The Texas governor softened his rhetoric if not his position on Social Security in a campaign debate Monday night, declining to repeat earlier statements questioning the program's constitutionality and likening it to a "Ponzi scheme."
Eight Republican presidential candidates are facing off in the Sunshine State on Monday night.
CNN and the Tea Party Express are sponsoring the two-hour forum. The Following GOP contenders are taking part in the event: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
A new CNN/ORC poll shows Perry running ahead of rival Republican candidates vying for the White House in 2012. The Texas governor made his debut on the presidential debate stage in California's first GOP primary debate of the election season last week.
Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold in Monday night's debate in Florida.
Rick Perry entered the Republican presidential race like a jackrabbit out of the West Texas prairie. He quickly hopped past longtime leader Mitt Romney, who was deliberately, step by step, inching his way toward the nomination he felt was his to win.Now, Romney's strategists are hoping that the former Massachusetts governor plays the tortoise to Rick Perry's hare, slowly and steadily working to win the long race while Perry zips into first and fades in the stretch.
A columnist for the South Carolina Post and Courier accused Governor Nikki Haley of stooping to a "condescending, catty low" for her comments about a female reporter from the same paper.
Haley recently came under fire for calling Post and Courier reporter Renee Dudley a "little girl" during an appearance on Laura Ingraham's radio show.
On air, the Republican governor was critical of an article written by Dudley about a weeklong trip Haley took to Europe, which was funded by the state's taxpayers. In reference to the reporter, she said "God bless that little girl at the Post and Courier. I mean her job is to try and create conflict. My job is to create jobs. In the end I'm going to have jobs to show for it."
The columnist, Melanie Balog, hit back at Haley for her personal attack on Dudley:
No working professional should ever demean another working professional like that.
Let alone in public.
Let alone on broadcast radio.
And especially, certainly, absolutely not the state's first female governor talking about another woman.
On Friday, Haley said she regretted the comment.
"The story painted a grossly inaccurate picture and was unprofessionally done, but my `little girl' comment was inappropriate and I regret that," Haley said. "Everyone can have a bad day. I'll forgive her bad story, if she'll forgive my poor choice of words."
WASHINGTON — Take a breather, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Florida is about to get into the Republican presidential race big time, starting with a televised debate Monday in Tampa and ending with an early primary in 2012 that conceivably could wrap up the nomination.
It's quite plausible that front-runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney could roughly divide the first four contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. If that happens, Florida could prove the virtual tie-breaker, a prize so big in a state so central to presidential elections that the loser might struggle to stay afloat.
"My guess is that Florida is going to be the big kahuna," said Brad Coker, a Florida-based pollster for Mason-Dixon who conducts surveys nationwide. Florida is much larger, diverse and expensive than the other four early-voting states, he said, and so it rewards the type of campaigning a Republican must do around the country to oust President Barack Obama in November 2012.
Of course, events over the next few months could upend that scenario. Perry, the Texas governor, or Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, might stumble. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann could revive her struggling campaign. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman might catch fire. A new candidate, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, might jump in.
Then there's the scheduling of those caucuses and primaries, which isn't set.
For now, campaign strategists assume Florida will be the fifth contest, as early as Jan. 31, and the first in a big state.
Florida Republicans don't follow presidential politics as intensely as do GOP activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nor do they expect one-on-one encounters with candidates.
When the nominating process rolls into Florida, "the days of the house parties are behind you," said Phil Musser, a former director of the Republican Governors Association and a frequent consultant in the state.
In the next two weeks, Florida Republicans will get ample attention, beginning with Monday night's two-hour debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express.
The forum will include the eight contenders who debated last week in California, where Perry made his national debut. Romney is almost certain to renew his criticisms of Perry for calling Social Security's funding structure "a Ponzi scheme."
The candidates also will have their first collective chance to dissect the jobs proposal that Obama outlined Thursday.
The Orlando debate starts off the three-day "Presidency 5" event where thousands of Florida Republicans will mingle, hear speeches and vote in a presidential straw poll.
Will Weatherford, incoming speaker of the Florida House, said many party donors and activists are on the sidelines for now, but the big weekend will give them a good long look at the contenders. "A lot of people will choose sides after that," he said.
In the last two competitive GOP primaries, Florida joined South Carolina to form a one-two Southern punch that essentially resolved disagreements in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In 2008, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa, but quickly faltered. Arizona Sen. John McCain captured the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, and then eliminated all doubt in Florida by beating Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani was embarrassed after pouring nearly all his money and hopes into Florida. The lesson, campaign strategists say, is that a candidate must build momentum in Iowa or New Hampshire to gain credibility in Florida.
Florida was even crueler to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who took 3 percent of the 2008 primary vote. Paul is running for president again.
In 2000, McCain carried New Hampshire after Texas Gov. George W. Bush won in Iowa. Bush overtook McCain in a brutal South Carolina contest, then crushed McCain in Florida and went on to win the presidency.
In the 2012 election's early and highly speculative stages, strategists see Iowa and South Carolina as potentially good fits for Perry, while Romney could do well in New Hampshire and Nevada.
Under that scenario, Florida "has the real chance to be the decider," Musser said. For now, he said, "it's very wide open."
Florida has large numbers of every type of Republican voter. They are spread hundreds of miles apart, in expensive media markets.
Unlike the other early-voting states, Florida's primary is open only to people who have been registered as Republicans for many weeks, barring independents from influencing the nomination.
"There's no question that the Republican base in Florida is very conservative," said Todd Harris, a veteran strategist aligned with the state's GOP senator, Marco Rubio. "But they are not nearly as uniform in ideology as the base in South Carolina or Iowa caucus-goers."
"Perry will feel at home, culturally and politically, in the Panhandle," Harris said. "Romney will probably do better in the critical Interstate 4 corridor," which is perhaps the state's most diverse and up-for-grabs region. It runs from Daytona Beach through Orlando and to Tampa.
Many other GOP constituencies also must be catered to. They include Cuban-Americans in Miami, Midwestern retirees on the Gulf coast, and New York retirees on the south Atlantic coast.
"We have the social, economic and racial diversity that some of the other early primary states don't have," Weatherford said. It forces candidates to spend more, travel more and stretch themselves in new ways, he said.
"You can't use the same speech in Dade County that you use in the Panhandle," Weatherford said. Miami is the largest city in that county.
Some Republicans think Perry may have hurt himself among Florida's retirees with his sharp criticisms of Social Security. Others, however, note that Rubio has included Social Security among programs that were "crafted without any thought as to how they will be funded in future years."
"Because it weakened our people and didn't take (into) account the simple math of not being able to spend more money than you have, it was destined to fail" and must be revised, Rubio said last month.
Coker said Rubio might catch less heat for such remarks because Floridians see him as deliberate and intellectual. Perry, he said, "was like a bull in a china shop."
"If you want to talk Social Security in Florida," Coker said, "you must talk softly."
He said it's too early to handicap the Florida primary, but Romney has a head start organizationally because of his efforts in 2008.
Party insiders say former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose father and brother were presidents, remains highly popular among Florida Republicans. His family in Texas reportedly has chilly relations with Perry, fueling speculation that Jeb Bush might endorse Romney.
Weatherford doubts it will happen. "He wants people to earn it," he said.
Rubio, the 40-year-old senator with strong ties to Cuban-Americans, tea partyers and others, also could deliver a helpful endorsement, but party activists don't think he will.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination might strongly consider Rubio as a running mate. He could help carry a state that repeatedly proves crucial in presidential elections, and one the GOP desperately wants to wrest from Obama next year.
Florida GOP: http://www.rpof.org
After President Barack Obama delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress on a new plan from his administration to create jobs, it didn't take long for Republicans running for their party's presidential nomination to react to the address.
Obama outlined his proposal to get Americans back to work as the nation's unemployment rate sits at 9.1 percent. Job creation and the state of the country's economy have been central issues for the field of GOP contenders vying for a chance to run against the president in 2012.
Below, a slideshow highlighting reaction from the Republican presidential candidates to Obama's speech. (Note: We will update this post with additional reaction as it is released.)
Gov. Rick Perry has drawn a lot of criticism for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” but the fact is that it bears more than a passing resemblance to one. In both cases earlier participants can only get their money back if new participants join; in both cases no wealth is actually created; in both cases the earlier participants get a better return than the later ones; and in both cases the system is unsustainable. But of course there are also differences. Ponzi schemes are run to make their originators a profit. The federal government is running Social Security at a loss that is set to increase.
And Social Security, unlike a Ponzi scheme, can be reformed to be made sustainable. Slow the growth of benefits sufficiently, for example, and the program’s fiscal gap will disappear. Its disincentive effect on saving, and on delaying retirement, would also diminish. But neither Governor Perry nor his principal critic, former governor Mitt Romney, has offered any specific proposals on Social Security, and both of them run the risk of setting back the cause of reform.
Keep reading this post . . .
Republican contenders for the presidential nomination Rick Perry and Mitt Romney sparred over jobs at a debate at the Reagan Library -- how many, what kind and who created them. The back-and-forth was full of stats and numbers, with Perry claiming his job-creation record as the Texas governor was superior to Romney's record as Massachusetts governor. And if that's wasn't enough, Perry said Romney's record was even worse than a Democrat's. "Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt," Perry jabbed. We decided to fact-check whether Perry's attack was ...>> More
In their attacks on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the new front-runner for the Republican nomination for president, Democrats are taking aim at his record on education. Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, criticized Perry's record on high school graduation rates. "Since Perry became governor, Texas has gone from 46th in the country to 50th in the population that graduates from high school," Buckley charged in an August 17, 2011 interview with The Telegraph of Nashua. Buckley is not the first Democrat to take swings at Texas’ education ...>> More
Forty-seven is a number that could disrupt Mitt Romney’s campaign.
During his tenure as governor from 2003 to 2007, Massachusetts ranked 47th among states for job creation. He’s running on his ability to turn around the flailing economy and boost employment, so this is a statistic that appeals enormously to his opponents.
Keep reading this post . . .
During the Sept. 7, 2011, Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman tried to burnish his economic credentials. Taking a swipe at Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican presidential candidate, Huntsman said, "I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the No. 1 job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent." We decided to check whether Huntsman was right -- and ...>> More