President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed home troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, home of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Army’s rapid reaction airborne corps, on Wednesday as the Iraq War at last draws to a close.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN.
** QUICK HITS. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presided today in Baghdad over a flag lowering and encasement of the colors ceremony which formally marked the end of America’s Iraq War. The veteran California political figure declared the war over, saying that the US looks forward to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq.” He thanked the more than one million troops who served there since a US-dominated “coalition of the willing” force invaded Iraq on March 20th, 2003. … In a fiery talk opening his climate change conference today in San Francisco, Governor Jerry Brown denounced the Republican Party and libertarian interests as greenhouse deniers and promoters of “cult-like behavior” designed to lead “political lemmings” over a cliff. … In an appearance this afternoon at the Brown conference, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he is “proud” of Brown as his successor. He urged a positive, conciliatory approach of inclusiveness with regard to climate change. He also noted that, while it was exciting to be there, it “was also weird, in a way.” Since just the day before he was filming in New Mexico on his new movie, The Last Stand, “slamming a guy’s head into a bridge.”
NOTE: With some technical and travel issues, publishing is less frequent than usual at the moment.
** NEW POLL: GINGRICH STRONG WITH MOST RELIABLE REPUBLICAN VOTERS. I’m seeing some erosion in former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s huge leads over former frontrunner Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential field.
But Gingrich does have something going for him that may be a decisive contrary factor. He is strong with the people most likely to vote in the Republican primaries.
A new Gallup Poll survey indicates that Gingrich runs much better than Romney and the rest with the highest propensity Republican voters.
They tend to be the oldest voters, and are thus the ones who have clear memories of his stint as the Republican leader who led the party in from the wilderness in the 1990s.
One of the things I find most interesting about the situation is that Gingrich is both a classic “trend candidate,” as I call someone who is intriguing and hot in the media, and a “settled candidate,” as I call someone who appeals to a party bedrock.
Gingrich is the insurgent in this scenario while Romney is the establishmentarian. But unlike most establishment frontrunner, Romney does not have a strong call on the actual voters who usually underlie that establishment’s hold on a party.
Thus Romney is in the awkward position of having to rely on lower information/lower propensity voters who are usually attracted to the flashy trend candidate. Which is why trend candidates often do not win.
Newt Gingrich’s current lead in Republican preferences for the GOP presidential nomination is largely attributable to particularly high support from the types of Republicans who might be expected to turn out heavily in the upcoming primaries — older Republicans and core identifiers with the Republican Party. Roughly 40% of Republicans aged 55 and older as well as core Republicans (as opposed to independents who lean Republican) and conservatives currently favor Gingrich for the nomination. This contrasts with 21% to 23% of each group backing Mitt Romney. …
Gingrich also leads Romney among those 35 to 54 years of age. Romney leads among young Republicans, aged 18 to 34, but, at 26%, is only slightly ahead of Gingrich and Ron Paul among this group, with both receiving close to 20%.
The significance of the older, more Republican-oriented nature of Gingrich’s support base is that these groups traditionally turn out to vote at higher rates than their younger, more independent counterparts. This is reflected in the self-reported “thought” that various subgroups of Republicans currently say they are giving to the presidential election. According to USA Today/Gallup polling conducted Dec. 6-7, 83% of Republicans aged 55 and older say they have given quite a lot or some thought to the election, almost twice the level recorded among those aged 18 to 34 (45%).
** JERRY BROWN PULLS A TRIGGER, INVOKES ROME, AND FOCUSES ON CLIMATE AND INITIATIVES. Governor Jerry Brown is in the midst of a very consequential week, pulling the trigger on mid-year “trigger” cuts in the state budget, hosting a major conference on climate change, and dealing with 2012 initiative politics. He also commented for the first time on the Occupy Wall Street movement, drawing an historical parallel to Rome.
As long expected, Brown on Tuesday found himself having to pull the trigger on mid-fiscal year budget cuts occasioned by lower than forecast California state revenues. But for less than feared following a report last month by the Legislative Analyst Office. …
“America will have a hard time functioning if the inequality continues,” he said. “But reversing it in the face of globalization and technological innovation will be very difficult.”
Then the old UC Berkeley classics major harkened back to the history underlying his Latin education.
“In Rome there was the old fight between the aristocrats and the plebeians,” he noted. “It took a few hundred years for Rome to fall apart.”
Brown had just gotten some very good news from the latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll. His tax initiative plan is favored by nearly two-thirds of California voters.
Brown’s job approval rating is at 46%, the expected range it’s been in essentially since shortly after his election. Good enough for this political environment, and better than anyone else, though less than it could have been.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval rating in this poll a year ago was at 32%, a recovery from the low 20s where it had been early in the summer. And higher than the oft cited 23%, which is from a late summer Field Poll. …
I believe, based on discussions I had last week and the week before with well-placed sources among the potential initiative promoters, that the field will begin to clear. I expect the Think Long Committee of billionaires and former officeholders to avoid going to head to head with Brown’s initiative. As I’ve pointed out, Think Long can’t win next November with its plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy and large corporations and extends the sales tax to all manner of services. …
Schwarzenegger, who last week won the Renewable Energy Leader of the Decade award from the American Council on Renewable Energy, had been mentioned as a likely attendee at the UN climate summit, but did not go. He didn’t go to the UN climate summit last year in Cancun, Mexico, either.
He was last at the annual climate summit in 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was a cobbled-together vague semi-success where Schwarzenegger announced that he would form the R20 group of subnational governments around the world to work on renewable energy and climate change issues.
The Brown conference’s setting, a wonderful facility founded just a few years after the California Gold Rush in the middle of the 19th century, when Brown’s ancestors came to the Golden State, is fitting for this governor who is a fan of H.G. Wells. …
Reality seldom matched predictions as the massive US intervention in Iraq unfolded.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then delivered a statement at a We Can’t Wait event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Obama and Biden then had lunch in the Private Dining Room.
Obama got some good economic news today in the form of the lowest unemployment claims in the past few years.
Could there, perhaps, hopefully, be something of a trend of better news emerging?
On Tuesday, Obama got some good news in the form of increased retail sales for the sixth month in a row.
While Obama has a quiet day after several days of focus on the end of the long-running Iraq War, his would-be Republican rivals gear up for the final debate before the January 3rd Iowa caucuses.
That’s tonight, from 6 PM to 8 PM Pacific on Fox News.
Former frontrunner Mitt Romney has dropped the pose of only a few days ago that he knows nothing about any attacks on frontrunner Newt Gingrich.
Instead, he’s lodging more himself, today describing the former House Speaker as a “zany historian.”
Romney also launched a new TV which extols him as an economic leader and job creator, something the Democrats very hotly dispute given his corporate takeover background, and poses the funding as government programs as a “moral choice” involving borrowing money from China. Thus tapping into deep anxiety about the rise of China in the conservative base.
Romney raised big money from his Wall Street backers on Wednesday during a series of fundraisers in New York City.
For his part, zany historian Gingrich — who actually led the Republicans to power in 1994, ending a 40-year Democratic dominance of the House, helping balance the federal budget, and impeaching President Bill Clinton — stayed mostly positive today.
He gets to try to fend off his challengers tonight from all sides, as he did so successfully last Saturday night in Des Moines.
As attacks mount, from Romney and his superPAC, Ron Paul, and Rick Perry, the underfunded Gingrich campaign may have an emerging ace in the hole. That is a “super-Pac” of its own.
Las Vegas mogul Sheldon Adelson is reportedly planning to spend $20 million, perhaps through “Winning Our Future.” The problem for Gingrich is that I’m saying perhaps, because there are at least three pro-Newt super-PACs floating around out there, which may make organization chaotic.
And while the superPAC situation is a big joke, with all but the most blatant coordination illegal, it will take some adroit maneuvering to make it clear where the money should go.
Obama is monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Iraq is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in San Francisco.
He is hosting his all-day conference on climate change at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a last minute addition to the program, which includes UN climate chief Dr. Ravendra Pachauri, a Nobel Prize winner, and Sir Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group.
Since I first reported it and discussed it in October, the conference has had relatively little play in the run-up to it, with information coming late and in sketchy form.
If you Google “Jerry Brown climate” you will find my latest Huffington Post piece at the top of the page, and the conference is only one of several aspects of the article.
California Democratic Party chairman John Burton says he will promote an oil severance tax initiative for the November 2012 ballot.
California is the only major oil producing state without such a tax.
Is this a problem for Brown’s initiative plans, which hinge in part on there not being a plethora of competing tax initiatives on the ballot?
Perhaps. But perhaps not so much.
Burton’s oil tax would be a levy on one industry, an unpopular industry at that. Other potential initiatives are broader levies on large numbers of voters.
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! They said it was going to be a joint rumble against new frontrunner Newt Gingrich, a veritable dogpile in Des Moines. But the ex-House speaker showed that he is the smartest guy on the stage, that stage. And that all those years of honing his media chops on C-SPAN and his study of media dynamics underlie the game changer in this race.
In contrast, Mitt Romney, as I suggested in my piece yesterday on the Huffington Post, “Newtonian Motion: Action Begets Flawed Reaction,” revealed live and in person that he really doesn’t know how to get after Gingrich. And that he is a guy who doesn’t realize that slick and shallow only works in a commercial.
Media skills were dominant in this debate, and Gingrich has them. He parried every attack from every direction, and turned some of them to his decided advantage. And then there was Romney. Remind me, where did people get the idea he’s a good debater? From “debates,” really joint appearances, in which, oddly, no one asked him tough questions, perhaps? … From my December 11th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: ACTION BEGETS FLAWED REACTION. Mitt Romney sure doesn’t think Newt Gingrich is a “flavor of the month.” The ex-speaker’s Newtonian motion has propelled him into polling leads in all the state polls I’ve seen except for New Hampshire, and he’s closing there. So Gingrich’s action has sparked a strenuous reaction. … From my December 10th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: IN IOWA, A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN FOUR WEEKS. … From my December 6th column.
** JERRY BROWN AND THE 2012 INITIATIVE WARS. … From my December 3rd feature.
** ALTERNEWT: GINGRICH “ALTERNATE HISTORY” NOVELS REVEAL MUCH ON PRESENT POLITICS. … From my December 1st essay.
** A SUBLIME AND RIDICULOUS DAY: MARS MISSION AND AFPAK DEBACLE. … From my November 28th essay.
** SOUND AND FURY: THE UTTERLY UNSURPRISING “SUPER-COMMITTEE” FLOP. … From my November 22nd essay.
** DARWINIAN: OBAMA GOES POST-IRAQ IN OZ, REPUBLICANS RACE TO THE PAST. … From my November 21st essay.
** ALI, FRAZIER, JACKSON, STALLONE: OF IMAGE, RACE, POLITICS, AND MYTH. … From my November 16th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $94 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $60 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down $20 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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