A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway for Thursday, March 15, the Ides of March:
BIDEN UNBOUND: The Democratic presidential campaign moved to a new phase with the return of the enforcer. Vice President Joe Biden called out Mitt Romney and his GOP rivals as being "dead wrong" about the auto bailout in a feisty campaign ramp-up in Toledo, Ohio. Obama's re-election team is trying to set the terms for the general election while the Republicans are slugging it out in their party's nominating process. Biden's role will be to launch targeted attacks on Republicans. And his speech before a boisterous, 500-person crowd at a United Auto Workers hall in a politically crucial state suggested it's a role he'll fully embrace.
NONCOMMITTAL RON: Texas Rep. Ron Paul isn't ready to commit to Mitt Romney if Romney becomes the party's nominee for president. The anti-war candidate says he needs more information on Romney's foreign policy to make that decision. Paul was campaigning in Missouri, part of this strategy to concentrate on caucus states, ahead of Saturday's contest.
RICK ON PUERTO RICO, DAY 2: A day after telling a San Juan newspaper that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English as its main language in order to become a state, Rick Santorum insists his remarks were misreported. Nonetheless, Santorum's stand has already cost him some support. Puerto Ricans will vote on Nov. 6 to decide on statehood, independence or no change in political status for the island. One statehood backer who had signed on as a Santorum delegate, Orestes Ramos, dropped his support for the former Pennsylvania senator because of the language comments. Santorum told reporters Thursday he would replace Ramos with Carlos Baerga, a retired professional baseball player.
WHO'S GOT THE POPCORN? President Barack Obama's campaign is releasing a 17-minute documentary narrated by actor Tom Hanks. The films provides a window into how his team is trying to sell the president: As a man of principle who faced daunting challenges from the moment he won election but persevered to rescue the U.S. auto industry, begin rebuilding the economy, pass health care reform and authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The documentary was directed by Davis Guggenheim, whose credits include the Academy Award winner "An Inconvenient Truth," about Al Gore's global-warming campaign. Republicans have dismissed the film, which cost at least $345,000, as nothing more than a slick piece of propaganda that fails to take full stock of Obama's presidency.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: The protracted Republican primary fight is hitting Mitt Romney where it hurts: his wallet. Romney's campaign has built a wide lead in delegates thanks in part to the might of his bank account and multistate operation. While rivals met with voters and President Barack Obama was stockpiling cash, Romney was in New York this week at a series of fundraising events that brought in $3 million. The money is badly needed to re-fill coffers that had sunk close to their lowest levels since Romney launched his presidential effort last year. The question remains whether Romney will pour some of his personal fortune into his campaign treasury. In 2008 Romney supplemented campaign donations with $42 million of his own money.
BY THE NUMBERS:
_ $11.5 million: The amount Romney raised in February.
_ $9 million: The amount Santorum raised in February.
AP DELEGATE TRACKER:
Totals after the vote in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa. It takes 1,144 delegates to the Republican National Convention to win the presidential nomination.
_ Romney: 495
_ Santorum: 252
_ Gingrich: 131
_ Paul: 48
_ Saturday: Missouri caucuses
_ Sunday: Puerto Rico primary
_ March 20: Illinois primary
_ March 24: Louisiana primary
WHERE THEY'LL BE FRIDAY:
_ Gingrich: Louisiana
_ Paul: Off the trail
_ Romney: Illinois, Puerto Rico
_ Santorum: Missouri, Illinois
_ Obama: Illinois, Atlanta
IN THEIR WORDS:
_ "I never said only English should be spoken here. Never did I even intimate that. What I said was that English had to be spoken as well as other _ obviously Spanish is going to be spoken, this would be a bilingual country." _ Rick Santorum, the day after saying that in order to become a state, Puerto Rico would have to adopt English as its main language.
_ "God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Go build those cars." _ Biden, at a United Auto Workers hall in Toledo, Ohio.
_ "The Republicans are going to be in trouble unless they come our way and decide they want a president who's more for peace than for war." _ Paul, campaigning in Missouri.
_ "We're drilling all over this country. I guess there's some empty spots where we're not drilling. We're not at the National Mall. We're not drilling at your house." _ Obama, answering calls from Republican candidates for more oil exploration.
_ "He has not pursued policies that convince the world that America is going to become energy secure, energy independent." _ Romney on why Obama should be held accountable for high gas prices.
_ "Ask the president why is Saudi oil good and American oil bad? Why is Saudi drilling good and American drilling bad?" _ Gingrich, dismissing the president's remarks on energy as "intellectual nonsense."