Lookin’ rather vice presidential there, Gov. Haley…

Giving fresh credence to rumors that Republican elders look upon her as a possible vice-presidential nominee, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been tapped to deliver her party’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech next Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Nikki Haley“Nikki Haley has led an economic turnaround and set a bold agenda for her state, getting things done and becoming one of the most popular governors in America,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in a news release. “In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Governor Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., called Haley “a proven leader and committed reformer who believes deeply in the promise of the country we all share. Not only has Governor Haley fought to bring opportunity and prosperity to the people of her state, but she’s also demonstrated how bringing people together can bring real results.”

The prime-time rebuttal slot has been a prized perch for those with higher aspirations. Those tapped in the past few years to deliver the GOP response include Ryan himself in 2011 – the year before he was GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Current presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave the response in 2013, and former candidate Bobby Jindal gave the response to Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress in February 2009.

Many believe Haley’s conservative bona fides, along with the diversity she symbolizes as a woman and as a daughter of Indian immigrants, make her a good pick for the number-two slot on this year’s GOP ticket. Her popular decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from her capitol’s grounds after June’s massacre in a black church in Charleston, and her steadfast refusal to wade into this year’s presidential morass – she has made no endorsement – could help her chances.

In Ryan’s news release, Haley, 43, said she’s honored to get the speaking slot. “This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities. I intend to speak about both.”


CA17: More on VanLandingham’s nomination

The ties between Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s supporters and those who helped get Republican candidate Joel VanLandingham into the 17th Congressional District race might run deeper than initially reported.

My story early last month outlined how Khanna supporters associated with the Fremont Hindu Temple – including one Newark woman in particular – seemed to have been instrumental in circulating VanLandingham’s nominating petitions. Khanna said neither he nor any members of his campaign staff had anything to do with it.

Vanila Singh, the first Republican to enter the race, has said she doesn’t believe that – she insists Khanna and his supporters recruited VanLandingham to split the GOP vote and boost Khanna’s chances of getting into the June primary’s top two with Rep. Mike Honda. She has used this as an excuse for skipping candidate forums, saying she’ll not take part in any event in which VanLandingham participates.

Now comes new research from Margaret Okuzumi, a Honda supporter who is the Democratic Club of Sunnyvale’s incoming president.

Okuzumi claims Khanna’s campaign moved to “hijack” that club by having more than 45 of campaign staffers and supporters – and even Khanna, who lives in Fremont – become members in the latter half of last year in order to sway the endorsement vote.

“People would only do that if directed by a campaign to do so. Otherwise, they are hardly likely to know that our Democratic Club even exists or that our endorsement is considered of strategic importance, especially if they live as far away from Sunnyvale as Fremont,” she said. “I wouldn’t have minded as much if they’d actually recruited new people from Sunnyvale to join our club. Instead they recruited over 30 people who didn’t care about our city and who weren’t interested in our activities other than our endorsement.”

But Nancy Smith, the Sunnyvale club’s cofounder and former president, said Monday that Honda’s and Khanna’s campaigns both were notified of the club’s endorsement rules – namely, that a person would have to sign up and attend at least one meeting before being allowed to take part in an endorsement vote. “I would have to say Ro’s campaign took that more seriously than Mike’s did,” she said.

The club eventually voted overwhelmingly not to endorse anyone in this race – which some might see as a win for Khanna, given Honda’s incumbency.

However, five of those new Sunnyvale Democratic Club members – including Shivani Sanan, Rajesh and Madhu Gupta, Priya Kapil and Tanu Kalra, all of Fremont – later signed VanLandingham’s Alameda County nominating petitions, Okuzumi found. Another one, Mahesh Pakala, reportedly asked a Fremont couple affiliated with the temple to sign Vanlandingham’s petition. And several of VanLandingham’s petition-signers either themselves gave money – more than $10,000 total – to Khanna’s campaign or had immediate family members who did.

“Without Khanna campaign involvement, VanLandingham would not have received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Okuzumi said.

More, after the jump…
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Jon Huntsman calls it quits

So Jon Huntsman is done, and has thrown his support to Mitt Romney.

Jon Huntsman 1-16-2012 (AP Photo)Not a shocker. Huntsman had put all his eggs in New Hampshire’s basket, which quickly Humpty-Dumptied his sorry self with a distant-third-place finish. Facing Armageddon this Saturday in the more Christian-conservativey South Carolina – where he was even trailing a made-up persona, although some might say all politicians are made-up personas – Huntsman decided to end the masochism this morning in Myrtle Beach.

“America is more divided than ever, and for our nation to move forward together with new leadership and unite, the Republican Party must first unite,” he says in a statement posted to his website. “Today I am suspending my campaign and supporting the candidate who is best-equipped to defeat the president and return conservative leadership to the White House: Governor Mitt Romney.”

Replied Romney, in a statement issued this morning: “I salute Jon Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye. Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support.”

This leaves Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul to duke it out in the Palmetto State. I figure Romney continues his sweep and finishes first. As Gingrich and Santorum vie for the more conservative voters, whoever doesn’t finish second behind Romney will find it hard to march onward to Florida. Paul won’t care so much, as he’s apparently less concerned with winning and more with continuing to get his message out; in fact, a strong finish – buoyed by the younger voters that pushed him forward in Iowa and New Hampshire – could ensure he continues campaigning for quite some time to come.

UPDATE @ 1:43 P.M.: No, I didn’t mention Rick Perry. That’s because I believe his campaign to be…
Texas toast


Brown names Oakland’s Tagami to lottery panel

Oakland political and business deal-broker Phil Tagami was one of three Democrats nominated to the California Lottery Commission today by his longtime political ally Gov. Jerry Brown.

Tagami, 46, has worked at the California Capital and Investment Group since 1992, serving as president and chief executive officer since 2009. He’s been responsible for leading the redevelopments of the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Fox Theater on San PabloTelegraph Avenue in the Uptown district, and the West Oakland train station.

Phil Tagami in the Rotunda Building Nov. 2011 (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard)Tagami has been a significant Democratic campaign benefactor, co-hosting fundraisers for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007 and Brown in 2009.

As mayor, Brown had named Tagami to Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners, on which he served from 2000 to 2003. Tagami also has had a close relationship with former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, formerly of Oakland; Perata named Tagami in 2008 to the California Transportation Commission, on which he served for a year.

Tagami has hinted in the past that he might be interested in running for elected office in Oakland, and a gubernatorial appointment certainly won’t hurt his public resume.

This nomination requires confirmation by the state Senate and the compensation is $100 per diem. The five-member lottery commission meets at least quarterly and “is charged with the authority and responsibility to oversee the Lottery and to ensure its integrity, security and fairness.”

Also nominated to the California Lottery Commission today were Nathaniel Kirtman III, 40, of Sherman Oaks, the senior vice president of publicity for NBC Universal since 2006; and John Smolin, 43, of Long Beach, a Los Angeles County firefighter and union official.


Iowa – so what?

It’s caucus day in Iowa, and the most recent polls show former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a thin lead over Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a more distant third.

And as one of them pops the champagne corks and looses the confetti tonight, I’ll say… so what?

First, consider who is voting. Iowa has a total population of about 3 million, which is less than half of that of the San Francisco Bay Area; only about 2 million are registered, active voters. About 30 percent of Iowa voters are Republicans, but only a fraction of them actually vote in the caucuses: In 2008, it was a record turnout of 119,000, which was only about a fifth of the active registered Republicans at the time. This, in a state that’s 88.7 percent “white, not Hispanic,” as the Census puts it, and where self-identified evangelical Christians wield disproportionate influence by comprising 40 to 60 percent of caucus-goers.

Second, consider the process. Unlike a traditional primary election where you vote or mail in your ballot and then move on, a caucus – a community meeting at which voters express their preferences – can take some time (each campaign can have a surrogate speak for up to five minutes), meaning those who must work or can’t get out of the house for that long can’t vote. There are no absentee ballots, which also eliminates the votes of active-duty soldiers and college students who have left the state for the winter break.

The Iowa caucuses have been the nation’s first major event of the presidential electoral season since 1972, but it’s hard to keep calling them a bellwether when candidates like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum – who clearly don’t have the ground game, fundraising or policy stances to carry other states – are within striking distance of a win there. The ability to influence a tiny slice of one small, homogenous, rural state says hardly anything about who’s likely to win the nomination. Just ask Mike Huckabee.


Field Poll: Romney on top, but voters still tepid

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains on top while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to a strong second among GOP presidential candidates, but California’s Republican voters still aren’t thrilled with their options, according to a new Field Poll.

While candidates strive to solidify their support in the final months before the first caucuses, this poll also shows an increasing proportion of California Republicans – 26 percent, up from 16 percent two months ago – are undecided about who they want as the nominee. More than three in four who expressed a preference for one of the candidates say it’s still early and admit they’ve not made a final decision of who they’ll vote for.

Perhaps that’s because only 16 percent are very satisfied with the field of GOP candidates; 47 percent say they’re somewhat satisfied; and 33 percent are not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

Romney has the support of 26 percent of California Republican voters; Gingrich has 23 percent; former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain has 9 percent; and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has 5 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’d entered the race amid much buzz – and 22 percent report in September – but fizzled in his debate performances, has plummeted and now is tied at 3 percent with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Bring up the rear are former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at 2 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.

Gingrich’s strongest base of support is among the 26 percent of Republican voters who identify a lot with the Tea Party movement; in that group, he leads Romney 38 percent to 18 percent. But among all other Republican voters, Romney leads Gingrich 29 percent to 18 percent.

Among the slightly less than half of California Republicans who call themselves strongly conservative, 84 percent have picked a candidate while 16 percent are undecided; within this segment, Gingrich leads Romney 31 percent to 29 percent. But more than a third of Republican voters who consider themselves moderate remain undecided; in this segment, Romney leads Gingrich 24 percent to 17 percent.

GOP men are dividing almost evenly between Romney (28 percent) and Gingrich (27 percent), while women prefer Romney over Gingrich 25 percent to 19 percent. And Romney’s support skews younger: He leads Gingrich by 10 percentage points among Republican voters under 50, although 52 percent of that age group is still undecided; those 50 or older prefer Gingrich by three percentage points.

The Field Poll surveyed 330 California Republican voters from Nov. 15 through Nov. 27; the poll has a 5.7-percentage-point margin of error.