Friday, February 23, 2007

Romney on the Current Environment Debate

Governor Mitt Romney on the Current Environmental Debate
Friday, Feb 23, 2007
CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288-6390

Boston, MA – Today, Governor Mitt Romney issued the following statement on the current environmental debate:

"Governor Mark Sanford is right. Unfortunately, some in the Republican Party are embracing the radical environmental ideas of the liberal left. As governor, I found that thoughtful environmentalism need not be anti-growth and anti-jobs. But Kyoto-style sweeping mandates, imposed unilaterally in the United States, would kill jobs, depress growth and shift manufacturing to the dirtiest developing nations.

"Republicans should never abandon pro-growth conservative principles in an effort to embrace the ideas of Al Gore. Instead of sweeping mandates, we must use America's power of innovation to develop alternative sources of energy and new technologies that use energy more efficiently."

Vilsack out

(from Hotline)

Vilsack's Dropping Out

Ex-IA Gov. Tom Vilsack will drop out of the 2008 presidential race today, three independent sources who were briefed on the decision said.


Huckabee: Don't Forget Me

(from Politico)

Huckabee: Don’t Forget Me
By: Mike Allen
February 23, 2007 10:01 AM EST

Exclusive: Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee plans to make a splash on Capitol Hill on Friday with the surprising announcement that Rep. Don Young of Alaska has signed on as congressional chairman of his Republican presidential exploratory committee.

In a letter to House Republicans, Young says Huckabee will help produce “a reawakening of the conservative values that make our country a land of opportunity.”

Huckabee, who moved out of the mansion in Little Rock in January, is rushing to catch up with the front-runners’ massive organization and plans to officially announce his candidacy in the next few months. He said in a telephone interview that the debates – including the MSNBC-Politico debate on May 3 at the Ronald Reagan Library – will be critical to his chances of breaking out.

“Best I can determine, the floor is the same level for everybody at the debates,” Huckabee said on his cell phone as he ran errands in Little Rock on Thursday. “This election will eventually become focused not just on rhetoric but the results behind the rhetoric.”

Candidate Information
For information on more presidential candidates, visit the Politico's Candidate Page.
Huckabee noted with a chuckle the disadvantages of being the front-runner this early in the campaign. “There’s only one direction you can go, and it’s not a good one,” he said.

His campaign got a critical boost in South Carolina, which has one of the earliest nominating contests, when he was endorsed earlier this month by former South Carolina first lady Iris Campbell. Her youngest son, Mike Campbell, will serve as a senior national adviser to the campaign. The late Gov. Carroll Campbell and his family played a critical role in helping Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and George W. Bush win the South Carolina primary.

Young, the third-ranking Republican in Congress, is no diplomat but he has deep personal connections with almost every member because he was chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which put him in charge of massive amounts of pork.

Young said in an interview from Puerto Rico that Huckabee is “a man of character and a hell of a speaker.” Young said he’ll travel on Huckabee’s behalf. “He may be a long shot now,” Young said. “But when this settles down, people will see that a governor is best positioned to bring the country together. They have the experience of bringing the opposite sides of a legislature together. People always ask me who I think I going to win, and when I say Governor Huckabee, they say, ‘Who?’ So we just need to convince people that he’s a leader with great character.”

Also Friday, Huckabee plans to announce that Rep. John Boozman of Arkansas will be congressional co-chairman of his presidential exploratory committee. Boozman is a member of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus, and so has ties to a group of members whose support could really help Huckabee.

Boozman said in an interview that Huckabee “has a tremendous ability to communicate” and has positioned himself well as a conservative. “This thing is wide open,” Boozman said. “His greatest challenge is going to be coordinating a national campaign.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Romney's first ad

Mitt Romney: Too Good to Be True?

(from newsweek)

Mitt Romney: Too Good to Be True?
By Jonathan Darman and Evan Thomas

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - There is something a little too good to be true about Mitt Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is so buff and handsome in late middle age that when a brochure from a recent campaign showed him standing, bare-chested, on a swimming float, he was accused of sexually pandering to women voters. Romney, who is still married to his high-school sweetheart, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke and doesn't swear. His wife has said that, in private, he never even raises his voice.

As a candidate, he can appear slightly overproduced, a little too smooth for the hurly-burly of the hustings. Lately, Romney has been courting the evangelical vote, key to winning Republican primaries. He knows that some evangelicals regard his religion, Mormonism, as heresy (according to the National Journal, more than a quarter of self-identified evangelicals tell pollsters that they won't vote for a Mormon). So last week, at a lackluster rally in the Bible belt of South Carolina where maybe 300 people half-filled an auditorium, Romney was trying, a bit unctuously, to show his down-home piety. As the crowd trickled out, Romney, his voice still at full decibel from his stump speech, grabbed the hand of state Rep. Bob Leach, a Baptist. "This man," proclaimed Romney, "his prayers bring down the power of the Lord!"

Romney's campaign aides like to stress that he is a "turnaround" artist. They are referring to Romney's great success at salvaging failing companies as a venture capitalist in the 1980s and '90s and his near-miraculous rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City from scandal and debt. The label carries the promise that Romney could reverse the fortunes of the GOP and the nation after the Bush years. But Romney's turnaround on the burning social issues of gay rights, stem-cell research and abortion has raised questions about the candidate's sincerity—a dangerous doubt at a time when voters seem to crave authenticity. In Massachusetts, as an unsuccessful Senate candidate in 1994 and in his winning race to become governor in 2002, Romney cast himself as liberal-to-moderate on social issues. But as Romney aims for the conservative Republican votes he will need to secure the presidential nomination, he has emerged as staunchly pro-life and anti-gay marriage. Was he, his critics ask, pretending then? Or is he pretending now?

Romney says he's always told the truth. On gay rights, he says, his basic views have not changed; rather, the political and cultural landscape has shifted. He still opposes discrimination against gays, but he does not favor recognizing gay marriage. "I never in a million years thought that we would have people of the same gender being told that they have a constitutional right to marry," Romney says. On the right to life, he did experience a turning point, he says, when he had to consider directly the morality of destroying human embryos in stem-cell research. In the wake of the failed presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Romney is well aware of the risks that a reputation for flip-flopping can pose to a national candidate. Questioned by NEWSWEEK about his apparent shifts on social issues, Romney grew uncharacteristically testy and said he'd rather be talking about "jihad, Iran and China." Questions about Romney's evolving views on abortion and gay rights could be a bigger issue with evangelicals than Romney's Mormonism, says Mark DeMoss, a Christian media strategist who's done evangelical outreach for the Romney campaign. A reconstruction of how Romney changed his views does not seriously challenge Romney's account of the evolution of his thinking, but it does suggest that political timing, as much as moral virtue, may have been on his mind.

Romney is not the sort of person who reveals inner doubt. Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, who has worked closely with Romney in business and politics, talks about Romney's "calmness" and "serenity." Over more than a decade, says Weld, "I've seen him laugh nervously a couple of times, maybe." Romney can be stiff. "He's a terrible joke teller," says Weld. "He thinks he's funny but he's not." And yet Weld, a moderate Republican who disagrees with Romney on abortion and gay rights, backs him for president: "I take him at his word. He is a straight shooter."

Romney is hardly the first Republican presidential candidate to be accused of expediency on social issues. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush moved to the right on abortion. A successful politician knows when to make compromises without appearing to abandon his or her dignity or moral compass. Romney's lifetime shows a history of getting along and going along—but also a capacity for boldness and an almost ruthless willingness to force change.

Romney grew up in the privileged, WASPy bastion of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he attended an elite prep school, Cranbrook; he matriculated to Stanford. His father, Gov. George Romney, played speed golf in the morning (shades of George H.W. Bush) and otherwise projected a comfortable, country-club Republicanism. But the father could be unusually blunt: he was driven from the 1968 presidential campaign when he admitted that he had been essentially "brainwashed" by the military on Vietnam. Young Romney always said that he never felt pressure to become a politician; on the other hand, when he was 14, his father would drive him to crowded parking lots and then sit in the car and watch his son gather signatures supporting his dad. After his freshman year at Stanford, Mitt left sunny California to do his Mormon mission in a grimy, industrial suburb of Paris, where he converted very few secularized Roman Catholics. He then transferred to Brigham Young University to marry his high-school love, who was attending the school, and whom Romney had been zealously pursuing since they were teenagers.

At Harvard Business School, not a few of Romney's peers tagged him—and not another classmate, George W. Bush—as a true politician. Romney went off to make a fortune as a businessman, but he showed the kind of drive and enormous self-confidence that would suit him well as an aspirant for higher office. When one of his partners at Bain Capital in Boston went to Romney with frightening news—that the partner's teenage daughter had vanished after a rock concert in New York—Romney swung into action. He closed down the company for a few days and put his partners and staffers on a chartered plane to New York, where they organized a massive search. The missing girl was soon found.

Romney has never been dogmatic. In the business world, his method was to remain open-minded, study the facts—and then do whatever it took. "He's not unwilling to have his mind changed," says Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay and a Romney friend who worked with him at Bain in the '80s. "He's very comfortable with blurry, gray areas." When he took over the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, he immediately cut out the lavish meals and travel boondoggles. "We're going to have pizza and it's a dollar a slice," he announced. He charged executives 25 cents for a soda and had meals served on paper plates. Romney himself worked without a salary. The message got through: the organization went from deep in the red into the black by the close of the Games.

Romney was probably not thinking all that hard about controversial social issues when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994. His attitude seemed to be, "You want me to talk about abortion? How about mergers and acquisitions?" says Democratic operative Tad Devine, who worked on the Kennedy campaign. (At the time Romney said he'd taken the abortion issue seriously since his 20s, when a relative had died in an illegal abortion.) Romney was influenced by Rich Tafel, then the executive director of the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans. At a three-hour meeting early in the '94 campaign, Tafel tells NEWSWEEK, he suggested that Romney be even more supportive of gay rights than Kennedy. Romney did so, writing letters and talking publicly about his support for selected gay issues. "No one supported gay marriage then," says Tafel.

Romney can place a date on the moment he took a stand against gay marriage. On Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld gay marriage in the commonwealth. Romney's chief counsel, Daniel Winslow, recalls printing out the decision and carrying it to the governor's corner office. "It was as though he'd been punched in the solar plexus," Winslow tells NEWSWEEK. "I think he was stunned—and it was genuine, too, because it was in private." Romney was reacting against liberal judicial activism as well as taking a position against gay marriage, say his advisers, who do not wish to be identified discussing the candidate's thinking. The gay community is skeptical, as gay-activist blogger John Aravosis puts it, that Romney could go from claiming "he's better than Teddy Kennedy on gay rights" to being "right of Jerry Falwell." "You don't get to be both of those unless something wild happened in your life," says Aravosis. "But Romney doesn't have anything to point to. If the Virgin Mary came down and spoke to him, maybe."

Romney had a "Road to Damascus moment" on stem-cell research, says his son Taggart, 36. As Romney himself has described the incident in interviews, in November 2004 he met with a scientist from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. The scientist told him, "Look, you don't have to think about this stem-cell research as a moral issue, because we kill the embryos after 14 days." (The scientist, Dr. Douglas Melton, has disputed Romney's account; a Harvard spokesman says "the words 'kill' and 'killing' are not in Dr. Melton's professional vocabulary.") Taggart tells NEWSWEEK his father "had a genuine change of heart" that pushed him from tolerating pro-choice laws to wanting to change them. Though Romney had long been "personally pro-life," says Taggart, Romney had always told his son, "Listen, I don't want to impose my values and beliefs on other people." But after the Harvard stem-cell meeting, Romney became a true believer on trying to protect all human life from the moment of conception. "He felt so strongly that Roe v. Wade was a having a negative impact on the country, and cheapening life, he said, 'You know what, this is something that has to change'," Taggart says. Romney promptly came out against stem-cell research and vetoed a July 2005 bill making available Plan B, or "morning after" contraception.

Romney's timing was, at the very least, fortuitous for his political ambitions. In November 2004, the Republicans lost three seats in the Massachusetts Legislature, making even steeper Romney's uphill climb against the Democratic-dominated state house. Some foes, as well as a few friends, speculated that Romney was beginning to eye a grander stage. By early 2006, he was openly talking about running for president—and beginning to emphasize his rightward tilt on the social issues.

Romney may ultimately win over doubters on the right. "There is a subtle prejudice in that flip-flop charge," says Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. "People who are liberal can't understand why someone might move from a more-liberal position to a more-conservative position. Conservatives don't see it that way. They see it as someone who has seen the light." Christian media strategist DeMoss notes that evangelism is all about conversion, so, he says, "we accept an evangelical's conversion if he told us it happened this morning."

Romney's reputation as a family man with a wife of 37 years and five proud sons will also help with conservatives. Among top-tier candidates, Romney is more appealing to the Christian right than John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Romney is beginning to get some important backers, too: he has the political machine of former Florida governor Jeb Bush behind him, an immensely important asset if, as predicted, Florida moves up its primary. (Bush's parents, George H.W. and Barbara, are said to be fond of Romney.) Romney may not be a funny man (though he loves "The Three Stooges"), but he can be a deft debater. When his opponent in the 2002 governor's race, Shannon O'Brien, accused him of pandering to pro-choice voters, she quoted Ted Kennedy's crack that Romney's not "pro-choice, he's multiple choice." He hit back by calling her "unbecoming," i.e., unladylike. "He did a masterful job of turning me into the overly aggressive female who couldn't get off that point," says O'Brien. But most important will be Romney's capacity for working through difficult challenges. Bill Weld recalls that as a businessman, Romney would come into a failing company "and turn everyone upside down and shake their pockets until all the facts came out." Romney, who dislikes running even a minute late, will bring the same relentlessness to his campaign operation. He will not hesitate to change personnel—or policy positions—in his search for a winning formula.

With Daniel McGinn and Samantha Henig in Boston and Holly Bailey, Eve Conant and Eleanor Clift in Washington

Sunday, February 18, 2007

GOP candidate Romney (has the backing of Jeb Bush's friends) defends religion in Villages

(from the Orlando Sentinel)

GOP candidate Romney defends religion in Villages
Nin-Hai Tseng
Sentinel Staff Writer

February 17, 2007

THE VILLAGES -- Before former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney could tout his conservative credentials Friday in this tri-county hotbed of Republicanism, he first had to defend his religious background as he begins the long road toward the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

About 800 people packed Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center in this retirement community of 65,000. It was standing-room only.

But what got the crowd roaring wasn't a pitch for safe offshore oil drilling or health care. It was his religion. If he were to win the White House, Romney would become America's first Mormon president.

A man stood amid the crowd and called Romney "a pretender" who doesn't know "the Lord."

The crowd booed the man from the room, and Romney responded: "First of all, I believe in God."

Based on his experience so far -- just three days after announcing his candidacy -- Romney said most people don't take issue with his religion and are focused more on faith.

Resident Jerry Liebergen, 69, defended Romney: "They said the same thing about John Kennedy, because he was Catholic, that he'd never be president."

However, some political pundits have questioned whether fundamental Christians would take issue with his beliefs. Romney has changed his mind in the abortion debate -- he supported abortion rights until about two years ago, and now says he opposes abortion.

Romney said he supports an environmentally sensitive plan for offshore oil drilling that would not impact Florida tourism. He didn't go into specifics, but Floridians, liberal and conservative alike, agree that offshore drilling is unpopular in the state.

The candidate, who arrived from an earlier stop in Jacksonville, touched on issues ranging from immigration and health care to Iraq. He said the important issues for Floridians would continue to be the catastrophic storm fund, health care and education.

The Villages has become a must-stop for GOP candidates running for state and national offices. Gov. Charlie Crist visited the community -- which takes in parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties -- more than once during his successful campaign last year. President Bush became the first sitting president to visit The Villages when he stumped here in 2004, cheered on by about 15,000 residents.

Romney, a former venture capitalist and the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. He did not run for a second term last year. He joins a crowded field of Republicans seeking the presidential nomination, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Romney doesn't have the star power of Giuliani or McCain, but former allies of former Gov. Jeb Bush are in his corner, including former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and former House Speakers Allan Bense and John Thrasher.

"Gov. Bush said, 'Before you commit, I want you to meet Mitt Romney. He is the kind of guy you will like no matter what,' " Jennings said. "The governor was very candid about the fact that he really liked this guy."

She and a who's who list of Florida politicos are now in the Romney camp, an edge they hope will help their candidate overcome a lack of name recognition in a state that could have a larger role in the nomination.

"He's charismatic and has a good business background," said winter resident Everett Sherman, 65, of New Bedford, Mass.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Smitten with Mitt TV

(Mitt Romney will be the next POTUS and this article expresses it well. From The Politico)

Smitten with Mitt TV
By: Terry Michael
February 16, 2007 06:50 AM EST

To experience why former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may be a better than even bet for next Leader of the Free World, point your web browser toward “Mitt TV,” the streaming video site of Mitt Romney's presidential exploratory committee.

“Experience” is key here, because you won’t get an understanding of his appeal from the print journalism caricature of telegenic (but Mormon) family values conservative (but Mormon) elected in liberal Massachusetts (in spite of being Mormon).

No one else in either party’s field of presidential wannabes comes close to Romney’s communication skill and executive presence. He makes Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., look like just another charming candidate for high school class president.

For the past year, I have been haranguing the college political journalists I teach with the prediction that Romney is going to get the Republican nomination and will likely be the next president, because Democrats have no farm team of successful governors. And America almost never elects a sitting member of Congress president (only three times in our history, Garfield in 1880, Harding in 1920 and Kennedy in 1960) because voters intuitively know the difference between a legislator and a leader.

But I have been hedging that bet lately, after George Bush drove Republicans over an electoral cliff in November, and because the Talibanic wing of the Republican Party is so out of sync with the center of the electorate on social and cultural issues. Can anyone wearing an elephant label overcome those liabilities in 2008, even if Democrats can draw a presidential candidate only from their legislative bench?

All of that was before I had actually seen more than a still photo of Romney. But now, having viewed the Mormon (did I mention Mormon?) ex-governor of liberal Massachusetts in digital, virtual reality flesh, every bone in my libertarian Democrat body tells me the presidency is Mitt Romney's to lose.

The images and sounds of the “savior” of the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics bring to mind former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers’ observation about Bill Clinton: He seduces women, he seduces men, he seduces pets.

Mitt Romney is Bill Clinton with his pants up. And he’ll very likely be cast in 2008 (“nominated,” if you prefer the political science verb) against Clinton’s wife, who has all the seductive qualities of John Kerry in a pants suit.

Kerry’s problem in 2004 was not flip-flopping, not that he had changed his mind. Rather, he came off as a candidate whose mind often held two simultaneously competing views: for and against the war in Vietnam, for and against the war in Iraq.

Ms. Rodham Clinton (two competing names) would have you believe she is tough on defense for her initial support of the war in Iraq, at the same time she is also, now, against it. Or that perhaps, like Romney’s father in his short-lived 1968 presidential candidacy, she was brainwashed into war support.

But unlike the late Michigan Gov. George Romney’s son, and unlike her husband, but very much like Mr. Kerry, Ms. Clinton is unable to seduce you into a state of cognitive dissonance that will allow you to ignore the contradictions. Observe how Romney looks straight into the camera and almost laughs off his switch from gay rights in his failed Senate campaign to anti-gay marriage in his presidential bid. Just got 13 years older, more gray hair and wiser, he deadpans.

If all that reads like cheap armchair psychoanalysis of the candidates and the voters, go to Mitt TV and see what I mean. I scared myself. I believe the Iraq war is a nearly criminal enterprise. I’m a social-cultural leftie who wants the government out of my bedroom and away from my body. But I was nearly mesmerized by a guy whose religion I consider akin to a cult, whose Iraq war support angers me and whose posturing against gays I find obnoxious.

So, I find it kind of appalling that I find him appealing.

Political seduction is a powerful drug.

Terry Michael is executive director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism.

Back at Home, McCain Annoys the G.O.P. Right

(from the New York Times)

February 17, 2007
Back at Home, McCain Annoys the G.O.P. Right

SURPRISE, Ariz., Feb. 13 — The chairman of the local Republican Party here in the most populous county in Arizona has in his possession a bright yellow button with a black line slashed through the name McCain.

“I don’t wear it out very often,” said the chairman, Lyle Tuttle of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, in a slightly sheepish coda to a 20-minute vituperation about the state’s senior senator, served up from his living room chair.

“I think those who do not support Senator McCain,” Mr. Tuttle continued, “if they could just get the word out and help people to understand what has happened with him, we could have an impact.”

No doubt about it, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who would like to be president, is a popular man in his state, having won re-election in 2004 with about 76 percent of the vote.

But a vocal slice of the state’s most conservative Republicans, reflecting concerns about Mr. McCain held by some conservatives nationwide, are agitating against him in a way that they hope might throw off his incipient presidential campaign.

In a recent telephone poll by Arizona State University, 54 percent of the state’s Republican voters who were queried favored Mr. McCain in a presidential primary next February, a small enough majority to incite his critics and encourage some Republican rivals.

“Arizona is one place where we are very well organized,” said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican and former Massachusetts governor.

“We think we can go out there and make the case on pro-family issues, on fiscal issues and on strong borders,” Mr. Madden added.

Meanwhile, disgusted with Mr. McCain’s position on proposed changes to immigration laws (he advocates legalization that would not require illegal immigrants to leave the country), with what some see as wavering on the issue of gay marriage (he lent his name to a state ballot initiative to ban it but did not support a constitutional amendment), and with the campaign finance act that bears his name, some Arizona Republicans are making trouble for Mr. McCain.

They have elected local party leaders whom he opposes, criticized his policy positions and thrown early support to other potential primary candidates — all in the hope of tripping up Mr. McCain on his own doorstep.

“They can make trouble for him,” said Bruce D. Merrill, an Arizona State University political scientist and polling expert. “It is too early in terms of voting to tell, but it certainly could potentially affect people’s decision to give him money.”

The senator’s supporters are quick to write off the detractors as a fringe of the raucous state party that will be flattened like pita bread once primary day arrives next year. As a practical matter, Mr. McCain’s supporters point out, Arizona’s large swaths of independent voters can vote in the Republican primary, which will be a boon to Mr. McCain even if he loses some votes within his own party.

“When I was a little kid, I was really into western movies,” said Matt Salmon, former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, who resigned with the intention to work for Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign. “In one of those, the cavalry was outmanned by attacking Indians, so they put a bunch of branches on the backs of horses, who then kicked up a lot of dust to make it look like there were a lot more people than there were. These guys drag around a lot of branches and kick up a lot of dust.”

Outnumbered or not, Mr. McCain’s critics now hold leadership positions in Maricopa County, the state’s most Republican enclave and biggest media market, which includes Phoenix. Their passion about the immigration issue, their flirtations with other candidates and their persistent harping underscore the skepticism about Mr. McCain that already exists among many hard-line conservatives here and around the nation.

They have been angered by Mr. McCain’s opposition to tax cuts backed by the White House; by his immigration position, which places him on a collision course with other Republicans; by his moves to close a loophole on gun purchases; and by his vote for the fetal stem cell research bill.

The Maricopa County Republican Party recently conducted a straw poll that depicted Mr. McCain as losing badly to Representative Duncan Hunter of California, a conservative unknown to the majority of Arizona voters, then touted it with unmasked glee. The poll was derided as a sham by Mr. Merrill, the political scientist, and others who questioned the methodology.

Among some Republicans here, Mr. Romney, a Mormon who may benefit from his faith’s strongholds around the state, is also mentioned as a viable alternative to Mr. McCain. Mr. Romney is supported by Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff, among others.

Mr. McCain “can’t just take it as a given that he is going to win here,” said Randy Pullen, the new chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, who got the post by narrowly defeating a more moderate Republican backed by Mr. McCain. “He is going to have to work.”

In some ways, Mr. McCain’s troubles here reflect a fracas within the state party that has pit its more centrist members, long the stronghold of its leadership, against its most hard-line factions who call Mr. McCain “elitist.”

For several years, various critics have complained that he has been aloof, that he has a brittle temper and that he has made missteps on key conservative issues.

Although Mr. McCain was ultimately victorious in the 2000 presidential primary, Gov. Jane Dee Hull of Arizona, a fellow Republican, took the unusual step of endorsing his opponent, George W. Bush, who was then Texas governor.

In 2001, two unsuccessful recall movements arose against the senator. In 2005, some groups around the state that advocate a strict deportation policy for illegal immigrants wrote letters of censure or displeasure attacking Mr. McCain for his stance. “The grass roots are burning mad,” said Gary Watson, former chairman of the Mohave County Republican Central Committee. “We want to defend our borders. We don’t want them to have citizenship.”

So who would be better for Arizona?

“I am real excited about Rudy Giuliani,” said Mr. Watson, even though the former New York mayor has a more liberal record on abortion rights, gun control and gay rights than Mr. McCain. “The social issues are a little bit looser than what I appreciate,” Mr. Watson said. “But he is stronger than McCain on the border issue, and the border issue is so immense to deal with.”

While much of the rumbling against Mr. McCain is among party leaders, they have managed to leave an impression among some voters.

“I could be persuaded to vote for someone else,” Kathleen Hall, 60, a Republican who supported Mr. Bush in 2000, said as she sipped coffee in a Scottsdale outdoor mall this week. “McCain is not my favorite candidate. He would just as easily tomorrow turn into a Democrat.”

Mr. McCain, who was elected to Congress from Arizona in 1982 and who succeeded Barry Goldwater in the Senate in 1986, does not appear to be shivering.

“Folks recognize that he is a principled and committed conservative who has delivered for his constituents,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for Mr. McCain’s presidential exploratory committee.

And plenty of people think it is a fool’s errand to try to prove otherwise.

“Anybody who thinks John McCain wouldn’t win a Republican primary in Arizona is not living in the real world,” said Mr. Merrill, the Arizona State University political scientist.

That does not mean they won’t try.

“He would do a lot better in the general here than he would do in the primary,” said Jack Hustead, who chairs the Apache County Republican Committee, “because in a primary, there are other options.”

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Romney's DC Show of Force

(from Hotline)

Feb 27: Romney's DC Show Of Force

Mitt Romney is ready to play with the big boys on their turf. With 23 Congressmen listed as honorary chairs of the campaign, Romney plans to infiltrate DC later this month with a 2/27 luncheon fundraiser at the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Ave. He's allowing those who want to attend the VIP "Leadership Reception" to max-out on donations for the GOP primary at $2,300/person. The actual lunch will cost $1K/person.

Among the names of lobbyists and lawyers serving as co-chairs: American Gas Asso. EVP Rick Shelby, ex-Delay CoS Drew Maloney, Ken Sarr wife Alice Starr, Lobbyist/Latter-Day Saints stake president William Nixon, and George H.W. Bush daughter/George W. Bush sister Doro Bush Koch.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Romney kicks off White House run

(from the USA Today)

Romney kicks off White House run
Updated 2/13/2007 9:10 PM ET
By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY

DEARBORN, Mich. — Only one Republican presidential candidate has run a business, governed a state and turned an ailing Olympics into a success story. That record, Mitt Romney said Tuesday, makes him uniquely qualified to transcend Washington's "petty politics" and deliver change.
The former Massachusetts governor and venture-capital CEO, kicking off his campaign, said the country needs "innovation and transformation." He said "lifelong politicians" won't make it happen.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed … by someone who's never run a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world," Romney told supporters at the Henry Ford Museum in the state where he was born and raised.

ROMNEY'S RUN: Will his faith hurt his bid? | Video

Romney reprised his message later for about 300 people at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. South Carolina and New Hampshire, weather permitting, were on his itinerary today. All four states have early primaries or caucuses. The Michigan primary is tentatively set for Feb. 5.

The Michigan launch allowed Romney to focus on his Midwestern roots rather than the liberal state he governed until last month. But he said he has the same goals for the nation as he had for Massachusetts, including strong families, lower taxes and affordable, portable health care.

In foreign policy, Romney said "America must regain our standing in the world" and define its international role "not only in terms of our might, but also by our willingness to lead, to serve and to share." He said he would forge closer partnerships with other nations to support moderate Muslims and block Iran's nuclear ambitions.

On Iraq, Romney stuck with President Bush — for now. "So long as there is a reasonable prospect of success, our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq, with additional troops to secure the civilian population," he said.

Romney, 59, is trailing former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain in national polls. But he has fundraising clout — he raised $6.5 million in one day last month — and other strengths that political experts say make him a contender.

"We elect governors for president, not senators and mayors of cities," says Ed Sarpolus, an independent pollster based in Lansing. "Romney is very well positioned. He has a good organization. He is not divorced. And he's got a record."

Romney's challenges include his Mormon religion and changing positions on issues such as abortion, gay rights, emergency contraception and stem-cell research. He has moved to the right on all of them.

He said Tuesday that "I believe in the sanctity of human life." He also said that "unelected judges" should not make laws. Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts as a result of a state court ruling. Romney pushed for and won passage of a bill that puts gay marriage on the ballot.

Romney and his Democratic legislature enacted the country's first statewide, universal health-coverage plan. It treats health insurance like auto insurance — individuals must have policies. People with low incomes will pay less for coverage.

Walter Schmidt, 58, a Lutheran minister from Grosse Pointe Woods, called Romney "a good middle-of-the-road Republican. Traditional, but not a far-right fundamentalist. That's what I think we need." He added, "I would prefer that he wasn't Mormon," but "the family values that he reflects are more important" than his faith.

Romney's wife, Ann, his five sons and their families were onstage with him here. He talked of his Michigan childhood and his late father George's careers as an auto executive and governor.

Romney attended Harvard law and business schools. He lost a 1994 Senate race to Sen. Edward Kennedy. In 1999 he became CEO of the struggling 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He averted financial ruin and ran an extensive security operation for the Games shortly after 9/11.

Contributing: Lisa Rossi of the Des Moines Register

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

He's the real deal, too good to be true...

(from the Politico. hey...if they are now trying to tarnish you by saying you are "tood good to be true," then you must be doing something right. he's the real deal...POTUS in 707 days...)

Is Romney Too Good To Be True?
By: Roger Simon
February 13, 2007 01:17 PM EST

DEARBORN, Mich. - - Mitt Romney is so good he is almost too good.

Candidates want people to come away from their events thinking “presidential,” not “slick.”

But Romney is so polished and looks so much like a president would look if television picked our presidents (and it does) that sometimes you have to ask yourself if you are watching the real deal or a careful construction.

Romney has chiseled-out-of-granite features, a full, dark head of hair going a distinguished gray at the temples, and a barrel chest. On the morning that he announced for president, I bumped into him in the lounge of the Marriott and up close he is almost overpowering. He radiates vigor.

And he can’t wait to stand next to John McCain on a stage and invite comparison. (McCain, who looks less hearty than Romney, was severely injured while fighting for his country as a Naval aviator. Romney never served in the military, though the band at his announcement played both “Anchors Aweigh” and “The Marines’ Hymn.”)

Romney’s campaign is not flawless. Far from it: Romney selected the Henry Ford Museum as the place to announce for president Tuesday.

And Ford, aside from being a prodigious inventor and businessman, was also a notorious anti-Semite.

It is a mixed message for Romney to send, since he is depending on Americans truly to believe in religious tolerance, because of his own Mormon religion, which has become the subject of much attention.

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told me that recent e-mails sent to reporters by the National Jewish Democratic Council raising the issue of Ford’s anti-Semitism “was a partisan hit on Romney.”

“This is a historic site and one of the most visited sites in the Midwest,” Anuzis said. “I don’t think anybody in the Romney campaign even thought about it.”

No kidding.

In his speech, Romney said he chose the location “because it’s filled with cars and memories.” He stood next to a Ford Escape hybrid and an old Rambler. Suspended from the ceiling behind him was a looming, blue-nosed DC-3.

The only mention of religion in Romney’s speech was: “I believe in God and I believe that every person in this great country, and every person on this grand planet, is a child of God. We are all sisters and brothers.”

He hopes so. Greeting Romney outside the door of his hotel room in the morning was a USA Today with a large picture of Romney on the front page and the headline: “Will Mormon faith hurt bid for White House?”

Polls indicate that it certainly might. Romney likes to compare his challenge with the one John Kennedy faced when he became the first Catholic president of the United States in 1960.

But Catholics were about 25 percent of the U.S. population back then and just about everybody knew someone who was a Catholic.

As of 2003, Mormons comprised less than 2 percent of the U.S. population and, as USA Today bluntly put it, it is a religion “that has an unusual theology and a past scarred by racism and polygamy.”

Which is not Romney’s only problem. He has been accused of flip-flopping on key conservative issues, the most important change of mind coming on abortion. Once he was pro-choice and now he is pro-life.

As Romney told the National Journal recently, “I did change my view on abortion. And that happened, as you know, about two years ago.”

Which means he changed his mind on abortion when he was 57, just about the same time he decided to run for president.

What benefits Romney is that all three top Republicans -- McCain, Romney and Rudy Giuliani -- have positions that social and religious conservatives are not happy with.

The power that social and religious conservatives have within the Republican Party is sometimes exaggerated.

They were not that thrilled with George W. Bush when he first ran for president and refused to back an amendment banning abortion. Nor were they thrilled with his father, George H.W. Bush, who once referred to the far right wing of his party as the “extra-chromosome set.” (He later apologized to the parents of children with Downs Syndrome, a disability caused by an extra chromosome.)

Both men ran in the Republican primaries against candidates far more conservative than they were and both won.

But the election of George H.W. Bush was viewed as Ronald Reagan’s third term and Bush’s son was, by virtue of being Bush’s son, the favorite of the Republican establishment.

This time, there is no odds-on establishment choice. McCain comes closest because of his 20 years in the Senate, but because the race is so open, if social conservatives can unite behind one candidate, they could exert a critical influence.

Every Republican running wants to be the social and religious conservatives’ choice. (And it should not be overlooked that candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is a Southern Baptist minister, and has said: “I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally.” Religious conservatives tend to like that.)

Ronald Reagan is the apotheosis of modern conservatism and Romney used Reagan’s themes and sometimes his phrases Tuesday.

“I believe we are overtaxed and government is overfed,” Romney said. “Washington is spending too much money.”

And: “How is the American family made stronger? With marriage before children! With a mother and a father in the life of every child! With taxes that are lower. And with leaders who strive to demonstrate enduring values and morality!”

And: “I believe the best days of this country are before us because I believe in America!”

If that is pure Ronald Reagan, Romney’s position on Iraq is pure John McCain: Romney believes U.S. troops must stay there and win because if they do not the region will descend into chaos and the troops will have to return.

“I believe that so long as there is a reasonable prospect of success, our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq, with additional troops endeavoring to secure the civilian population,” Romney said

So can Romney woo and win the Republican right?

“The conservative movement is splintered right now,” said Greg Mueller, who ran the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. “Governor Romney is working hard to show his stripes as a Reagan conservative. This will help him as long as he isn't just paying lip service to conservative issues.”

“But the Christian right is still looking,” Mueller added. “They are not sold or uniting behind anyone yet.”

Full Text of Gov. Romney's POTUS announcement

(full text of speech pre-delivery, from Drudge)

Tue Feb 13 2007 08:31:33 ET

"I am happy to be in Michigan this morning. I'm happy to have my brother Scott and Sister Lynn here. And I'm proud to have all my children and grandchildren here too.

"Michigan is where Ann and I were born. It is where we met and fell in love. I still love Ann. And I still love Michigan!

"During my parents' campaigns, I visited all 83 Michigan counties, doing my best to convince Michiganders that Romneys and Republicans could lead the state back to prosperity.

"You know my father as a business leader, a governor, and as an advocate of volunteerism. But he came from humble roots. He labored with lath and plaster. He never graduated from college. But like many other Americans, he made his dreams come true.

"And he made a difference. My father worked here to improve Detroit Schools. He worked to write a new state constitution. And he worked as your governor for six years to get Michigan on the move. His character and integrity left an impression that has lasted through the decades.

"It was Mom who did the lion's share of raising Lynn, Jane, Scott and me. Dad said, that as a successful Mom, she had accomplished more than he. Later she worked in charities, in foster care, in music and the arts, and in volunteerism. She even ran for U.S. Senate.

"I always imagined that I would come back to Michigan someday. That's why I took the bar exam here. I hadn't imagined it would happen this way, but I sure have come back to Michigan today.

"I chose this site for a number of reasons. It's filled with cars and memories. Dad and I loved cars. Most kids read the sports box scores. Dad and I read Automotive News. We came here together, him teaching me about cars that were built before my time.

"The Rambler automobile he championed was the first American car designed and marketed for economy and mileage. He dubbed it a compact car, a car that would slay the gas-guzzling dinosaurs. It transformed the industry.

"This place is not just about automobiles; it is about innovation, innovation that transformed an industry, and in doing so, gave Americans a way of life our grandparents could never have imagined.

"The DC 3 above us was the first true commercial airliner. It transformed aviation from a luxury to a standard mode of transportation.

"Next to us is a Ford hybrid. It is the first giant step away from our reliance on the gasoline engine. It is already changing the world of transportation.

"Just outside is Thomas Edison's laboratory. There, electricity that Benjamin Franklin discovered was transformed from a novelty into a necessity.

"Innovation and transformation have been at the heart of America's success. If there ever was a time when innovation and transformation were needed in government, it is now.

"We have lost faith in government, not in just one party, not in just one house, but in government.

"We are weary of the bickering and bombast, fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion. For even as America faces a new generation of challenges, the halls of government are clogged with petty politics and stuffed with peddlers of influence.

"It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician. There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements…and too little real world experience managing, guiding, leading.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed by someone who has never tried doing such a thing before, in any setting, by someone who has never even managed a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world.

"Throughout my life, I have pursued innovation and transformation. It has taught me the vital lessons that come only from experience, from failures and successes, from the private, public and voluntary sectors, from small and large enterprise, from leading a state, from being in the arena, not just talking about it. Talk is easy, talk is cheap. It is doing that is hard. And it is only in doing that hope and dreams come to life.

"This Christmas, Ann and I gathered my five sons and five daughters-in-law to ask them whether I should run for President.

"We talked about the special time this is in the history of America – the challenges and the opportunities. We talked about the qualities that are needed in our leaders. They were unanimous. They know our hearts. They know our values. They know my experience innovating and transforming, in business, in the Olympics, and in Massachusetts. And they know we love this country.

"And so, with them behind us, with the fine people of Michigan before us, and with my sweetheart beside me, I declare my intention to run for President of the United States.

"It has been said that a person is defined by what he loves and by what he believes and by what he dreams.

"I love America and I believe in the people of America.

"I believe in God and I believe that every person in this great country, and every person on this grand planet, is a child of God. We are all sisters and brothers.

"I believe the family is the foundation of America – and that we must fight to protect and strengthen it.

"I believe in the sanctity of human life.

"I believe that people and their elected representatives should make our laws, not unelected judges.

"I believe we are overtaxed and government is overfed. Washington is spending too much money.

"I believe that homeland security begins with securing our borders.

"I believe the best days of this country are ahead of us, because…

"I believe in America!

"At this critical time, we must 1) transform our role in the world, 2) strengthen our nation, and 3) build a brighter future for the American family.

"Today, as we stare at the face of radical violent Jihad and at the prospect of nuclear epidemic, our military might should not be subject to the whims of ever-changing political agendas. The best ally of peace is a strong America!

"Our role in the world must be defined not only in terms of our might, but also by our willingness to lead, to serve, and to share. We must campaign for freedom and democracy in our own hemisphere, now threatened by a second aspiring strongman. We must extend our hand to Africa's poor and diseased and brutalized. We must lead the world's civilized nations in a partnership that will support moderate Muslim nations and peoples, to help them embrace principles of modernity and defeat violent Jihad. We must link arms with all responsible nations to block Iran from realizing its nuclear ambition. America must never engage and negotiate with Jihadists who want to destroy us, destroy our friends, and destroy our way of life!

"Across the nation, there is debate about our future course in Iraq. Our desire to bring our troops home, safely and soon, is met with our recognition that if Iraq descends into all-out civil war, millions could die; that Iraq's Sunni region could become a base for Al Qaeda; that its Shia region could be seized by Iran; that Kurd tension could destabilize Turkey; and even that the broader Middle East could be drawn into conflict. The possible implications for America and for American interests from such developments could be devastating. It could mean a future with far more military involvement and far more loss of American life. For these reasons, I believe that so long as there is a reasonable prospect of success, our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq, with additional troops endeavoring to secure the civilian population.

"And no matter how Iraq is resolved, we must honor and care for the veterans who risked their lives, and for the families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice. Our nation has a sacred pact with those who defend freedom. It is a pact we must never break!

"America must regain our standing in the world. Our influence must once again match our generosity. Over the entire 20th century, no nation gave more, shed more precious lives, and took less for itself than America. Our sacrifice for freedom and for human dignity continues unabated. But this is not the way it is seen by others. America's goodness and leadership in the world, must be as bright and bold as our military might!

"America can also overcome our challenges and seize our abundant opportunities here at home, but only if we follow the right course.

"There are some who believe that America's strength comes from government – that challenges call for bigger government, for more regulation of our lives and livelihood, and for more protection and isolation from competition that comes from open markets.

"That is the path that has been taken by much of Europe. It is called the welfare state. It has led to high unemployment and anemic job growth. It is not the path to prosperity and leadership.

"I believe the American people are the source of our strength. They always have been. They always will be. The American people: hard working, educated, innovative, ready to sacrifice for family and country, patriotic, seeking opportunity above dependence, God-fearing, free American people. When we need to call on the strength of America, we should strengthen the American people, not the American government!

"We strengthen the American people by giving them more freedom, by letting them keep more of what they earn, by making sure our schools are providing the skills our children will need for tomorrow, and by keeping America at the leading edge of innovation and technology.

"Our government has become a weight on the American people, sapping their strength and slowing their climb. We must transform our government – to become a government that is smaller and less bureaucratic, one with fewer regulations and more freedom for our people. The innovation we need today is to make government more responsive to the needs of everyday American citizens. It's time to put government in its place, and to put the American people first!

"At America's core are millions of individual families: families of children and parents, aunts and uncles and cousins, grandparents, foster parents. There is no work more important for our nation's future than the work done in the home.

"But the work done in the home isn't getting easier. Values and morals that have long shaped the development of our children are under constant attack. In too many cases, schools are failing. For some, healthcare is inadequate. Family expenses and government taxes take a larger and larger bite. America cannot continue to lead the family of nations if we fail the families at home.

"How is the American family made stronger? With marriage before children. With a mother and a father in the life of every child. With healthcare that is affordable and portable. With schools that succeed. With taxes that are lower. And with leaders who strive to demonstrate enduring values and morality.

"This was the agenda I pursued as Governor of Massachusetts. This is the agenda I will pursue if elected President.

"When I was a boy, the American dream meant a house in the suburbs. The American dream today must mean more than a house. The new American dream should include a strong family, enduring values, excellence in education, dependable and affordable healthcare, secure employment and secure retirement, and a safe and prosperous homeland. It's time to build a new American dream for all of America's families.

"How will this new American dream be built? Our hopes and dreams will inspire us, for we are an optimistic people. But hope alone is just crossing fingers, when what we need is industrious hands. It is time for hope and action. It is time to do, as well as to dream!

"As we look around us in this museum, we see the evidence of American innovation – airplanes, automobiles, appliances. But these are not America's greatest innovation. America's greatest innovation is freedom. Without freedom, we have nothing. With freedom, nothing can hold us back.

"Freedom has made the American dream possible. Freedom will make the new American dream possible. And with the work, sacrifice, and greatness of spirit of the American people, freedom has made America – and will keep America – the greatest nation on earth. God bless America."


Giuliani on Romney

(from Hotline)

Giuliani, to reporters at a windy press conference after his speech before about 500 Silicon Valley business executives: "Governor Romney is a good friend, he was somebody I campaigned for very, very hard when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, helped him get elected. I don't think I'll be campaigning for him for the Republican nomination this time. I have another candidate that I think is probably going to be better, but I really wish him well. He's a very, very good man."

Romney Joines 2008 Presidential Race

(if the Wash Post can make such flattering comments, then you know he's a contender. that's right. Gov. Romney is in it for real...)

Romney Joins 2008 Presidential Race

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 13, 2007; 9:34 AM

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Mitt Romney officially entered the 2008 presidential race Tuesday, a former one-term Republican governor of Massachusetts suggesting that his record of leadership inside and outside government uniquely positions him to tackle the country's challenges.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician," Romney said, seeking to turn a potential liability, his limited political experience, into an asset. "There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements _ and too little real world experience managing, guiding, leading."

Romney's remarks were also a veiled swipe at his chief rival for the GOP nomination, four-term Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

In elective office only four years, Romney is not nearly as well known nationally as McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, political celebrities who consistently lead popularity polls.

But Romney, a serious contender even though he is little more than a blip in such surveys, is seeking to convince Republican primary voters that his record of success in the private, public and voluntary sectors proves he has the know-how to lead a country at a crossroads.

If elected, Romney will be the nation's first Mormon president.

"We have lost faith in government, not in just one party, not in just one house, but in government," Romney said. "It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve."

And, Romney said, he is the candidate who has proven he can deliver.

"Talk is easy, talk is cheap. It is doing that is hard. And it is only in doing that hope and dreams come to life," Romney added.

A successful venture capitalist who amassed a fortune and the savior of the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Romney hopes the party's conservative wing will focus on his deft managerial skills _ and set aside any uneasiness it may have about his faith and his credentials on issues it holds dear.

In what amounts to a made-for-TV coming-out tour, Romney announced his candidacy in Michigan, the place of his birth and upbringing as well as an important stop on the path to the GOP nomination. He then heads to other states that hold early primaries and caucuses _ Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina _ before returning to Boston for a major fundraiser. The three-day swing intended to introduce the strikingly handsome candidate to the nation.

Opening the tour, Romney gave a speech to hundreds of supporters at the sprawling Henry Ford Museum outside of Detroit, the automotive capital and a site chosen for its emphasis on ingenuity that changed the nation.

Juxtaposing the present with the past, Romney stood on stage at a podium before an American Motors Corp. Rambler from yesteryear and a Ford Escape Hybrid in the airport-hangar-like Henry Ford Museum, as he invoked the memory of his late father. A Michigan governor in the 1960s and an AMC chief executive, George Romney made a short-lived attempt at the presidency four decades ago.

A son seeking to succeed where a father failed, Romney became an official GOP presidential candidate flanked by his wife since 1969, Ann, their five sons and five daughters-in-law, and the Romneys' ten grandchildren _ a not-so-subtle message that he is a family man.

In his speech, Romney laid out his vision for the country, saying that the United States must build a brighter future for the American family, transform its role abroad and strengthen itself at home.

On Iraq, Romney reiterated his support for President Bush's policy in the nearly four year old war, although he did not name the president, and said that failure in Iraq "could be devastating" for the United States and could mean "a future with far more military involvement and far more loss of American life."

"So long as there is a reasonable prospect of success, our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq, with additional troops endeavoring to secure the civilian population," he said.

Seeking to convince conservatives that he is one of them, Romney invoked God and emphasized principles considered the bedrock of the GOP.

"I believe the family is the foundation of America and that we must fight to protect and strengthen it," he said. "I believe in the sanctity of human life."

"I believe that people and their elected representatives should make our laws, not unelected judges," Romney continued. "I believe we are overtaxed and government is overfed. Washington is spending too much money."

"I believe that homeland security begins with securing our borders," he added.

Romney long has been laying the groundwork for a presidential run, and his entrance into the crowded GOP presidential field came as no surprise.

He's a prolific fundraiser who is expected to easily collect the tens of millions of dollars needed for a serious bid. He has built a national campaign organization staffed with top political operatives, and he has strong grassroots support in several important states.

Romney, 59, also has a long record of accomplishment in the private, voluntary and public sectors, effectively turning struggling entities into successful enterprises in each sector.

A businessman, Romney helped found a multibillion-dollar venture capital firm, Bain Capital, that invested in companies like Staples, the office-supply giant.

Later, he stepped in to take over the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. A bribery scandal had threatened to implode the games, but they ended up a success with Romney at the helm.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney was credited with closing a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and pushing a comprehensive overhaul of health insurance system the state.

He tried to enter politics in 1994 with a failed bid to unseat Democratic lion Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. It wasn't until 2002 that he tried again, running as he did in his first race as a moderate in one of the most liberal states in the country. Now he's having to answer for his statements and positions back then as he tries to campaign as the more conservative candidate to McCain and Giuliani.

During the Senate race, he wrote a letter promising a gay Republican group he would be a stronger advocate for gays and their rights than Kennedy. Nevertheless, he insists he has been an unflinching opponent of gay marriage.

Also, in the two previous campaigns, he said that regardless of personal beliefs, abortion should be safe and legal. Now, he describes himself as pro-life and argues that Roe v. Wade should be replaced with state abortion regulations.

Monday, February 12, 2007 to Strem Live Gov. Romney's Formal POTUS announcement to Stream Live Governor Mitt Romney's Formal Presidential Announcement
Monday, Feb 12, 2007

CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288-6390

Boston, MA - On Tuesday, February 13, Governor Mitt Romney will travel to Michigan, the state where he was born, to declare his intention to seek the Presidency of the United States of America. Governor Romney's announcement will be streamed live on at 9:00 a.m. EST.

To watch Governor Romney's announcement, please click the following link and pre-register to receive a reminder on the morning of the event:

Obama's Texas fundraiser

(from Hotline)

Obama Nabs Top Dem Fundraiser For Texas

We hear that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has signed veteran Democratic fundraiser Adrienne Donato to head the Illinois Senator's Texas fundraising operation. There's a lot of Dem money in those parts, be it nestled in the suburbs of Dallas or in the tonier precincts of Houston. [MARC AMBINDER]

Romney makes Iowa ID Calls

(from Hotline)

The Daily Troika: Romney's Making Iowa ID Calls

Iowans, lend Mitt Romney your ears. On the even of the ex-MA Gov.'s announcement tour, the campaign has volunteer phone banks set up to tell Iowa Republicans about Romney's schedule -- and to see whether they'd yet made any commitments to a candidate. Early phone banking isn't unusual, but making a so-called "ID" call -- where the caucus-goer is asked to identify which candidate they're supporting at the moment -- is.

A Romney adviser said the callers also asked Iowans some "general questions" about issues. By combining the two types of calls, Romney's campaign avoids inundating these Republicans will too many phone calls, a tactic that might reap them some goodwill.

Romney's not the only Republican making phone calls. Ex-WI Gov. Tommy Thompson's campaign called to inform Republicans about Thompson's event schedule.

And paper stock from both Romney and Thompson landed in mailboxes this past week. Romney's campaign sent an informational postcard to thousands of Republicans. Thompson sent a colorful two-sided invitation to his event. (If you're a Des Moines Republican, you received an invite to his Des Moines event). For Thompson, the prospecting paid off: he drew crowds in excess of 80 -- which, for him, is a good number -- at least twice this weekend.

Family Matters

(from Hotline)

Family Matters

The Big Three all seemed to touch on matters close to home over the weekend.

The St. Pete Times reports that one of McCain's sons, Jimmy, is likely heading with his Marine unit to Anbar province this summer. But in an interview, the senator declines to expound. "I won't talk about my kids."

Giuliani, in a chat from his South Carolina trip last weekend, admits to The State: "I made mistakes in my private life. There may be a few candidates who never have. I don’t know who they are." He adds: "The question is: Have we grown? I think I have.”

Speaking to the Michigan GOP's convention in Grand Rapids yesterday, Romney invoked his father, the former governor of the Wolverine State. "He got Michigan moving again."

And last, but certainly not least, a Show Me State spy shares that in introducing her husband at the Missouri GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner last night, Ann Romney got a little saucy. "The biggest difference between Mitt Romney and the other candidates," she said, is that Mitt has "only had one wife."

I understand that the jibe was told in a light-hearted fashion and was meant to evoke the great line that National Review's Kate O'Beirne got off last summer in assessing the Republican contenders. "The only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon."

Campbells endorse Huckabee

(from Hotline)

Endorsement Watch: Campbells Endorse Huckabee
Who: Ex-SC first lady Iris Campbell, and son Mike Campbell

For: Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)

Who else courted them: Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain

Significance level: (1 to 10) 6

Background: Iris Rhodes Campbell is the wife of the late Carroll Campbell II, beloved SC governor from '87 to '94,, and before that, a critical player in the movement to make SC a must-win primary for GOP presidential candidates. Seen as a bit of a kingmaker for GOP presidential candidates. Did we mention: beloved by many rank-and-file Republicans?

Campbell was SE regional chair for George H.W. Bush's campaign in '88 and endorsed George W. Bush in '00. Son Mike Campbell lost a run-off primary bid for SC Lt. Gov. in '06.

Note that Carroll Campbell III, the couple's other son, endorsed Sen. John McCain. Also, be aware that Warren Tompkins, who is Romney's chief consultant in the state, was never a favorite of the Campbell family.

Huckabee's release notes this bit of history: "In 1980, the first South Carolina primary was held. That year the SC party established led by Sen. Strom Thurmond and former Gov. Jim Edwards supported early frontrunner, John Connelly. However, Carroll and Iris Campbell decided to support the underdog, Ronald Reagan."

The full release is after the jump.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

McCain Taps Cash He Sought to Limit

(from the Wash Post)

McCain Taps Cash He Sought To Limit
Onetime Reformer Calls on Big Donors

By John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007; A01

Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.

As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.

In his early efforts to secure the support of the Republican establishment he has frequently bucked, McCain has embraced some of the same political-money figures, forces and tactics he pilloried during a 15-year crusade to reduce the influence of big donors, fundraisers and lobbyists in elections. That includes enlisting the support of Washington lobbyists as well as key players in the fundraising machine that helped President Bush defeat McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries.

After enduring his own brush with scandal in the early 1990s, when he and four Senate colleagues pressured regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, chairman of a failed savings and loan association, while collecting donations and favors from him, McCain became a leader in the effort to eliminate "soft money" in elections -- large donations from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals. In 2002, McCain joined forces with Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) to finally push through legislation ending soft money and placing strict limits on donations.

But now the contrast between McCain the presidential candidate and McCain the reformer can be jarring. McCain's campaign says that he is still studying whether to forgo the public financing and spending limits he has long supported, but that he will not be handicapped by restrictions his competitors will not face in 2008.

McCain the reformer worked unsuccessfully through Congress and the courts to try to stop nonprofit political groups known as 527s from using unlimited donations to run political ads and fund other activities aimed at influencing voters in the run-up to elections. He reintroduced legislation last week to end 527 donations, but there appears to be little appetite in Congress to pass it.

McCain the candidate now expects Republicans to use the same big-money 527 groups in the 2008 elections to beat Democrats, if the groups remain legal. "The senator believes that both parties should be subjected to an even playing field. If Democratic organizations are allowed to take advantage of 527s, Republican organizations will, too," said Mark Salter, a senior McCain adviser. The senator declined to be interviewed.

McCain the reformer relentlessly argued that six- and seven-figure "soft money" checks that corporations, wealthy individuals and unions were giving to political parties to influence elections were corrupting American politics. "The voices of average Americans have been drowned out by the deafening racket of campaign cash," he warned just a few years ago.

McCain the candidate has enlisted some of the same GOP fundraising giants who created and flourished in the soft-money system, including Bush's fundraising "Pioneers" and "Rangers," who earned their designations by raising at least $100,000 or $200,000 for his campaigns.

At least six of McCain's first eight national finance co-chairmen have given or raised large donations for political parties or 527 groups, campaign and IRS records show. In all, the finance co-chairs have given at least $13.5 million in soft money and 527 donations since the 1998 election.

They include former Bush moneymen such as lobbyist Thomas G. Loeffler and financier Donald Bren, whose personal and corporate donations total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each in recent elections.

In key states, McCain has enlisted the likes of New York financier Henry Kravis, one of the GOP's largest donors over the past two decades, and Texas energy executive Robert A. Mosbacher, the architect of the Republicans' "Team 100" fundraising machine that helped make soft money a staple of politics by raising $20 million in large donations to help Bush's father win the presidency in 1988.

The big moneymen gravitating to McCain are politically pragmatic. They may not always agree with him, but they say they admire the Arizona senator for his work on campaign finance reform, his Vietnam War record, his support of Bush on Iraq and his recent campaigning for GOP candidates.

"He did things for our country that very few people I know would have had the courage to do," said Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist and longtime fundraiser for former Florida governor Jeb Bush who signed on this month to raise money for McCain.

Ballard said most of the big-money players he knows are not fazed by McCain's attacks on the political-money and lobbying systems, calling it more of an issue for consultants who make their living off big donations.

"I myself don't mind him calling out lobbyists when they've done something bad," Ballard said.

Lobbyists have been a favorite target of McCain the reformer, who proposed legislation requiring so-called grass-roots groups that organize average citizens into lobbying forces to disclose their financial backers.

But McCain the candidate switched positions and last month voted against that disclosure requirement after influential GOP groups such as Focus on the Family and National Right to Life strongly opposed the idea. McCain also hired as his campaign manager one of the grass-roots-lobbying industry's key consultants, Bush strategist Terry Nelson.

"When the senator heard from legitimate public-interest organizations in January of last year that a provision in the legislation would unfairly penalize them for Jack Abramoff's behavior, he agreed and withdrew his support for the provision at that time," Salter explained, referring to the lobbyist in prison for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy.

In December, Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.), a darling of GOP conservatives and lobbyists, acted as a surrogate for McCain at a fundraising meeting with a group of lobbyists at a Capitol Hill hotel. McCain's political action committee has collected donations -- capped at $5,000 -- from several big-name lobbyists, including Loeffler and fellow Bush fundraiser Wayne Berman, whose blue-chip clients frequently have issues pending before Congress and the White House.

"Both Wayne Berman and Tom Loeffler are longtime supporters of the Republican Party, President Bush and Senator McCain," Salter said. "Senator McCain is pleased to have their support."

Ed Rogers, one of Washington's most influential GOP lobbyists and strategists, said the embrace of McCain is not surprising. "Lobbyists are the ultimate pragmatists, and they deal with the world as is," said Rogers, who last year gave $5,000 to McCain's political action committee, though he says he has not yet endorsed a candidate.

Perenchio, now a member of McCain's finance committee, funneled more than $1.4 million in soft money to Republican causes in the 1998, 2000 and 2002 election campaigns, often in amounts McCain used to criticize. For one GOP fundraising dinner in the spring of 2001, for example, he donated $250,000. Perenchio has also been a major donor to the 527 groups formed to exploit a loophole in the legislation sponsored by McCain and Feingold.

Taking their name from a little-known provision of the IRS tax code, the groups began raising large donations -- some in the millions of dollars -- and running ads and funding other activities designed to influence the 2004 presidential election. Federal election regulators have refused to rein in the groups and their donations in the past two elections.

Perenchio gave $4 million to a pro-Republican 527 group called Progress for America, which helped Bush in the 2004 campaign. In the 2006 congressional races, Perenchio gave $5 million more to the same group.

In the summer of 2005, McCain's allies in the reform movement went to court seeking to force the Federal Election Commission to regulate the 527 groups and make them abide by the same donation limits as other political committees.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, McCain and Feingold specifically cited Progress for America as an example of what was wrong with 527 groups. The court filing cited one of the group's pro-Bush commercials -- which starred a 16-year-old whose mother was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks -- to illustrate the impact large donations had on the election. Perenchio was not mentioned.

"The deployment of section 527 groups as the new vehicle for using soft money to conduct political activities to influence federal elections is simply the latest chapter in a long history of efforts to evade and violate the federal campaign finance laws," the McCain court filing stated. "Sadly, it is another chapter in the FEC's failure to enforce the campaign finance laws."

Perenchio declined to be interviewed. Salter said Perenchio's support of McCain "pre-dates the existence of 527s. Perenchio served on Senator McCain's fundraising committee in 2000, and the senator is pleased to have his continued support."

That support has come in a number of ways. Tax records show that Perenchio's Chartwell Foundation donated $100,000 on March 1, 2002, to the Reform Institute, a nonprofit foundation of which McCain was co-chairman and which was advocating the end of big political donations.

At the time, McCain was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the broadcast industry, and Univision had numerous issues pending before the government. Cablevision, another broadcaster, also donated $200,000 to the McCain foundation around the same time the senator took action in Congress favorable to that company.

McCain's allies in the campaign finance reform movement seem resigned to the fact that he will not abide by many of the principles he advocated for a decade as a reformer, including public financing and its associated spending and fundraising limits.

"Certainly we are disappointed that he has decided not to take the lead in fixing the presidential-financing system he is competing in," said Mary Boyle of Common Cause, the ethics watchdog that cheered McCain's reform efforts for years. "But it is understandable he is opting out.

"It is apparent to us that to run a competitive presidential campaign inside a system that is still broken, that is what he has to do," she said.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

others add staff

(from yesterday's hotline)

A short Troika today, with staff news only. Mark Daley, a former IA Dem party comm. dir, will serve as Sen. Hillary Clinton's communications director in NH. He'll work for JoDee Winterhoff, Clinton's state director.

As state director, Nick Clemons is unquestionably a big get for Clinton in NH. (Writes James Pindell: "Due to his experience and his prominent political family, Clemons is the biggest New Hampshire "get" who had not yet signed with a candidate." Still, a prominent New Hampshire Dem who isn't yet supporting any candidate e-mailed us with some local perspective: "I don’t think his appointment will impress the grassroots/rabble. And [a friend] laughed at the ‘intensive search’ description. Clinton and Nick got where they are through nepotism – Nick’s mother is a state rep." That she is -- she's a very prominent, powerful Nashua Dem. But Clemons has credentials: his first presidential campaign experience was based in Nashua: he was the city field dir. for Al Gore's '00 presidential bid, working under Nick Baldick, a very senior aide to John Edwards.

EX-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), fresh on the heels of announcing Iowa endorsements and a campaign manager who can raise money (Chip Saltzman), today received the endorsements of of ex-Manchester GOP cmte chair Cliff Hurst, and ex-NH state school board member Fred Bamante. We're not obsessed with money, but it would be more comforting to fans of the AR governor if he released the names of some GOP donors who're supporting him.

White House on Sidelines in 2008 Contest

(from yesterday's Wash Post)

White House On Sidelines In 2008 Contest
Absence of a Candidate Shapes Race, Bush's Term

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2007; A01

No one in the West Wing is booking tickets to Iowa. No one is scouring matchup poll numbers or hiring campaign managers or dialing for dollars. As candidate after candidate jumps into the race for president, the White House sits unaccustomedly on the sidelines.

This is the first White House in 80 years without someone running for president, a twist of history that will shape not just the campaign but also the remainder of the Bush administration. With neither a president seeking reelection nor a vice president positioned as the heir presumptive, the Bush team will increasingly turn into a spectator in the nation's political debate.

Its absence in the contest will spare the White House the trials of a campaign, easing the tensions between governing priorities and election imperatives that traditionally tear at the institution. Yet, at the same time, it means that no one will be making the case for the Bush legacy as 2008 nears. To one degree or another, all of the candidates, including the Republicans, will distance themselves from the president, particularly if he remains as unpopular as he is today.

"It creates a fundamentally different situation than we've known in the past," said Craig Fuller, chief of staff to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush as he prepared for his 1988 presidential run. "What's so starkly different about this situation is that not only is the president, by virtue of the calendar, a lame duck, but there's no champion out there on the field for him."

The early and especially intense start of the 2008 race, marked by a rush of announcements in recent weeks, has foreshadowed the changing dynamics. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican most closely identified with Bush's Iraq policy, made a point of assailing the administration's performance as a "train wreck." And the focus is turning to the future. Voters dislodged Bush's Republican majorities in Congress in November, and a Newsweek poll last month found that 58 percent would like the Bush presidency to be over; 21 percent of Republicans agreed.

For Bush, the challenge will be to assert his leadership anyway. As a wartime commander in chief sending more troops to Iraq, he is more relevant than most lame-duck presidents. But he seems eager not to let the election debate pass him by. When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in Iowa criticized Bush's actions as "the height of irresponsibility," the White House called reporters to denounce her "partisan attack that sends the wrong message to our troops."

Still, Bush's advisers see advantages in not having a candidate in the race. Bush can push energy, immigration and Iraq plans without gauging electoral consequences. When he proposed a dramatic increase in ethanol production, no one linked that to Iowa caucus politics. "I actually think it is liberating in some ways, and it keeps them from being distracted," said former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. "The fact that you have a White House that isn't thinking at all about politics . . . is good for the nation and good for the president."

Other advisers said the White House will still think about politics but will be free to focus on broader goals, such as party building. And they take solace that top Republican candidates -- McCain, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney -- have backed Bush's troop increase. But they recognize that the support will not last if the situation in Iraq does not improve in six months.

The situation for Bush defies modern tradition. The last time neither president nor vice president actively ran was in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge did not seek reelection and hated Vice President Charles G. Dawes so much that he made it clear that fellow Republicans should not consider him. Even so, Coolidge had a stake in the election, with his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover, carrying the banner. The only election since then without a president or vice president on a major-party ballot was in 1952, when Vice President Alben W. Barkley, at 74 and with no support from Harry S. Truman, lost the Democratic nomination to Adlai Stevenson.

Friction typifies relations when vice presidents step forward to seek the Oval Office. Even George H.W. Bush, who vowed not to disrespect Ronald Reagan during his own presidential bid, began to distinguish himself in the summer of 1988, first by publicly disagreeing with administration talks with drug-running Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and later by promising a "kinder, gentler" presidency.

This can fracture a White House, with the president's staff focused on polishing his legacy and the vice president's on winning votes. The schism between Bill Clinton and Al Gore after the Monica Lewinsky scandal grew so pronounced that, at one point in 2000, Tipper Gore refused to go into a reception with the president. Gore chose a Clinton critic as his running mate and kept the president off the campaign trail.

"There are always tensions," said Roy Neel, a longtime Gore adviser who also served as Clinton's deputy chief of staff. "In the Clinton-Gore years, the tensions were minimal until Gore's campaign had to begin. And then what happened was all of the expected tensions . . . [were] exacerbated substantially by the problems that Clinton was having and the backlash onto Gore."

George W. Bush avoided that in 2000 by tapping Dick Cheney, who swore off interest in the Oval Office from the start. "My advice to him is untainted by any concern I might have about how the folks in Iowa will look at me with connection with the 2008 Iowa caucuses," Cheney told CBS News last year. "And when I speak out on an issue, it's because somebody needs to speak out on the issue, and I can do it without fear, in a sense that I'm not here trying to burnish my image."

With no campaign at stake, Cheney's influence within the White House, though still potent, has clearly diminished. The rise of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the fall of ousted defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signaled a shift. Cheney's handling of a hunting accident last year, in which he shot a friend in the face and kept quiet about it for a day, drove a wedge between him and Bush aides who blamed him for needlessly exacerbating the president's political problems.

Since then, according to some in the administration, the Cheney mystique within the White House has faded. Presidential aides are no longer as intimidated by Cheney's staff as they once were, and some who have seen the vice president in private lately said he seems personally down. His combative tone in a CNN interview last month, even as Bush was trying to reach out to Democrats, surprised presidential aides and hinted at his frustration over the turn of events.

Advisers played down reports of tension and noted that Cheney's decision not to run makes him the most loyal vice president in modern times. "Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't freelance," said Mary Matalin, a former aide. "You don't have to work parallel agendas -- the president's and your own."

Bush plans to remain neutral in the GOP primaries -- "helpful to all, partial to none," in the words of one aide. His political guru, Karl Rove, is likewise staying out of the race and refuses to handicap it even among friends for fear of showing favoritism. Some Bush advisers, such as media strategist Mark McKinnon, have signed on with McCain, while the candidates compete for the president's fundraisers.

Within the White House, there is no sentimental favorite, no candidate in the Bush mold who excites his loyalists. McCain's long rivalry with Bush makes him anathema to many, but some top aides appreciate that he has always supported the president on the issue that matters most, the Iraq war. On domestic matters, many in the White House are attracted to Romney, seeing him as the most electable conservative. Giuliani has admirers for his performance on Sept. 11, 2001, but many consider him too liberal on social issues.

As the campaign begins to heat up without him, Bush may find it irritating not to have a role. As Timothy Walch, a historian and director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, put it: "It's very hard, I think, psychologically and politically, for somebody who has been the most powerful person in the world to begin gradually to detach themselves from power."

trial lawyers and democrats

(from the Wash Post. it's intersting to note litigation reform is never a favorite of the trial lawyers although an extremely important need in today's litigious society. as a harvard law educated attorney, romney is himself cream of the legal crop and, if i may, gov. romney has one of the best lawyers in the entire country onboard: the legendary ben ginsberg -- patton boggs.)

For Lawyers, No Clear Favorite
Litigators Backed Edwards in 2004, but He Has New Competition

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 10, 2007; A04

In the last presidential election, John Edwards had the powerful support and deep pockets of the nation's trial lawyers behind him. But when the lawyers gather for their winter conference today in Miami Beach, it will be Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) delivering the meeting's keynote speech.

Edwards, a trial lawyer who became a senator and now a presidential candidate, will be there, too. But the North Carolina Democrat no longer has a lock on the backing of the lawyers. This time around he will be battling it out with others in the Democratic field, who are seen as sympathetic to plaintiffs and their attorneys.

"John is certainly respected by every trial lawyer in the country," said Joseph W. Cotchett, a lawyer from the San Francisco area who helped raise more than $33,000 for Edwards in the 2004 cycle. "Many people though are looking at the bigger picture here."

Thomas V. Girardi, a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who helped raise more than $230,000 for Edwards as finance co-chairman of his 2004 bid, agreed. Girardi hosted a luncheon last month for Biden and said he intends to do the same for Edwards and for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

In the last election, Girardi said, "Senator Edwards was a much better candidate for the issues we care deeply about." Now, Edwards, Biden, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Clinton "all are very positive in terms of the philosophical view," he said. "So you have a different situation with respect to our support."

Edwards continues to work hard to win over trial lawyers. "He's getting good support from them," campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said. "I wouldn't read too much into the leanings of any one person."

Winning the backing of trial lawyers is a significant coup for Democratic candidates. The 55,000-member American Association for Justice, which advocates for trial lawyers, ranks fifth on a list of the nation's 100 largest donors since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The group's members gave more than $27 million to political candidates during that period, with 90 percent going to Democrats.

Fred Baron, a Dallas-based trial lawyer who leads Edwards's fundraising efforts, as he did in the last campaign, said this year may be different, but support from the legal community has not softened.

"When we started four years ago, we really did rely very heavily on trial lawyers," Baron said. Now Edwards "has a much broader base of support than that one community."

Other Democratic candidates have worked hard to win support from trial lawyers. Obama has recruited Julianna Smoot, who served previously as Edwards's finance director and on the staff of the lawyers association. Biden's finance director, Chris Koerner, has also worked for the group.

Edwards was a principal beneficiary of the group's giving in the 2004 campaign. Lawyers' contributions accounted for almost two-thirds of the money he raised during the first quarter of 2003, when he surprised pundits and rivals by outraising the rest of the field. By the end of the campaign, more than $10 million had flowed to Edwards from lawyers, many of whom were plaintiffs' attorneys.

They were giving to one of their own. In the mid-1980s, Edwards developed a reputation as a skilled attorney who won significant damage awards for his clients. A North Carolina legal journal calculated that, in the two decades before he joined the Senate, Edwards won $152 million in 63 lawsuits.

His legal career made him a target for Republicans, especially when he became Sen. John F. Kerry's running mate in the 2004 presidential campaign.

This time around, Edwards's aides say, he is expanding his base of support, also focusing on unions, antiwar activists and others. Baron said Edwards has seen an increase in donations from Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

"Money is coming from all areas," Baron said.

But the quest for lawyers' money has continued. Four years ago, Baron shuttled Edwards around the country on his private jet to introduce him to other lawyers. Now, Baron is working to reinforce Edwards's standing with some of his backers from the last campaign.

One of those is Greg Allen, who said he was won over by Edwards four years ago. Contributions to Edwards by members of Allen's Alabama law firm totaled more than $50,000 in the last cycle, and Allen remains an avid supporter.

"I like him and I trust him," he said.

But others, such as Todd Smith, a Chicago trial lawyer, say they are looking around. Smith's firm raised more than $12,000 for Edwards and donated $50,000 to his leadership committee in 2004. But Smith said he simply cannot ignore the work Biden has done on the Senate Judiciary Committee to fight proposals that aimed to shield health-care providers and other businesses from legal liability.

"Because of that long-standing, clear, unwavering approach, he's deserving of support," Smith said.

John Cooney, another Chicago lawyer whose firm directed more than $50,000 to Edwards's PAC, said none of the candidates "has demonstrated more loyalty to my clients" than Biden.

"In some years, there is one candidate who draws everyone's attention," Cooney said. "This year, there seems to be a plethora of very good candidates."