(CNN) – Much has been made of Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry's college experience as a "cheerleader" during his days at Texas A&M University. Except that Perry was never a cheerleader. He was a "yell leader."
Both are spirit organizations at college sporting events, but otherwise they're quite different, and Perry's role as a yell leader during his college days may serve as an early indicator of political instinct and electoral prowess.
The Aggie Yell Leader squad is made up of a group of juniors and seniors who lead the A&M crowds in trained chants at sporting events with hand motions. Unlike cheerleaders, there are no high flying flips, nor are there traditionally women on the squad. The uniforms do not even have a color, but instead are simple white shirts and white pants
But what makes the yell leader phase of Perry's formative life relevant in the context of the presidential race is the selection process. The yell leader is the highest profile student position on the A&M campus, and they are chosen in a fiercely competitive popularity contest within a current student body of just under 50,000. To have been one of the five students selected for role, at a young age Perry had to have demonstrated an ability to mobilize voting blocs (specifically the A&M Cadet Corps) and politick.
As the official yell leader website writes, "It is not uncommon for more than twice as many students to vote for yell leader candidates than vote in the Student Body President elections."
Read more about Perry's time at A&M in TIME here.
(CNN) – The moon isn't what it used to be.
When President John Kennedy promised the country a lunar landing within eight years, his famous declaration became a symbol of the American can-do ideal, stating that we do such endeavors, "Not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
In February 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used that sentiment as a defense from his Democratic primary rival, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who attacked his campaign for being too idealistic.
An indignant Obama channeled the Kennedy sentiment when he declared at the Wisconsin Jefferson Jackson dinner, "That’s what hope is. Imagining and then fighting for and then working for what did not seem possible before. That's leadership. John F. Kennedy didn't look up at the moon and say, 'That's too far. We can't go.'"
In April 2010, an election, a financial crisis, and an Inauguration later, Obama voiced a different sentiment, however, seemingly tempering his aspirations for the moon as a human destination.
"I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned," he said at Cape Canaveral, Florida. "But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We've been there before. Buzz (Aldrin) has been there."
But minutes after the final shuttle launch Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that the president's space policy is not restrained, but rather expansive.
"The fact is, the president has laid out an ambitious agenda, an ambitious vision for human space life that will take American astronauts beyond where we’ve been ever before, with the ultimate goal being a human mission to Mars,” Carney said.
(CNN) – While former eBay CEO Meg Whitman indicated Wednesday afternoon that she’s out of politics, she is not giving the impression of sour grapes after her failed race for California governor.
When asked on Fox Business Network if she planned to run for public office again, she said, “I doubt it. I doubt it. I’m back in business working on some not-for-profit initiatives. I’ve joined the board of Teach for America and our local charter school here. So, that’s where I’m going to put my efforts.”
However, she encouraged patience when it comes to sitting Gov. Jerry Brown, who beat her last fall by a 13-point spread.
On Brown’s handling of the California budget crisis, Whitman said, “He’s still putting together his plan. He’s trying to make progress here, but I think it’s well known, I would have obviously taken quite a different tack in terms of reducing spending, without raising taxes.”
She continued, “I was clear about that in campaign, but let’s see what Gov. Brown can get done. He deserves a chance to be successful. It’s a different tack than I would have taken… But let’s see what happens.”
(CNN) – Donald Trump appeared to stumble into a contradiction in an interview Tuesday – a misstep that could haunt the potential GOP presidential candidate amongst social conservatives.
In an interview with MSNBC, Trump was asked if he believed there was a right to privacy in the Constitution – a right that, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has said can be inferred from the text.
He responded, "I guess there is, I guess there is."
Then his tone of voice changed and he followed up with, "And why, just out of curiosity, why do you ask that question?"
When NBC's Savannah Guthrie wondered how that line of legal theory "squares" with his pro-life stance, Trump said, "Well, that's a pretty strange way of getting to pro-life. I mean, it's a very unique way of asking about pro-life. What does that have to do with privacy? How are you equating pro-life with privacy?"
To answer Trump's question, the United States Supreme Court equated the right to privacy as grounds to legalize abortion in its controversial 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball gave former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney some cover on the issue of health care reform last night. Asked about Romney’s efforts at reforming the health care system in Massachusetts during an appearance on CNN’s John King, USA, Kimball told guest-anchor Jessica Yellin, “I think it’s important for everyone to understand that when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, they needed to do something, he came up with an experiment which is what you’re calling Romney care but it really was an innovative experiment.”
Kimball – whose election to run the New Hampshire GOP was viewed as a major power coup for the tea party in the run-up to the 2012 election – also added, “[Romney’s] a very smart man and what he did was he came up with this program geared for the state of Massachusetts. It was never meant to be some model for a national health care program. And Mitt Romney’s made it very clear, and as recently as a few weeks ago to me that he’s in favor of complete repeal of Obamacare, and that each state should be able to come up with their own plan, and to do what’s best for their state.”
He then downplayed the importance of the health care issue in the GOP nomination fight saying, “It shouldn’t be as big an issue as folks are making it.”
A fictional vice president on “The West Wing” once said, “You know what they call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk.” The character ended up losing his party’s nomination when he ran for president on his own.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota does not seem to be just taking a walk. Instead, she’s making a footprint in the donor, social media and mainstream worlds.
The Congresswoman will appear on “John King, USA” tonight at 7pm EST, having attracted fascination from conservatives and liberals alike. Even so, after CNN first reported her intent to form a presidential exploratory committee, many establishment eyes rolled.
Rarely do House members make it to the White House. She has a penchant for inciting the left. She keeps fact checkers working over time. She has only been in Congress since 2007. Some of her potential rivals within the GOP have or once had contracts with the most prominent conservative platform, Fox News. And many of her other rivals have or once had constituencies of millions.
However, her ability to sponge fundraising dollars and her ability to pique the interest of both grassroots individuals and the mass media show she will be no debate sideshow.
Most notably, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bachmann has a unique fundraising prowess. Not only did her campaign raise more money than any other House member during the 2010 cycle, but more than half of those funds came from small donors, many of whom are retired, a notoriously formidable voting bloc.
The small donor base mirrors a strong social media following. Bachmann has one of the largest political Facebook followings (213,301) for anyone who has not previously run for president. Her Twitter following (40,315) is anything but anemic. Both of those numbers beat those of Republicans Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty , and Rick Santorum.
Additionally, it is not merely social media and political donors who have noticed Bachmann. According to a LexisNexis search, since the beginning of the year, her name has been omnipresent on television and in publications. She has been discussed in the mass media more than anyone in the Republican field since the beginning of the year except for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.
Searches were current as of this afternoon.
(Includes common misspellings of her name)
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 1,655
213,301 Facebook likes
40,315 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 766
17,774 Facebook likes
13,686 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 1,281
46,174 Facebook likes
5,764 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 2,126
120,833 Facebook likes
1,313,893 twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 1,363
560,512 Facebook likes
143,024 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 309
1,677 Facebook likes
1,789 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 5,186
2,867,368 Facebook likes
474,518 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 1,199
82,040 Facebook likes
29,360 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 1,660
838,368 Facebook likes
32,147 Twitter followers
Combined Nexis TV, newspaper, magazine mentions: 437
13,483 Facebook likes
5,925 Twitter followers
After news broke early this morning that President Obama had told supporters he would file papers for reelection, a few of his potential opponents were quick to respond in both traditional ways and by utilizing social media that show just how fast the nascent campaign is likely to be.
By mid-morning, both former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had responded in ways that were not possible just two election cycles ago. Romney tweeted, “@BarackObama I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as do 14m unemployed Americans.” Then Pawlenty’s exploratory committee alerted the press to a high production value YouTube web video in which Pawlenty says, “I've got a question – how can America win the future when we're losing the present?”
By afternoon, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum were on the record about Obama’s intentions, but in more traditional ways. Gingrich had the toughest words for Obama, calling him “a one-term president,” and he told the press in Manchester, New Hampshire that Obama is “trying to create a Chicago style machine for the whole country with a billion dollars. It’s not about us, it’s about money. It’s about the president’s ability to coerce and run over the American people by building a machine so big nobody can challenge him.” Gingrich added, “I don’t believe he can raise enough money to hide from the American people.”
Santorum issued an email statement through his political action committee, in which he said, “We can't take four more years of the 'change' the Obama Administration has forced upon America. The only thing that has changed is the amount of our debt, the size of our government, the loss of our freedom, the fewer jobs for those wanting work, the diminished stature of America, and an expensive military commitment without a clear national security purpose.”
CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.
In politics, it seems, fat cats come in all sorts of breeds.
A group called The National Republican Trust aired a hard-hitting ad late last night in Madison, Wis. attacking public sector unions. In one part, the ad featured video of union leaders – including AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka – as a voiceover wonders, “Are these fat cat union bosses trying to destroy our country?”
The use of the term “fat cats” is noteworthy because President Obama has used it to describe those in the private sector who are often at odds with union leaders – Wall Streeters. In December 2009, he told CBS, “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.”
There were no specific donor disclosures on The National Republican Trust’s website, but the group describes its supporters as coming “from all walks of life,” and sharing “one common belief, that America has been a great nation because of her people and their enduring values.”
Washington (CNN) – Should he decide to seek another term in 2012, Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb has ruled out the possibility of running as an independent.
"I've been through a journey in my life on this. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's probably my role model. He was very comfortable serving in a Republican administration. I'm very proud to have served in the Reagan administration. But in terms of the political values – when they're implemented properly – the Democratic Party is the party that I identify with," Webb told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Tuesday.
In the interview, which aired on Tuesday's "John King, USA," Webb expressed ambivalence about running again, but he was clear that he will make his decision by March 31st of this year.
"We're still talking about that particularly inside my family," he said. "It's an eight year commitment for us. People get excited about elections, but it's eight years, so I've said that I'll make a decision before the end of the first quarter, and we will."
His 2006 foe and former Republican Sen. George Allen's interest in a rematch will not affect Webb's decision-making. Webb said, "That's not even in the formula, it's whether or not we want to make the decision to be up here for another eight years and do what it takes to do that."
When pressed on his slow fundraising operation, the senator explained, "Well, I don't want to be asking people for money unless they can you know be certain I'm going to use it for a campaign."
However, should he decide to run, Webb added, "When you go back to the '06 campaign, I announced nine months almost to the day before the election with zero dollars and no campaign staff, and we were 33 points behind, raised enough money to win. I don't want to go through that process again, but I'm not worried about the fundraising side, this is a personal family decision that we have to resolve."
On President Obama, Webb told King, "The president, I think, finally hit that spot in the lame duck when he brought people together on the extension of the Bush tax cuts but also the provisions in there that extended unemployment and gave business credits and those sorts of things." He continued, "I hope you're going to hear tonight that same sort of formula. We've got to come together for the good of the country despite philosophical differences and move things forward."
However, he added, "This is not a parliamentary system. He is not the prime minster so I am not obligated to agree with the president at every issue either so I'll be looking very carefully at what he's proposing and I hope to be able to agree with him but I don't feel obligated to."
As for the new bipartisan date fad striking the U.S. Capitol for the big speech, Webb indicated he is going stag. "It's a little silly but it's not harmful," he said. "I've got a lot of friends who are Republicans, and I don't quite see walking up to them and asking them if they want to sit with me. I have my favorite spot which is fairly close to the door – I'll probably stay in that spot."
Washington (CNN) – Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb said Tuesday he is going to the State of the Union stag. “It's a little silly but it's not harmful,” he said today of the new bipartisan date fad striking the U.S. Capitol for the big speech. “I've got a lot of friends who are Republicans, and I don’t quite see walking up to them and asking them if they want to sit with me. I have my favorite spot which is fairly close to the door – I'll probably stay in that spot.”
Webb spoke today with CNN’s Chief National Correspondent John King in an interview to air tonight at 7pmET on “John King, USA.” They also discussed his views on Pres. Obama and the 2012 election year – a race in which he will be up for reelection, should he decide to run.
On Obama, Webb told King, “The president, I think, finally hit that spot in the lame duck when he brought people together on the extension of the Bush tax cuts but also the provisions in there that extended unemployment and gave business credits and those sorts of things.” He continued, “I hope you're going to hear tonight that same sort of formula. We've got to come together for the good of the country despite philosophical differences and move things forward.”
However, he added, “This is not a parliamentary system. He is not the prime minster so I am not obligated to agree with the president at every issue either so I'll be looking very carefully at what he's proposing and I hope to be able to agree with him but I don't feel obligated to.”
Still almost 23 months away, the Virginia race is already shaping up to be one of the most fascinating Senate races of 2012. Although Webb defeated former Republican Senator George Allen in 2006, Allen sent strong signals Monday that he was readying for a rematch. Only 9,300 votes decided their last match up, and since that race, the state turned blue for Obama in 2008, only to elect a Republican governor in 2009. What remains unknown is how a ballot with President Obama at the top of the ticket will affect Webb. There is the added dynamic of a possible Tea Party challenge to Allen in the primary, and Webb’s decision on whether or not he will seek another term.
When King asked about his intentions and relatively slow pace fundraising, Webb said he had started slow and been counted out before when he challenged – and beat – Allen the last time.