Did Mitt Romney Win Iowa?

If the certified results go against Mitt Romney and declare Rick Santorum the winner, could this be a game changer for the field? Reuters has more:

Two weeks after Iowa's caucuses, Mitt Romney will know for sure on Thursday whether he really did secure a narrow eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum in the first nominating contest of the 2012 presidential election.

The Republican Party of Iowa said on Wednesday it would publicly release the certified vote totals of the January 3 caucuses at 8:15 CST/9:15 EST on Thursday.

Romney solidified his status as the Republican front-runner after Iowa and his big victory in the New Hampshire primary a week later. Slipping behind Santorum in Iowa would blunt that status, but Romney still leads in polls in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Saturday and Florida, which votes on January 31.

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ABC To Air Gingrich Ex-Wife Interview Following Debate

Just when we thought the 2012 GOP presidential primary couldn't get any zanier, ABC nabs an interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's second wife. How will this effect Gingrich's apparent surge in the Palmetto State? Politico's Dylan Byars weighs in:

Marianne Gingrich, second wife of Newt, once bragged she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. 

Drudge Report is now reporting that ABC News has landed that "blockbuster" interview, but is having a “civil war” over when to air it.

UPDATE 2: An ABC News spokesperson has confirmed that the interview will air on Thursday night's edition of Nightline.

Also: Fox News' Greta Van Susteren has a letter from Gingrich's daughters to ABC.

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Can Gingrich Win South Carolina?

The media buzz is that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the Palmeto State. Obviously we won't know until Saturday night who the winner is. Political prognosticator Nate Silver has some thoughts at The New York Times:

There are some hints that Newt Gingrich is gaining ground in South Carolina, perhaps at Mitt Romney’s expense. But the evidence is not definitive yet, and this would represent a reversal of a previous trend that had shown Mr. Romney gaining ground there.

Although Mr. Romney had a double-digit lead in interviews conducted on Sunday and Monday night, Mr. Gingrich was actually ahead of Mr. Romney by five points in interviewing conducted on Tuesday night. However, the sample sizes on the daily samples are extremely small, leading to a larger margin of error and making it hard to calibrate demographic weights, so this evidence is tenuous at best.

If you want additional evidence for Mr. Gingrich’s momentum, you have to look beyond South Carolina and toward national polls. A Rasmussen Reports national survey, conducted entirely on Tuesday night, showed Mr. Gingrich closing to within three points of Mr. Romney nationally.

What seems safer to conclude is that no candidate other than Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich is likely to win in South Carolina.

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DeMint To Sit On Sidelines And Focus On 2012 U.S. Senate Races

There is no bigger endorsement in South Carolina than Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint's. And given that we are just a few days away from the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, a DeMint endorsement could help Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum close the gap on Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. Much to the glee of Romney, DeMint will remain on the sidelines and instead focus on the 2012 battle for control of the U.S. Senate. Reuters Nick Carey has more:

DeMint is the hero of conservatives in South Carolina, so his backing might well have clinched the crucial state for Romney. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul had just as much reason to hope DeMint might support them, and put him in the role of kingmaker in the Republican race for the White House.

At a convention of the conservative Tea Party movement in Myrtle Beach on Sunday, DeMint made clear, however, they could all stop holding their collective breath.

The Republican lawmaker, who had refused to endorse anyone, said he was definitely staying on the sidelines.

So instead of picking a favorite for the White House race, DeMint has a different strategy: to strengthen the Tea Party in the Senate and forge a bastion of fiscal conservatism against whoever wins the presidency.

"We need not only to take a majority in the Senate," DeMint told the convention. "We need a conservative majority in the Senate."

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'Jon Huntsman - What Went Wrong?'

Despite being one of the most qualified candidates on paper, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was never going to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Huntsman’s moderate label, service in the Obama administration and inability to connect on a personal level was never going to fly with grassroots conservatives.

If Huntsman wanted to make a stronger showing in the Republican presidential primary, he should have started his campaign much earlier, not focused exclusively on New Hampshire and above all else; he should have put his daughters front and center much sooner. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a more successful Huntsman presidential bid in the future.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Huntsman Exits 2012 GOP Presidential Primary

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was never going to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, despite being one of the most qualified candidates on paper. Thanks to Governor Huntsman's service in the Obama adminsitration, conservatives never warmed up to his presidential bid. Don't be suprised if we see another Huntsman presidential bid in the future. Politico's Maggie Haberman, Juana Summers and Jonathan Martin have more:

Jon Huntsman will drop out of the GOP presidential race Monday morning and endorse Mitt Romney, POLITICO has confirmed.

Huntsman will endorse Romney in a speech at 11 a.m. Monday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Huntsman’s exit comes less than a week after he claimed victory from his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the contest he’d staked his candidacy on ever since entering the race last summer.

Huntsman officials are very much cognizant of this and, in an effort to be seen as team players for the likely nominee, suggested it played into the candidate’s decision to get out now instead of after the primary Saturday.

“It was entirely a family decision,” said the source.

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Ford O'Connell Discusses Upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary At Fox News

Ford O'Connell and Democratic strategist Christy Setzer join Fox News' Gregg Jarrett on America's News HQ to discuss the upcoming GOP presidential primary in South Carolina, the Christian conservative leaders' endorsement of Rick Santorum this past weekend and Newt Gingrich's attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.

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Obama Seeks To Merge Six Agencies

President Obama is asking Congress for more power to shrink the federal government.

The commander in chief proposed merging six trade and commerce agencies on Friday, a move analysts are interpreting as an attempt to quiet Republican critics who say Obama wants to balloon the government.

Obama suggested combining the following agencies: the Commerce Department's core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency.

Obama still needs Congress' okay before he can make restructuring changes.

"Why now?" Republican strategist Ford O'Connell asked. "President Obama is looking at the polls. He's not doing well in Florida, and independents are souring on him. This is one way to lower government spending to make government more efficient."

The President may also be feeling pressure to downsize before November's election. During his last State of the Union speech, he suggested that government needed to become more efficient.

The deal is far from assured. There's no sign that he'll get cooperation from the Republican-led House, following a year-long pattern.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University said Obama's move was a step in the right direction.

"By reducing the size of government the president is taking small step to cut spending and reduce our debt problem," said de Rugy.

But O'Connell said Obama was merely trying to "shift the blame to Congress" heading into the election season. "He can say, 'Hey, I tried to do my job. I'm being blocked.'"

Read more from Aliyah Shahid at New York Daily News

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Jeb Bush Likely To Endorse Mitt Romney

If former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney can win the South Carolina primary, and receive former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's endorsement prior to the Sunshine State's primary, Romney will more than likely be a lock to win Florida as well. If these two items occur and Mitt Romney wins Florida, he will become the "presumptive nominee" for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Zeke Miller at BuzzFeed has more on Bush's potential endorsement of Romney: 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush plans to endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney before the Jan. 31 Florida primary, a Florida GOP source close to Bush told BuzzFeed Thursday.

The endorsement from Bush, who despite prodding from members of his famous family and prominent Republicans decided to sit out the 2012 contest, is the latest sign that the Republican establishment is coalescing around Romney after months publicly griping about finding another candidate

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Vice Squad: The Front-Runners, The Sleepers, and Other Potential GOP Veeps.

The GOP primary is not over yet, but, with Mitt Romney firmly in control of the race, it isn’t too soon to begin asking: Who might he select as his running mate? I recently asked about a dozen Republican insiders who they would want to see on a ticket with Romney. (A couple balked at the notion that Romney was a lock for the nomination, but most agreed it was a logical assumption.) The most striking thing that emerged from these conversations was that some Republicans are a lot more excited about the vice presidential choices than about the presidential ones. “We have more instantly credible vice presidents than we do people running for president,” said Ed Rogers, co-founder with Haley Barbour of the public relations group BGR and a veteran of the Bush-Quayle campaign. Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who did outreach for McCain-Palin in 2008, said essentially the same thing: “There is probably more enthusiasm for the potential V.P. pick than there is for the overall Republican field.” Here are the names that came up most frequently during my conversations—listed roughly in order of the aggregate enthusiasm they garnered.

Read more from Eliza Gray at The New Republic

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