Team Romney mount an expensive but effective attack ad week
In the most unpredicted endorsement yet, Tea-Party favourite Nikki Hayley announced Friday that she was endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential race. Haley referred to Romney as a candidate of courage who cut taxes and balanced budgets while leading Democrat-controlled Massachusetts as governor.
Haley said in a press statement from the Romney campaign, “The election next November will have ramifications for generations. Neither South Carolina nor the nation can afford four more years of President Obama, and Mitt Romney is the right person to take him on and get America back on track,” Haley said in a release from the Romney campaign.
Haley’s decision is likely to prove unpopular with some people among many grassroots groups, her statewide approval rating among all voters stands at 35 percent according to a recent poll from Winthrop University. Republicans gave her a 53 percent approval rating while 22 percent disapproved of her job in a poll conducted in late November/early December.
The endorsement gives Romney an important boost ahead of South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary. The state has correctly picked every GOP nominee since 1980. As a state representative, Haley backed Romney in 2008. Haley said every candidate in the field sought her endorsement, except Ron Paul, whom she said never attempted to reach her.
Explaining her reasoning, Haley said she had to ask Romney "some tough questions" about a variety of topics including the controversial health insurance mandate he implemented in Massachusetts. "I have talked to him about the health care situation and he is very aware that that is not something I want in South Carolina." Haley said Romney assured her that he will grant a waiver to South Carolina to opt out of President Barack Obama's health care law, and said he will push to repeal the law if elected. She came away from the meeting convinced.
"The biggest contrast is, I want someone who knows how to lead, who has made tough decisions, not just made a vote," she said when asked about Gingrich. "That was really a defining factor. I didn't want anybody that involved in Washington." Haley harshly condemned Gingrich earlier this year when he questioned Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposals, and said those comments were a factor in her decision not to endorse him. She said, though, that she plans to avoid attacking Gingrich or any other Republican candidate as the campaign heats up.
It should be remembered that Romney supported Haley’s bid for the Gubernatorial office in 2010 and an equally ringing endorsement for Tea-Party darling Sarah Palin propelled her into the office. Romney has now managed to secure now has the support of Bob Dole, the Des Moines register, four governors, seven U.S. Senators and 45 U.S. House Reps, a pretty impressive list by any candidates standard and significantly more then former speaker Gingrich.
Hayley’s endorsement is a sign of intent on Romney’s part to steal some of the Tea-Party support in the state away from Gingrich and eat into his lead. It is also a crucial one in a week where the Romney campaign and the pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore our Future, has run several attack ads, focusing primarily on the current GOP frontrunner and former speaker Newt Gingrich in an effort to win back the momentum in the race. Momentum is all important in these races and the negative attacks appear to be working according to Gallup which now show Gingrich’s standing slipping from 37 percent to 29 percent inside a week.
I believe Hayley’s endorsement in not about her support base, but more about her own political ambitions and possibly a slot within any potential Romney administration. My concern about Romney as the potential GOP nominee was again displayed in an interview with the excellent Greta Van Susteren on Friday night. Greta asked Romney to clarify his statement earlier in the day when he said “he didn’t quite know what Medicaid was until he got into government”. Romney, while clarifying the statement appears to have a disdain when interviewers challenge him over his record. He will start with a nervous laugh and smile however, his uneasiness in his body language, and an undertone of sarcasm in his responses is apparent.
The Romney campaign and others within the GOP have done a very effective of bringing the pressure, scrutiny and questions onto Gingrich however, I sound a word of caution to voters here. Romney had to a greater or larger extent avoided one to one interviews with the media until the last two weeks up to now. He may have the financial advantage over Gingrich now however, he won’t have such an advantage against President Obama should he win the nomination. I think Romney has run a smart campaign and on merit, he is a very good potential nominee. My note of caution is that, I’ve seen glimpses and a chink in the armour during interviews, which makes me worry, if he could stand up to the Obama and mainstream media attacks and scrutiny in a general election without being rattled? I’m yet to be convinced and after all, he can’t keep dictating media coverage on his terms for much longer.