A political tip sheet for the rest of us

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2012 7:05 PM
A political tip sheet for the rest of us

A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Friday, Feb. 17, 2012:

WHAT HAPPENED

ROMNEY'S WORLD VIEW: It often appears that Mitt Romney is targeting the rest of the world as fiercely as he does his rivals for the Republican Party nomination and President Barack Obama. Judging from his rhetoric, Romney sees Europeans as socialists, the Chinese as currency manipulators, Russia as untrustworthy as far as honoring nuclear agreements, the Palestinians as out to destroy Israel, and the U.S. itself as too generous with humanitarian aid. Much of the Romney message on international affairs resonates with Republican voters. But it also raises questions about whether the rhetoric could damage U.S. relations abroad if the former venture capitalist and Massachusetts governor wins the White House. Not to worry, says a prominent Romney adviser. "Other governments are not naive, and they understand the rough-and-tumble of U.S. politics just as we understand the rough-and-tumble of politics in other countries," says former Ambassador Richard Williamson. John Pantzalis, a professor and expert in international relations at Florida's St. Leo University, isn't so sure. "If he repeats these things when he gets to a debate with Obama, that would create problems," Pantzalis says, adding that at this stage of the campaign, "he can get away with it."

SANTORUM OUT OF STEP: When it comes to several issues important to many socially conservative voters, Rick Santorum is on their side. But that puts him at odds with most Americans _ and lots of Republicans, too. Most Americans don't share his absolutist take on abortion. He's also out of step on women in combat and gays serving openly in the military. Santorum questions the values of the two-thirds of mothers who work and is even troubled by something as commonplace as birth control _ for married couples. Comparing Santorum's views to polling on those issues finds Santorum in the minority.

FLIP-FLOP FOR SANTORUM: The attorney general for Ohio, Mike DeWine, is switching his support in the GOP presidential primary from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum. The former congressman and senator had endorsed Romney just last October. DeWine says he had initially believed Santorum could not overcome Romney's financial advantage but now thinks he was wrong. Santorum is picking up another backer: the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. The group has never before endorsed a candidate in a presidential primary. Board chairwoman Jane Abraham says none of the other candidates has the "record of consistent leadership" Santorum has shown on abortion.

DEBATE ABOUT DEBATES: Republican Party leaders are troubled by how debates have been staged for the party's presidential contenders and are discussing having the GOP take over control of the events for the 2016 election cycle. A senior member of the Republican National Committee says the concerns and the possibility of making changes for 2016 will be discussed by the RNC during an April meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. "We really don't control the topics, the venue, the crowds, nothing," says Bruce Ash, Arizona's national committeeman and chairman of the RNC's rules committee. "The problem we're trying to fix is being able to have control over the destiny of our own party and ... how the candidates are introduced to the country." Ash says that some party officials feel that some debate moderators "have an agenda" that includes ginning up controversy and dissension within the party.

OBAMA'S WARCHEST

_$29.1 million: Amount President Barack Obama raised for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party in January.

_$23 million: Obama's monthly fundraising average in the last three months of 2011.

_$250 million: Obama's total combined fundraising for this election cycle.

_$250 or less: amount of nearly every donation to Obama's campaign in January.

THEY SAID IT

_"If you want a fiscal conservative, you can't vote for Rick Santorum, because he's not." _ Romney, speaking at a campaign rally in Boise, Idaho.

_"Many of Christian faith have said, `Well, that's OK. Contraception is OK. ... It's not OK. It's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." _ Santorum, in an interview last year with the Christian blog Caffeinated Thoughts.

_"And that's not going to be easy because, first of all, I'm older and I'm grayer. ... So it's not as new, it's not as trendy to be part of the Obama campaign _ although some of you still have your posters, I'm sure."_ Obama, urging high-dollar donors in San Francisco to rekindle the fire that fueled his 2008 bid.