A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012:
SANTORUM SEEKS DEMS HELP: Rick Santorum has encouraged Democrats to vote for him in Michigan's Republican presidential primary as a protest against Mitt Romney. The primary is open to Republicans or anyone who declares they are Republican for the purpose of voting. And there's precedent for an influx of outsiders influencing the outcome. In the GOP race a dozen years ago, John McCain defeated the heavily favored George W. Bush, with support from Michigan independents and Democrats. Bush won two-thirds of Republican votes, and McCain won 82 percent of the votes of self-described Democrats and two-thirds of independents, according to exit polls.
ROMNEY'S SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS: Romney acknowledged that his own words are hurting his campaign. Asked by reporters whether a series of comments by him highlighting his vast personal wealth are jeopardizing his bid to become the GOP presidential nominee, Romney said, "Yes. Next question," without elaborating. Recent gaffes include saying he earned "not very much" in speaker's fees when the total was $374,000 to saying he wasn't "concerned with the very poor" because they have a safety net to saying that his wife, Ann, drives "a couple of Cadillacs." Just this past Sunday at the Daytona 500, Romney said he wasn't an ardent fan but has "some great friends that are NASCAR team owners."
SANTORUM THE HEAVYWEIGHT: But will he become champion of the GOP? Santorum said he's the heavyweight in the race when it comes to moving the country in the conservative direction, even as he defended his decision to encourage Michigan Democrats to vote for him in the primary. He called Romney a "lightweight on conservative accomplishments." Santorum's barbs were aimed at his rival, who earlier in the day had called Santorum an "economic lightweight."
WHEN'S THE TEXAS PRIMARY: As of now, it could be May 29. A federal court in San Antonio issued new Texas congressional and state House maps Tuesday, just in time for the state to finally hold its twice-delayed primary on May 29. The ruling by a three-judge panel could clear the way for elections _ if none of the nine groups challenging the state's political districts files an appeal. Time is running out for Texas to hold primaries. The redistricting fight already has pushed the primaries from March 6 to April 3, and now to May 29. The last day Texans could vote is June 26.
NO MORE SNOWE: After 33 years in Congress, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe says she will not seek re-election. The Republican senator said in a statement that she was confident of winning a fourth term but decided to leave out of frustration over an "atmosphere of polarization and my-way-or-the-highway ideologies." The 65-year-old Snowe is viewed as a moderate. Snowe said she sees a "vital need" for the political center in order for democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide. Snowe suggested she'd work to build support for such change from outside the Senate.
OBAMA-MICHIGAN. President Barack Obama wasn't on the Michigan ballot, but he found a way to speak to voters there anyway. In a speech to a United Auto Workers audience in Washington, Obama accused his Republican challengers of abandoning the American worker by opposing the taxpayer-funded rescue of General Motors and Chrysler that he helped engineer. Obama also took credit for the U.S. auto industry's resurgence. In unusually strong language, Obama said assertions by GOP candidates that union members profited from the rescue are a "load of you know what." Romney and Santorum have said they would not have used government money to save the auto makers from collapse during the financial crisis.
MICHIGAN QUICK FACTS:
_ Had the nation's unemployment rate for years and endured a decade of economic woes. Its December unemployment rate dropped to 9.3 percent from an August 2009 high of 14.1 percent. Michigan now ranks 10th nationally, but remains above the national unemployment rate of 8.5 percent.
_ Last year added 80,000 manufacturing, service and other jobs, putting it among states recovering fastest from the recession.
_ Besides being a leading manufacturer of cars and trucks, Michigan is the nation's top producer of tart cherries. It also leads in production of prepared cereals, machine tools, sugar beets and furniture.
ARIZONA QUICK FACTS:
_ The Grand Canyon State celebrated its centennial on Feb. 14. It was the 48th state overall and last in the contiguous 48 states.
_ There are 21 federally recognized Indian tribes in Arizona.
_ Is one of the only four states that touch each other. The "Four Corners" states are Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
_ March 3: Washington caucuses.
_ March 6: Super Tuesday: Caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota; primaries in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
_ March 10: Caucuses in Kansas, Wyoming and the Virgin Islands.
WHAT THEY SAID:
_ "I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am what I am." _ Romney.
_ "I am the heavyweight in this race when it comes to moving this country in the conservative direction." _ Santorum.
_ "Winning next Tuesday moves us toward Tampa in a big way." _ Gingrich, explaining his focus on winning the primary in his home state of Georgia on March 6.
_ "I mean, even by the standards of this town, that's a load of you know what." _ Obama, on claims by GOP presidential candidates that saving the auto industry was payback for organized labor.