A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway
Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2012:
CHA-CHING: President Barack Obama raked in more than $68 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the closing quarter of 2011. That brings the year's total to a healthy $220 million. That gives the president an advantage over GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who raised $56 million for the primary through Dec. 31. Yet, even with the current money advantage over Romney and the rest of the GOP field, Democrats are hoping to remain competitive with Republicans because of super PACs.
SOUTH CAROLINA IS AD COUNTRY: Republican presidential candidates and their deep-pocketed allies are spending millions on attack ads ahead of South Carolina's pivotal primary on Jan. 21. The state's known for brutal campaign tactics, and the savaging has only just begun. That's because Romney's wins in the first two contests _ Iowa and New Hampshire _ have set up a do-or-die scenario in South Carolina for opponents desperate to deny him the nomination.
THE BANE OF BAIN BASHING: Romney rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry came under fire for raking him with charges of "vulture capitalism" for his years at the helm of equity firm Bain Capital. Investment fund executive and top GOP donor Barry Wynn told The Associated Press that he was bailing out on Perry to endorse Romney because Perry's attacks had crossed the line in a political party that values free-market capitalism. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said it was "foolish" for Republicans to bash Romney for his work as a venture capitalist. They joined an array of Republicans and conservatives _ some are Romney's sharpest critics _ who rushed to the GOP presidential front-runner's defense to counter efforts to paint the former venture capitalist as a job-killer. Gingrich made no mention of Romney or criticize his record; Perry, also avoided attacking Romney, but defended his criticism of the front-runner.
RISE AND VOTE, IN FLORIDA, ANYWAY: In the state that's home to the 4 p.m. dinner special, voting is already well under way. Florida doesn't hold its GOP nominating contest until Jan. 31, but polling stations in some counties are already open. Both Mitt Romney, coming off of back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Ron Paul are aggressively reaching out to voters who have requested ballots. So far, they're the only GOP nomination contenders actively campaigning in the winner-take-all-50-delegates state. Florida GOP spokesman Brian Hughes says the number of Republican absentee ballots requested is more than 200,000 ahead of the 2008 pace at the same point before the election.
NEBRASKA'S CALLING: More than a decade after he left this heartland state for New York City, former Sen. Bob Kerrey is considering an improbable comeback run for his old Senate seat, a prospect even he rates as a longshot. Kerrey is now 68 and no longer the boyish figure who was elected governor in 1982 and grabbed headlines for briefly dating actress Debra Winger. But Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that Kerry is Nebraska Democrats' only hope for holding onto the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nelson, the man who replaced Kerrey.
SHE TWEETS: "Hi, everyone, and thanks for the warm welcome. Look forward to staying in touch with you here. -mo.'" And with that, first lady Michelle Obama launched into the Twittersphere. Within hours, she had 88,000 followers. But for those who think this is about diet and exercise, think again. The president's re-election campaign will manage her Twitter feed, with any tweets from the first lady herself signed, "mo."
_ 68: Dollars, in millions _ Amount Obama raised for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the last quarter of 2011.
_ 220: Dollars, in millions _ Amount Obama raised for his campaign and the DNC for all of 2011.
_ 583: In thousands _ Donors who contributed to Obama's re-election campaign and the DNC in the last quarter of 2011.
_ 1.3: In millions _ Donors to Obama's re-election campaign and the DNC.
_ 55: Dollars _ Average fourth-quarter 2011 donation to the Obama re-election campaign and the DNC.
_ 98: Percentage of 4Q 2011 donations to Obama's re-election campaign and the DNC of $250 or less.
_ "If I win South Carolina, I think I will become the Republican nominee." _ Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
_ "Please pray for us. It's a tough battle every day out there. And we need that hedge of protection." _ Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to an audience in Greenville, S.C.
_ "Freedom is a wonderful idea, and that's why I get so excited. But I really get excited when I see young people saying it." _ Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
_ "The idea that you've got private equity companies that come in and take companies apart so they can make profits and have people lose their jobs, that's not what the Republican Party's about. " _ Texas Gov. Rick Perry.