A political tipsheet for the rest of us

AP News
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Posted: Jan 09, 2012 7:22 PM
A political tipsheet for the rest of us

Monday, Jan. 9, 2012

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

GOING AFTER BAIN: Mitt Romney's rivals are trying to turn an asset into a liability for the former Massachusetts governor. For years Romney has touted his private-sector experience with a venture capital firm, Bain Capital, as evidence of his ability to create jobs and understand the American economy. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are using Romney's Bain experience to argue that he's exaggerated his jobs-creation rhetoric and had plenty of experience putting people out of work. In a recent debate, Romney repeated his claim that Bain-run companies netted a total increase of 100,000 jobs. Studies by The Associated Press and other news organizations conclude that the claim doesn't withstand scrutiny. Like any venture capital company, Bain's main purpose was to generate profits for investors, not to create jobs. So it is easy for political campaigns to find dazzling success stories and heartbreaking plant closures in the company's history.

GETTING THEM FIRED UP: Mitt Romney didn't help the effort to discount the claim that he coldly laid off thousands of people while working at venture capital firm Bain Capital. In New Hampshire, Romney told a group of voters: "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." Romney pointed out later that he was talking about how to deal with insurance companies that provide poor service. His rivals, however, jumped on the comment. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said: "Gov. Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs."

INDEPENDENTS TO THE RESCUE? Jon Huntsman is banking his political future on New Hampshire's independents. They'll either rescue his Republican presidential campaign or watch it fade from sight. Notoriously late to decide and difficult to poll, roughly 4 in 10 of the state's voters are not registered with any party. And election law gives them a prominent role in Tuesday's presidential primary. Huntsman has been unsuccessful in his months-long appeal to traditional conservatives and recently shifted strategy to make an aggressive play for independents. What he says and where he says it suggests he thinks he's found a path to relevancy in the race for the GOP nomination. Yet any strategy that depends upon the independent vote in New Hampshire is risky at best. It would be a mistake to assume that all unaffiliated voters in the state are moderates or pure political centrists. Many simply don't like party labels. While the stakes are high for Huntsman, he doesn't need to win. But he will struggle to stay in the race if he finishes outside the top three.

NEITHER BIRD NOR PLANE, IT'S A SUPER PAC: They are flush with cash and friendly to a particular presidential candidate _ and, more to the point, unfriendly to others. Called "super PACS," they are all over the airwaves in the early voting states during the primary campaign, at times spending as much as the Republican presidential candidates themselves. They are new this campaign season, a result of major court rulings easing spending limits by groups not directly linked to the candidates. Don't look at their names, like "Winning Our Future" and "Restore Our Future," for clues to who's behind the money. Scores of contributors will remain secret until Jan. 31, when some of the super PACs are required to report their finances to the Federal Election Commission. That's after the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries _ and the same day as Florida's primary _ essentially leaving voters in the dark about who might be influencing campaigns for the White House. Some contributors are known. For example, Winning Our Future PAC, which supports Newt Gingrich, received $5 million from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Restore Our Future, run by former Romney adviser Carl Forti, raised more than $12 million during the first half of 2011, bolstered in part by Romney friends and former executives of Bain Capital, Romney's old venture capital firm.

MIDNIGHT VOTING: The New Hampshire primary, the nation's first of the 2012 presidential campaign, is Tuesday. That means the tiny village of Dixville Notch is preparing to cast the first ballots of the contest just after midnight, a tradition since 1960. Voters are expected to gather in the wood-paneled Ballot Room of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, a remote, Victorian- and Alpine-style complex about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The hotel is closed for renovations but is making the Ballot Room available to continue the voting tradition. Town clerk Rick Erwin tells WMUR-TV that nine registered voters are expected to cast ballots, three of them registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Four others voters didn't declare a party.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS:

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. ... If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, `I'm going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.'" _ Mitt Romney talking about health care and capitalism.

"Gov. Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs. ... It may be that he's slightly out of touch with the economic reality playing out in America, and that's a dangerous place for someone to be." Jon Huntsman in response to Romney's remarks.

"Mitt Romney cannot campaign with a straight face as a conservative." _ Newt Gingrich.

"I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips _ whether he'd have enough of them to hand out." _ Rick Perry playing off Romney's comment that he too worried as a young man about losing his job.

"A dream come true." _ Rick Santorum describes the possibility of finishing second in New Hampshire, which would be his second runner-up finish in the campaign after Iowa's caucuses.

"Rick Santorum, a record of betrayal, another serial hypocrite who can't be trusted." _ from a new campaign ad by Ron Paul.