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Republican primary and caucus voters in nine states have already been treated to a sampling of both accurate and misleading television attack ads, debate claims and talking points Tennesseans can expect to hear in advance of the March 6 Super Tuesday contest.
While Tennessee may not experience the tsunami of ad campaigns unleashed on Florida voters, or expected in Georgia and Ohio, its voters can expect some of the deliberately manipulative claims that require careful voters to sift through often outrageous claims.
Ahead of the March 6 primaries, PolitiFact Tennessee is coordinating coverage of the GOP presidential primaries with PolitiFact.com and state PolitiFact affiliates in Georgia, Virginia and Ohio -- all of whom have Super Tuesday primaries as well. As new claims abound, we will subject them to scrutiny, but past contests indicate many old claims are likely coming our way over the next week.
There is, for example, Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s claim that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney backed "job-killing cap-and-trade" legislation -- which PolitiFact Ohio rated False. Santorum’s claim that he had warned of the housing bubble in 2006? Mostly False.
To get a sense of how confusing competing claims can be, Romney made the point that while he was "fighting cap and trade, the speaker (Newt Gingrich) was sitting down with Nancy Pelosi on a sofa encouraging it." PolitiFact Florida’s ruling: Half True.
PolitiFact Ohio, which also has Super Tuesday primary to cover, checked out Romney’s claim, after his victory in Nevada, that President Obama promised to hold unemployment under 8 percent if Congress passed his stimulus bill. That earned Romney a False ruling -- the White House Council of Economic Advisors projected the proposed stimulus could have that effect but made the 8 percent projection with disclaimers.
On a matter of key importance to Republicans, the individual insurance mandate, PolitiFact Florida checked Santorum’s claim that Gingrich supported the concept 20 years before coming out as a presidential candidate against it. That idea is now enshrined in the Affordable Care Act, or what Republicans call Obamacare, and will be the subject of arguments before the Supreme Court in its next term.
Gingrich was quoted over a long period, at least since October 1993 when President Clinton was trying to pass health care reform legislation, supportive of the idea that individuals should be "required" to have health insurance policies, just as drivers are required to have liability insurance, PolitiFact Florida found.
Therefore, Santorum’s attack on Gingrich got a Mostly True.
Tennesseans may also hear the Half True claim made by a Gingrich SuperPAC ad in December that Gingrich was responsible for balancing the budget in the 1990s when, in fact, the federal budgets did achieve surpluses during his tenure as speaker. But as PolitiFact pointed out, Gingrich and every other Republican member of Congress voted against President Bill Clinton’s 1993 Deficit Reduction Act, which raised taxes and led ultimately to the late-90s boom that led to balanced budgets.
What Tennesseans will hear may be tailored differently than the messages heard in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota or Missouri, or what voters in Arizona, Michigan – both winner-take-all primaries -- and Washington state will hear this week.
But we feel safe in saying that anyone who makes the claim that Ron Paul was Elvis’ love child can rely on us to dispel the falsehood. Both were born in 1935.
As for the Democratic presidential candidate? President Obama has been checked more than anyone in PolitiFact’s history -- 343 times. And all but two of his 500-plus campaign promises have been rated.
See related Truth-O-Meter items.