A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
DOGGED BY TAXES: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to sidestep the political furor he ignited a day earlier by revealing he pays a federal tax rate of about 15 percent, less than millions of middle-income American families. Romney, a multimillionaire, did not mention his tax returns or tax rate during a day of campaigning in South Carolina. Others weren't as tight-lipped. Gingrich disclosed that he paid 31 percent of his 2010 income in federal taxes, more than double what Romney said he pays.
DOGGED BY OIL: President Barack Obama raised the stakes on a bitter election-year fight with Republicans by rejecting a Canadian company's plan to build an oil pipeline across six U.S. states to Texas. Despite the promise of thousands of jobs, Obama said a February deadline set by Congress would not allow for a proper review of potential harm from the $7 billion Keystone XL project. Republicans blasted the decision as a job-killer and accused Obama of putting politics ahead of the people. Gingrich called the decision "stunningly stupid." The president was caught between two important Democratic Party constituencies _ organized labor, which wanted the jobs, and environmentalists, who feared a disastrous oil spill.
RACE POLITICS: Comments by Newt Gingrich and other GOP presidential candidates about black people, food stamps and getting a job is stoking concerns among some blacks that the political discourse is returning to the days of "Southern strategy" politics, when blacks were used as scapegoats to attract white votes. Gingrich received a thunderous standing ovation during a debate Monday night when he said he would continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, get a better job and someday own the job. It's unclear if that strategy _ if that's what it is _ will work on an electorate now used to seeing blacks in high-ranking positions. Charles P. Henry, head of African-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said he sees such language "as a retreat to the sort of bread-and-butter rallying of those who we might call racist."
COMING TO A TV NEAR YOU: In a sign that the presidential race is entering a new phase, President Barack Obama's re-election effort has begun buying television advertising time in six states that will be critical to the effort to win him a second term. A campaign official says the purchases were made in Michigan, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Iowa. The campaign has yet to run its first campaign commercials, but the decision to buy ad time shows it is moving closer to directly rebutting the Republican presidential candidates, including front-runner Mitt Romney, who are already on the air.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS:
_ 31: Percentage of 2010 income that Newt Gingrich said he paid in federal taxes.
_ 25: Percentage of federal taxes paid by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, on their 2010 income of $1.7 million, mostly from books he's written.
_ 15: Federal income tax rate that Mitt Romney says he pays.
_ Gingrich to release 2010 income tax return.
_ Republican presidential candidates meet in Charleston, S.C., for the second and final debate before Saturday's primary in South Carolina.
_ Obama heads to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to announce a strategy to boost travel and tourism in the U.S., and possibly create jobs.
_ "The president demonstrates a lack of seriousness about bringing down unemployment, restoring economic growth, and achieving energy independence. He seems to have confused the national interest with his own interest in pleasing the environmentalists in his political base." _ Romney.
_ "President Obama should have chosen jobs and energy security over political appeasement. He is wrong." _ Perry.
_ "I will grant the permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline on my first day in the Oval Office, as well as unleash domestic energy production to strengthen the economy and create jobs." _ Gingrich.