*** Newt-mentum returns? There are some increasing signs -- though all of it anecdotal for now -- that Newt Gingrich is gaining some momentum three days before the South Carolina primary.
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First was his strong debate performance on Monday, from which his campaign cut a new TV ad. Second, the Romney campaign today is holding a conference call (featuring former Sen. Jim Talent and former Rep. Susan Molinari) with the sole purpose of hitting Gingrich, and we haven’t seen one of those from the Romney camp since Iowa. And third, Sarah Palin sort of endorsed Gingrich last night, saying per NBC’s Alex Moe: “If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt and I would want this to continue.” Gingrich’s top spokesman responded to the Palin news this way: “We think it’s a pretty darn clear call to arms.” Is Newt-mentum for real? We’ll find out tomorrow morning from our brand-new NBC-Marist poll of South Carolina.
*** Gingrich’s two challenges: time and math: Of course, one challenge Gingrich faces is time; there are just three days to go until Saturday’s primary. And the other challenge is the math. It is very possible for Romney to win South Carolina with just 31% or 32% of the vote. That becomes very possible if Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both get about 15%, if Rick Perry gets close to 10%, and if Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Herman Cain (who are still on the ballot) get a combined 4% or 5%. But if those percentages are lower, then Romney is forced to win with 34% or 35%.Gingrich says he paid nearly a third of income in taxes
*** Romney’s wealth and Bain have been THE story for the past 10 days: It’s worth pointing out, but the central story of the past 10 days in the GOP presidential race has been about Mitt Romney’s wealth and his business practices at Bain Capital. And yesterday, that story received even more attention when Romney revealed 1) that he’s paying an effective tax rate of about 15%, which is far less than the top 35% rate; and 2) that he intends to release his tax returns in April, which could be well after he wraps up the GOP nomination. A few questions we have: Why has Romney acted so cautiously here on his taxes? It makes it seem like he’s afraid of something (perhaps more than folks finding out he pays a 15% rate). How much traction will there be to the revelation that Romney’s father was believed to be the first presidential candidate to release his income taxes -- and release 12 years of them in the year before the 1968 contest? And just how significant was it that the Obama White House, and not the campaign, was pointing this out yesterday?
*** Are the first Obama ads going up soon? As we first reported yesterday, the Obama re-election campaign is requesting rates for a potential -- and significant -- TV ad buy in key battleground states. And if the Obama ads come out soon, it will be earlier than the first ads that Bill Clinton in ’96 and George W. Bush in ’04 unveiled; both of their campaigns came out with their first ads in March of the re-election year. By the way, here are the battleground states where Team Obama is requesting rates: AZ, CO, FL, IA, MI, MN, NM, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, and WI. (Arizona, Michigan, and Minnesota are somewhat surprises here. If they are advertising in Minnesota and Michigan come the fall, they’ve got problems; if they’re still advertising in Arizona, then they will be feeling good.) As far as Ohio goes, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama’s approval rating there at 44%, and it shows him getting 44% to Romney’s 42% in a hypothetical general-election matchup.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a supporter of GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, tells TODAY's Matt Lauer a vice presidential run is not out of the question.
*** Dem convention: From four to three days: In addition to announcing that President Obama would deliver his acceptance speech at Bank of America stadium, Democrats also said yesterday that they were shortening the convention from four days to three. (On Labor Day, they will instead gather at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for a day of organizing.) Make no mistake: This change will have a lasting repercussion. We likely won’t ever see four-day conventions any more. Also, given that they have just three days to work with, Democrats have a potential primetime scheduling challenge on their hands. How do you find three days to fit in primetime speeches by Obama, the first lady, the vice president, the keynote speaker, and Bill Clinton (who you know will want to receive speaking time)?
*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: With just three days until South Carolina’s primary, all the campaign action remains in the Palmetto State: Romney hits Spartanburg, Rock Hill, and Irmo… Gingrich stumps in Winnsboro, Columbia, North Augusta, Easley, and Greenville… Santorum stops in Spartanburg and Laurens… And Perry campaigns in Greer before darting to Greenville for an anti-abortion forum that Santorum also will attend… Meanwhile, Paul is MIA from the campaign trail and returns to DC to vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 3 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 13 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 17 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 48 days
Countdown to Election Day: 293 days
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