A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012:
_ RIDING THE WAVE: California. Washington. Ohio. Michigan. All are on Rick Santorum's itinerary this weekend, as he looks for money to keep his powerful breakthrough fueled through an upcoming string of races. Santorum will be sticking to his strategy of campaigning in states with high delegate yield and a strong conservative base. He's skipping Maine, for example, to look ahead to Michigan and Arizona, as well as the 10-state Super Tuesday contests coming up March 6. The day after his three-state sweep on Tuesday, his aides fanned out to build campaign organizations from scratch in key states.
_GINGRICH: In his only public appearance the day after his drubbing in Colorado and Minnesota, Newt Gingrich said nothing about his standing in the Republican presidential race or his rivals for the nomination and made only a passing reference to President Barack Obama. Gingrich changed the subject to foreign affairs and issued a dire warning about Iran's potential nuclear capabilities. He told a Cleveland audience the U.S. could pay a terrible price if Iran develops nuclear weapons and said that's why it's important to have the strongest possible national security. "This is not science fiction," he said.
_WHITE HOUSE-ROMNEY: White House spokesman Jay Carney called Mitt Romney an "odd messenger" for attacks on Obama over an administration mandate requiring church-affiliated employers, such as hospitals or charities, to include birth control in the health care coverage offered employees. The rule has caused an election-year furor for Obama. Romney has accused the president of an "assault on religion." Gingrich and Rick Santorum have criticized the rule, too. But Carney singled out Romney. He said a virtually identical policy exists in Massachusetts, where Romney was governor, and that it was ironic for Romney to criticize Obama over it.
_ MAINE-LY ROMNEY AND PAUL: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the favorites in Maine. No wonder: They're the only ones who have campaigned in the state. Republicans have been caucusing there since last Saturday, with results to be announced this Saturday. At stake are 24 delegates. Romney plans a last-minute visit at the end of the week to try to avoid a fourth loss after Tuesday's shellacking by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman, is looking for his first win.
I WANT YOUR VOTE - SOMETIME: Everything is big in Texas, including the mess around the state's 2012 primary date. It made for a strange setting Wednesday when Rick Santorum swung through in a bid for support _ and campaign dollars. Coming off a trifecta of wins Tuesday, Santorum set his eyes on one of the biggest GOP prizes of all. Trouble is, a redistricting fight had the Texas primary _ it's penciled in for early April _ in limbo. "Whenever it is, we're going to have a big win in Texas when that comes," Santorum told hundreds of tea party members wedged tightly into a former farmer's marketplace in Plano.
Rick Santorum has risen to second place in the race for delegates to the Republican National Convention, following his sweep of nominating contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Mitt Romney is still the leader, according to an Associated Press analysis. It will take 1,144 delegates to win the GOP presidential nomination at the August convention in Tampa, Fla.
_ Romney: 112
_ Santorum: 72
_ Gingrich: 32
_ Paul: 9
_ 250: In thousands, the amount of money Santorum says was donated to his campaign in the hours after his three-state sweep.
_ 400: In thousands, the amount of money Santorum says his campaign received in the past two days.
_ 12.2: In millions, the number of Hispanic voters expected to cast ballots in November's election.
_ 9.3: In millions, the number of Hispanic voters who cast ballots in 2008's general election.
_ 50: In thousands, the number of Hispanics who turn 18 each month.
_ Feb. 11: Party officials are to announce results from Maine's weeklong caucuses.
_ Feb. 28: GOP primaries in Arizona and Michigan.
IN THEIR WORDS:
_ "One of the great gifts that I've had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I can ever win anything. The gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift." _ Santorum.
_ "Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it's 300,000 dead. Maybe half a million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction." _ Gingrich, on threat to U.S. from Iran's potential nuclear capabilities.
_ "This is dancing with the devil." _ Russ Feingold, campaign finance advocate and former U.S. senator, on Obama's embrace of super PACs.
_ "I don't think the conservative base changes its mind day to day. The places where I campaigned actively, we got actually in some respects record support from the conservative base." _ Romney, dismissing the notion that he's got a problem with the party's core supporters.