Monday, January 30, 2012

Ron Paul – Freeport Town Square Rally

View the complete gallery from Ron Paul's campaign rally in Freeport, Maine in a full-screen slide show here.

RonPaulFreeportCR-5163 RonPaulFreeportCR-4967 RonPaulFreeportCR-5175

Ron Paul – Alfred Town Hall

View the complete gallery from Ron Paul's campaign event at the Alfred Town Hall in a full-screen slide show here.

Ron Paul and the Maine Flag RonPaulAlfredCR-5446

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ron Paul – USM Gorham Campaign Visit

View the complete gallery from Ron Paul's campaign event at the University of Southern Maine at Gorham in a full-screen slide show here.

RonPaulUMGorhamCR-4685 RonPaulUMGorhamCR-4613

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ron Paul – Colby College Campaign Stop

View the complete gallery from the campaign event in a full-screen slide show here.

Ron Paul Presents with his Hands

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Romney's Positivity Problem


I take issue with Romney's "general election" primary strategy.

I sympathize with Governor Romney's opponents, and am compelled to voice the criticism they've chosen not to: that Romney has hardly earned the right to overlook Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul (as well as Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry previously) – all viable opponents — merely on account of his fund-raising ability and "organizational superiority."

So what was Mitt's answer in Thursday's debate when asked about his one regret from the election so far?
I guess I also would go back and take every moment I spent talking about one of the guys on the stage, and spent that time talking about Barack Obama, because -- (cheers, applause) -- the truth is that Barack Obama is just way over his head.
While his campaign stump speech sours with incessant repetition, Romney wants most to double down. How much do the American people want that? Probably about as little as they want Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee.

Voters in Florida weren't begging to hear from Mitt Romney before the other candidates, but Romney rolled out his campaign 'product' there on television weeks in advance of his opponents. His unwavering sales pitch, once effective and necessary in helping to increase his brand awareness around the country, seems with each passing speech to embody that instant response-o-meter type calculation, in which his every public utterance is hedged and noncommittal. Instead of risking anything in the hopes of scoring a winning moment (see: Gingrich), Romney takes his cues from others.


Romney ought to do more than turn to the crowd and hope they'll sense the inherent absurdity of "assaulting capitalism," as he feels Gingrich is doing — but it's unlikely crowds of displeased Republican voters will do this in the face of Newt's winning rhetoric. Romney should have stood by his decision to delay releasing his tax records like other candidates (such as Hillary Clinton) who did so by sticking to their guns and only doing so on their own terms. Following South Carolina, the word on the street is that Romney's vocal supporters were displeased with his inability to signal what his ultimate decision would be on the tax record issue. Instead of receiving a consistent message from the campaign and Romney himself, his surrogates were forced to offer recommendations about what they would do in Romney's shoes. That's hardly making life easy for your political supporters, as Romney's supposedly robust and competent campaign organization should be able to do.

Speaking on Fox News last weekend, Mike Huckabee addressed Romney's glaring inability to commit to a position on releasing his tax returns in the face of increasing pressure: "He's got to have the answer, and deliver it with strength." Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot and an ardent supporter of Romney was also on Fox, playing off any criticisms of the candidate and instead citing Romney's marvelously-organized campaign as a testament to his leadership ability and the reason why the American people should support him.


Even those elected officials among Romney's supporters seem to offer strangely-justified praise for the candidate, and occasionally unhelpful campaign advice. Recent endorser Bob McDonnell, the promising and affable governor of Virginia, cites Romney's ground game and ability to "go the long haul" as the reason he broke for Romney this week, while Chris Christie seems to enjoy the prospect of added national exposure and a potential VP nod. The two men have also called on Romney to release his tax returns sooner rather than later.

These admirers of Romney ignore the fact that his general election opponent will run a far better campaign with the organizational ability that only the power of the Presidency can provide. On top of this, Obama has the added benefit of presenting a strong, consistent message across an entire ideological front. Romney may walk up to perfectly-positioned podiums with scripted backdrops of flashy campaign busses or American flags flanking him from all angles, but when he opens his mouth the gulf between his campaign's slick functioning or big name political friends and his personal inability to close the deal on his sales pitch reveals itself.

With the dynamics of the race having changed dramatically from what looked like a three-for-three string of Romney victories earlier this week to a disappointing one-for-three record after South Carolina, Mitt finds himself in a trap: now would be a great time for him to throw some punches and express even a minor chord of outrage at the prospect that Republicans are on the verge of passing him up for Newt Gingrich, but his long streak of being composed in the face of attacks and upbeat in response to challenges facing his candidacy have likely pigeonholed him into again putting his typical positive spin on what could be a very disappointing defeat in Florida next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newt's Single File Lines vs. Mitt's Frantic Stage Rush

In the face of attacks, Gingrich presents a more palatable, humble campaign appearance to the public.

Monday, January 23, 2012

South Carolina and Youth Involvement [VIDEO]

South Carolina is behind us, and while the video above could be seen as well-worn in an era of instantaneous impressions and ADHD punditry, I find some of the things I didn't realize myself saying last Friday surprisingly relevant.

Even among students in a state whose college's have had a recent reputation as among the least politically-active in the country, there were certain signs emerging last week that portended the surprising result seen in Newt Gingrich's resounding victory in Saturday's primary.

With college Republican leaders affiliating themselves and involving themselves with the Gingrich campaign, there are signs that the Romney campaign is, across the board, less able or willing to accommodate young voices and talent into its operation. For Newt Gingrich to be successful going forward, he'll need volunteers to make the case for why he's uniquely qualified to be the Republican nominee at this confusing juncture in American politics.

Mitt Romney desperately needs to reinvigorate his own candidacy, while Newt Gingrich will have to count on trusted individuals within myriad constituencies across the country to sell his often controversial brand to fellow voters and overcome whatever perceived "negatives" he already has and will to continue to rack up.

If what I witnessed in South Carolina is any indication of how the race is trending for the coming weeks, Gingrich will have an easier time accomplishing his necessary task.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich – South Carolina Victory Rally

View the complete gallery from the Hilton Hotel rally in a full-screen slide show here.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mitt Romney – Irmo Rally

View the complete gallery from the campaign stop in a full-screen slide show here.

RomneyIrmoRallyCR-1309 RomneyIrmoRallyCR-1223 RomneyIrmoRallyCR-0812 RomneyIrmoRallyCR-0929

Rick Santorum – USS Yorktown Town Hall

View the complete gallery from the campaign stop in a full-screen slide show here. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Imminent "Sincerity Backlash" Against Romney? Not Yet.

COLUMBIA, S.C.—The sincerity backlash against Mitt Romney won't hit between now and Saturday, and it's only taken me a few hours on the ground here in South Carolina to realize this. 

I concede that a widespread rejection of Mitt Romney's character can't be ruled out down the road—whether on Super Tuesday or later, or perhaps as early as Florida—but despite Romney's candidacy being under siege from all angles, these attacks have yet to shake up the race.

What exactly do I mean by a "sincerity backlash?"


The effect of victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire for Romney has been in some ways to cast  doubt in the minds of those voters who have in essence certified his authenticity with a vote. After speaking with unenthusiastic New Hampshire voters the morning after Romney's January 10th victory, I sensed quite palpably a distinct possibility that certain substantial voting blocs in the months ahead would not be so willing to validate Romney the way they had.

Romney's "thousand yard stare" candidacy—in which he has largely overlooked his most prominent opponents and instead focused on Barack Obama—is an effort to delay the inevitable face-to-face confrontation and necessary reconciliation between Romney and the Republican base that needs to occur in order for him to galvanize core constituencies (he must do more than merely receive their wimpy blessing) and win a general election.

Could Romney be doing more than pretending to overlook his opponents, and in fact be saving the big reveal of his true political hand until a more opportune moment? I didn't think so at first, but with time Romney has been able to gradually let voters know more about his involvement with Bain Capital—delving into factual "specifics" about certain of his corporate clients and subsequent job loss/creation statistics—which I believe frustrated Americans will by and large appreciate, despite their inability to comprehend the majority of what's at stake in the execution of private equity transactions. Outside of his personal record and attempts to frame it in a positive light, there are also external factors that are beginning to look up for Romney.


Regardless of his small support through the first two contests of this year, Jon Huntsman's exit from the race yesterday does remove a significant moral thorn in Romney's side, and is no minor development as some commentators long-skeptical of Huntsman contend.

Taking Huntsman's criticisms out of the public discourse changes the breadth of the criticisms against Romney, and it's doubtful any of Romney's remaining four challengers can appear credible echoing Huntsman's "trust deficit" argument that had finally begun to catch on in the waning days of the New Hampshire Primary campaign.

My guess is that Jon Huntsman could also see a bit of what's so clear to me now: Huntsman's attacks against Mitt Romney stood to be the most damning in the long run, while also serving to have the least benefit for the man doing the attacking. In these terms, the suspension of Huntsman's campaign isn't such a big surprise, and Huntsman is wise to let Romney (presumably) lose on his own, without Huntsman racking up too many negative impressions with voters with the months of anti-Mitt advertising he would have needed to revive his own candidacy.


On the flip side, could Huntsman's announcement instead energize conservatives and prompt newfound and united backlash against the evermore presumptive nominee? I'm sure the four candidates dueling for second-place in South Carolina would like to think so, but I find it unlikely they'll have much success. Unless Rick Perry chooses to abandon his campaign—which it seems he should, but won't until he can finish in last place in at least one more state and thereby force more previously-committed voters to shift their supportthe the slow sell of the undesired Mitt Romney is likely to continue.

Yesterday's Myrtle Beach GOP Debate produced a number of highlights, especially for Newt Gingrich, but barring a victory for him this coming Saturday, Romney survives to lose another day by further postponing the buyer's remorse it seemed his early success would so surely generate. As the odds decrease of a dramatic rejection of Romney in a meaningful early primary state, the likelihood only increases that distaste for his candidacy and skepticism about his character will manifest itself in the general election, when Republicans can least afford it, not in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

To the Palmetto State

Four years ago this month I had concluded my 2008 New Hampshire Primary and Iowa Caucus coverage, and wrote that the dynamics of the upcoming South Carolina Primary were unfolding in a state that I "knew nothing about."

This year I'm still unsure exactly what the political climate is like down south, but tomorrow I begin six days of coverage based out of Columbia, South Carolina in an effort to get to the bottom of what may be the last state for the anti-Romney squad of GOP candidates to make a stand.

There are a few leads I plan to follow in the coming week:

1) I will be meeting with Young Republican and Young Democrat associations at a number of South Carolina universities to gauge how both parties are courting the 18-25 demographic that so overwhelming supported Barack Obama and helped put him over the top last election. If this is you, please write me and I'll see if I can swing by to chat politics. 

2) I will be visiting certain counties hit particularly hard by the economic downturn to determine how effective the attacks against front runner Mitt Romney's corporate history at Bain play with voters. Are negative ads the way for the Gingrich/Paul/Perry/Santorum/Huntsman pack to stand out to voters, or are more positive messages and an emphasis on personal character the way to draw the contrasts with Romney that will be necessary for any one of those men to gain momentum?

3) As always, my eyes will be peeled and ready to pick out any compelling sights for photo opportunities. I know where to look in Iowa and New Hampshire, but South Carolina is unfamiliar ground for me. Again, drop me a line if you know of a unique spot off the beaten path deserving of some exposure. I will be crisscrossing the state for six consecutive days, and I love detours.

I look forward to sharing my South Carolina experiences and photos here and on Twitter in the run up to Saturday's vote. See you soon!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Proud Display: Primary Day Campaign Signs

With the sun setting on New Hampshire's January 10 primary election day, I cruised around the residential neighborhoods on the west side of Manchester to document some of the campaign signs displayed in front yards and at the local polling station.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Packing Up

I'm slowly packing up my belongings here in Manchester, New Hampshire and will soon begin the task of piecing together all of my work from over 75 events of Iowa and New Hampshire campaign coverage into a handful of articles and retrospective slide shows.

Until then, here are some photos from Jon Huntsman's reception in Manchester last night following his third place finish in the primary:

HuntsmanNHPrimaryReceptionCR-8985 HuntsmanNHPrimaryReceptionCR-9033 HuntsmanNHPrimaryReceptionCR-9093