Tales from the Trail

Republican presidential primaries leaving African American voters cold

Some Republicans have talked about building a broader coalition as they fight Democratic President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election this year. But so far at least, they seem to be making no inroads in attracting black voters to back the party’s candidates in the primary race for the nomination to oppose the first African-American U.S. president in November.

The two Southern states that held Republican primaries on March 13, Alabama and Mississippi, are among those with the largest black populations – as a percentage of the total – of any in the United States. Mississippi, which is 37 percent black, is number one, and Alabama, at 26.2 percent, is sixth.

But according to CNN’s exit polls, only two percent of the voters in each state on Tuesday were black, a number so low that their support for any of the Republican presidential candidates registered as N/A — too small to register a preference. As John Nichols points out in The Nation, the results have been similar in other states that have held primaries so far. South Carolina, for example, is 27.9 percent black but had a 1 percent black voter turnout in the Republican primary, and in Michigan, which is 14.2 percent black, 2 percent of voters in the Republican primary were black.

African Americans account for 12.6 percent of the overall U.S. population, and supported Obama by a 96 percent to 4 percent margin in 2008 as he won the White House.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the party would stress its economic message as the 2012 campaign continues.

Elizabeth Warren recalls Girl Scouts armed with sharp knives

Monday is the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts of the USA, an organization that has made it their mission to help young girls develop their full potential. So what better way to mark the occasion for Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, than a fund-raising solicitation?

Democrat Warren, who is in a close race with Republican Scott Brown, reminisced in a note to supporters about the days when her daughter and some-time collaborator Amelia Warren Tyagi was a Brownie and Warren was a troop leader.

“When the girls were about eight, we decided to do a several-week project on cooking, culminating in each team of girls making an awesome mac-and-cheese. And the girls made other masterpieces: jello-with-canned-fruit, pancakes, biscuits, and barbecue sauce,” said the Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration official.

Romney goes after the South Pacific vote

If Republican Mitt Romney is playing his “away game” in the southern United States this weekend, his son Matt is playing the “really, really away” game as he looks to prop up his dad’s support in the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, which hold their caucuses on Saturday. Romney is truly leaving no delegate unturned in his quest for the magic 1,144 needed to clinch his party’s nomination.

Matt (the second oldest Romney son, said to be known within family circles as “the smart one”) attended a lunch on Friday with the Northern Marianas Republican leadership on the island of Saipan, and on Saturday will hold a meet-and-greet and address caucus-goers at the Sheraton Hotel in Tamuning, Guam.

Matt’s winter junket evidently stirred up some sibling rivalry. Tagg, the oldest Romney son, said on Twitter: “Matt pulls all the tough assignments. Check him and wife Laurie out in this photo in the N Mariana Islands.” Tagg’s hometown of Boston is forecast to be 42F on Saturday, so Tamuning, at 86F and sunny, would presumably sound intriguing.

Newt’s home field advantage was among the weakest

Newt Gingrich faces some do-or-die primary contests in Dixie, his supposed home turf, over the next few days. Alabama and Mississippi hold their respective Republican primaries on Tuesday with Gingrich, the former U.S. House Speaker, and former Senator Rick Santorum expected to compete for, and potentially split, the conservative/evangelical vote.

Gingrich, though, didn’t do that well on his actual home turf – Georgia – during the Super Tuesday contests. Sure, the former history and geography professor at the University of West Georgia and 20-year representative of the state’s 6th Congressional district won 47.2 percent of the Republican vote in the Peachtree State. But according to political scientist Eric Ostermeier, that was one of the worst home-state primary performances by a Republican in decades.

Ostermeier, from the Humphrey School’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, writes the blog Smart Politics, which plumbs the political data for noteworthy facts and trends.

Romney’s religion still an issue for many Republicans

Mitt Romney might be looking to open up an unassailable lead over rival Rick Santorum in the 10 “Super Tuesday” nominating contests, but he still faces questions among many of his fellow Republicans about his Mormon religion, according to recent NBC/Marist poll results.

NBC/Marist found that large numbers of Republicans voters — a range of 37 to 44 percent — in two of the states holding primaries on March 6 – Ohio and Virginia – and others that voted last week - Michigan and Arizona  – do not believe that Mormons are Christians, or are unsure whether they are.

The percentages were the same in Virginia, Ohio and Michigan, where 44 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they did not believe that Mormons are Christians or were not sure, and 56 percent said they do believe a Mormon is a Christian, according to the polls. Polling was done in all of the states before they held their primaries.

Super Tuesday cheat sheet

Which Super Tuesday contests are primaries, and which are caucuses? How many delegates does each state award, and what time do the polls close? What is the latest polling in each state? Here’s a primer to help you make sense of today’s Republican nominating contests:

GEORGIA Delegate count: 76 Type: Primary Polls close: 7pm ET Latest polling

Gingrich 44.4%
Romney 23.8%
Santorum 17.4%
Paul 8%
Source: RealClearPolitics average (3/1 – 3/4)

OHIO Delegate count: 66 Type: Primary Polls close: 7:30pm ET Latest polling

Romney: 33.9%
Santorum: 32.7%
Gingrich: 16.4%
Paul: 11.3%
Source: RealClearPolitics average (3/1 – 3/4)

The 99 percent comes out to protest Romney in Seattle

Republican Mitt Romney has rarely faced a critical mass of protesters during his months-long campaign for the White House. But then, he doesn’t often visit the Left Coast. And protesters were out in force in Seattle on Thursday night when Romney held a fundraiser at a civic center in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle, attended by the local political establishment and well-heeled locals.

The complex holding the event also contained the upscale “Shops at the Bravern” mall. After the event fund-raisers could have slipped out to pick up a few items at Hermes, Louis Vuitton or Jimmy Choo.

About 100 protesters turned up for a spirited but peaceful demonstration with signs, props and inventive chants, including some of those who have participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement. A cardboard cutout of the candidate was on the scene, holding a sign that said “Of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent.” Various protesters were dressed as buildings to illustrate Romney’s “corporations are people” meme.

Rick Santorum makes appeal to women, new campaign strategy?

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum hailed the influence of strong, independent women on Tuesday night, a turnaround from his past statements that critics have called sexist or anti-women.

In a concession speech given just as rival Mitt Romney won the Republican presidential primaries of Arizona and Michigan, Santorum took the chance to tell voters “a little more about who Rick Santorum is” and sang the praises of his 93-year-old grandmother, his wife Karen, a former lawyer who gave up work to raise their family, and their daughter Elizabeth who campaigns for her dad on her own.

“I grew up with a very strong mom, someone who was a professional person who taught me a lot of things about… balancing work and family, and doing it well, and doing it with a big heart and commitment,” he said.

Pro-Gingrich Super PAC hits Romney in new ad

Winning Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, is back at it again — animated advertising, that is.

The Super PAC has been on something of a TV hiatus since Gingrich’s stunning South Carolina win in late January, in part because it appeared to be running out of money. The group has been almost exclusively funded by Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who we now know wrote a new “substantial” check to the group a few days ago.

The money is in part funding three new ads, one of which brings back the cartoon rendering of Romney and Obama we met in the Super PAC’s first animated creation in January.

Santorum, Paul voters turn out at one Phoenix poll

Mitt Romney may be leading in the polls in Arizona, but a clutch of voters who turned out early on a blustery morning at a school in central Phoenix favored Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

“Some of the other candidates might be too much of a Slick Rick. Santorum plays the game the way I like it,” said Sarah Moran, who works in business development. “He comes across as a little bit more real and in touch than Romney.”

Citing his support for Israel, contractor Rand Vogel said he voted for Santorum — and said he did not trust Romney.