STATE OF THE FAIR TAX
With word that the FairTax political operation has run out of money, the talk in Iowa is that a new organization may be coming to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's aid. A 501c4 organization is said to be forming to help Huckabee in the 30 or so days leading up to the Iowa Republican caucus.
Huckabee has been leveraging the support of two semi-obscure groups in Iowa, the FairTax group, a one-time offshoot of the Church of Scientology, and a second-tier home-schooling coalition, which operates a 501c4 and has been attempting to organize support for Huckabee in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.
One school of thought has segments of the FairTax folks re-forming to lend support to Huckabee, who is the highest profile supporter of the national sales tax model that the FT-ers support. Huckabee insiders say that their candidate supports the national sales tax model, rather than larger tax cuts or a flat tax, because the sales tax generates larger amounts of revenue for the government.
"Under other tax reform models, the amount of cutting you'd have to do would harm the performance of the federal government," says a Huckabee supporter. "The governor isn't willing to do that, which is one reason why he runs into trouble with groups like the Club for Growth, which are just zealots for tax cuts and nothing more."
At the same time that FairTax might be looking to re-jigger its operations in Iowa, there is talk that Huckabee fundraisers are pushing hard to build up a war chest to handle the huge media buys their candidate is making in Iowa. Political observers in Pinellas County, Florida, say that Huckabee supporters have been active recently in the Clearwater area, which not coincidentally is a hotbed of activity for the Church of Scientology.
Huckabee is looking at a media buy of about 1000 Gross Rating Points in Iowa -- one point represents reaching one percent of households. By comparison, media buys of 400 GRPs (four views of an ad) are considered large enough to ensure a candidate's message is seen or heard by the majority of likely voters in the caucuses.
The decision by Iowa's National Right to Life Committee to remain neutral in the GOP caucuses was a huge blow to the Fred Thompson campaign, which had been counting on the group's support. In fact, even before the NRLC's national endorsement of Thompson, his campaign had been talking to some Iowa NRLC's supporters, who had previously been supporting Sen. Sam Brownback, about joining their campaign.
But a rival campaign -- believed to be Sen. John McCain's, which was endorsed by Brownback -- swooped in and blocked it.
McCain's campaign is said to have exerted a great deal of energy to ensure that the Iowa NRLC did not follow its national leadership.
DOWN AND DIRTY
The Romney campaign has continued to shop negative stories about former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to reporters on the road and in the national media. Earlier in the week, the Romney team was pushing stories about Giuliani's relationship to a Roman Catholic priest suspected of being part of a sexual abuse scandal in New York. And the campaign continues to push storylines around indicted former Giuliani partner, Bernard Kerik.
The Romney campaign is also being credited for pushing stories about Giuliani's ties to the largest shareholder of al Jazeera TV, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, who has reportedly steered security contracts with Qatar government and a Qatar-based petroleum company to a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners.
"The Romney campaign has been the best research staff on the campaign trail now," says a source inside another campaign. "They have the money to spend to get the information they need and to get it out there."
With news that Sen. Barack Obama will be endorsed by Linda Nelson, president of Iowa's State Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, the Clinton campaign is feeling heat from supporters to start going negative early and often leading into the caucus. Nelson's endorsement is personal, but it is the latest bit of momentum for Obama, who is seeing his numbers surging in Iowa and on the stump seems to be feeling it all the more.
"Some of us have the impression that the Clinton campaign played a little too nice with the Obama folks, when they should have been looking to take him out much sooner and get it over with," says a Clinton supporter in New York. "Now, he's positioned to stick around for a long time and I'm at least worried that it will wear on her and weaken her in the long run."