Hoopla and hype hover over unsettled GOP field

By Charles Babington

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 31 2011 8:00 p.m. MDT

Rich Nutinsky of Chadds Ford, Pa., returned to downtown Philadelphia on Tuesday after failing to find Palin there Monday. "I wished her luck and told her I supported her," Nutinsky said. "To me, she's a breath of fresh air."

Palin said she has not decided whether to run, even as she fueled speculation by saying her bus tour eventually will reach New Hampshire and Iowa.

In New Hampshire, Bachmann hinted Tuesday at her own likely campaign. She participated in WKXL radio's "Road to the Whitehouse" series, repeating earlier statements that she thinks the race can accommodate herself and Palin.

Some political strategists doubt it. Palin and Bachmann appeal to social conservatives and non-establishment Republicans, including many tea party advocates. Such voters are more prominent in Iowa's caucus than in New Hampshire's primary.

Even if someone like Bachmann does well in Iowa, it's not clear she could carry her success into New Hampshire, seen by many as playing a more important role in the nominating process. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who spent heavily in Iowa but lost four years ago, is paying considerably more attention this year to New Hampshire, where he has a second home.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, seen as a potentially strong rival to Romney and Pawlenty, has virtually ignored Iowa thus far. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, however, has begun building a network there.

Republican activists who are dissatisfied with the field are urging Christie and Perry, among others, to overrule their earlier decisions not to run. It may be a tough case to make, said veteran Republican strategist Terry Holt.

"It's far easier to test the waters than to commit to a very long, very expensive, very hard campaign," Holt said. "A lot of Republican activists would like to have a silver bullet in the gun, but I don't think there are any silver bullets."

Nominations usually go to battle-tested candidates who can raise money, inspire grassroots groups and survive "a long, hard slog," Holt said.

Some campaign veterans say the contenders most likely to fill that bill are Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman, although Palin's star power is hard to measure.

Carl Forti, a Republican strategist and fundraiser, said the hoopla surrounding Palin's tour and the entreaties to Christie and Perry may be footnotes in the 2012 election story.

"Only a small percentage of the Republican primary electorate is paying attention," Forti said. "I don't think what is happening now has much impact."

For all the talk of new faces, Forti said, Romney "has a good shot to win the nomination" and to give Obama a strong challenge. The election will turn on jobs and the economy, he said, "and that is Romney's bread and butter."

Romney labels Obama 'ineffective president'

WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is calling Barack Obama "one of the most ineffective presidents" he's ever seen, and says he can beat him next year.

Romney tells NBC in an interview that while Obama wasn't responsible for the recession he inherited, "he made things worse. He's failed."

Romney also says he thinks Obama lacks "a cogent assessment" of world affairs. The Republican charges, in his words, "The Arab spring came, one of the greatest opportunities we've seen in decades, and we've been flatfooted."

Romney, who plans to formally get into the GOP race later this week, says he doesn't think his Mormon faith will be an obstacle to winning the GOP presidential nod, saying "we're not electing a pastor in chief, we're electing a commander in chief."

— Associated Press

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