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Posted at 08:57 AM ET, 12/14/2011

The Morning Plum

* Romney throws stones at Gingrich from inside glass house: Give Mitt Romney points for remarkable chutzpah. In an interview with the Post that will drive much discussion today, Romney, without any visible irony, hammers Gingrich as an “extraordinarily unreliable leader in the conservative world.” Romney highlights Gingrich’s heretical criticism of the Paul Ryan Medicare plan to back up the charge, and the interview signals a new and aggresive phase in the Romney camp’s efforts to tear Newt down.

Amusingly, Romney’s escalation comes as new video has surfaced showing him describing his own views as “progressive” in 2002, before describing himself as a “conservative Republican” a mere three years later, and as still more signs are emerging that Romney really was quite liberal on a range of issues. Why is Romney hammering Newt for vulnerabilities that are far more pronounced in himself, as if no one will notice this obvious disconnect?

It seems highly unlikely that Romney imagines voters will buy the idea that he’s a more reliable conservative than Gingrich. Romney seems to be hoping to muddy the waters, in hopes of getting GOP primary voters to throw up their hands and write off both men as ideologically impure, so they’ll focus on anything other than the question of which candidate is a more “reliable” conservative.

* Romney admits Romneycare is a vulnerability: Another fun quote from the Romney interview:

“There are some elements that create the impression that I may not be a conservative,” Romney said. “One is being from Massachusetts. The other is a health-care plan that people feel was in some ways a model for what Barack Obama did ... People, I think, question those conservative values, and I have to bring them back to my record and, frankly, my writings.”

People “feel” that Romneycare was the model for Obamacare? Well, if that’s the case, they’re absolutely right. And, yes, by all means, let’s look at that “record.”

* Why Republicans may coalesce around Newt: A smart point from Christian Heinze about GOP primary voters who see Newt as more electable than Romney, even though polls show the opposite:

To these Republicans, numbers are fairly meaningless. They’ve seen Gingrich rise from the ashes to the top of the GOP heap, and why couldn’t he do the same in the general election? They have a point. If Gingrich debated his way past Romney and everyone else, why couldn’t he do the same to Obama?

Bottom line: These voters just may decide that Newt’s the man they want to see taking it to Obama.

* What to watch for next in payroll tax cut fight: Now that the House GOP has passed its version of the payroll tax cut extension, and Obama and Senate Dems have declared it a nonstarter, the next question is this: Will Democrats drop the millionaire surtax as a way of paying for the extension, in hopes of finding a compromise with Republicans?

* Why Republicans think they’re on offense: Politico reprints the GOP talking points that are making the rounds. Key among them: The House has passed a payroll tax cut extension; the Senate still hasn’t.

That’s true! But it bears repeating that this is because Republicans won’t allow a straight majority vote on them; a majority of the Senate supports the Dem plan. Still, no denying that the GOP has regained some leverage here.

* Time magazine’s person of the year: “The protester”: Time finds a way to honor the Occupy Wall Street protesters, naming the generic “protester” the person of the year and linking the U.S. protests to broader upheaval around the globe. Time had a nice diagnosis of the importance of the protests and the scope of the problems that spawned them:

In the U.S., three acute and overlapping money crises — tanked economy, systemic financial recklessness, gigantic public debt — along with ongoing revelations of double dealing by banks, new state laws making certain public-employee-union demands illegal and the refusal of Congress to consider even slightly higher taxes on the very highest incomes mobilized Occupy Wall Street and its millions of supporters.

* New Yorkers give Occupy Wall Street higher marks than Bloomberg: Fun numbers from the new Quinnipiac poll: More New Yorkers approve of the way the protests were conducted (52-43) than approve of Mayor Bloomberg’s handling of them (42-51)

Sixty eight percent agree with the protesters; 73 percent agree that the federal government should take steps to reduce income inequality; and 75 percent want tougher regulation of banks. One wonders if the New York Post — which went to nonstop hysterical lengths to smear the protesters and turn everyone against them — will put this poll on its front page.

* Obama team gears up for a very rough reelection fight: John Dickerson on the Obama reelect team’s plans to marry an aggressive populist message with an extremely aggressive campaign to delegitimize not just the eventual opponent, but the entire GOP nominating process.

* Is Paul Ryan vulnerable? His opponent, Democrat Rob Zerban, releases a new poll finding that if respondents in this competitive district are told that Ryan supported “extreme right wing policies,” Ryan drops into the below-50 percent danger zone.

Still, Ryan’s numbers are pretty solid; he holds a large double-digit lead in the toplines and has majority approval and favorability numbers.

* Eric Holder vows tough crackdown on voting restricting laws: Charlie Savage has a nice report on the Attorney General’s new promise to aggressively review state laws designed to restrict access to voting, opps, sorry, laws designed to combat “voter fraud.”

When taken together, these laws add up to a nationwide effort that’s striking in its scope and ambition, and Holder’s suggestion that they smack of deliberate efforts to surpress the vote will enrage right wingers who would never dream of trying to do any such thing.

Adam Serwer put it well: “Eric Holder declares war on the war on voting.”

* And some real talk about Romney’s consistency: Your sorely needed Wednesday comic relief comes courtesy of Christine O’Donnell:

“That’s one of the things that I like about him — because he’s been consistent since he changed his mind.”

What else is happening?

By  |  08:57 AM ET, 12/14/2011

 
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