A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Monday, Jan. 30, 2012:
FLORIDA FORECAST: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich seem to agree on one thing: the outcome of Tuesday's Florida primary. While Romney is all but predicting a victory, Gingrich is moving the conversation past Florida and declaring that he is staying in the race through to the GOP convention no matter the vote. With polls showing him pulling well ahead of Gingrich, Romney sounded cheery and upbeat as he campaigned in Florida. "With a turnout like this, I'm beginning to feel we might win tomorrow," he told several hundred at a stop in Dunedin. Understandably, given that a loss would be a turnabout for his campaign, Gingrich's words carried a sharper barb. "He can bury me for a very short amount of time with four or five or six times as much money," Gingrich said in a TV interview. "In the long run, the Republican Party is not going to nominate ... a liberal Republican." GOP officials in Florida were anticipating a big turnout, more than 2 million voters, up from 1.9 million from 2008.
SHOW-ME SANTORUM: Facing the likelihood of a loss in Florida, Rick Santorum moved his campaign to Missouri and Minnesota. In St. Louis, he denounced the "gutter politics" of his opponents and scolded Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich without naming them. "We deserve better than the gutter politics that we've been seeing in this race," Santorum told more than 300 people packed into an auditorium at St. Charles Community College. He is the first Republican candidate to appear in Missouri in advance of its Feb. 7 primary, which will essentially be a statewide public opinion poll. The Republican Party plans to award its presidential delegates in Missouri through a series of caucuses that begin in mid-March. Gingrich didn't get on Missouri's primary ballot while others who have since dropped out of the race will be listed alongside Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul.
GINGRICH'S BIG DAY: If Newt Gingrich takes the oath of office next Jan. 20, he promises that will be just a part of a big day. While campaigning as the race's only true conservative, the Republican presidential candidate often lays out the changes he'll institute the day he becomes president. He says he will repeal the Democrats' health care law as well as legislation that toughened regulations on Wall Street after the economic collapse of 2008. All the White House czars will be let go, he says, and he plans scores of executive orders aimed at dismantling the Obama presidency and giving a running start to his own. Although Gingrich doesn't say so, his legislative initiatives would require more than Republican majorities in Congress. Senate Democrats would surely filibuster to block the measures repealing the health care overhaul and other laws, raising questions about the fate of such promises.
WHAT'S NEXT? Political junkies as well as the Republican candidates can take a breather of sorts over the next few weeks. February will bring several primaries and caucuses likely to lack the intensity of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. It has only one debate, three weeks from now. Strategically speaking, the month contains contests in three states with significant Mormon presences _ Nevada, Arizona and Colorado _ and in Michigan, where Mitt Romney's father was governor. That's good news for Romney and not-so-good news for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Travel to and within the seven states with February elections will be costly, and Romney consistently has shown superior fundraising abilities. The dearth of televised debates will rob Gingrich as well as Santorum and Ron Paul of low-cost forums that kept them in the public eye. Paul is expected to stick with his plan to rack up delegates, particularly in caucus states and those where delegates are allocated according to the vote breakdown rather than the typical winner-take-all method.
The count so far in the race for delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination.
_ 37: Romney
_ 26: Gingrich
_ 14: Santorum
_ 4: Ron Paul
_ 1,144: Delegates needed to win the nomination
_ 50: Delegates in Florida. The winner of Tuesday's contest takes them all.
FLORIDA SURVEY TRACKER:
The latest poll numbers in the race for Florida, an NBC News/Marist Poll released Sunday:
_ Romney: 42 percent
_ Gingrich: 27 percent
_ Santorum: 16 percent
_ Paul: 11 percent
_ Other: Less than 1 percent
_ Undecided: 4 percent
HE SAID WHAT?
_"With a turnout like this, I'm beginning to feel we might win tomorrow." _ Romney, to hundreds at a rally in Dunedin, Fla., near Tampa.
_"No politician, no judge, no bureaucrat can come between you and God. ... I'm a little bit tired of being lectured about respecting every other religion on the planet." Gingrich, to an audience in Tampa.
_"I'm sick and tired of candidates who think they have to do anything that's necessary _ anything _ to win an election." _ Santorum, to an audience in St. Louis.