A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Thursday, March 1:
MICHIGAN UNTIED: A day after a tally showed Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum evenly splitting Michigan's 30 convention delegates, state Republican officials voted to change the distribution and give Romney the edge. Romney now has 16 of the delegates to 14 for Santorum. Most of the delegates were awarded based on the outcome in each of 14 congressional districts. The final two were to be awarded based on the statewide vote, thus one for each candidate. Instead, the state GOP's credentials committee voted Wednesday night to give both of those delegates to Romney. Needless to say, Santorum's camp wasn't happy. It blasted the change as "back-room dealing political thuggery."
PAUL WHACKS ROMNEY: Ron Paul has a new ad running in Washington state that's notable for its attacks on Mitt Romney. The two are friends and, up to this point, the Texas congressman has seemed unwilling to go after the front-runner the same way that rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have. The ad targets all three of Paul's rivals and calls Romney a flip-flopper who has been on all sides of many issues. Romney also is criticized for supporting the federal bailout of the financial industry and providing the blueprint for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
SANTORUM'S SCHOOL FEES: Santorum scorns the government's hand in public education and proudly notes that his seven children were home-schooled. Yet as a senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum got a Pittsburgh-area school district to help pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition so his children could receive online schooling. His use of tax money to help pay for their education became an issue in the fall of 2004 because his family was primarily living in northern Virginia, outside of Washington. After the matter became public, the Penn Hills School District tried to recover about $73,000 it had argued was wrongly sent to an Internet-based charter school. Pennsylvania's education department later agreed to reimburse the district $55,000 to settle the dispute.
OBAMA'S ENERGY: Obama traveled to snowy New Hampshire to issue another defense of U.S. energy policy under his watch. He told an audience grateful to get out of the cold that charges by Republican presidential candidates that his policies are driving up the price of gas won't pass a "political bull-detector" test. He also reverted to professor mode and used a color-coded chart to instruct the crowd on how the U.S. need for imported oil has been declining. Obama again called on Congress to eliminate about $4 billion in annual tax breaks and subsidies for profitable oil and gas companies. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, scoffed at the idea.
GINGRICH CLAWS BACK. Newt Gingrich is trying to claw his way back into the GOP race and is going after Santorum in a big way. Gingrich said in Georgia, his home state and the place where he hopes his campaign will roar back to life next week, that Santorum is "Pennsylvania big labor baloney." Gingrich's campaign also said it's issuing an anti-Santorum automated phone call to 150,000 households in Oklahoma and Tennessee to highlight the former Pennsylvania senator's ties to organized labor. Both men are vying for strong finishes Tuesday in Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
GINGRICH ROBO-CALL TEXT: "On the campaign trail, Rick Santorum talks a good game about his blue-collar roots, about being for the average family. But here's the record Rick Santorum doesn't want you to know about. As senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum cozied up to the labor bosses and voted for the AFL-CIO and against a national right-to-work bill that would have let workers opt out of paying union dues, union dues that hurt families and small businesses. Rick Santorum: Friend of working families or the union bosses' pal? You decide."
BY THE NUMBERS:
_ 4: Number of campaign fundraisers on Obama's schedule Thursday night in New York City.
BY THE DELEGATES:
The latest delegate totals following the change in Michigan:
_ Romney, 168.
_ Santorum, 86.
_ Gingrich, 32.
_ Paul, 19.
IN THEIR WORDS:
_ "It's one thing to be pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage, taking on the issues of faith and freedom in this country, core values of life. It's one thing to vote that way, it's another thing to stand up and fight and lead on those issues. I've led." _ Santorum.
_ "It's just the same old baloney. One is Massachusetts moderate baloney. The other is Pennsylvania big labor baloney. But they're baloney." _ Gingrich, on his rivals.
_ "The president of the United States must protect and defend the Constitution, not ignore it. This is yet another example of what is wrong with Obamacare, and why I am committed to its repeal." _ Romney, on senators who voted to repeal a provision of Obama's health care overhaul.
_ "If there's one thing I know about New Hampshire, it's that your political bull-detector is pretty keen. It's pretty sharp." _ Obama.