Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took his eye off of Iran and incorrectly designated Russia as America's "number one geopolitical foe" during his interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Romney offered his throwback to the Cold War while attacking President Barack Obama for his diplomacy with Russia — including the New START treaty that was supported by many Jewish communal organizations, which was one of the pieces that helped bring Russia on board with the fist round of Iran sanctions. Romney told Blitzer [emphasis added]:
What he did both on nuclear weaponry already and the new START treaty as well as his decision to withdraw missile defense sites from Poland and then reduce our missile defense sites in Alaska from the original plan. These are very unfortunate developments.... This is to Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors. (Think Progress)
Blitzer followed up, and asked Romney how Russia was a greater U.S. foe than Iran. Apparently, Romney's definition of "number one geopolitical foe" does not include Iran's threatening behavior — including its nuclear weapons program and belligerent actions in the Middle East. Romney said [emphasis added]:
Well I'm saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world's worst actors. Of course the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear armed Iran and a nuclear North Korea is troubling enough. But when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the UN looking for ways to stop them ... and who is it that always stands up for the world's worst actors, it is always Russia, typically with China alongside. So in terms of a geopolitical foe a nation that is on the Security Council that has the heft of the Security Council and is of course a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe and the idea that our president is planning on doing something with them that he's not willing to tell the American people before the election is something I find very, very alarming. (Think Progress)
Following Romney's dangerous reassessment of global affairs-in which he prioritized a partisan sound bite over the reality of the threats posed by Iran to America and our allies-a number of experts and observers slammed Romney for yet another baseless foreign policy smear.
Similarly, last week he was endorsed by the Detroit News and left out the key paragraph highlighting Romney's criticism of the auto bailout:
We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan - his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn't a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.
This manipulation of the endorsement was charactized by the Detroit News as a "distortion" of their words.
According Gary Wolfram at the Romney Campaign, the internet gambling site Intrade can give you a better feeling for the Michigan primary than polls of actual Michigan Republican voters. Since "InTrade's value as a prediction engine vs. scientific polling is debatable", let's look at both.
Romney was initially the heavy favorite to carry his "home state" of Michigan, but now betters at Intrade are not so sure. They now consider the state to be a toss-up.
Meanwhile, Nate Silver has studied the polling data for Michigan and gives Santorum at 76% chance of winning. Over the last two weeks, all polls have shown Senator Santorum to be in the lead.
Either way Romney has his work cut out for him in Michigan.
Yet another Republican caucus victory may be slipping out of Mitt Romney's hands.
Following the Iowa caucus, Republican party officials declared Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) the winner by 8 votes. Soon irregularities came to light and a week later the Republican party finally admitted that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) was the winner by 34 votes.
The vote in Maine seems like deja vu all over again. "Final results" are announced showing Romney with a narrow victory. This time Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was the runner up trailing by 196.
Paul and Romney were the only two candidates to actively campaign in the Pine Tree State.
Just as in Iowa, the narrow result is in doubt because many important precincts were left out including all of Washington County and Waldo County (shown in green on this map of Maine) as well as Waterville in Kennebec County just West of Waldo.
This raises the obvious question: Where's Waldo's Votes?
Moreover, the result in question is the "Presidential Preference Straw Poll". As in Iowa, this poll is really just for bragging rights. The actual nominee is selected by the state delegates who are determined at the end of the long caucus meeting. This generally gives an important.
Following Maine's week-long caucus, David Taintor wrote Saturday night:
Paul, in a defiant speech, claimed the contest could essentially be called a tie, adding that "the revolution is just beginning." He sounded confident that he will eventually win the majority of the state's delegates.
The results of the presidential preference poll are nonbinding and serve mostly for vanity - delegates are selected through a separate vote at the caucus sites. Although this is also true in most other Republican caucus states, Maine's delegate selection process is especially cumbersome and can potentially reward candidates whose supporters are more enthusiastic and who sit through the entire process, which can be hours long.
Mr. Paul's campaign has predicted that it will win the most delegates from Maine regardless of the result of the straw poll.
Washington County in Eastern Maine had to postpone its caucus because of snow. Their vote will be held next Saturday, February 18.
According to the Bangor Daily News:
A number of communities were not included in that poll because they had not held their caucuses in time. Washington County Republicans postponed their caucuses, originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11, because of a pending snowstorm and will now meet this Saturday. Other communities across the states also have caucuses scheduled for this weekend and later this month.
The omissions were not limited to counties whose votes were delayed:
Nearly all Waldo County towns held caucuses on Feb. 4 but those towns were blank in the results released by the state party. Additionally, Waterville held its caucuses ahead of time but were not included in the results.
Ron Paul's campaign claims they may be able to catch up once the vote is complete.
Map of election results and schedule of upcoming primaries, caucuses and debates after the jump.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) last night on CNN actually said:
I'm not concerned about the very poor.
to which conservative writer Jonah Goldberg (National Review) asks "What is wrong with this guy?" and Michelle Malkin quips "Let them eat food stamps."
Meanwhile, Romney has not addressed the questions raised by Brian Beutler about possible offshore tax avoidance scheme raised on his on-the-record press call last week.
The briefing cleared up several questions, but left others unanswered - including one from TPM that will either exculpate Romney from allegations that he's used investments in offshore entities to avoid U.S. taxes, or reveal that his campaign has not fully addressed those allegations.
On the call, Romney's trustee pledged get back to us with this information. But despite multiple inquiries in the days since the conference call, the Romney camp has not set the record straight one way or another....
An IRA can't finance investments with debt, and, in the United States, it can't invest in entities that lever up, without being hit by the UBIT.
But if an IRA invests in an offshore fund, and that fund levers up, it can avoid the UBIT altogether. And at 35 percent that's no small tax to get around, according to multiple tax experts.
When first questioned about this on the call, Romney's trustee noted, "Governor Romeny's IRA is not structured in the Caymans, it's not located in the Cayman's. It's tax deferred just like your IRA, and my IRA."
But in a followup, I asked if his IRA had invested in any offshore entities that would have made it subject to the UBIT if those entities were located on U.S. soil. Romney's staff has yet to provide the answer.
The other reason Romney pays a lower tax rate than most of us is that so-called "carried interest" (the commission charged by hedge fund managers) is treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at 15%. According to Mother Jones, Bain Capital
spent $300,000 between August 2007 and April 2008 lobbying the House and Senate on bills that threatened the carried interest loophole. Along with other private equity titans like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apollo Management, Bain and its ilk paid lobbying shops, public relations firms, and trade groups like Ogilvy and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council an estimated $15 million between January 2009 and April 2010 to convince lawmakers to keep the loophole alive. The force of those combined lobbying efforts kept the carried interest loophole wedged open, denying the federal government some $10 billion in revenues.
If you missed last night's ABC debate, here is a round up courtesy of TPM."
And here is today's NBC debate in 100 seconds.
Last night the Republicans faced off for a 2-hour debate on ABC, and this morning is round 2 as they debate on NBC. Mitt Romney, the putative winner in Iowa and the projected winner of New Hampshire, is feeling the heat as he is being attacked from all side as the Suffolk University tracking poll shows his support dropping for the fourth day in a row.
"Taking two positions on every issue, one on the left and one of the right, doesn't make you a centrist. It makes you a charlatan." — David Axelrod, in a conference call with reporters.
According to the Huffington Post, Romney's first event in New Hampshire after the Iowa Caucus "offered a rude awakening":
Three of the first four questioners were openly hostile to Romney, although one of them was an Occupy Manchester activist. And even the endorsement and appearance of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) failed to arouse much of a reaction from the Granite Staters in attendance... the tone of the event was a sharp break from the joyful mood that had accompanied the former Massachusetts governor onto a charter plane from Iowa earlier that morning, along with a swarm of press befitting a presidential frontrunner.
Romney, talking about taxes, said federal, state and local government consume 37% of the economy today compared with only 27% when John F. Kennedy was president. In fact, taxes now consume only 27.4% of GDP.
The Urban-Brooking Tax Policy Center has analyzed Mitt Romney's tax plan. They "found that the plan constitutes a major tax cut for wealthy Americans. But compared to today's rates, Romney proposes effective tax increases for people making less than $40,000."
Meanwhile as April 15 approaches, Romney continues to refuse to make his tax returns public as is traditional for Presidential Candidates. Brian Beutler exposes Romney's motivation for doing so:
One tax expert told TPM of "fairly sophisticated tax strategies" that would be "not available to ordinary tax payers." A technique that puts you in a position that's "like having an unlimited 401k account" sounds very attractive. But maybe not if you're running for office, for Pete's sake.
When Romney jokes that he's been unemployed for years, he's obscuring the fact that he's still collecting millions of dollars of investment income, which is taxed at a much lower rate than it would be if he, like most taxpayers, took home a regular paycheck. He's also obscuring the fact a great deal of that same income is only vaguely connected to his own underlying investments, and yet benefits from a key loophole in the tax code that allows him and other wealthy finance veterans to more than halve their effective tax rate.
Romney's Dubious Jobs Claim, Again
"Mitt Romney, I think, is more of a job cremator than a job creator." — DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
FactCheck continued its analysis of Romney's job creation claims:
Romney repeated the claim that he created over 100,000 jobs through his work at the private equity firm Bain Capital. That's an unproven and questionable claim, as we wrote earlier this week.
Romney said that 100,000 jobs was a "net-net" figure that included jobs gained and lost at more than 100 businesses in which Bain invested. When moderator George Stephanopoulos questioned that, saying analysts had said Romney hadn't subtracted jobs lost, Romney responded, "no, it's not accurate." He said he was "a good enough numbers guy to make sure I got both sides of that." But this week, the Romney campaign sent us as support for the claim a thin list of jobs gained at just three companies: Staples, The Sports Authority and Domino's. No other companies were included in the list, and no jobs lost were mentioned, either. We have asked the campaign again for the detailed count that Romney said exists.
A former employee of Mitt Romney
Trailer for documentary by pro-Gingrich PAC
Romney: "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."
As for the three companies the campaign has cited, it's true that they have added more than 100,000 jobs since Bain invested in them. But does Romney deserve credit for all of those jobs? He admitted at the debate tonight that the total includes jobs up until the present day, long after Bain's initial involvement, and that other firms had invested in them as well. As we reported earlier, The Sports Authority was started with help from Bain, William Blair Venture Partners, Phillips-Smith and Marquette Venture Partners. William Blair and Bessemer Venture Partners invested in Staples. And both companies, of course, had founders and CEOs spearheading their launches.
Romney Spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom: Romney's claimed 100,000 job figure was undercut by his own campaign as his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler that these were gross job creations, and not net numbers which would have to include the people Romney laid off:
Fehrnstrom says the 100,000 figure stems from the growth in jobs from three companies that Romney helped to start or grow while at Bain Capital:
Staples (a gain of 89,000 jobs),
The Sports Authority (15,000 jobs), and
Domino's (7,900 jobs).
This tally obviously does not include job losses from other companies with which Bain Capital was involved — and are based on current employment figures, not the period when Romney worked at Bain. (Indeed, Romney made his comments in response to a former employee of American Pad & Paper Co. who says he lost his job after Bain Capital took it private.)
Contradictions about ads produced by pro-Romney PAC after the jump.
Any time Republican candidates gather to discuss foreign policy, it can result in some curious observations about how the world works. The latest example is a flat-out assertion from Mitt Romney that "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon." Simple, right?
However, when it comes to specifics about how a Republican president's course would differ from the current administration's, things start to get a lot less clear...
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