A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012:
MICHIGAN STATE OF MIND: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum went after Mitt Romney on multiple fronts, challenging the front-runner's economic policies, values and consistency in his home state of Michigan. Romney campaign in Michigan, too, but tried to stay above the fray by ignoring his rivals for the GOP nomination and focusing on President Barack Obama. Santorum criticized Romney for supporting the federal bailout of Wall Street but not Detroit automakers. Santorum said he opposed both interventions and called his a "much more consistent position." Romney said Obama "has taken actions which have made it harder for our economy to recover." Santorum is challenging Romney in Michigan, and a loss there for Romney on Feb. 28 would be interpreted as a major setback for his campaign.
ONE LESS DEBATE: CNN has canceled its March 1 debate in Atlanta after Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul said they would not participate. Rick Santorum's campaign had signaled that he was unlikely to attend as well. In declining to participate, Romney's campaign noted that he has already been in 20 debates. Still on the schedule is CNN's Feb. 22 debate in Mesa, Ariz., with all four candidates, less than a week before the primaries there and in Michigan.
SNYDER LIKES ROMNEY. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed Romney, calling him the "man for the job." Snyder disclosed his choice in an opinion piece published in The Detroit News, and cited Romney's accomplishments, background, character, experience, ideas and intellect. Like Romney, Snyder is a former venture capitalist. He was elected in 2010 after campaigning, like Romney, as an outsider with business experience,
WORKING-CLASS WHITES SOFT ON ROMNEY: Romney has his work cut out for him with the white working-class voters his party needs to win the White House, a challenge that comes as he tries to fend off Rick Santorum and his blue-collar appeal. Romney's weakness among working-class whites could haunt him in the Feb. 28 primary in his home state of Michigan. Santorum is using his upbringing in the western Pennsylvania manufacturing town of Butler, his rougher-edged style and his proposals to boost U.S. manufacturing to woo Michigan's many blue-collar voters. Results of surveys conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks of voters entering and exiting polling places in the first five states that held GOP presidential nominating contests showed only a modest advantage for Romney among whites without college degrees. Underscoring that was a recent Pew Research Center survey that found Romney trailing Santorum among working-class whites, 36 percent to 23 percent. Romney performs much better, however, among white college graduates.
MONEY IN YOUR POCKET
TWENTY BUCKS A WEEK: Congressional bargainers have a deal to extend a cut in the tax that workers pay to fund Social Security and to provide additional benefits for the long-term unemployed through the end of the year. Now, they just need to agree on when to pass it. John Boehner, speaker of the Republican-controlled House, said a technical issue remained to be worked out. He didn't say what the issue was or whether Congress would vote on the pact by Friday. The agreement will assure a continued tax cut for a 160 million workers, worth about $20 a week for someone earning $50,000 a year. That, and extended jobless benefits for several million others, are top election-year priorities for President Barack Obama.
MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS (AND OUT)
Now that Santorum has released his tax returns, here's a look at what the candidates earned in 2010 and how much they paid in federal income taxes. Ron Paul has not released his tax returns.
_ Romney: Adjusted gross income, $21.7 million; federal income tax, $3 million; tax rate, 14 percent.
_ Santorum: Adjusted gross income, $923,000; federal income tax, $263,000; tax rate, 28 percent.
_ Gingrich: Adjusted gross income, $3.1 million; federal income tax, $994,708; tax rate, 31.6 percent.
_ Obama: Adjusted gross income, $1.7 million; federal income tax, $453,770; tax rate, 26 percent.
WHAT THEY SAID
_ "Look, I do my own taxes. Heck, Romney paid half the tax rate I did, so obviously he doesn't do his own taxes. Maybe I should hire an accountant in the future." _ Santorum.
_ "We should be encouraging every dissident group in Iran to replace the current dictatorship. As long as you have people like the Ayatollah and like (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad in charge of the dictatorship, you will never be safe." _ Gingrich.