Romney Turns Fire Onto Santorum

Mitt Romney redirected his campaign fire at Rick Santorum on Monday, in a sign he sees the former senator as a threat to his front-runner status.

Santorum is poised to do well in two out of the three GOP nominating contests on Tuesday. He has a narrow lead in the latest Minnesota poll and a solid chance of winning Missouri, where Newt Gingrich isn’t on the ballot and where Santorum has been campaigning more vigorously than any of his rivals.

The contests in those two states, along with Colorado, aren’t binding as to delegates awarded, but will still determine the momentum heading into the two-week lull before the next primaries take place at the end of February.

Romney has made Gingrich the focus of his ire in the three weeks since Gingrich thrashed the former Massachusetts governor in South Carolina. But after solidly defeating the former Speaker in Florida and Nevada and watching his volatile campaign flounder, Romney seems to no longer regard Gingrich as his most formidable foe.

“Santorum’s key is tomorrow, that’s really his big day,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who is unaligned in the race. “If Santorum can win in Missouri and Minnesota, that’ll expose Romney as being weak in the Midwest, and hurt him heading into Super Tuesday.”

Read more from Josh Lederman and Cameron Joseph at Texas Insider

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Romney Playing Expectations Game For Tuesday Votes

Mitt Romney's campaign sought again to minimize the importance of elections in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday, the same day polls show Romney trailing in Missouri and Minnesota.

The campaign sent out a memo from political director Rich Beeson pointing out that Missouri's primary is a "beauty contest" that doesn't have any delegates tied to it, and the other two states are non-binding on delegates.

If Santorum can win both states he could make Romney look weak in the Midwest. That would make it three of three contests in Midwestern states where he beat Romney. 

"If Santorum can win in Missouri and Minnesota, that'll expose Romney in the Midwest and hurt him heading into Super Tuesday," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, who is unaligned in the primary. "It could slow Romney down."

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Will Rick Santorum Rise Again On Tuesday?

From The Washington Examiner's Byron York:

On Monday morning, the eve of caucuses and primaries in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, the Romney campaign sent out notice it would hold a conference call to discuss rival Rick Santorum's "long history of pork-barrel spending." The call would feature former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty explaining why Santorum "is simply not ready to be president."

There isn't much polling for the three states holding contests on Tuesday, but one survey in Minnesota put Santorum slightly ahead of Romney, who is coming off wins in Florida and Nevada. It's no surprise the Romney campaign directed its guns at Santorum.

Good showings on Tuesday, Santorum aides believe, will allow Santorum to use the coming three weeks without a Republican primary or caucus -- Feb. 7 to 28 -- to beef up his campaign and finally emerge as the one-on-one rival to Romney.

Back in Iowa, voters turned to Santorum after first exhausting other possibilities; when they looked around, they realized he had been there all along. Recently he's been plugging along in the expectation that Gingrich will self-destruct, and then a Santorum moment will come again.

But it's entirely possible that neither Santorum nor Gingrich will pull ahead in the race to challenge Romney. If that happens, Romney will be home free, grateful that his considerable Republican opposition was never able to unite behind a single challenger.


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Virginia Senate Passes Voter ID Bill

Contrary to the mainstream media's contention: voter fraud exists in the U.S, and it is a serious problem.

Given that Virginia will be a key battleground state in 2012, this is certainly good news and a positive step forward in protecting democracy at the ballot box. The AP's Bob Lewis has more:

Legislation forcing voters to bring identification to Virginia polling places on Election Day won Senate passage Monday after Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 partisan deadlock.

The next stop for the bill is the House of Delegates, where Republican conservatives control two-thirds of the seats and have already passed similar legislation on largely party line votes.

The legislation means voters who fail to bring identification will receive a provisional ballot that will be vetted after the election and counted if the voter supplies corroborating identification.

Among the identification that poll workers could accept under Martin's bill would be a Virginia voter registration card or driver's license, a Social Security card, other state, federal or locally issued ID, including those of Virginia colleges and universities, employee photo ID issued by the voter's employer or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck displaying the voter's name and address.


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Newt Gingrich Banking On Super Tuesday

While February looks bleak for the former House Speaker, only time will tell if this is a wise primary strategy for Gingrich. The Hill's Erik Wasson weighs in:

“Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday where we are in much more favorable territory,” Gingrich said on NBC's Meet the Press.

He said prospects look good in Georgia and Tennessee on that day as well as for Alabama on March 13 and Texas on April 3. 

Gingrich's focus on Southern states stems from his success in South Carolina where he powered to victory thanks to the support of voters looking for a more conservative alternative to Romney.

Ten states hold primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday and a total of 437 total delegates are up for grabs.  They are Alaska (27), Georgia (76), Idaho (32), Massachusetts (41), North Dakota (28), Ohio (66), Oklahoma (43), Tennessee (58), Vermont (17), and Virginia (49).

But before Super Tuesday, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Arizona, Michigan and Washington all hold primaries or caucuses. Winning all of those could give Romney serious momentum. 

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PPP: Santorum Up In 'Toss-Up' Minnesota GOP Primary Battle

On Tuesday caucus voters will flock to nominating contests in Colorado and Minnesota. While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a relatively commanding lead in Colorado, Minnesota appears to be a toss-up. Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) has more:

In Colorado Mitt Romney looks primed for another big Western win to match his  one in Nevada. He leads with 40% there to 26% for Rick Santorum, 18% for Gingrich, and 12% for Ron Paul.

Minnesota looks like a toss up with any of the four candidates having some shot at winning. Santorum holds a small edge there with 29% to 27% for Romney, 22% for Gingrich, and 19% for Paul.

The state of the race is extremely volatile in both states. 33% of voters in Colorado and 37% in Minnesota say they could change their minds between now and Tuesday, a much higher rate than we've seen willing to shift this late in other states. One big advantage Romney has is that his voters are more committed than those of the other candidates.

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Anger, Disarray And Double Defeat Take Toll On Gingrich

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And Republican Newt Gingrich certainly will hope the disarray that marred his campaign in Nevada last week will not doom his White House bid as he heads toward a possible Super Tuesday last-stand next month.

Stinging losses to Mitt Romney in Florida and Nevada within a week have sucked much of the energy from the former House speaker's shot at the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 6 general election.

The negative television ads so successful in siphoning Gingrich support in Florida followed him to Nevada. Romney's well-funded campaign, and backing from a political action committee run by Romney supporters, will no doubt continue the blitz.

There might be a point beyond which Gingrich, who many observers think entered the presidential race mostly to burnish his reputation as a conservative elder-statesman, can no longer stomach the daily attacks.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Gingrich had lost control of his emotions at times. "Gingrich should not have let Romney get into his head," O'Connell said. "That was a killer. When he's angry, he is his own worst enemy."

Strategists said Gingrich's biggest challenge is that he never laid the foundation of a campaign in the first place, especially after much of his staff quit in early June.

"The best opening for him between now and Super Tuesday is money, discipline and organization," O'Connell said.

Read more from Ros Krasny at Reuters

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Ford O'Connell Discusses The GOP Presidential Field On ABC News Radio's 'Inside America'

Ford O'Connell joins John Barron on ABC News Radio's (Australia) "Inside America" to discuss the February Republican presidential primary calendar and the state of the GOP field. O'Connell's commentary starts at the 4:05 mark.

Interview available at http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/newsradio/audio/20120205insideamerica.mp3

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Mitt Romney's 'Very Poor,' Self-Inflicted Wound

Within 12 hours of notching the second biggest political victory of his life, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney really stepped in it when he informed CNN's Soledad O'Brien that he was "not concerned about the very poor."

Are Romney's comments defensible? Of course they are. Romney was attempting to crib from former President Bill Clinton's playbook and he failed miserably at it.

Having monitored Romney extremely closely, both in 2008 and in the present, the former Massachusetts governor still seems incapable of grasping one of the cardinal rules on politics: What you say is generally less important than how you say it and the language you convey it in (or in Romney's case, how it is received by others, particularly independents).

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report


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Romney Plays Trump Card In Las Vegas

After stumbling with remarks suggesting he was indifferent to America's poor, Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney was endorsed on Thursday by one of the country's most famous wealthy businessmen - real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump.

Trump, who put his own net worth at up to $7 billion, said he was backing Romney in the race for the nomination to oppose President Barack Obama in the November 6 election because of his knowledge of the economy.

"Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp," Trump said, standing before a line of American flags at his Trump International Hotel, Romney and his wife, Ann, to his right.

"He's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen in this country we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get 'em. You can do it," Trump said. He said he was willing to campaign for Romney and would consider donating to his Super PAC - the independent political group spending tens of millions of dollars in support of Romney.

Romney cemented his position as Republican front-runner by trouncing rival Newt Gingrich in Florida's primary on Tuesday, and holds a strong lead in polls of likely Nevada voters ahead of the state's caucuses on Saturday.

"This signifies a further consolidation of the Republican base," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said.

"But, given Romney's comments yesterday, I could see (Obama's campaign) would like to tie this as a way to portray Mitt Romney as someone who is not in touch with the plight of the average American."

Read more from Sam Youngman and Ros Krasny at Reuters


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