Christian group: Christieâ€™s position against gay bullying could turn off social conservatives (Daily Caller)
Can Tammy Baldwin, a proud progressive, become the next U.S. senator from Wisconsin and make history as America's first openly LGBT senator? Not only can she, but I expect she will.
It won't be easy. This could be one of the hardest-fought Senate contests in the country, and recent polls show the race to be a "sheer toss up," according to Public Policy Polling. But Tammy's ready for that fight, and she has some built-in advantages that will make her more competitive than some conservatives seem to understand, such as:
Momentum: Tammy stood with working families against Scott Walker's assault on labor. Wisconsin voters know better than anyone in America: elections have consequences. After the far-right took over both chambers of the state legislature and helped elect Walker governor, working-class Wisconsinites were horrified at the ensuing attack on the middle class. Tammy literally stood with thousands of people in the Capitol fighting against a far-right agenda, and she's the only candidate who will give these newly energized citizens a reason to be excited about this race.
Unity: Tammy is likely to escape a primary challenge. While the Wisconsin Republican primary is shaping up to be a long and expensive battle for the soul of the party, Democrats appear to be uniting around Tammy's campaign. The GOP nominee is going to emerge bloodied, beaten and broke, while Tammy might well be able to conserve resources for the fall, when the campaign really heats up.
Resources: Tammy will have a remarkably broad and committed donor base, so she will have the money to compete and get her message out. As the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress, she will be able to draw on the financial support of women's groups such as EMILY's List and NOW. As a rock-solid supporter of working families and labor, she's earned the support of labor groups that will be fighting hard in 2012. As one of just a handful of openly gay members of Congress, Tammy will enjoy strong financial support from LGBT donors across Wisconsin and America, and from groups such as Fair Wisconsin, the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign.
Authenticity: Tammy's an honest broker, a truth-teller who won't shy away from a record of tenacious support for middle-class working families, and who won't flinch when people ask about her sexual orientation. There's a genuine thirst for that kind of honesty in politics, and for Tammy it's not a political ploy. It's who she is, and voters will respond.
Washington is filled with boneheaded pundits who misunderstand what it takes to win in politics. Tammy's going to compete smarter and harder than many people realize, and she's going to be supported by middle-class families who believe, as she does, that government has stopped working for them.
Don't listen to pundits who tell you she's too progressive, too honest or too anti-establishment to win. They're wrong.
President Obama had what he must have thought of as a clever jibe against Rick Perry. He told an audience of donors, “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.”
You know how some region of the country, or world, will have a cold spell, and some people will say, “You call this global warming?” And other people will say, “Hey, you can’t judge this question by the weather of the moment”?
Keep reading this post . . .
WASHINGTON â New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all but announced himself as the next coming of Ronald Reagan and cast President Obama as Jimmy Carter in a speech Tuesday night that will only inflame speculation that the Republican plans to run for president.
Christie's long-planned speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California in many ways seemed like an audition for a potential candidacy, even though he told a group of donors before the speech that he still does not plan to run.
Asked directly during a question and answer period whether he is reconsidering his past refusals to run, Christie gave a less than convincing denial. He pointed to a video of past statements where he has said he will not run: "Those are the answers," he said.
Minutes later, a woman in the audience rose and gave an impassioned plea for Christie to run: "I really implore you, I really do. This isn't funny. I mean this will all my heart â¦ I really implore you, as a citizen of this country, to please sir, reconsider ... We need you. Your country needs you to run for president."
Christie thanked her: "I hear exactly what you're saying and I feel the passion with which you say it and it touches me."
"But by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason also has to reside within me," he said. But unlike in the past, Christie did not say he feels in his heart that he is not ready and does not want to run.
"I'm listening to every word of it and feeling it too," he told the woman.
In his speech, Christie didn't just voice obligatory Republican criticisms of Obama. He contrasted himself directly with the incumbent Democrat currently inhabiting the White House, suggesting that his own record as governor has shown him to be more prepared than Obama to carry the mantle of national and international leadership.
As governor, Christie said, he "has not sat by and waited for others to go first to suggest solutions." But Obama, he said, "once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has not found the courage to lead."
"We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office. We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world community," Christie said.
He castigated Obama's dismissal of a bipartisan deficit commission that "the president asked for himself," and through repetition branded the president a failure. He blamed him for "failure to act on the country's crushing unemployment...the failure to act on ever expanding and rapidly eroding entitlement programs...the failure to discern pork barrel spending from real infrastructure investment."
Christie then summed up his own approach to governance: "When there is a problem, you fix it."
He included a nod to the Democratic leaders in the New Jersey state legislature -- Senate President Stephen Sweeney and House Speaker Sheila Oliver -- describing them as " two people who have more often put the interests of our state above the partisan politics of their caucuses."
"And that's why I call them my friends," he said.
"In New Jersey over the last 20 months, you have actually seen divided government that is working. To be clear, it does not mean that we have no argument or acrimony. I think you all have seen my YouTube videos. There are serious disagreements, sometimes expressed loudly, you know, Jersey style," Christie joked.
The speech came at the end of a day when speculation about Christie's political ambitions had reached a new high, fueled by dissatisfaction among Republican activists with the current presidential field and by slyly placed non-denials and encouragement from unnamed Christie advisers in the press. At one point Tuesday afternoon, Fox News even reported that Christie had officially decided to rule out a run, only to have anonymous Christie advisers tell ABC News that the suggestion was incorrect.
Close Christie confidantes have told The Huffington Post that Christie is not running at present, but has not ruled out the possibility of a run.
It is Christie's blunt manner and his ability to notch several accomplishments in just two years as governor, that has made him a hero to many Republicans. Christie did not fail to mention his wins: two balanced budgets in which he closed $13 billion in deficits without raising taxes, hard fought changes to New Jersey's pension and health benefits system for state employees, and a cap on annual property tax increases.
He linked all of this to foreign relations and diplomacy through Reagan, the nation's 40th president and a conservative icon. Christie used the example of Reagan's decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981 and said that showed to the nation and to foreign adversaries that Reagan was " a man who said what he meant and meant what he said."
Christie also ventured to stake out a general position on the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, aligning with a more reductionist view of the U.S. role in the world.
"The United States must also become more discriminating in what we try to accomplish abroad," he said. "We certainly cannot force others to adopt our principles through coercion. Local realities count; we cannot have forced makeovers of other societies in our image. We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest."
Christie ended with another shot at the president, saying Obama spoke in 2004 of unity, but in 2012 is preparing "to divide our nation to achieve re-election. This is not a leadership style, this is a re-election strategy."
And he suggested that the nation needs a leader willing to talk tough with Americans about meeting current challenges, someone like himself: "The biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves."
The New Jersey governor criticized President Obama's policies as well as Congress in his speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The Republican has dismissed speculation that he will enter the 2012 presidential race despite calls for him to do so.
Christie 2012 buzz is back — again — though whether it’s for real this time remains to be seen. Indeed, it would be shocking if Christie reversed a year of emphatic denials and got in the race at this late stage. He told National Review Online in February that he didn’t feel ready — personally or professionally — to be president, and we took him at his word. If he’s reconsidering, it’s likely not because he thinks his chances have become better. Christie has always believed he could win, and his major victories over tax-and-spend Democrats and embedded union interests, along with his compelling personal style, make him an attractive candidate for an electorate focused on leadership and the economy. But Christie has also surely seen the conservative backlash against the likes of Texas governor Rick Perry over issues like immigration and mandated HPV vaccinations, and knows that as the governor of a blue northeastern state, he will give opposition researchers even more room to get to his right and paint him as a RINO. Here are five:
Keep reading this post . . .
WASHINGTON -- It was supposed to be the catacomb for his presidential ambitions, a policy so poisonous for Republican voters that he'd have to abandon it in order to win their support. But months into his second run for the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has been surprisingly unhindered by the health care policy he passed as governor of Massachusetts, leaving some seasoned political observers utterly befuddled.
"Despite 'Obamneycare,' Mitt is back in command," read an editorial Monday by Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner.
"[F]or someone who still probably stands a 50%-50% chance of being the Republican Party's presidential nominee, Mitt Romney had it relatively easy so far," concluded MNSBC's First Read.
"I have spent more than a year predicting the electoral demise of Mitt Romney," wrote Jonathan Chait Monday in New York Magazine. "Here is a Mormon, once fervently pro-choice candidate running to lead an electorate whipped into a frenzied belief that Barack Obamaâs health-care plan poses the most dire threat to liberty in American history, having imposed virtually the same plan in Massachusetts himself... And yet here he is, poised to assume the Republican nomination."
Campaigns can be unscripted affairs, with sideshow issues (see: Sarah Palin's clothing purchases) often trumping substantive matter. But the extent to which Romney's supposedly campaign-crippling health care law hasn't bitten his candidacy has been, perhaps, the defining feature of the still-early primary. And it symbolizes what has so far been a fortuitous few months for the Massachusetts Republican.
The candidate who coined the term Obamneycare -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- got the yips when asked to challenge Romney during a prime-time debate. He subsequently fell out of the race and endorsed his bete noire, further neutralizing the argument that Romneycare is a major liability.
Since then, circumstances for Romney have grown only brighter. After being tarred for months for supporting a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance coverage, he got to sit back and watch as his top competitor for the nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was subjected to attacks over a mandate of his own. And for a score of primary voters, a never enacted executive order that required sixth-grade girls in Texas to receive the HPV vaccine has mattered more than the compulsory health care coverage in Massachusetts.
"Rick Perry has become the front runner," said Larry Farnsworth, one-time press secretary to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. "As Governor, he unilaterally made a health care decision for millions of girls. Thatâs a far more egregious act to conservatives than a Republican Governor of a blue state working with a liberal legislature. If Mitt Romney had been Governor of Texas rather than Massachusetts, Iâm quite sure his health care plan would be more acceptable to conservatives."
For the Romney campaign, the relative scarcity of health care-related damage isn't an invitation to coast. But advisers close to the governor argue that the extent to which the governor's law would be an albatross around his neck was always a touch overstated.
"It will be AN issue," emailed Kevin Madden, a Republican consultant who advises the governor and served as his chief spokesman during the 2008 campaign, "but it won't be THE issue."
"Presidential campaigns are still, fundamentally, contests about the future," he added. "The Massachusetts health care issue will always be part of the conversation--the conversation between candidates and the conversation with voters. But, more important will be the contest to demonstrate a candidate has a plan to repeal and remedy the worst aspects of Obamacare and what that candidate's vision is going forward with regard to lowering health care costs, improving the quality of care and improving access. In that regard, Governor Romney has performed well."
Public polling data has long suggested that trashing President Obama's health care law bears political fruit. The most recent Kaiser Foundation survey in September, for example, showed just 14 percent of Republicans were willing to rate the president's health law favorably, while three out of four (76 percent) rated it unfavorably (including 56 percent who are very unfavorable). Among Tea Party Republicans, that opposition to Obamacare is nearly monolithic, with 87 percent rating it unfavorably, including 75 percent who are very unfavorable.
The problem is in tying Romneycare to Obamacare. A June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked the national sample how they would react if they learned "that Mitt Romney opposes the current health care law signed into law by Barack Obama that institutes requiring nearly all Americans to either have or purchase health insurance, but as governor supported and signed into law a bill that had similar requirements for Massachusetts."
The net reaction was negative among Republicans, but only a third (33 percent) said the statement made them less favorable to Romney. Two-thirds either said the statement made them more favorable (20 percent) or made no difference (45 percent). Differences between Democrats and Republicans on this question were slight. Among Republicans in the poll, Romney's opposition to Obama's health reform law appears to trump his support for a law with "similar requirements" in Massachusetts. A similar dynamic may be playing out now among likely Republican primary voters when they hear Romney respond to attacks on the Massachusetts law in debates.
And yet, for all the difficulty with prosecuting the case that Romneycare equals Obamacare, there is evidence suggesting that the skepticism over the Massachusetts governor's health care law is already baked into the GOP voter's mindset. Base voters, after all, haven't exactly flocked to Romney's candidacy, choosing instead to attach their hopes to others in the field or politicians who haven't entered the race.
"He can't get above 20 percent of the GOP field because 80 percent of Republicans see him for the chameleon he is," said Craig Shirley, a Reagan historian and adviser to conservative organizations. "Romney will probably never be acceptable to the conservatives who dominate the party. This is not to say they won't hold their nose and vote for him but this will be a tough sell for Romney."
As Shirley and others see it, time isn't on Romney's side. As the actual primaries approach, focus on his health care law will likely become vogue again, in part because the conservative infrastructure, which has invested heavily in demonizing Obamacare, won't be thrilled to see that year-long case neutralized.
"I think Romneycare is still the elephant in the room and at some point should Romney turn out to be the nominee it would be a real liability in his ability to challenge the president. President Obama would thank Governor Romney for creating the intellectual basis for Obamacare," said Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, the conservative activist organization that has said it would devote resources to stopping Romney's nomination.
"If you look at what we have said about Mitt Romney... we are in fact trying to raise this issue because not only is it a fundamental flaw in his policy record, I think it is an albatross that makes him unable to beat Obama."
HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal contributed reporting.
Soon after Texas governor Rick Perry announced his presidential campaign, a few websites, mostly liberal, compiled a list of the constitutional amendments he has at various times touted. He has spoken favorably about amendments to end the lifetime tenure of federal judges, to allow supermajorities of Congress to overturn Supreme Court decisions, to repeal the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments (which established, respectively, the income tax and the direct election of senators), to limit federal spending, to define marriage in American law as the union of a man and a woman, and to prohibit abortion.
Liberals responded, either explicitly or implicitly, with a comment that was partly a question and partly a taunt: Why are conservatives, who place so much emphasis on fidelity to the Constitution, so keen on changing it? It is a point they have also made during recent debates over the proposed balanced-budget amendment.
Keep reading this post . . .
One of the problems in trying to select a leader for any large organization or institution is the tendency to start out looking for Superman, passing up many good people who fail to meet that standard, and eventually ending up settling for a warm body.Some Republicans seem to be longing for another Ronald Reagan. Good luck on that one, unless you are prepared to wait for several generations. Moreover, even Ronald Reagan himself did not always act like Ronald Reagan.The current outbreak of "gotcha" attacks on Texas Governor Rick Perry show one of the other pitfalls for those who are...
What is Mitt Romney? It is very hard to tell. Put him on a debate stage, and he can outshine the klieg lights. Last Thursday in Orlando, for instance, the former Massachusetts governor delivered his most dexterous performance of the year, connecting on nearly every thrust and pulling off nearly every parry, in a two-hour duel with his increasingly clumsy rival, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. When Perry tried to obscure his support for a defederalized Social Security system, Romney suggested that he “find that [other] Rick Perry and get him to stop saying” the opposite. When...
During this past week’s Fox News/Google Republican presidential debate, there were several “gotcha” moments. Most of them were at the expense of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who once again did not appear as the strongest debater and once again lost an opportunity to effectively hang the Romneycare albatross around the former Massachusetts governor’s neck.
From the perspective of a health-care provider and health-policy analyst like myself, this failure is disheartening, not because I think one frontrunner is better than the other, and not because I wanted to see a Romneycare “gotcha,” but because his health-care plan is ruinous for the state of Massachusetts much in the same way that Obamacare is ruinous for the United States. It is disheartening to see this truth buried beneath the success of one debating style over another, especially at a time when the upcoming presidential election will be a referendum not only on our failing economy, but also on the huge Obamacare entitlement that has been loaded onto the back of it.
Keep reading this post . . .
Wisconsin has been riveted in recent days by reports that more of Governor Scott Walker's top aides may be implicated in a secret "John Doe" investigation into potentially illegal campaign practices during Walker's 2010 gubernatorial race. Although the investigation has been underway for at least a year, recent revelations that the governor's spokesperson has been granted immunity and that another top aide had her house raided by the FBI, has the state abuzz with speculation about the target and scope of the investigation.
Governor's Spokesperson Mum
Mum's the word for Walker Press Secretary Cullen Werwie. When the story broke Friday that he had been granted immunity in the ongoing investigation back in April, Werwie had no comment.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that former Appeals Court Judge Neal Nettesheim, who is overseeing the investigation, acknowledged that he had granted immunity to three people, Werwie, a railroad lobbyist and low-ranking Republican official. Werwie joined Walker's campaign after the September 2010 primary and stayed on when Walker was sworn in as governor. His involvement moves the investigation directly into the governor's office and into a more recent time frame than previous revelations.
"It is a big deal," Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer Stephen E. Kravit told the Journal Sentinel. "He recognizes he's got (criminal) exposure and he negotiated for a proffer to get immunity, and that's a big deal."
The latest news comes on top of the September 14 raid on the home of another top Walker aide, Cindy Archer. About a dozen FBI agents and other law enforcement officers descended and seized boxes of materials. Archer's neighbor said FBI agents also confiscated a hard drive he bought from her at a garage sale a few weeks ago.
Archer is at least the third Walker aide to have computers seized as part of the investigation led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who has a track record of locking up politicians on similar charges. Chisholm has apparently been investigating whether county staffers in Walker's office did unlawful campaign-related work while at their county jobs. Before he was governor, Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive and Archer was a top aide running his county Department of Administration.
In multiple media interviews, Archer has denied any knowledge of the John Doe proceeding and has denied any wrongdoing. Similarly, Walker has also denied any knowledge of the investigation telling a local news channel, "We don't know what exactly is involved there until we know any more." But the governor's campaign has retained former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic.
The investigation has resulted in at least one conviction. In April, Walker campaign contributor, William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, pled guilty to felony violations of Wisconsin campaign law. In January, Wisconsin & Southern Railroad's Ken Lucht was also granted immunity.
Until very recently, Archer was Deputy Secretary of Administration (DOA) under Secretary Mike Huebsch. In Wisconsin, Huebsch is the second most powerful man in state government after the governor. The DOA not only runs the state, it was the chief architect of Scott Walker's "budget repair bill," which was introduced February 11 and stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Emails obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy demonstrate that Archer played a key role with the DOA "Swat team" in preparing the policy and organizing the "contingency planning" for public reaction.
In one email from February 7, Archer instructs Walker Cabinet Secretaries on how to deal with possible protests: "We have talked about external building security for employees entering and exiting our buildings. If the situation warrants, you should be prepared to limit the number of entrances and exits you have open in your buildings. In the event you experience problems (unruly picket lines, harassment of incoming employees, blockage of your entrances,) you should call 911. We will rely on local law enforcement to assist us." The DOA's decision to lock down the capitol and limit access for months after the protests was the subject of litigation.
In her DOA job, Archer made about $124,000 a year, but in mid-August she mysteriously quit to become a lower level "legislative liaison" at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Now it is becoming clear that the new job was organized by the governor's office. She will be paid $99,449 a year -- $39,129 more than the $60,320 the last person to hold the job made -- a 65 percent increase. Nice work if you can get it.
Archer has not yet shown up for her new job and is apparently using some of her banked sick leave from a previous stint with state government to take some time off. But all is not well in the Walker inner-circle. This week, it was revealed that Walker administration lawyers petitioned the courts to withdraw an affidavit filed by Archer in a lawsuit brought by the unions against the collective bargaining bill. Apparently, Scott Walker no longer agrees with her sworn testimony or no longer has faith in one of his chief lieutenants.
Archer joins other top Walker aides that have quietly slipped off the radar including Tom Nardelli, Walker's Chief of Staff when he was County Executive who gave up his job in the state's Division of Environmental and Regulatory Services at the end of July. According to one criminal defense attorney, "everyone in the state is lawyering up."
The drip drip drip of daily revelations has the state abuzz. All will be watching to see if Werwie will be at work on Monday or if he too will find himself suddenly feeling unwell. Perhaps Walker's inner-circle will reconsider their homicidal opposition to good benefits for public workers.
ORLANDO -- Gov. Rick Scott's announcement that Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll was preceded by two surprising opening acts; Sarah Palin and former President George W. Bush.
When Palin first took the stage inside the Orange County Convention Center, there was an audible gasp among the crowd of delegates.
But it was not Sarah Palin. Instead, Patsy Gilbert impersonated the former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate, even launching into a rap.
John Morgan later joined Gilbert on stage as Bush and also launched into song.
This is not the first time impersonators have shown up at Republican events.
At February's CPAC in Washington, D.C., another fake Sarah Palin caused a stir and in June, a Barack Obama impersonator was yanked off the stage at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans after mocking the Republican presidential hopefuls.
Questions? Call us at 800-207-8001Gov. Rick PerryBy Beth Reinhard and Rebecca KaplanORLANDO "" After 43 days as a presidential candidate, Rick Perry's honeymoon is officially over.His lame second-place finish Saturday to the charismatic but little-known corporate executive Herman Cain in a straw poll of Florida Republicans, preceded by an equally lame appearance here in Thursday's GOP presidential candidates' debate, exposed the steep learning curve ahead for the brash Texas governor.After investing more money than any other contender in the poll, Perry's ...
ORLANDO - Ken Johnson came here to see Texas Gov. Rick Perry speak to Republican activists Saturday morning for one reason.
"It's a free breakfast," said Johnson, a 63-year old general contractor, as he ate scrambled eggs and sausage paid for by Perry's presidential campaign.
Johnson, who is on the Hillsborough Republican Party Executive Committee, said with conviction that he will never support Perry for one reason.
"I like a lot of what Rick Perry's positions are on many issues. Immigration is very high on my list, and I refuse to support Rick Perry because of his position on that issue," Johnson told The Huffington Post.
"I'm mad at Rick Perry right now for his refusal to see the light," he said.
April Schiff, a political consultant from Tampa who is also on the Hillsborough County Republican executive committee, was more analytical than Johnson, but was just as adamant that Perry's stanch refusal in a debate Thursday night to back down from his positions on illegal immigration had "lost [him] a lot of support."
Perry was, in her mind, no longer the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination.
"Whether they can bring him back or not I don't know," Schiff said of Perry's campaign.
Perry spoke only briefly to the crowd of at least 1,000 after mingling with activists and voters for the better part of an hour. His 9-minute speech was a defense of his lackluster debate performance. Though he did not mention Mitt Romney's name, he attempted to persuade voters that just because the former Massachusetts governor has outclassed him at each of the last three debates doesn't mean Romney should be the nominee.
"You've seen what happens when our country chooses a leader who emphasizes words over deeds. We get a president like we have today," Perry said. "Americans don't need more slick promises. We need a principled leader who will stand on his conservative values."
However, the fact that Perry was spending time and energy acknowledging that he has faltered in the debates is a sign of the extent to which he is struggling.
Perry spent most of his speech criticizing President Obama, blaming him for the economy's travails and for continued high unemployment.
"One in six work-eligible Americans can't find a job. That is not an economic recovery, Mr. President. That is a disaster," Perry said.
He placed a lot of emphasis on the straw poll to be held later in the day, telling the crowd that he was thinking back to 2000, when he was lieutenant governor and his becoming governor depended on whether George W. Bush won in Florida and became president.
"And here we are 11 years later and I've got all my hopes on Florida again," he said, adding that candidates like Romney who were skipping the straw poll were making a "big mistake."
The audience responded warmly but was measured in its enthusiasm. There was a core of Perry supporters toward the front of the room that clearly is with him no matter what. Even among that group, however, there were signs that Perry's stumbles have unnerved them.
"I was concerned after the debate," said Debra Vinig, 57, a member of the Duval County GOP executive committee who's also a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville. "But I've heard him speak twice since then, and I'm back on board."
Vinig's husband, Steve, said he had in fact been inclined to support Romney before this weekend but was now with Perry. Yet still, Debra Vinig said she she was only "leaning" toward Perry.
"Leaning" has been the operative word over the last few days for most Republican activists as they've described their view of the GOP primary. Certainly Romney does not spark excitement among the most conservative elements of the party. But concerns about Perry's candidacy have grown over the last few days, sparked in large part by Perry's debate performance. He doubled down on his position that children of illegal immigrants should receive in-state tuition in Texas, gave an incoherent answer on foreign policy for the second time in two debates, and stumbled badly over his words as he attempted to criticize Romney for flip-flopping.
Johnson, asked about Perry's comment that those who disagree with him on the immigration issue "don't have a heart," responded icily: "We don't need more arrogance from Texas."
His stance on immigration is just one of the issues hurting Perry; he is also getting hit by concerns over cronyism in Texas and by Romney's attacks on his Social Security comments.
Perry advisers tried to ignore questions about their candidate's troubles. When asked if the crowd in the ball room at an early hour was a sign that maybe talk of Perry's travails is overblown, his top strategist Dave Carney simply shook his head and walked away from reporters.
But it's clear that the main question about Perry now -- at the six-week mark of his campaign -- is whether he can survive the damage he has, in large part, inflicted on himself with a series of unforced errors.
"I came to this event leaning toward Mr. Perry. ... Now I don't have a leaning anymore," said Stepan Kira, a 63-year-old retired computer IT consultant from St. Augustine.
Bill Barnett, a 63-year-old retired aerospace engineer from Orlando, said he has found Perry's comments on Social Security "refreshing," because he agrees that the program needs to be reformed. But Barnett expressed concern that Perry may not be the Republican to run against Obama.
"We've got to make sure we don't pick a candidate that can't get the independents," Barnett said. "I'm ok with Rick Perry but I'm not the typical reporter. I'm a pretty far right, Tea Party kind of guy. I'm not the guy I'm worried about."
"I do have a little worry -- not personally because I share his values and views -- but I do worry that some of his social values might be so far to the right that we lose that vote in the middle."