A political tip sheet for the rest of us

AP News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2012 5:08 PM
A political tip sheet for the rest of us

A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012:

WHAT HAPPENED:

TO THE VICTOR: No wonder Newt Gingrich places such a high value on winning the South Carolina primary. His campaign reported that it had raised about $5 million in January, more than half of it coming after his thumping of rival Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Aides say Gingrich raised about $10 million in the final three months of 2011, his largest fundraising haul so far but far behind Romney's $24 million take. As Florida voters went to the polls, Gingrich told reporters that he expects the GOP presidential race to last about six more months _ unless Romney drops out. The Massachusetts governor, favored to win big in Florida, was already looking at Western states and others in the delegate contest lineup. A victory in Florida was expected to add momentum to his campaign as the South Carolina victory did to Gingrich's.

GOING WEST: Rick Santorum and Ron Paul aren't spending any more time thinking or worrying about the Florida primary. Expected to finish third or fourth in the winner-take-all primary, the two Republican presidential candidates are getting a head start on rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the Western states holding upcoming delegate contests. While Santorum was trying to scare up support among 300 or so at a suburban Denver golf club, Paul was speaking to more than 1,000 people in Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University. "You have a chance to change this race," Santorum said. "You have a chance to put up a conservative who can win." Paul stuck to his message of cutting spending and upholding the Constitution. Colorado's caucuses are Feb. 7. Santorum and Paul planned to travel later in the day Tuesday to Nevada, which has its caucuses on Saturday.

NOT SUCH A LEAP: Newt Gingrich's talk about establishing a colony on the moon isn't as far out as it might sound. Several science policy experts say the former House speaker's ideas are based in mainstream science. A government committee recommended in 1969, the year of the first lunar landing, that NASA first build a winged, reusable space shuttle followed by a space station and then a moon outpost. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush proposed going to the moon and staying there. That price tag was an out-of-this-world $700 billion in today's dollars, so it didn't fly. In 2005, President George W. Bush proposed a similar lunar outpost and spent more than $9 billion designing a return to the moon program. At the same time his administration killed the shuttle program and used that money for the lunar project. But not enough money was put into the program and it started to miss deadlines. President Barack Obama canceled it altogether when a special commission said the lunar program wasn't sustainable. He replaced it with an ambitious but slower-moving plan to send astronauts to an asteroid and then on to Mars.

DON'T LAUGH ABOUT MONEY: Comic talk show host Stephen Colbert has some punch behind the punch line. His "super" PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, has raised a hefty $1.02 million, according to financial reports to the Federal Election Commission. Colbert raised the money by asking for donations from viewers of "The Colbert Report." He has used the PAC to highlight what he considers the absurdity of campaign finance law and, in particular, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to raise limitless money to run campaign ads. Thus far, his PAC has created a handful of television ads, including an over-the-top negative ad against Mitt Romney and an anti-players ad during the NBA lockout. Colbert is yet to say what he intends to do with all that money.

IN THE MONEY:

51 million: Dollars raised so far by GOP-friendly "super" PAC American Crossroads and its nonprofit arm.

61: Number of $500,000-plus fundraisers working for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

VOTERS SPEAK:

_"I think the candidates are more interested in throwing each other under the bus than focusing on the issues." _ Sarah Agner, 37, of Miami, who said she was voting for Romney.

_"The dirty ads really turned me off on Mitt Romney. In fact, if he gets the nomination, I probably won't vote for him." _ Retiree Dorothy Anderson, of Pinellas Park, Fla., who planned to vote for Gingrich.

_"How do you get kicked out of the Congress and then run for president of the United States?" _ Curtis Dempsey, a Pinellas Park retiree who said he would sit out the general election if Gingrich were the nominee.

CANDIDATE VOICES:

_"I needed to make sure that instead of being outgunned in terms of attacks that I responded aggressively, and hopefully that will have served me well here." _ Romney, on his strategy for defeating Gingrich in Florida.

_"Unless Romney drops out earlier." _ Gingrich, on how soon the GOP nomination battle could end.

_"No matter what happens in Florida, this race is wide open." _ Santorum.

_"We need to keep America safe, but not to be the policeman of the world." _ Paul, blasting U.S. foreign policy.