported throughout the day Wednesday until a decision was made to take it down.
How an experienced lawmaker dug himself a hole and kept digging
The question about Newt Gingrich, professional provocateur, was always whether he had the discipline to run for president.
Judging by the not-so-friendly fire he is taking from the right, his initial foray has not been encouraging.
Many conservatives are furious over his appearance on Meet the Press, where the former House speaker got tripped up not over questions about his affair and subsequent marriage to his third wife, but about policy, which is supposed to be his great strength.
Gingrich dissed the Paul Ryan Medicare voucher plan, saying he didn’t like “right-wing social engineering” any better than the left wing kind. Which is a perfectly respectable position to take, except that all but a handful of House Republicans voted for the Ryan bill, so Gingrich is backtracking a bit. (Update: Gingrich called Ryan Tuesday to apologize, and his campaign is admitting to "missteps," nothing more.)
The former Georgia congressman also backed a key part of Mitt Romney’s health care bill—an individual mandate to buy insurance—which, as a video clip showed, he also supported in an appearance with Tim Russert back in 1993. The problem is that a mandate is a cornerstone of Obamacare, which Gingrich says he wants to repeal.
Again, the candidate could take a principled stance and say while he opposes the excesses of the president’s health plan, he feels that, as with car insurance, people who benefit from the system have to take some responsibility. Instead, Gingrich is tying himself in knots trying to explain away his comments.(Here he is on a conference call.)
How bad is the damage? Columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News:
“This is a big deal. He’s done. He didn’t have a big chance from the beginning but now it’s over. Apart from being contradictory and incoherent as we saw in those two bites you showed where he contradicted himself in the course of one day on the individual mandate – calling the Republican plan, which all but four Republican members of the House have now endorsed and will be running on, calling it radical and right-wing social engineering is deadly.”
And then there is this headline on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It reads, simply, “Gingrich to House GOP: Drop Dead."
National Review Editor Rich Lowry rolls his eyes at the Gingrich rhetoric:
“That’s Newt being Newt…He can’t help himself. Gingrich prefers extravagant lambasting when a mere distancing would do, and the over-arching theoretical construct to a mundane pander. He is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement — sometimes brilliant, always interesting, and occasionally downright absurd,…
“When he was speaker of the House, he alienated his colleagues (some of whom roll their eyes at the mere mention of his name) and dragged himself, his family, and his party through a psychodrama. If he were to replicate that performance in the White House, it’d be a formula for a LBJ- or Nixon-style meltdown.”
When the editor of conservatism’s most important magazine is comparing your emotional state to that of Richard Nixon, I’d say you have a problem.
Rush Limbaugh was a key Gingrich ally back in the 1990s, and when the Republicans took over the House in 1995, El Rushbo was made an honorary member of the freshman class. So how did Limbaugh react?
“I am not going to justify this. I am not going to explain it,” he told listeners.
"The attack on Paul Ryan, the support for an individual mandate in healthcare? Folks, don’t ask me to explain this. There is no explanation! What do you mean, 'If I don't explain it, who will?' There is no explanation for it. First off, it cuts Paul Ryan off at the knees. It supports the Obama administration in the lawsuits that 26 states have filed over the mandate. I guess, what? Back in 1993, Newt supported an individual mandate, everybody should buy insurance. I am as befuddled as anyone else is what I’m telling you.”
So Gingrich clearly has some ’splainin’ to do with conservatives. And the news today isn’t good, with Politico posting this piece about Gingrich owing a huge chunk of change to Tiffany’s: “In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.”
This, after all, is a man who wants to manage the nation’s economy.
With Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump out of the race, the path was clear for Gingrich to grab some positive attention in his first week out of the gate. But by any fair reading, he has stumbled badly.
He rocketed to the top of the polls, fell back to Earth, and now he has officially bowed out of the 2012 race. Howard Kurtz on why the Donald chose Celebrity Apprentice over the White House—and why he would have lost anyway.
Donald Trump was playing with us all along.
He chose today to tell the world what many had suspected all along, that he’s not running for president—a day that, it just so happens, NBC was meeting with advertisers about its fall schedule. If Trump was still exploring a White House bid, the network couldn’t have pitched his Celebrity Apprentice at the upfronts.
In what has become the standard I-coulda-won statement from Republican dropouts, Trump said in a statement: “This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country. I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.
“I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.”
A famous speech, and the creation of PBS.
Newton Minow was in Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of the “vast wasteland” speech that shook up the broadcasting business, leading to the first educational children’s programming and eventually to PBS.
The first draft of the speech that caused such controversy and continues to reverberate described a “vast wasteland of junk,” he recalled Monday evening. Newly installed as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the Kennedy administration and just 35 years old, Minow had been advised by his general counsel to take out the offending passage. The broadcast industry was already reeling, rocked by scandals -- radio payola and rigged TV quiz shows. Murder and mayhem dominated television programming. The evening newscasts were a scant 15 minutes long. “What I wanted was a debate in the country, and that started it,” said Minow.
He succeeded in getting more educational programming, and built the stations that would eventually become PBS. In a conversation with current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and moderated by Frank Sesno, formerly with CNN and now at George Washington University, Minow said he is baffled by the current assault on PBS and the GOP’s attempt to end federal funding for public television. “My position is very clear, it should never be partisan,” he said as he launched into a story about PBS’s origins.
When Richard Nixon was elected in 1968, Minow got a call from Dean Burch, who had chaired Barry Goldwater’s campaign four years earlier. “I think I just made a big mistake,” Burch said, explaining he had turned down Nixon’s offer to become FCC chairman. He had a successful law practice in Tucson, his kids were in school, and he had a swimming pool, he told Minow. “Call him back,” Minow said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for public service.”
He did, and soon after, Minow got another call. “Okay, Big Shot, you took me into this, I need some ideas.” Minow happened to be in New York where Joan Ganz Cooney was presenting her concept for Sesame Street. “What does she look like?” Burch exclaimed, recognizing the name as the Joan Ganz he had asked to marry him when they were students at the University of Arizona. Burch was on board. He also took her to see Goldwater, who had returned to the Senate that year after his failed presidential bid. He too recognized her maiden name. Her father had given him his first contribution when he ran for office. “What can I do for you?” Goldwater asked.
Cooney had applied for funding from the Health, Education and Welfare Department and been turned down by Secretary Caspar Weinberger, whose budget-cutting zeal had earned him the name “Cap the Knife.” Goldwater picked up the phone and called Weinberger. “You’ve got your money,” he told Cooney.
“And that was a Republican,” Minow exclaimed. It is how Washington works. PBS, he says, “was an afterthought,” launched only after commercial television was entrenched. In Europe and in Japan, public programming came first and is taken as a given. Minow no longer thinks TV is a vast wasteland, says he’s a news junkie and watches it all the time. He applauds the many choices available, but still believes there is a need for public television. “Why have libraries when we have bookstores? Why have parks when we have country clubs?” he asks with the air of a man who thinks the answer is self-evident.
An invite to the rapper Common blows up into a political controversy
A week after the White House faced constant questioning in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing, the pendulum has swung to an entirely different topic: pop culture.
The rapper Common, who's real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, was invited to appear at an even celebrating poetry Wednesday night with President Obama and the first lady. But the problem has been Commons lyrical background, rapping about hurting women, killing cops and disparaging Obama’s predecessor.
"Burn a Bush cos' for peace he no push no button," he said during an HBO Def Poetry appearance in 2007. Before that, back in 2000, he released a song called “A Song for Assata” that offered considerable support to activist Assata Shakur after a 1973 shootout that killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.
The New Jersey state police expressed outrage at the invitation extended through the East Wing. Sarah Palin and Fox News' Sean Hannity wondered over Twitter and on TV why a man of such language was invited to the people's house.
The White House had been silent all week amid mounting critiques and cable news segments. But Press Secretary Jay Carney faced a line of questioning on Wednesday. “While the president doesn’t support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here, we do think that some of these reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for in order to stoke the controversy,” he said, pointing out that a report from Fox News six months ago called Common a “rap legend” and referred to him as “very positive” and a “conscious rapper.”
He noted that putting a rapper on the White House stage could help bring poetry to people not usually exposed to it. And plus, he said, this isn’t the first time Common has appeared with the president. Common hosted an Obama rally in Chicago last year, and attended the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony in December.
But did the White House underestimate how radioactive Common could be? The administration wouldn’t comment on how closely staffers were vetting the event, but poet Jill Scott, who also will appear onstage with Common, told the American Urban Radio Network’s April Ryan that the administration had taken control of the content. “I haven’t gotten the word back of what’s ok [to perform].”
Wife No. 3, wary of the political spotlight
Is Callista front-page news?
The New York Times thinks so, declaring Tuesday that the former speaker of the House “is counting on the third Mrs. Gingrich for his political redemption… Depending on one’s point of view, she is a reminder of his complicated past, or his secret political weapon.”
The downside is obvious: Callista Bisek is the House staffer who had an affair with Gingrich while he was leading the impeachment drive against Bill Clinton. She was, in short, the Other Woman.
But Callista is also the woman responsible for her husband’s conversion to Catholicism—they made a film about Pope John Paul II--and his effort to redefine himself in his sixties as a good family man. I saw them together signing books at the CPAC conference a couple of months ago, and in his public remarks Gingrich does begin many sentences with “Callista and I”—as he did when I asked him about his timetable for making a 2012 decision.
Cheri Daniels takes center stage amid questions about her marriage to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
Of the many presidential prospects with colorful marital histories, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ is perhaps the most unusual. He is married for the second time to his wife—who had another husband in between.
Cheri and Mitch Daniels married in 1978, while he was working as a Senate aide. In 1994, Cheri left her husband and four daughters, then aged 8 to 14, to move to California and marry another man. Then she divorced him and, in 1997, remarried Daniels.
It’s complicated, as they say on Facebook, and not something anyone feels much like discussing.
That would include Cheri Daniels, who, according to media reports, has never talked publicly about that period in her life.
It would include Mitch Daniels, whose entire commentary on the matter appears to be limited to this 2004 remark to the Indianapolis Star: "If you like happy endings, you'll love our story. Love and the love of children overcame any problems."
It would seem to include, at least until now, many in the media. How else to explain why the couple’s unusual marital history is not mentioned until word No. 8,257 of an 8,641-word profile in The Weekly Standard? I’m not making this up. I know, The Weekly Standard is not People or US Weekly. But Standard readers can’t live by policy alone, and this is at the very least a fascinating tidbit.
There is much anticipation in Indiana this week because Cheri Daniels, introduced by her husband, is going to give the keynote speech Thursday at the state Republican Party dinner. It is a first for her. “She’s obviously given speeches before, but not to a crowd this size or in this type of venue,” says party spokesman Pete Seat. The venue is a huge ballroom, tickets—still selling—are priced from $200 to $5,000, and the audience is on pace to top 1,000. Seat says Cheri Daniels has already out-drawn the star attraction at the party’s October dinner. That was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
There’s no indication that Cheri, who has promoted fitness, heart health, education, and literacy, will do anything but what her office has said she’ll do. That is, share stories and observations from her years as first lady of Indiana. Nobody is expecting her to announce she’s given her husband the go-ahead.
Still, everyone will be looking for clues. And the first clue is simply her presence. This is a woman who has made clear she doesn’t like politics. In 2004, during Daniels’ first campaign for governor, she told the Star that she told her husband during their dating days that “I am not a political person. I do not eat and breathe this, and I do not care to.”
Mitch Daniels has projected deep ambivalence about running, and his family is a central reason. He has said his wife and daughters are “terrified” at the prospect of intense media scrutiny. “It scares them to death. And it should,” he explained. The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that the last remaining unresolved issue for Daniels is whether Cheri is ready to face questions about the couple’s past.
In a national campaign, there’s no way the couple could avoid addressing their marital history. Their best option would be to go the Bill and Hillary Clinton route: Appear on a national television program like 60 Minutes to tell their story the way they want it told, and consider the matter closed. That might stem the questions. I’m betting it would also give Daniels more depth as a person, and broaden his appeal. It’s not like voters don’t get that marriage has its ups and downs. And this is, in the end, a tale of two people who found their way back to each other.
Fickle consumers check in, check out at warp speed.
The future of news may be online, but even the biggest of the big news outlets have a little problem on that front.
Turns out most people don’t come to their sites very often, and when they do, they don’t stay very long.
Most are “casual users” who stop by only a few times a month; 85 percent of visitors to USAToday.com, for instance, came between one and three times a month. And once there, 30 to 40 percent of visitors to top news sites stay less than five minutes.
The figures are from a Project for Excellence in Journalism study of online news habits, out Monday, that is certain to be closely scrutinized by media types. I can’t tell you how much energy is expended in newsrooms trying to figure out how to boost traffic and get readers to stick around.
The project looked at 25 top news sites, including The New York Times, L.A. Times, and Washington Post, Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL, CNN, MSNBC, Fox and London’s Telegraph and Guardian.
These sites have a core of loyal readers—about 7 percent—dubbed “power users,” who return more than 10 times a month. The figure runs as high as 18 percent at CNN.com. For The New York Times, 9 percent are heavy users—the target audience for its new paywall.
The findings on who drives traffic to these news operations are striking. Google is the monster, accounting for 30 percent of the readers at the top news sites. One site, Examiner.com, got just over half its traffic from Google. The Drudge Report remains quite influential, steering 19 percent of traffic to the New York Post and 15 percent to The Washington Post, for instance.
But the rise of social networking may steal the headlines. Facebook is becoming a major player. With 500 million users worldwide, Mark Zuckerberg’s creation was the second- or third-most popular traffic driver for six of the top news sites studied. Arianna’s Huffington Post got 8 percent of its visits from Facebook links; The New York Times drew 6 percent. The proliferation of “like” buttons make it easier to follow such links.
Twitter, with 175 million accounts, was a minor player, a traffic driver for just nine of the 21 news sites for which data are available. And for all but one of those, Twitter provided only 1 percent of the traffic. The exception: LATimes.com got 3.5 percent of its traffic through tweets.
But for all the off-ramps entangling the Internet, the home page still rocks. It was the most viewed page for 21 of the 25 news sites, accounting for 79 percent of the hits at Reuters.com and 60 percent at CNN.com, although just 6 percent at AOLNews.com. In that sense, many of these sites still resemble newspapers: People want to check the day’s headlines.
White House chief of staff Bill Daley had a brief but worrisome encounter with an actor from ABC’s 'Modern Family'—with the mission to kill Osama bin Laden on the line.
Sounds like a bad sitcom, I know.
As Daley recounted the tale to a couple of reporters, he met an actor from ABC's Modern Family—who turned out to be Eric Stonestreet—at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night. Stonestreet mentioned that he was pumped about a White House tour he was taking the very next day.
Uh-uh, Daley thought. No way that guy’s coming over on the day of the bin Laden mission. The chief of staff had ordered all tours canceled. But he kept mum. An hour later, the actor said he’d gotten an e-mail canceling the tour. What was up? Was something going on?
Daley played dumb. Maybe a pipe had broken. How about this, he said, I’ll give you a personal tour on Monday.
The next day, a Navy SEAL team killed the al-Qaeda leader. And Daley was a tad too busy Monday to provide the tour.
Seems to me he owes Stonestreet a rain check.
Correction: In an earlier version of this post, I screwed up a couple of key details. Daley couldn't remember the name of the actor, so I suggested it might be Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, who also does some of the voices. Apologies for my pop culture cluelessness.
What’s at stake in the Thursday night debate with four also-rans.
The pressure is on Tim Pawlenty!
That, at least, is what some pundits are saying about tonight’s Fox News debate—you know, the one that most of the big-time candidates are ducking.
No Mitt Romney, who’s laying awfully low for a supposed front-runner. No Newt Gingrich, who’s still dealing with untangling his business affairs. No Michele Bachmann, who seemed poised to jump in. No Mitch Daniels, who told an interviewer the other day that no sane person wants to run for president (and I have no reason to question his sanity).
Instead, Pawlenty will be up against the less-than-fearsome lineup of Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson. Not exactly Must See TV.
New York magazine has ridiculed the former governor of Minnesota for joining the “loser’s table.”
“Some might argue that Pawlenty is foolhardy to take the stage in South Carolina with this group,” says the Daily Caller. “He’ll be a natural target for the candidates looking to score the big sound bite that will boost their visibility and fundraising numbers.”
I’m not buying any of that. Pawlenty may be the only person on the stage in Greenville, S.C. with a serious shot at becoming president, but he doesn’t have much to lose.
The debate itself is likely to get little attention, so even if Pawlenty makes a mistake, it will be a blip. We’re still in spring training here.
Pawlenty isn’t well known, so beaming into the homes of Fox viewers, even while fencing with a pizza mogul (Cain) and an ex-governor who wants to legalize pot (Johnson),won’t hurt him.
He also gets to sharpen his skills for the later debates that actually will matter.
In short, it’s a low-risk affair for a serious candidate who needs exposure, and by June it will seem like a mere footnote. Maybe even by the weekend.
Sharing a stage with four also-rans, he draws most of the tough questions
Tim Pawlenty struck the right note in the opening seconds of Thursday’s Fox News debate, praising President Obama for a “fine job” making “tough decisions” in the mission against Osama bin Laden before pivoting to criticism of the administration’s Libya policy.
But he seemed wimpy when asked about his critique of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care, saying he wouldn’t address it because Romney wasn’t there. “I’m not going to pick on him,” T-Paw said. Huh? It wasn’t like Romney was laid up in a hospital bed; he ducked the debate! Why agree to join second-tier candidates in the South Carolina event and then whiff when it comes to your chief competitor?
The former Minnesota governor sidestepped a Chris Wallace question on using one-time budget gimmicks, proclaiming he had balanced all his budgets (which all but one state is legally required to do) and offering a technical explanation for why he left a huge deficit to his successor. It was downhill from there.
I’m focusing on Pawlenty for the same reason the DNC peppered me with fact-check bulletins about him and the same reason he drew most of the tough questions: Unlike Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson, he has a strong shot at the GOP nomination. Although it was noteworthy to see three-fifths of the candidates (beyond Pawlenty and Santorum) calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan or strongly questioning the war.
As frontrunner-for-a-night, Pawlenty was asked whether creationism should be taught in schools. He said there should be room for the study of “intelligent design.” When Juan Williams told him he hadn’t answered the question, Pawlenty said the matter should be up to parents and local school districts.
Seconds later, Chris Wallace not only pressed him on his previous support for cap and trade legislation (now a dirty phrase in GOP circles), he played a radio ad in which Pawlenty strongly defended it. “I was wrong,” the candidate said. “It was a mistake and I’m sorry.” (By the way, the Fox panel asked sharp and tough questions.)
By the way, the DNC accidentally sent out some advice from Obama campaign aide Ben Labolt to several officials on an anti-Pawlenty release: “I’d lead on the pawlenty hit w/ leaving MN with a record deficit before the defensive stuff. Also think there’s a typo in the headline for the first section of bullets.”
Bottom line: Pawlenty took most of the flak but made no major mistake. And even if he had, who’s going to remember this debate a week from now?
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