Daily Archives: February 2, 2012

2012 Election: For Romney and Paul, a strategic partnership

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul during a GOP debate in October, said Wednesday he would vote for Paul over President Barack Obama if Paul were to win the GOP nomination. (AP File Photo)

WP | Feb 1, 2012

By Amy Gardner

RENO, Nev. — The remaining candidates in the winnowed Republican presidential field are attacking one another with abandon, with each day bringing fresh headlines of accusations and outrage.

But Mitt Romney and Ron Paul haven’t laid a hand on each other.

They never do.

Despite deep differences on a range of issues, Romney and Paul became personal friends in 2008, the last time both ran for president. So did their wives, Ann and Carol. The former Massachusetts governor compliments the Texas congressman during debates — praising Paul’s religious faith during the last one, in Jacksonville. Immediately afterward, as is often the case, the Pauls and the Romneys gravitated toward each other to say hello.

The Romney-Paul alliance is more than a curious connection. It is now a strategic partnership: for Paul, an opportunity to gain a seat at the table if his long-shot bid for the presidency fails; and for Romney, a chance to gain support from one of the most vibrant subgroups within the Republican Party.

“It would be very foolish for anybody in the Republican Party to dismiss a very real constituency,” one senior Republican aide in Washington familiar with both camps said said. “Ron Paul plays a very valuable part in the process and brings a lot of voters toward the Republican Party and ultimately into the voting booth, and that’s something that can’t be ignored.”

To ensure they are heard — not just now but after election day — Paul and his followers are working to gain a permanent foothold in the Republican Party nationwide. One state at a time, Paul’s followers are seating themselves at county committee meetings, standing for election as state officers and convention delegates — all to make sure that Paul’s libertarian vision is taken into account. The goal is a lasting voice for an army of outsiders who have long felt ignored but see the nation headed to ruin if that doesn’t change.

That is just fine with the Romney campaign, which would be happy to bring Paul’s constituency — perhaps the most intense and loyal in the country — into the fold.

Romney aides are “quietly in touch with Ron Paul,” according to a Republican adviser who is in touch with the Romney campaign and requested anonymity to discuss the campaign’s internal thinking. The Paul and Romney campaigns have “coordinated” on minor things, the adviser said (even on small details, such as staggering the timing of each candidate’s appearance on television the night of the New Hampshire primary for maximum effect).

One advantage for Romney in Paul’s continued presence in the race is to keep the GOP field fractured. But there is also a growing recognition that Paul plans to stay in the race over the long term anyway — and that accommodating him and his supporters could help unify the Republican electorate in the fall election against President Obama.

“Ron Paul wants a presence at the convention,” the adviser said — and Romney, if he is the nominee, would grant it.

What Paul and his supporters would demand, and what Romney would offer, is the subject of some speculation. One Paul adviser who requested anonymity to speak freely said a prime-time speaking slot for Paul — and for his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) — are obvious goals. On the policy front, Paul’s top priorities are reforming the Federal Reserve and reducing federal spending. So a promise to audit the Fed, and to tackle deficit reduction seriously, could appease Paul and his supporters, the adviser said.

Less likely are concessions on foreign policy, where Paul’s non-interventionist stand is at odds with Romney and most other Republicans.

Infiltrating the party

For Paul’s campaign, playing the inside-outside game has required nudging activists into the party system even as he and they remain wary of it.

“I’ve been involved in politics for 20 or 30 years,” Paul told a cheering crowd in a Spartanburg, S.C., hotel ballroom in January. “One of the reasons I became frustrated with the whole process is that the rhetoric could be so different. Republicans would say one thing, but then, when they get into office, they haven’t done a heck of a lot.” Paul paused, and his audience cheered loudly as he added: “Have you ever noticed that?”

Paul’s crowd was characteristically scrappy and diverse that day: a man with a ponytail and a camouflage hunting jacket, a young mother with two small children, a doctor and his wife and a well-dressed young professional couple.

Yet the insurgents are executing a concerted strategy to infiltrate the Republican Party. Five Paul supporters, for instance, sit on the Iowa GOP’s state central committee, where Paul finished a strong third in the Jan. 3 caucuses. In Nevada, the state GOP’s vice chairman is a Paul supporter. In Virginia, Paul supporters are lining up to attend county and district conventions to influence the election of national delegates.

In Reno, regional coordinator Wayne Terhune used a slide show on a recent weeknight to teach volunteers how to participate in a Republican precinct meeting to help Paul win delegates during the state’s upcoming caucuses on Feb. 4. He has tutored packed rooms at Denny’s as well as smaller crowds of followers in the Paul campaign’s Reno headquarters in a low-slung office building alongside the airport.

In a tiny conference room with a water cooler and two dogs on the floor, Terhune instructed volunteers not to allow paper ballots out of their sight after caucus votes take place — but also to dress neatly and inconspicuously, so that fellow Republicans wouldn’t be disinclined to elect them as caucus delegates.

A common refrain is to “cover your tattoos and cut your hair,” said Paul’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, who often tells coordinators to “dress for business, because we mean business.”

“You’ll nominate yourself,” Terhune told the room. “They’ll probably have you give your speech. Have a meeting a day ahead so all the Ron Paul people know who the other Ron Paul people are, so you can vote for them. Then you give a generic speech, and the non-Ron Paul people say, ‘Oh, he’s solid, I can vote for him.’ ”

Terhune also urged the volunteers to pull out their iPhones and videotape the proceedings on caucus night if party officials “don’t play by the rules.”

Joining the establishment

Paul’s infiltration strategy began in 2008, after his last presidential bid ended, when he saw the potential to continue building a movement by working within the party.

But the idea took off in 2010 when Paul’s son, Rand, ran for the Senate. On an outsider’s, small-government message very similar to his father’s, Rand Paul won the Republican primary that year against an opponent who was handpicked by Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader and senior senator from Kentucky.

Then, quite strangely, the establishment and the Pauls came together.

At McConnell’s request, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent an adviser to Kentucky to watch over Rand Paul’s general-election campaign — “to be the grown-up in the room,” according to one Washington Republican who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

The adviser, Trygve Olson, developed a friendship with Rand Paul, and the two realized they could actually teach each other a lot to the benefit of both candidate and party. Olson showed Paul and his campaign traditional establishment tactics: working with the press, fine-tuning message; and Paul showed Olson — and McConnell, by extension — how many new people his message of fiscal responsibility was drawing to the party.

One day that year, at Rand Paul’s request, McConnell joined him for a tea party gathering in Kentucky, according to a Republican who was there. “Who are these people?” McConnell asked, bewildered by the dearth of familiar faces at a political event in his home state.

At Rand Paul’s suggestion, Olson joined his father’s presidential campaign this year — basically to continue doing what he did for Rand: help bring the Paul constituency into the Republican coalition without threatening the party. It’s probably no small coincidence that the partnership helps Rand’s burgeoning political career, too.

“You can dress in black and stand on the hill and smash the state and influence nobody, or you can realize the dynamics and the environment and get involved in the most pragmatic way to win minds and win votes and influence change,” said Benton, the campaign manager. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Death Freeze Grips Europe, Killing 80

A man takes pictures of stones covered in ice as the water of the Black Sea freeze near the shore in Constanta, Romania, Wednesday, Feb.1, 2012. The death toll from Eastern Europe’s severe cold spell has risen to 79. Temperatures have dropped as low as minus 32.5 C (minus 26.5 F) in some regions, causing power outages, traffic chaos and the closure of schools and nurseries. The weather is so cold that some areas of the Black Sea have frozen near the Romanian coastline. AP Photo

ABC News | Feb 1, 2012

by Simon McGregor-Wood

The severe cold weather currently gripping Eastern Europe has now spread to Italy and as far south as Turkey.

As many as 80 people have died, mainly in Ukraine and Poland, as the death freeze settles over the continent.

Dan Britton, a press officer at Britain’s Met Office, told ABC News the cold weather stems from “a large area of high pressure sitting over Eastern Europe, which has brought about cold temperatures over quite a large area.”

The Ukraine has suffered the most fatalities as emergency ministries confirmed 43 people had perished in minus-28 degree temperatures.

While hospitals in Ukraine have treated more than 600 people for frostbite and pneumonia, many of the dead were homeless people who were unable to find shelter at night.

As Poland experienced minus-22 degree conditions, seven more deaths have been confirmed. Five were said to be homeless people.

Several people have also died in the Baltic states — the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia and Romania and Bulgaria — where until now temperatures had been well above normal for midwinter.

The heavy snow has caused transport chaos across Europe.

The German media reported the death of one woman was a result of her losing control of her car on the icy roads.

Heavy-goods vehicles have been barred from the freeways in Central Italy and cargo ships have been warned of ice floes on the Danube.

Even some areas of Romania’s Black sea coastline have reportedly frozen over.

Forecasters have confirmed that this area of high pressure has come from Siberia.

“These kind of weather conditions occur every 20 to 30 years, last time in 1986 and 1956,” Jurik Muller of the German Meteorological Service said.

With snow now falling in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, the weather is likely to continue throughout the weekend.

Deep Freeze: Helicopters rescue stranded Europeans from snowbound villages

Bosnians wave to a helicopter crew as they wait for food supplies near Sokolac, Bosnia, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. (AP / Radul Radovanovic)

Helicopters pluck stranded Europeans from snowbound villages

Associated Press | Feb 1, 2012

Rescue helicopters evacuated dozens of people from snow-blocked villages in Serbia and Bosnia and air-lifted in emergency food and medicine as a severe cold spell kept Eastern Europe in its icy grip.

The death toll from the cold rose to 83 on Wednesday and emergency crews worked overtime as temperatures sank to minus 32.5 C (minus 26.5 F) in some areas.

Parts of the Black Sea froze near the Romanian coastline and the rare snow fell on Croatian islands in the Adriatic Sea. In Bulgaria, 16 towns recorded their lowest temperatures since records started 100 years ago as four more people were reported dead from hypothermia.

In central Serbia, choppers pulled out 12 people, including nine who went to a funeral but then could not get back over icy, snow-choked roads. Two more people froze to death in the snow and two others are missing, bringing that nation’s death toll to five.

“The situation is dramatic, the snow is up to five meters (16 1/2 feet) high in some areas, you can only see rooftops,” said Dr. Milorad Dramacanin, who participated in the helicopter evacuations.

One of the evacuees was an elderly woman who had fallen into a coma. She survived after being airlifted to a hospital.

Two helicopters were also used Wednesday to rescue people and supply remote villages in northern Bosnia.

“We are trying to get through to several small villages, with each just a few elderly residents,” said Bosnian rescue official Milimir Doder. “All together some 200-300 people are cut off. We are supplying them for the second day with food and medication.”

In the small Bosnian hamlet of Han Kran on Mt. Romanija, villagers waited for a helicopter at a flat spot which they cleared of snow to allow it to land.

“We are barely coping. I live on my own — it is a real struggle,” said Radenka Jeftovic, an elderly woman wrapped in woolen scarfs and hugging a food package she received.

Goran Milat, a younger resident, complained that “the minuses are killing us.”

“We are thankful for this help,” he said. “But, the snow did what it did and we are blocked here until spring.”

Some Bosnian villages have had no electricity for days and crews were working around-the-clock trying to fix power lines.

“The snow is about two meters high (6 feet) and we have cleared off paths that look more like tunnels,” Doder said. “It is going well but if there is more snow coming, then the situation may get critical.”

Ukraine alone reported 43 deaths, mostly of homeless people. The country’s Emergency Situations Ministry said 28 people had been found dead on the streets, eight died in hospitals and seven in their homes. Over 720 others were hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite.

Ukraine’s 1+1 channel broadcast footage of a man being treated for frostbite in his toes, which had turned completely black.

Authorities have deployed over 1,730 heating shelters across the country, handing out hot tea, coffee, boiled potatoes and pork fat — a traditional Ukrainian dish — to the homeless. Hospitals were told not to discharge homeless patients even if their treatment was finished to protect them from the cold.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov urged Ukrainians to stay vigilant, dress warmly and help each other in the face of the severe weather.

“I call on citizens, enterprises, organizations not to be indifferent, to support and protect those people who cannot help themselves in this difficult time,” Azarov said in a statement Wednesday. “We are one people.”

His comments after some experts suggested Ukraine’s high death toll was linked to authorities’ unwillingness and incompetence in dealing with the homeless.

Pavlo Rozenko, an expert on social policy with the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center, said Ukrainian authorities often suffer from the Soviet legacy of viewing the homeless as alcoholics, drug addicts and do-nothings who need to be punished instead of helped.

“The country doesn’t know yet how to take care of its homeless,” Rozenko said.

In Romania, temperatures plunged to minus 32.5 C (minus 26.5), and six homeless people died in the past 24 hours of hypothermia, the health ministry reported. Hundreds of other people were sent to shelters to protect them from the extreme cold.

Five people died of hypothermia in the last day in Poland, bringing its toll up to 20 since Friday.

Several schools across Hungary suspended classes, including one in the east that said it could not afford the high heating bills. The airport in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica was closed down for all flights late Wednesday because of heavy snowfall.

In Russia, temperatures fell to minus 21 C (minus 6 F) in Moscow but only one person was reported to have died of the cold.

Despite the freezing temperatures, Gyorgy Schirilla, a 50-year-old sportsman, said he would go ahead with his annual swim on Saturday with no protective gear cross the Danube River — a distance of 500 metres (yards) — in the northern Hungarian city of Vac.

“I’m not afraid of the challenge,” Schirilla said. “This will be my 15th crossing. Two years ago … I had to fend off ice floes weighing several tons.”