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Election 2012 HuffPost Blog: Latest News On The Campaign


First Posted: 11/07/2011 7:03 pm Updated: 02/17/2012 4:22 pm

WASHINGTON -- The campaign blog below, which launched on the Election Day before Election Day 2012, is a HuffPost within HuffPost: A central source of breaking news, analysis, original reporting and aggregation, both fast and comprehensive.

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Rick Santorum was bedeviled for the second day in a row Wednesday by comments he made four years ago about Satan.

"Our presidents in the past have been very clear that they believe in God and Satan and good and evil," Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for Santorum, told The Huffington Post. "It may seem extremely strange to

the media, this country was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. This isn't out of the mainstream. When he believes in God that isn't news."

Santorum on Tuesday night attempted to move past the comments by telling reporters that they were asking "questions that are not relevant to what's being discussed in America today."

But an unnamed Santorum aide gave the story more oxygen when he was quoted Wednesday by the Washington Examiner's Byron York saying that if Santorum's faith perspective was going to be so closely examined, then Mitt Romney's Mormon faith should also come under the microscope.

"Why is Mormonism off limits?" the Santorum aide said.

A Republican consultant who is supporting Romney said that even if the Santorum campaign may be legitimately upset about a disparity in how its Protestant faith is examined more intensely than others, going after Romney's Mormonism is bad idea.

"People are not about attacking someone's religion," the Republican said. "There's no question it tends to be fair game on evangelical Christians, but that's just the political reality we live in. If they start going after the Mormonism thing, that's going to blow up on them."

And Santorum's original comments, the GOP operative added, are also going to hurt him with voters, because they play into the image of Santorum as someone who is so passionate about social issues and morality that he will meddle in people's personal lives.

"It just reinforces that he wants to be the moral conscience of our country, and nobody's looking for big brother," he said. "And even though I tend to agree with him, people don't want Washington in that

role. It's problematic. I think it reinforces that. That's his problem in the fall and it makes it his problem right now."

-- Jon Ward

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Comments by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that he would be "honored" to be considered for vice president if Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee set off an instant brushfire on the Internet.

"This explains a lot," wrote "the Daily Caller's" Matt Lewis, pointing to the much-remarked upon friendly relationship between Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Romney, both presidential candidates.

HuffPost's Sam Stein wrote: "The Texas Republican has refused to attack Romney during televised debates. He's also devoted a considerable portion of his vast campaign resources to television ads that undermine Romney's opponent of the week, from Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, to his latest foe, Rick Santorum."

Rand Paul's remark was treated as circumstantial evidence that there is some sort of agreement between Romney and Paul's father, with Romney promising some sort of reward to Paul for his unofficial and unstated alliance.

But Rand Paul's chief of staff, Doug Stafford, told HuffPost late Wednesday that there was no there there in his boss' comment.

"The senator was answering a question posed to him by the media. His father is running for president, and since no one has won even 20 percent of the delegates needed to win, he is a contender for the nomination," Stafford said in an email. "If he does not win and the eventual winner wishes to consider Senator Paul for the VP spot, of course he would be honored. Why wouldn't someone consider it an honor to be asked to run for the second-highest office in the country?"

-- Jon Ward

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HuffPost's Simone Landon reports:

Very few Detroit residents vote Republican -- around 13 or 14 percent in general elections -- according to Wayne State University Professor of Political Science Lyke Thompson. Historically Detroiters long have voted Democratic, with the party having dominated elections since before the Great Depression.

"Detroit has had much more connection to the Democratic Party than did the rest of the state," Thompson explained.

Overall voter turnout for the 2008 presidential primary in the city was 15.7 percent. A total of 5,235 people voted Republican. Mitt Romney won Detroit that year, with 1,661 votes to eventual GOP nominee John McCain's 1,306. Ron Paul got 411 Detroit votes.

But in the 2008 general election, Obama swept McCain 97 percent to 2.7 percent. Only 8,881 people in Detroit voted for the Republican candidate.

Read more here.

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There have always been questions about why, exactly, Rep. Ron Paul has spent so much of his presidential campaign coming to the aid of Mitt Romney.

The Texas Republican has refused to attack Romney during televised debates. He's also devoted a considerable portion of his vast campaign resources to television ads that undermine Romney's opponent of the week, from Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, to his latest foe, Rick Santorum.

Paul and Romney are reportedly friends, but that seemed like only half the story. The most logical explanation for the alliance was that Romney had promised Paul some sort of future role, either at the GOP convention or even in his administration. Some also speculated that Romney might have plans for Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

On Wednesday, the younger Paul acknowledged that he would in fact love to be on Romney's V.P. shortlist.

“I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I can say it would be an honor to be considered,” Sen. Paul said.

-- Sam Stein

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The fortunes of Michigan GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra have plummeted since his infamous Super Bowl ad featuring an Asian woman speaking broken English aired.

The latest evidence is a Wednesday NBC/Marist poll that finds Hoekstra trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow by 21 points.

A week ago, he trailed by 14 points, according to a Public Policy Polling survey. Before that, Stabenow had averaged just a seven-point lead.

Hoekstra has since removed the ad, and the actress, Lisa Chan, has apologized for participating.

-- Michael McAuliff

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Ann Romney has recorded a robocall for her husband's campaign, urging GOP voters in Michigan to cast a ballot for her husband in Tuesday's primary. In the call, obtained by anti-robocall activist Shaun Dakin, Ann plays up the Michigan roots of her and Mitt's family:

Hi! This is Ann Romney calling for Romney for President. On behalf of my husband Mitt, I wanted to have a chance to personally ask you for your vote before the Michigan Republican primary.

Michigan is home for Mitt and me. It's where we were raised, it's where we met and it's where many of our family still live today. Because of that, your support would mean a lot to Mitt, to me and to our whole family. With your help, I'm certain that Mitt can defeat Barack Obama this fall, and we can put a man in the White House who cares deeply about Michigan.

If you need anything from our Michigan team, please call our headquarters at (248) 270-8354. They are working around the clock and will be happy to hep you out.

Thank you for your time. This call is paid for Romney for President, Inc.

LISTEN:



-- Amanda Terkel

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Danny Tarkanian, a local sports star and son of basketball coaching great Jerry Tarkanian, is the GOP's highest-profile contender for Nevada's new congressional district.

But the Nevada Democratic Party wants to make sure he's better known for his unfortunate career in politics and a rocky start to this year's campaign, so it released a video mocking him this afternoon.

The spot notes that Tarkanian, a lawyer and businessman who has lost three political contests already, started this contest for the new House seat by filing his candidacy papers with the U.S. Senate. Among other items, the ad notes that Tarkanian lives in Nevada's 1st Congressional District, not the new 4th, and his form misspells Las Vegas as Las Vegan. The announcer pronounces Vegan with the long E, saying, "Las Vegan? Really?"

WATCH:

-- Michael McAuliff

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Two new polls from NBC and the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion give Mitt Romney's campaign something to smile about.

In Michigan, the poll shows a "tight battle" between Romney at 37 percent and Rick Santorum at 35 percent among likely Republican primary voters, with 13 percent for Ron Paul and 8 percent for Newt Gingrich. Most other recent surveys have found Santorum ahead by single digit margins, although the trend over the last week has been in Romney's favor.

In Arizona, the NBC/Marist poll gives Romney a 16 percentage point lead over Santorum (43 to 27 percent), followed by Gingrich (16 percent) and Paul (11 percent). A half dozen other polls conducted in Arizona over the last week have shown Romney leading, although by narrower margins.

The two NBC/Marist polls were conducted by telephone from Feb. 19 to 20 using live interviewers, and both involved samples of both landline and mobile phone numbers.

Read more about other recent polls in Michigan here.

-- Mark Blumenthal

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Buddy Roemer has long been the forgotten man in the field of remaining GOP presidential candidates. On Wednesday, he made that status official, saying he would drop his bid for the Republican nomination and continue his run for the White House as an independent.

"I have decided to take my campaign directly to the American people by declaring my candidacy for Americans Elect. Also, after many discussions with The Reform Party, I am excited to announce my intentions of seeking their nomination," Johnson said in a statement. "It is time to heal our nation and build a coalition of Americans who are fed up with the status quo and the partisan gridlock that infects Washington."

As a Republican, the former Louisiana governor was mostly seen as a novelty candidate for his lively Twitter feed and campaign stops like visiting Occupy DC.

-- Max J. Rosenthal

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The more conservative of Detroit's two major, Gannett-owned newspapers formally endorsed Mitt Romney in Michigan's upcoming GOP primary.

The Detroit News' op-ed page has allowed plenty of room to supporters of the Michigan native and former Massachusetts governor. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gave his endorsement to Romney in an op-ed last week, and the paper offered the candidate a forum to reiterate his opposition stance to the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

"Pick a presidential candidate capable of leading this nation to prosperity and stability and choose a nominee who will give the GOP a fighting chance of defeating President Barack Obama this fall," the Wednesday Detroit News endorsement reads:

On leadership, the Michigan native and former Massachusetts governor has the strongest resume of the four remaining Republican candidates. He has not only successfully run a state, but also has deep experience in turning around private companies. America today is the ultimate turnaround project.

Romney has a refreshing free market vision for restoring the nation's prosperity. He sees a return to our entrepreneurial roots, freeing individuals to reach for their dreams, take risks and strive for gain with minimal government encumbrances.

He would reverse the rush toward a government-controlled economy and allow the free marketplace to do what it has always done -- pull the nation back to its feet.

Read more here.

-- Simone Landon

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Fox Business Network radio host Don Imus ripped into Rick Santorum on his show Tuesday, calling the Republican "a wretched individual."

Mediaite reported that Imus said he had first-hand knowledge about the Santorums that backed up his views on the former Pennsylvania senator and his wife, Karen. Imus' wife, Deidre, worked closely with the Santorum family on a bill to combat autism in 2006.

“Rick Santorum is just one of the phoniest ... ugh ... just a wretched individual!” Imus said. “I know that first hand, from when Deirdre worked on him with that Combating Autism bill. Everybody's expendable. [They'll] say and do anything.”

The Combating Austim Act passed in Dec. 2006. According to Austim Votes, the political arm of the non-profit Austim Speaks, the law ramped up funding for research and education about the disorder.

As Mediaite notes, "Imus didn’t expand on what happened between his wife and Santorum, but the website SantorumExposed.com has an Imus clip from 2006, where Imus' wife, Deirdre, says that Santorum's communications director wanted her to write an op-ed piece in a Pennsylvania newspaper, praising the work Santorum did on the Combating Autism Act."

During the show, Imus also said he wouldn't be voting for President Barack Obama and expressed his disdain for the remainder of the GOP field. He said that someone should rope off the GOP candidates, “and charge admission to let kids come in and pet them.”

Listen:

-- Anna Staver

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Reports about January's fundraising numbers, released on February 20, have focused on two narratives: Mitt Romney's limited fundraising and high burn rate and the role that super PACs are playing in an increasingly contested Republican primary. HuffPost decided to combine those narratives together to make a graphic of candidate and super PAC fundraising and spending in January.

Newt Gingrich and his allied super PAC, Winning Our Future, out-raised Romney and his allied super PAC, Restore Our Future, by $3.5 million in January. Gingrich was the biggest beneficiary of super PAC spending.

Romney, meanwhile, is clearly the biggest spender of all the candidates, having dropped $18.7 million in January. His super PAC added an additional $13.9 million.

Comparing the spending by Romney's allied super PAC with that of Barack Obama helps explain why the president reversed course and began encouraging super PAC donations. The Obama-allied super PAC, Priorities USA Action, raised only $58,815 in January and spent $258,025. While Obama's spending is on par with Romney's, he would have to spend much larger sums to compete against Romney and his super PAC.

--Paul Blumenthal

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A CNN/Time/ORC International poll released Tuesday shows Rick Santorum closing the gap with rival Mitt Romney in Arizona, largely due to support from evangelical Christians, Tea Party supporters and rural and suburban voters.

Santorum polls at 32 percent to Romney's 36 percent, within the survey's margin of error.

Newt Gingrich trails in third place with 18 percent, and Ron Paul takes fourth with 6 percent.

About a third of the voters surveyed said they might change their minds before the Feb. 28 primary.

-- Ariel Edwards-Levy

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During his 12 years in Congress, Rick Santorum was one of the beer industry's largest benefactors. Mother Jones reported Tuesday on the long-term relationship and what Big Beer got for its money:

"The name of the game is to deflect attention at all costs from the fact that really we should be raising beer taxes and the most brilliant way to do that was devised by the beer industry by creating this 'roll back the beer tax' campaign," explains Michele Simon, president of the industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics. Santorum took up the industry's agenda in Congress. "He was just parroting what the beer industry had told him to say," Simon says.

In some cases, almost literally. Santorum's floor speeches and public statements in support of his beer tax repeal measures read like an almost verbatim rehash of industry talking points.

Here's a statement from the Anheuser-Busch-backed website, RollBackTheBeerTax.org: "In 1990, Congress raised taxes on luxury items like expensive cars, fur coats, jewelry, yachts, and private airplanes and doubled Federal excise taxes on beer. Though most of the luxury taxes were repealed in 1993, the beer tax remains in place."

Here's Santorum in a 1998 floor speech introducing his beer tax repeal bill: "The federal excise tax on beer was doubled as part of the 1991 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act…While taxes on furs, jewelry, and yachts were repealed through subsequent legislation, the federal beer tax remains in place with continued and far reaching negative effects."

Click here to read the whole article.

-- Anna Staver

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Newt Gingrich has decided not to campaign in Michigan, signaling worries about his performance in the state's Feb. 28 primary.

Gingrich had planned to travel to Michigan at the end of the week, but his spokesman R.C. Hammond announced last night that he wouldn't make the trip, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

In January, Hammond played down Gingrich's chances in Michigan, telling CNN, “If we are looking at the six February states right now and we are going to rank them, we are not putting Michigan first.”

Gingrich spent Tuesday morning campaigning in Oklahoma, one of the Super Tuesday states he's depending on winning to revive his campaign. He's expected to spend the next two days in Arizona, which also holds a Feb. 28 primary, ahead of Wednesday's debate, with a light public schedule. On Friday, Gingrich will be in Burlingame, California to address the state's GOP convention.

--Ariel Edwards-Levy

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GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum responded on Tuesday to criticisms levied at him by fellow candidate Mitt Romney, who has launched a full-fledged attack on the former Pennsylvania senator after his recent success in the polls.

"I'll match my record up. You may see all of these commercials -- oh, Rick Santorum is a big spender," Santorum said during a speech in Maricopa County, Ariz., referencing Romney's attack ads. "But they've never once talked about how I voted for any increase in an appropriation bill. Why? Because I never did. I also voted to cut appropriations bills."

"They've never talked about me voting for a tax increase. Why? Because I never did in 16 years in public life," he continued.

A Romney press release out on Tuesday compared Santorum to Newt Gingrich, calling them both "career politician[s]" and playing up Romney's own experience outside of Washington. "IF YOU LIKED NEWT GINGRICH, WAIT 'TIL YOU GET TO KNOW RICK SANTORUM," the email began in the subject line.

In his Arizona speech, one week before that state will hold its primary, Santorum said he, too, is not a Washington politician -- even though he lived in the nation's capital and now resides just outside of it. As evidence, he cited his push for reforms in Congress.

"I'm not a manager, I'm not a visionary, I'm a guy from a steel town who grew up understanding what made this country great," he said, in a veiled reference to Romney, a manager, and Gingrich, who considers himself a visionary. It's worth noting that although Santorum's grandfather worked in a coal mine, his father was a psychiatrist and his mother a nurse. Santorum has a master's in business administration and a law degree, and was worth about $2.5 million as of last year.

Still, Santorum did express some solidarity with other Republican candidates, spending most of his time bashing the president for his health care legislation and going after the media, which he accused of being biased against GOP candidates.

"Will we be the generation that sat on the sidelines and watched as candidate after candidate comes up and the national media takes their whacks at them to try to destroy them in every way possible?" he asked the audience. "Will you sit on the sidelines and say, 'Boy, that's not fair,' or will you stand up and fight for freedom?"

Santorum only mentioned immigration briefly, despite being on the home turf of immigration-hardliner Sheriff Joe Arpiao and inside the state that passed the S.B. 1070 law designed to drive out undocumented people.

"[Arizona is] struggling with an immigration problem that the federal government is completely inattentive to under this administration," he said. "Struggling, but still fighting. You can speak loudly on Tuesday that you want someone who is going to stand up and fight the insiders, fight the establishment, who has a track record of doing it."

-- Elise Foley

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WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney will release the details of a new tax reform plan on Wednesday, his campaign told The Huffington Post, as he tries to make up ground on Rick Santorum ahead of next Tuesday's primaries.

The plan will be released before Wednesday night's debate, giving Romney the opportunity to talk about it during the four-candidate event in Mesa, Ariz. And the former Massachusetts governor will then talk about the plan in his speech Friday at the Detroit Economic Club, his campaign told HuffPost.

Romney himself announced the coming plan during a town hall meeting in Shelby Township, Mich., on Tuesday.

"I'll be coming out with some proposals of my own this week that describe how I cut, create more pro-growth tax policies," Romney said. "I want to see a flatter, fairer, broader-based tax system."

The tax reform plan is a move by Romney to regain momentum, after watching Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, surge ahead of him in national polls as well as in Michigan. Romney has made up ground in recent days, but still trails.

The focus on policy is part of a strategy after Florida's Jan. 31 primary to do more than just negative campaigning, or at least to offset attacks on his opponents by a super PAC supporting Romney with policy substance and positive messages about the candidate.

In his comments Tuesday, Romney gave a nod to concerns that if a conservative is elected president, he will introduce austerity measures to bring down the debt that will hurt economic growth in the short term, as is happening in Greece.

"If you just cut, if all you're thinking about is just cutting spending, why as you cut spending you'll slow down the economy, so you have to at the same time create pro-growth tax policies," Romney said.

In the 153-page jobs plan that Romney's campaign released in September, there are 10 pages devoted to tax policy. Romney proposed then a series of measures: maintain the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 and make them permanent, "eliminate taxation on capital gains, dividends, and interest for any taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of under $200,000," eliminate the death tax, and "pursue a flatter, fairer, simpler structure."

It's this last portion, about how he would move to a simpler tax system, that Romney will expand on in his new proposal.

"You’ll see pro-growth tax reforms, coupled with more action on spending," Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said in an email.

Romney previewed some of what he may talk about when he attacked President Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.

"Over half the workers in America work for businesses that are taxed at the individual tax rate," Romney said at the town hall meeting. "So if someone owns, let's say a taxi cab company, the owner of that company doesn’t pay corporate in some cases. They instead pay personal tax on their companies' success. So if you raise taxes on anybody in America, you're going to end up depressing job creators."

Romney also in September proposed lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and suggested moving to a territorial tax system so that corporate profits are not taxed in the U.S. if they were already taxed abroad.

Of the corporate rate, the Romney campaign jobs plan booklet said that "worries that a lower corporate tax rate are unfair or unaffordable are fundamentally misplaced."

"The truth is, as Mitt Romney likes to say, 'corporations are people.' They represent human beings acting cooperatively to be economically productive," the campaign said, doubling down on Romney's infamous comment. "High corporate tax rates do not even accomplish what they are intended to accomplish. Studies of the American tax system have demonstrated that higher corporate rates do not necessarily lead to higher revenues."

The news of Romney's tax reform plan came as Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a call for Republicans to be bolder with their tax plans.

"The fact that Congress has not reformed the tax code in 25 years -- since Reagan’s historic 1986 reform -- is a disgrace," Coburn wrote in the National Review.

Coburn said that Republicans should go big on tax reform to erase the gains Obama has made by outmaneuvering them on the payroll tax cut.

"A bold tax-reform proposal that wiped out today’s code could cut rates in half for millions of Americans and would transcend today’s small-ball debates about the payroll-tax cut and even the Bush tax cuts," he wrote. "The Simpson-Bowles proposal, which received bipartisan support, suggested lowering today’s rates of 15, 28, and 35 percent to 8, 14, and 23 percent. Reducing spending inside and outside the code could push rates even lower and would spur tremendous innovation and job creation."

-- Jon Ward

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Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is the latest public figure to join the internet phenomenon that is Pinterest.

The subscription-based website offers members the opportunity to "pin" their favorite fashions, recipes, DIY projects and dream homes to "boards" they create for free.

Romney started putting up pins Monday afternoon and already has more than 1000 followers. Her pin boards offer followers candid shots of her family, a recommended reading list and a patriotic board devoted to all things red, white and blue.

Romney is not the first member of her family to make the jump into blogging and social media. BuzzFeed reports daughter-in-law Mary Romney runs a successful mommy blog, and son Craig Romney blogged his way across the United States in 2009.

-- Anna Staver

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Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is fending off at least one angry former supporter who has accused the Texas representative's congressional office of doubling dipping -- a practice where the House Finance Office and a third party reimburse a congressional member for the same expense.

According to an investigation by Roll Call, records show that Paul's office has been reimbursed by two separate parties for 26 flights. An additional 31 flights appear to follow the same pattern, but Roll Call lacked sufficient documents to confirm.

As a result of the investigation, a nonprofit group called the Liberty Committee is asking Paul's office to repay $10,000 for nearly 20 trips the congressman took during a non-consecutive 17-month period.

The committee's founder David James said in an interview with Roll Call, "It never in a million years occurred to me that this man would be capable of what we can now see. So when there's mass hysteria and disbelief when this is published, I am not surprised. I was right with them."

Paul's spokesman Jesse Benton said it was "possible that wholly inadvertent errors were made in a handful of instances," but he maintained that "absolutely zero taxpayer funds were ever misused."

-- Anna Staver

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Mitt Romney's campaign ratcheted up its attacks on Rick Santorum Tuesday morning, one week before voters go to the polls in Michigan's Republican presidential primary.

The Romney campaign sent out a release comparing Santorum, a onetime Pennsylvania senator, to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was previously Romney's chief competitor in the race for the GOP nomination.

"IF YOU LIKED NEWT GINGRICH, WAIT 'TIL YOU GET TO KNOW RICK SANTORUM," the email screamed in the subject header.

Communications from the Romney campaign this week have tried to drive the message that Santorum's record and background are unknown, bear a closer look, and differ from the public image that Santorum cultivates for himself. The Gingrich comparison hinges on a few accusations flung by the Romney campaign: Santorum and Gingrich are both "career politicians" who "were pushed out of office by those who know them best," and both "moved to Washington D.C. and never left," even after they were out of public office.

"Mitt Romney offers something different. He is not a creature of Washington. He offers the kind of private sector and chief executive experience that career politicians can't match," said Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul in the release.

While the Romney campaign has been increasing the velocity of its negative attacks on Santorum for a few days, the comparison to Gingrich is the clearest sign that its focus now is on driving up Santorum's negatives, after spending the first week and a half following the Feb. 7 primaries and caucuses -- which Santorum swept -- trying to build up Romney's image with Michigan voters.

Most political observers, including some Romney supporters who have spoken with The Huffington Post privately and not for attribution, have said that if Romney loses the Michigan primary to Santorum next Tuesday, then Romney's candidacy will be badly, if not mortally, wounded. Many expect that Santorum would then become the clear frontrunner and would move toward clinching the nomination -- or another candidate might potentially jump into the race.

The move to full attack mode thus reflects an urgency at Romney's Boston headquarters to try to move the race in his direction decisively in the few days left before voters go to the polls in his home state.

-- Jon Ward

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Some Michigan residents picked up the phone last weekend to hear Rick Santorum endorsing Mitt Romney, the Detroit Free Press reports:

The endorsement was in 2008, when Romney was running for president (and Santorum wasn't). In an interview about the endorsement at the time, Santorum said he hesitated about who to endorse but decided on Romney as the best alternative to John McCain. The robocall was presumably paid for by either the campaign or the Super PAC supporting Romney.

After a short introduction in the automated call to Michigan voters, Santorum says: "If you're a conservative, there really is only one place to go right now. I would even argue farther than that. If you're a Republican, if you're a Republican in the broadest sense, there is only one place to go right now, and that's Mitt Romney.”

A similar -- perhaps the same -- automated call was used against Santorum during the South Carolina primary.

Click here to read more.

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In a memo sent out to reporters Tuesday morning about GOP plans for the economy, the Obama campaign goes after both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the latter of whom it has largely refrained from criticizing until now. It's a definite shift for the campaign, which until now has appeared to view only Romney as a credible threat worth responding to.

"Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Rick Santorum claim they will champion spending cuts deep enough to cut taxes and balance the budget," writes Obama campaign Policy Director James Kvaal. "In fact, they have both proposed irresponsible and reckless tax plans that would drive up the deficit by trillions of dollars, while their claims to balance the budget through spending cuts are completely unrealistic. Romney's plan would increase the deficit by at least $175 billion a year."

From the memo:

Both Romney and Santorum are proposing policies that would add trillions of dollars to the national debt over the coming decade. In analyzing Romney's plans, we pay particular attention to 2016, the only year for which the Romney campaign has released its own deficit reduction estimates. Both the Republican plans would:

  • Add Trillions to the Deficit over 10 Years: Romney would spend hundreds of billions of dollars on tax cuts, expanded tax expenditures, and a defense buildup -- increasing the deficit by at least175 billion in fiscal year 2016 alone, even if he enacts his deficit reduction proposals. Santorum -- who has proposed even larger tax cuts and made even fewer specific proposals to reduce the deficit – would create even higher deficits.

  • Rely on Promises to Cut Spending that Are Not Credible: Romney's and Santorum's claims to balance the budget are unrealistic. Romney's budget would require cutting all non-defense spending by nearly 25 percent in 2016, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and by 48 percent if Social Security and Medicare are spared. Santorum's claims are even less realistic.

  • Return to Trickle-Down, Boom-and-Bust Economics: Like their budgeting, the rest of Romney and Santorum's economic policies return to the trickle-down, boom-and-bust economics that failed in the past. Romney and Santorum's plans would leave the middle-class paying a higher share of the tax burden, increase the risk of future economic crises, gut investments in middle-class security, reverse efforts to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and let the housing crisis "hit the bottom."

These proposals stand in stark contrast to the budget proposed by President Obama, which includes resources to jumpstart job creation now and lay a foundation of educating, innovating, and building for future prosperity. The president's budget would achieve more than $4 trillion in balanced deficit reduction over the next decade, including $1 trillion in savings from living within tight spending caps set by the Budget Control Act, and stabilizing the national debt at a sustainable level.

Read the full memo here.

At 11:30 ET, Kvaal and Harvard economist Jeffrey Liebman will be hosting a conference call with reporters to highlight how the tax and budget plans proposed by Romney and Santorum "will increase the national deficit by trillions of dollars."

-- Amanda Terkel

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Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), who is running for his party's nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat, is out with a new ad that touts his support for Gov. Scott Walker (R), who will likely face a recall battle this year.

After featuring several shots of Walker, the ad closes with a clip of Fitzgerald being asked whether he was going to "run away" from Walker and his policies, which included stripping public employees in the state of most of their collective bargaining rights. "No, that's what people are looking for. They're looking for limited government and less spending," he replies.

WATCH:



The spot comes one year after protesters flooded the Wisconsin statehouse to protest Walker's budget bill, which was held up after 14 Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to deny their GOP colleagues the quorum needed to pass the legislation.

Fitzgerald is in a primary contest against former governor Tommy Thompson and former congressman Mark Neumann. The winner will face Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in a November election.

-- Amanda Terkel

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Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is once again providing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a major campaign assist, going up with a 30-second advertisement in Michigan that whacks former Sen. Rick Santorum as a phony conservative.

Titled "Fake," the spot highlights Santorum's support for raising the debt ceiling, his backing of the expansion of the Department of Education and his support for No Child Left Behind. It even accuses him of sending billions of dollars in aid to North Korea.

All of these, of course, are fair game, but one could easily knock Romney for similar transgressions. The Paul campaign, however, has chosen to leave the former Massachusetts governor largely untouched.

So far this campaign cycle, the two candidates have had an informal alliance, with neither of them ever really threatening the other. Paul memorably declined to join the chorus in criticizing Romney's tenure at Bain Capital. Romney, in return, has heaped praise on Paul's influence over the GOP platform on all facets, save foreign policy.

The New York Times reported last week on the friendship that has developed between Romney and Paul, dating back to their 2008 runs for the White House. Now, it appears, Paul is going to help drive down Santorum's climbing poll numbers in Michigan, to Romney's benefit.

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Mitt Romney went after Rick Santorum by name on Monday afternoon at a campaign stop in Cincinnatti.

"We have in Washington a malady that affects so many there, not just senators, but many others that somehow think it's OK to spend money they don't have and to borrow money from China or from others to pay for it, and to pass that burden on to your families and your kids," Romney said, speaking to an audience in a bioscience company's warehouse.

"One of the people I'm running against, Sen. Santorum, goes to Washington, calls himself a budget hawk, and then after he's been there a while he says he's no longer a budget hawk," he said. "Well, I am a budget hawk."

The former Massachusetts governor repeated two of the core criticisms that his campaign has made against Santorum, in an attempt to paint the former Pennsylvania senator as a "creature of Washington": that he voted five times to increase the debt ceiling without cutting any spending, and that the size of the government grew 80 percent during his two terms in the Senate.

"When Republicans go to Washington and spend like Democrats, you're going to see a lot of spending," Romney said.

Romney spoke for about 15 minutes and took no questions from the audience.

-- Jon Ward

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The Fix reports that Ron Paul's campaign pulled in $4.5 million dollars in January:

The fundraising number, which the campaign will announce later today, shows the Texas congressman increased his fundraising pace slightly as the actual contests began. Paul raised $13.3 million in the fourth quarter, which was second-best clip in the GOP presidential race behind Mitt Romney.

The other GOP presidential candidates have yet to release their January fundraising totals.

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@ THEHermanCain : I wouldn't say I taught @NewtGingrich how to campaign, but helped him clarify his message here in GA! http://t.co/WoafTbS9

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Politico reports that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, is "not at all" nervous about Romney's campaign -- despite his poor showing in recent Michigan polls.

Snyder, who recently endorsed Romney, predicted on “Fox & Friends” that Romney will “come up strongly in the polls” before the Feb. 28 primary.

“Now Michigan is in the spotlight and I think we’re going to see a real response as people have a chance to hear from Gov. Romney more,” Snyder said. “There’ll be a lot of TV advertising, there’s appearances and people are talking about it. So he’s going to come up strongly in the polls, I believe.”

When asked by co-host Gretchen Carlson if it would be “crippling” for Romney to lose his home state, Snyder downplayed the scenario.

“I don’t know if I’d say that,” Snyder said. “If you look at the whole process, it’s going to take a while for any candidate the way that the delegates are being distributed and such.”

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@ samsteinhp : Romney camp goes from this http://t.co/7YSU3TLV to this http://t.co/23LLlnSX on Michigan expectations setting

The Hill reports:

A senior adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign said he didn’t consider the Feb. 28 Michigan primary to be a “must-win” for the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney, who was raised in Michigan and whose father was once governor of the state, has fallen behind Rick Santorum in most of the polls there. Many conservatives are predicting chaos in the GOP nomination process if Romney can’t close the deal in his home-state.

But speaking Monday on MSNBC, senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said a win in Michigan was not necessary to securing the nomination.

“Four years ago we won all three of three of those states [Michigan, Utah and Massachusetts]. Is any one of them a must-win for Mitt Romney? No,” Fehrnstrom said.

[...]

Fehrnstrom also jabbed at the idea that Michigan is Romney’s true home state. Romney’s strongest primary performance to date came in New Hampshire, which he won by more than 16 points, and which borders Massachusetts.

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HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal and Sara Kenigsberg produced this video about the roller coaster ride that is the GOP presidential polls:

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Filed by Elyse Siegel  |  Report Corrections