The Republican nomination may well hinge upon the New Hampshire primary. Gingrich has opened large leads in three of the first four states, and now trails Romney by just nine points in New Hampshire. If Gingrich can win there, he will probably sweep to victory in South Carolina and Florida, opening the contests with four straight wins and building a perception of inevitability that Romney can’t overcome. And there’s one hidden factor that just might help Gingrich win New Hampshire: JonHuntsman.
Huntsman is putting all his chips in New Hampshire. His PAC, funded by his wealthy father, is pouring money into ads in the state, lifting him up into double digits. He’s also put together the campaign’s most brutal assaults on Romney. Check out thistakedown.
Can Huntsman win the state? I highly doubt it. He can hurt Romney, though. As a moderate (and a Mormon) he outflanks Romney on the left, competing for votes among the party’s shrunken centrist wing, and preventing Romney from moving further right to fend off Gingrich. It wouldn’t take much for Huntsman to deliver a death blow to Romney’s campaign in the Granite State.
Is it possible that, if Romney collapses, Huntsman could arise as the moderate-Establishment alternative to Gingrich? Anything is possible, but I doubt it. I don’t even think that’s what Huntsman is trying for. As I’ve written before, I think he’s trying to position himself to win the nomination four years later.
My personal Rosetta Stone for understanding Huntsman is a great profile my former colleague Zvika Krieger wrote in the New Republic in May, 2009. In that piece, Huntsman and many people close to him unloaded on the Republican Party as mindlessly partisan and in hoc to right-wing extremists. Huntsman was perfectly candid not only about his estrangement from the party, but about the impossibility of a moderate like himself winning the nomination. A taste:
During our conversations last month in Utah, Huntsman had already begun to realize that perhaps the Republican Party was not ready for him. “You cannot have a successful party based upon a very narrow band, demographically,” he tells me. “You’ve gotta broaden it to include more young people, more people of color, more people who are urban-dwellers, more who are the intelligentsia in America, many who have jettisoned the party. … And that’s ultimately I think how it’s going to play out. We’re just not there yet.” Two years was probably not enough time for the party to change. “He realized he’d just be beating his head against the wall with these guys, which made him open to the phone call [from Obama],” says another source close to Huntsman. “If he thought he had a real chance to be the standard-bearer and savior of the party, obviously he would have saidno.”
So why, after diagnosing the party as too extreme to nominate him, is Huntsman running anyway? I suspect he’s setting himself up for 2016. If the GOP loses the election, then conceivably the party will come to believe Huntsman’s diagnosis that it’s too extreme and has demographically marginalized itself. If so, Huntsman would be well positioned to lead.
But for that plan to work, a couple of things need to happen. First, Huntsman needs a credible showing this time around. Republicans usually nominate candidates who have run before and built up name-recognition and a core of loyalists.
Second, and even more crucially, Romney must not win the 2012 nomination. For Republicans to conclude that they must move to the center, they have to lose while waging a right-wing campaign. They’ll want to embrace a candidate who could avoid the mistakes of the past. But if Romney is the losing candidate, the party will instead decide that he was too centrist, and the answer is to nominate a true believer. (Their shared Mormonism would make Republicans even less prone to turn 2012 buyers’ remorse into 2016 Huntsmania.)
Again, I have no inside knowledge of Huntsman’s plans. What I’m describing strikes me as the one rational explanation for an otherwise hopeless campaign. It would perfectly explain the focus of his campaign – aiming his guns at Romney and betting it all on the one state where he can do the most damage to him. If Gingrich slips past Romney in New Hampshire, he may have Huntsman to thank. And if President Obama gets to face Gingrich, he may,too.
Intelligence community sources are pushing back a DNI official’s claim that Russia was trying to help Trump get re-elected
The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said.
“The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told CNN. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.” …
One intelligence official said that [DNI official Shelby] Pierson’s characterization of the intelligence was “misleading” and a national security official said Pierson failed to provide the “nuance” needed to accurately convey the US intelligence conclusions.
Trump’s NSA is apparently denying Russia’s support for Trump while attacking Sanders
National security adviser Robert O’Brien tells ABC in interview to air tomorrow that he hasn’t seen any evidence of Russia seeking to help Trump. Asked whether Russia might be helping Sanders, he says reports could be credible. “That’s no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow.”
Concerns linger as some [caucus] volunteers say they haven’t received hands-on training with the iPads the party purchased to help tabulate results. Other volunteers are worried about executing the caucus’ new voting alignment system, which includes the extra complication of adding early-vote totals to day-of results — a step that even Iowa, with all its problems, didn’t have to deal with.
Multiple presidential campaigns are anxious that the state party won’t finish tabulating the enormous number of early votes by Saturday — and they want more transparency on how those votes will be divvied up to individual precincts.
Finally, there are signs the state party is worried about unflattering internal details about the caucus being divulged. On Thursday night, the Nevada Democratic Party sent an email to volunteer precinct chairs in rural areas asking them to sign a non-disclosure agreement and simultaneously offering a stipend.
Well-funded social media campaign, or bot network?
The Bloomberg campaign broke the rules with its paid social media blitz, says Twitter. It just suspended 70 accounts, some belonging to campaign employees who were copy-pasting messages. Scoop from @suhaunah and me. https://t.co/M065RB0Ogm