Forget Iowa, Wyoming is first in the nation to vote!

A campaign blog.
Sept. 28 2007 6:01 PM

Who Invited Wyoming?

Forget Iowa, Wyoming is first in the nation to vote!

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Who Invited Wyoming?:This weekend, three Republicans will campaign in the state that, for now, will be the first in the country to vote for the GOP nominee. No, they're not going to Iowa. They're flying out to Wyoming.

Twelve of Wyoming's 28 Republican National Convention delegates will be chosen on Jan. 5, which as of right now puts them ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. But Wyoming doesn't hold a caucus or a primary. Instead, they're a convention state, so they elect delegates who make their affiliations known from the get-go. When you vote for the delegate you want to go to the convention, you're also voting for the candidate to whom he's pledged his support. Four months later, on May 30, they elect the remainder of the convention delegates.

This is the first time Wyoming is electing delegates this early. Originally, the plan was to vote on the same day as New Hampshire's primary, but vote-lust got the better of the state and they bumped it up to Jan. 5. (State law forbids that the election take place in 2007.) The Democrats, meanwhile, are still stuck in the middle of the pack, voting March 8.

Wyoming's under-the-radar importance has attracted only three Republicans to this weekend's presidential forums in Casper and Riverton. Fred Thompson, Sam Brownback, and Duncan Hunter will make their pitches to prospective delegates and the general public, but the rest of their colleagues are sitting this one out.

Posted by Chadwick Matlin,Sept. 28, 6:01 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Folk the War on Terror!:Mike Huckabee cracked four jokes in a row before he even started a wide-ranging speech at a think tank in Washington today. First he made fun of himself, then his religion, then the audience, and finally made a crack about O.J. Simpson. This, by the way, was during a speech about how Huckabee was planning on stopping terrorists from killing Americans.

The press has been hyping Huckabee's sense of humor since his strong finish in the Ames Straw Poll back in August. But as his speech progressed his humor wasn't what stood out, it was his folksiness. Huckabee's proposals sounded wholesome—rather than deadly, dour, and desperate—because he kept weaving analogies into his hard-line stances.

Huckabee used more than a half dozen analogies while saying he wants to keep troops in Iraq, launch surgical strikes in Pakistan (which sounded strangely similar to a certain Democrat's plan), and beef up the number of troops in our military. Some samples: America is like a neighborhood kid who has been gloating about how easy life is for him; Islamic fundamentalism is like an explosion—the terrorist leadership is the spark, the oppressed lower class is the fuel, and the middle class is the firewall; al-Qaida in Iraq is like a branch office, while the corporate headquarters are in Pakistan.

Huckabee runs the risk of having his folksy touches imply he doesn't take terrorism and Iraq seriously. But Huckabee is purposely running a different type of Republican campaign than his opponents. He waited 40 minutes to talk about Democrats and then mentioned them only twice, casually saying they were taking the wrong approach on Iraq. When he brought up his faith in Gen. David Petraeus, he didn't touch upon MoveOn.org. He railed against the administration for not having more troops on the ground after the initial invasion of Iraq, using the same examples as the left-leaning documentary No End in Sight. Huckabee told me his tactics are working thus far, promising his best fund-raising total yet when the quarter ends on Sunday.

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Posted by Chadwick Matlin,Sept. 28, 5:18 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Name That Tour:  If you don't already know a candidate's weak spot, just look at his or her campaign tour name. The Obama campaign just announced a four-day "Judgment and Experience" tour. What are some other artless, hit-you-over-the-head tour names we're likely to see?

Fred Thompson's "Hardworkin' Man" tour
Rudy Giuliani's "Marital Stability" tour
John McCain's "Forever Young" tour
Mike Gravel's "The Meds Are Working" tour
Joe Biden's "Listening" tour
Bill Richardson's "Born Gay" tour
Ron Paul's "If Blogs Could Vote" tour
John Edwards' "Keep Your Filthy Money" tour
Hillary Clinton's "Human Emotions" tour
Mitt Romney's "Straight Talk Express"

Got more? Suggest them here.

Posted by Christopher Beam,Sept. 28, 4:36 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Invisible Men: Last night's no-shows at the GOP forum at Morgan State University in Baltimore have by now been thoroughly slammed. The candidates who did show denounced their colleagues, with Sam Brownback calling their absence a "disgrace." Newt Gingrich and former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman criticized the front-runners for appearing not to care about minority voters. Not even Tavis Smiley, the forum's host, was smiling.

The real problem, though, is that the primary season inherently marginalizes African-American voters. A recently leaked Romney campaign memo reiterated the importance of Iowa and New Hampshire—two overwhelmingly white states. If the GOP campaigns are focused mainly on winning those two contests, there's no way they'd want to sacrifice a key day of third-quarter fund raising for a debate that won't have much effect on their chances for the nomination.

Just look at the likely primary schedule (as estimated by Marc Ambinder). Next to each state I've added its African-American population as a percentage of total population:

Jan. 5:  Iowa caucuses – 2.1 percent

Jan. 8:  New Hampshire primary – 0.7 percent

Jan. 12: Nevada caucuses – 6.8 percent

Jan. 15 Michigan primary – 14.2 percent

Jan. 19: South Carolina primary – 29.5 percent

Jan. 29: Florida primary – 14.6 percent
(Source: 2000 Census [PDF])

You can see why courting black voters simply isn't on the Republican front-runners' primary agenda. Especially this election season, when the Democratic field has particular appeal to African-Americans.

Of course, things change during the general election. Both parties have to think nationally. White-as-snow states have less leverage. And when that time comes, those empty lecterns are likely to come back to haunt the GOP nominee.

Posted by Christopher Beam,Sept. 28, 12:33 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Nader Baiters: Rumors of a Ralph Nader 2008 presidential run started swirling again this week when a pair of ads went up on Craigslist sites for Iowa and New Hampshire, asking for organizers and interns for the "Ralph Nader Democratic Caucus Campaign Draft Committee." (The NH ad has since been taken down.) A bunch of blogs picked it up as a sign of a potential campaign or, more likely, a campaign for a campaign.

But there are also plenty of signs he won't run. For one thing, it's unclear whether Nader would have enough supporters for a viable run. Meanwhile, he has practically endorsed Mike Gravel. Even less clear is whether the Craiglist ads are real—whoever posted them hasn't replied to my e-mails.

"Seems like a hoax to me," Nader told me, adding that he hadn't heard about the Craiglist posts. And anyway, he said, "these draft committees start all the time." The former Green Party candidate has been publicly mulling a 2008 run for the past few months, but says he hasn't yet made a decision. He'll know by the end of the year, he says, depending on whether he can drum up the necessary resources and staff. But either way, he wouldn't consider running as a Democrat. When he spoke at the Green Party's national convention in July, he got a warm reception. Did they want him to run again? "I got that sense," he said.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 27, 5:13 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Polling a Fast One: CNN wants you to think it stumbled across stunning revelations in its New Hampshire poll released Wednesday. Yet all the news that CNN has tried to squeeze out of it manages to be both flimsy and stale because of the admittedly high number of undecided New Hampshire voters.

The poll's most telling number: 66 percent of New Hampshire Republicans don't know who they'll vote for. * CNN doesn't want you to see that because it invalidates its headline grabber—that Mitt Romney's supposed advantage in the Granite State has slipped away since July. But there's one slight problem. When CNN asked N.H. residents who they were going to vote for, only 8 percent said they were "unsure" (down from 13 percent in CNN's July poll). But when they asked how sure those voters were of their choice, 66 percent said they were "still trying to decide."

To recap: 8 percent of voters were unsure, but 66 percent were still trying to decide. Uh, did we miss something?

Mainstream media loves to tell us that these early polls are premature, but then they go and conduct their own premature poll. Once the results are in, they manipulate the stats to try to claim the news agenda through the Sunday talk shows. CNN is just the latest culprit of this hypocritical ego-trip.

The poll merely confirms what we've long known—the GOP race is in a fluid state. But nuanced, wishy-washy statistics don't make headlines, and they certainly don't make good Breaking News tags for Wolf Blitzer.

Posted by Chadwick Matlin,Sept. 27, 4:38 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

The Warm Seat: The MySpace/MTV live dialogue with John Edwards just finished. Almost every question was a softball, and Edwards dutifully whacked them over the fence. Of course, it was a home game for him: At the end, 94 percent of the viewers said they liked his answers.

Here's a rough timeline of the proceedings. The dialogue airs again tonight at 7 p.m. on MTV.

Noon I'm watching the forum live on MTV's "Choose or Lose" MySpace page. It's a theater in the round, VH1 Storytellers-style. Hopefully Edwards remembered his hemp necklace.

12:10 Starting late, apparently.

12:16 Crickets, still. The audience waits patiently. OK, who's the diva?

12:20 No sound yet on the live feed. Now the audience seems restless.

12:22 Sound! I can hear Edwards! But I can't see him. Must be his lavalier mic. "So, I'm taking this off?" we hear him say. Hopefully, he's talking about the mic.

12:26 Finally, it begins. Camera swoops in. Gideon Yago promises "no delays, no censors, no tasers." If only!

12:28 Chris Cillizza, co-moderator and Washingtonpost.com blogger extraordinaire, explains how we can watch people's feedback in a little box on the MySpace page. It's a real-time BS-meter! CNN, are you taking notes?

12:29 Edwards enters in jeans, a loose blazer, and an MTV News mic—looks oddly Loder-like. The first student asks about Euro-centric school curricula. What would Edwards do to change that? Edwards says he's all for curricular diversity. That said, "the president of the United States doesn't run the public school system." Suggests providing funding as a reward for diversification. Congress would love that, I'm sure.

12:32 Another question: How are you going to make education affordable for everyone? As it turns out, Edwards has a program called … College for Everyone! (Was that kid a plant?) The gist: Work at least 10 hours a week, and America will pay for your tuition and books.

12:35 Cillizza follows up: How do you fund an education program that's so sweeping? Edwards: Get rid of banks as intermediaries in student loans. "We'll still be making student loans, but several billion dollars a year can be made up for by eliminating the intermediary." Also, collect taxes that aren't being paid.

12:37 Question from a music student: There's not enough money for the arts. Sports teams get all of it. How would you fund arts programs? While Edwards makes a vague pledge to support the arts, the cameraman is circling him dramatically. Cinematography by McG?

12:41 The first IM question! LunarGoddess6B asks: Are you planning on increasing our taxes to pay for these programs? Edwards: "The answer is yes. Politicians don't want to say it, but it's the truth." For one thing, he says, get rid of tax cuts for the wealthiest. Beyond that, raise capital gains tax from 15 percent to 28 percent for people who make over $250,000 a year.

12:48 Kelsey from New Orleans: What would you have done differently post-Katrina? Edwards: "Everything." Says we need to rebuild levies, add police officers, and create 50,000 "stepping-stone jobs" for NOLA residents to rebuild their own city. Proposes "Brownie's law," which would require anyone in charge of a federal agency to have experience in that field. Is Michael Brown watching this???

12:54 Q: Do you believe AIDS is a national-security issue? Edwards: "I have met with Bono personally to discuss this." This guy is good. Says he's pro-sex ed, pro-needle exchange, and wants to allocate $50 million over next five years to fighting AIDS. So, about Bono …

12:58 Q: How should the United States pressure China to help stop the genocide in Darfur? Edwards vows to ratchet up pressure, calls for Americans to personally divest from Sudan, and says we need security forces on the ground, since the African Union is doing a crappy job. Is the African Union watching this???

1:00 Cillizza reports that according to voting stats, only 11 percent of viewers thought Edwards dodged the question. This is where I realize: I can vote as many times as I want! Every time I click, the pie chart changes shape. The sense of power is overwhelming.

1:05 Back from commercial break. The jacket has come off! Edwards rejects the phrase "global war on terror." "I think there is a threat from terrorists," he says. "But Bush has used this term as an excuse" for Iraq, Guantanamo, wire-tapping, etc.

1:08 Promises to immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops from Iraq. Explains what combat troops are, a little condescendingly: "Combat troops means war." Thank you, professor Edwards.

1:14 Here's a real curve ball: How would you implement universal health care? "The reason we don't have universal health care is not complicated: It's because of the drug companies, the insurance companies, and their lobbyists." Repeats a joke from earlier speeches: "If you give drug companies a seat at the table, they eat all the food." At least he's pro-recycling!

1:18 Cillizza again: "Can you talk specifically about what your plan does that theirs don't do?" Edwards: Sen. Obama's plan isn't universal. It might leave 12 million to 15 million Americans uncovered. President Clinton's plan is "extremely similar to mine," so it's hard to be critical.

1:21 A student with a genetic degenerative eye disease asks about adult stem cells. Edwards: "This is obviously something that matters a great deal to you." Yes, most likely. "There should be no ideological limitations on stem cell research." Recommends doubling NIH funding for stem cell research.

1:24 Question about reducing CO2 emissions. Edwards: "Al Gore is right: Climate change is a crisis." Wants to cut emissions by 80 percentand implement cap-and-trade system. Says he'd ask Americans to "sacrifice." Applause. "This is a word you won't hear much. … You can't spend and innovate your way out of this problem."

1:29 Cillizza says about 94 percent of viewers liked Edwards' answers. My clicks probably account for about 60 percent of that.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 27, 3:34 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

John Edwards. Click image to expand.
John Edwards

MySpace, MTV, OMG: John Edwards once again dives head first into the realm of Internet campaigning, this time by participating in the first MTV/MySpace dialogue, today at noon. You can ask questions by downloading a program called MySpaceIM or leaving a comment for Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza, who will be co-moderating alongside Gideon Yago and SuChin Pak. Watch the dialogue here, and try not to pass out from swooning.

The discussion is part of MTV's "Choose or Lose" campaign—a newer, friendlier "Vote or Die"—and its site promises a more "up-close" and "all-access" forum than usual. "[I]f you have tough questions or have that one question you always wished someone would ask, now's your chance!" Hopefully, they'll follow through on this. The Democratic YouTube debate, which had shining moments like a gay couple asking about gay marriage, was a good first step. All we need now is an IM from a soldier in Baghdad—"Can we go now?"

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 27, 11:38 a.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

On Demand: Speaking of Web campaigning, John Edwards is making a curious pit stop on Oct. 4 in the tiny town of Columbus, Ky. And by tiny, I mean practically uninhabited: 229 people live there. That gives them, what, 1/578 of an electoral vote?

The reason: Edwards held a "Demand and Be Heard" contest, promising to visit whichever city/town/hamlet most requested his presence on the event-planning site Eventful.com. Columbus won with 1,872 votes. (A spokesperson for the site says the town got help from people in the surrounding areas.) So now Edwards has to go, whether he likes it or not.

You'd think that might qualify as a good plan backfiring, but for Edwards, it sort of makes sense. Visiting a middle-of-nowhere crack in the American landscape is the kind of stunt that fits his small-town, populist image. I'll bet there's even a mill there.

Plus, the idea that people can influence where a candidate goes, even when they don't live in Iowa or New Hampshire, is compelling. Apparently both Obama and McCain have also been using the site to organize events. Think about what it says: Even his itinerary is democratic! Next thing you know we'll have a wiki-candidate, with thousands of users formulating people-powered platforms, designing bottom-up logos, and writing open-source speeches. Now that would be a man of the people.

P.S.: You might think Eventful.com's "demand" numbers would mirror the polls, but right now Barack Obama's in the lead, with 34,560 "demands." Ron Paul, bless him, comes in second, with 27,776 votes. Edwards is ranked third, with 11,421; and Hillary's in fourth, with 9,683. Maybe Hillary's supporters still want her to be president—they just don't really want to see her in person.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 26, 7:08 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Say Cheese!: Rudy Giuliani better hope he's photogenic, because his campaign has set up photo-op after photo-op in the past two weeks to convince voters he's presidential.

Last week, he met with British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher, coming away from each with impressive shots. Then, during a speech to the NRA, Giuliani took a call from his wife, which earned him a cover shot in the New York Daily News.

Today, Giuliani tried to one-up himself when he sat down across from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to discuss Iraq policy. They met at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the same place President Bush recently gabbed with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Note the photo-op hallmarks: crossed legs, earnest stare, and folded hands. While the PM was addressing the U.N. General Assembly today, the second-in-command took the time to talk with Giuliani—a move that makes the former mayor look second only to President Bush and the U.N. Not bad for a candidate who's never been to Iraq.

All of this can backfire, of course, which is why the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is trying to preserve her lead by keeping the press at bay. But Giuliani seems to be succeeding by doing just the opposite.

Posted by Chadwick Matlin,Sept. 26, 5:58 ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Web 2.008:  The Politico hosted a panel today at the National Press Club on "New Media and the 2008 Presidential Campaigns." Most of the panelists were communications folk from the Biden, Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson campaigns, and they spent a lot of the time touting their camps' respective social networks/MySpace pages/mashup contests. But things picked up when Politico Executive Editor Jim VandeHei asked the question we were all wondering: "Who has the coolest site?"

Everyone basically ducked the question. "Obama's doing a great job, Romney's doing a great job," said Biden Web head Eric Carbone. "I don't know if there's one necessarily doing best," hedged Thompson new media guru Jon Henke. "I don't want to talk negative," said Macon Phillips of Blue State Digital.

But come on, someone must be dominating. So, let me toss it out there: Which candidate has the best Web site? Between Obama's custom-made social network, Romney's MittTV and Five Brothers "blog" (quotation marks theirs, not mine), and Giuliani's Running With Rudy MySpace page, there's a lot to choose from. And no, Obama Girl's MySpace page  doesn't count.

Share your thoughts here.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 26, 2:50 p.m. ET (link) (discuss) (tips)

Barack Obama. Click image to expand.
Barack Obama

Barack TV: Hillary Clinton became Queen of All Media last weekend by blitzing all five Sunday talk shows to promote her health-care bill. Now it's time for her opponents to fire back. For Barack Obama, that means appearing on the twin pillars of political gravitas: The View and The Tyra Banks Show. (Carson Daly must have been booked.)

Curious choice for a candidate who has drawn flak for his alleged lack of substance. But he's not the only one who's logged serious time on the couch: Some '08 candidates have been courting the talk-show circuit as though it were a district in Iowa. Here are a few notable appearances:

Personally, I think Huckabee gives the best performance of anyone. He's warm, reasonable, and disarmingly funny. It's the kind of schtick that gets you nodding along even when he's expressing ideas you abhor. Not a bad guy to have on your ticket if you're worried about looking overly stiff or aggressive.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 26, 1:34 p.m. ET (link) (tips)__________________________

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007

Recount Redux: In case you doubted that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, here's further proof.

The upcoming HBO movie Recount, about the 2000 Florida elections, has an all-star cast to match the real-life hotshots who fought the battle of the ballots, Variety reported yesterday. As usual, the actors tend to be easier to look at than their real-world counterparts. It's a good thing, too: If there's anyone who could make us want to watch a movie about hanging chads, it's Kevin Spacey.

So, how faithfully do the actors resemble the stars of Florida 2000? Take a look for yourself:

  • Kevin Spacey (1) as former Al Gore chief of staff and attorney Ron Klain (2)
  • Denis Leary (3) as veteran political operative Michael Whouley (4)
  • Laura Dern (5) as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (6)
  • Ed Begley Jr. (7) as lawyer David Boies (8)
  • Bob Balaban (9) as lead Bush attorney Ben Ginsberg (10)
  • John Hurt (11) as former Secretary of State and Gore ally Warren Christopher (12)
  • Tom Wilkinson (13) as former Secretary of State and Bush ally James Baker (14)

Some of the Recount cast.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 25, 3:25 p.m. ET (link) (tips)

__________________________

John Edwards. Click image to expand.
John Edwards

Union bust: Bad news for John Edwards. The Service Employees International Union punted again on its endorsement Monday after meeting with all three top Democratic candidates. For a while, it looked like they were leaning hard toward Edwards—he apparently won the straw poll at last week's conference—but now they're taking it back to the locals for another round of debate. If campaigns got blue balls, Team Edwards would be in agony.

Meanwhile, two more unions threw their hard hats into the ring: The Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers endorsed Hillary Clinton, while the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association backed Barack Obama. Both unions have relatively small memberships—100,000 members and 9,000 members, respectively—but it's significant that neither one went for Edwards.

So much for Edwards being the union shoo-in. Sure, he still has more total union members behind him than any other candidate—the mine workers, steelworkers, and carpenters unions made sure of that. But if the SEIU gets all expedient and swings Hillary's way, she might well overtake him. It seems like doubt over Edwards' ability to win is starting to outweigh all the time he's spent prowling the picket lines.

The other biggies—the Teamsters, AFSCME, and the American Federation of Teachers—are keeping mum on when or if they'll endorse. Chances are they at least want to see third-quarter fund-raising numbers before opening their coffers.

Read  a roundup of union endorsements, minus yesterday's additions.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 25, 11:59 a.m. ET (link) (tips)

__________________________

Monday, Sept. 24, 2007

Everybody out:In a new ad, Gov. Bill Richardson says that as president he'll leave no residual troops in Iraq—a major foreign-policy difference between him and the Big Three. Whereas Obama, Clinton, and Edwards would leave noncombat troops there for security and support, Richardson wants everyone out. It's a point bloggers have been making for some time now, while lamenting the MSM crickets. (Could be why three bloggers appear as expert witnesses in the ad.)

But is the call for no residual forces at all realistic? In 2004, the United States still had more than 200,000 troops stationed overseas in Europe and Asia, with roughly half of them in Germany and South Korea. President Bush has outlined plans to reduce that number by one-third. It's taken the United States decades to get those "residual troops" out. What makes Richardson think he can extricate every last military unit from Iraq in a year? Unless the Maliki government collapses entirely and we pull a Saigon-like airlift, it's hard to imagine Congress agreeing to no residual forces whatsoever.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 24, 3:09 p.m. ET (link)

__________________________

The Weatherby .300 Magnum. Click image to expand.
A Weatherby .300 Magnum

Mike Huckabee's Favorite Gun: You need only three words to sum up the GOP candidates' speeches at the NRA forum last Friday: I love guns. But only one of them got into specifics.

Gov. Mike Huckabee regaled the audience with a story about a one-shot antelope hunt in Wyoming, where he felled one at 250 yards with a single bullet. His weapon of choice? The Weatherby .300 Magnum.

Clearly there's some deeper meaning. According to its maker, the Weatherby "has the flattest trajectory, longest range and the greatest killing power of any .300 magnum on the market today." Does that make Huckabee … a straight shooter? The gun also "looks like a piece of furniture," says Weatherby sales rep Ursula Woodhull, which should accentuate Huckabee's rustic, heartland appeal. It's versatile, too—you can hunt different types of game in various weather conditions. Could Huckabee draw more independent voters than expected?

Also, Weatherby rifles have always been known for their walnut stocks, but like Huckabee, they also come in newer, lighter models.

We look forward to Sam Brownback's press release extolling the simple joys of the shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 24, 11:22 a.m. ET (link)

__________________________

Friday, Sept. 21, 2007

Mitt Romney. Click image to expand.
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney's Puerto Rico Fever: Mitt Romney is going offshore to help distance himself from the GOP's struggles with Latino voters. Romney sent out a press release Wednesday announcing the formation of a Puerto Rico steering committee. Candidates put steering committees together all the time, especially in states that they feel will have a big impact in the presidential race. But Puerto Rico isn't a state. Its citizens can't even vote in the general presidential election. (The island does hold the third-to-last Republican primary on May 31, 2008, and sends a small number of delegates to the Republican National Convention.) It's safe to say Isle of Enchantment voters aren't going to be the kingpins of '08.

But Romney doesn't need Puerto Ricans to vote for him—he needs Puerto Rican-Americans to rally behind him and spread the word. Romney's press office isn't shy about the move. The spokesperson I talked to paid lip service to courting votes in Puerto Rico but intimated that the steering committee's true goal was to shore up support on the mainland, specifically in Florida (13.3 percent of residents are Hispanic). Romney probably wouldn't mind if Puerto Ricans voted for him, but he's going to the island in order to build buzz among émigrés in the contiguous 48.

And what about the rest of America's territorial buddies? Dennis Kucinich has already gone to Hawaii to campaign. Why not stop in the Virgin Islands next? John McCain is probably the most likely to form an Iraqi steering committee to court the meager number of Iraqi refugees living in America. (Clarification, Sept. 24, 2007: We meant to imply Hawaii was an island state, not a territory.  Because Kucinich has already left the mainland to campaign, the implication was that the Virgin Islands are not out of reach.)

While the candidates are at it, why not try and start as many immigrant-based steering groups as possible? The headlines write themselves: "Israelis for Obama!" (That may already be happening.) "Giuliani courts Englanders at home and abroad!" (Wait, that's happening already, too.)

Maybe Romney isn't a trendsetter after all.

Posted by Chadwick Matlin,Sept. 21, 4:58 p.m. ET (link)

__________________________

Rudy Giuliani. Click image to expand.
Rudy Giuliani

Shot in the Dark:"It's nice to be here in England," Rudy Giuliani joked as he took the stage at the National Rifle Association's "Celebration of American Values" forum. The crack got a laugh, but it was an odd thing for someone with a history of supporting gun control to say to an audience of gun lovers. England is the last place you want them to be thinking about.

Thus began the former mayor's half-hour attempt to fudge, massage, and generally play down his record of restricting gun ownership in New York City. Instead, he painted himself as Giuliani the crime-fighter. His goal as president, he said, would be "putting criminals behind bars when they commit crimes with guns or any other way." Which, of course, wouldn't affect anyone in the room.

He kept emphasizing that he would merely enforce laws already on the books. That means keeping the current laws on waiting periods and gun shows, while letting state and local law enforcement work out the details for themselves. One thing he didn't mention, however, was the Assault Weapons Ban of 1995, which he vigorously supported at the time. The NRA was polite enough not to ask about it during the Q&A.

Giuliani knows he's walking a thin line. "People commit crimes, not guns," he said at one point. But he also pointed out that "if you don't have reasonable safety, you can't have other rights." So what's it going to be? Safety or guns?

So far, his answer seems to be, Why can't it be both? Whether or not Giuliani gets the support of gun owners depends largely on whether they buy this act. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, he's saying, is as important to the country's safety as protecting its borders and capturing terrorists. As long as he can convince people that restricting guns for criminals doesn't mean restricting guns for law-abiding NRA members, he's in the clear.

Posted by Christopher Beam, Sept. 21, 2:45 p.m. ET (link)

Correction, Sept. 28, 2007: This post originally suggested that CNN had not reported the 66 percent statistic in its coverage. It did report that number. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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