A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Tuesday, March 27, 2012:
CAUGHT ON TAPE: While President Barack Obama seeks to assure Americans that he has no hidden agenda with Russia if he wins a second term, the Republicans who want to take Obama's place aren't buying it. On Monday, Obama was caught on tape telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more room to negotiate on missile defense after getting through the November election, presumably expecting to win and not have to face voters again. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney says the unguarded comments were "an alarming and troubling development" and accuses Obama of "pulling his punches with the American people, and not telling us what he's intending to do with regards to our missile defense system, with regards to our military might and with regards to our commitment to Israel." Rick Santorum says that Obama's comments suggest he is willing to sacrifice U.S. security and the security of its allies, and Newt Gingrich also questioned Obama's motives. "I'm curious, how many other countries has the president promised that he'd have a lot more flexibility the morning he doesn't have to answer to the American people?" Gingrich said on CNN. On Tuesday, Obama explained that he wants to work with Russia on the deeply divisive issue of a missile defense shield in Europe, knowing only by building trust first on that matter can he make gains on another goal of nuclear arms reductions. And there's no way to expect progress during the politics of this election year, so he is already looking to 2013.
ROMNEY'S MONEYMEN: Mitt Romney's presidential fundraising operation is a bit of a mystery, withholding the names of major fundraisers who have helped amass much of its money. A review by The Associated Press of campaign records and other records provides clues to the vast national network of business leaders bringing in millions to put Romney in the Oval Office. Dozens of people fit the profile of top Romney fundraisers, known as "bundlers" for their ability to sweep up donations from wealthy acquaintances and steer them to campaigns. At least seven are the mega-rich donors who each gave gifts of at least $1 million to an allied pro-Romney political committee. Dozens more were listed on invitations for fundraising events, assigned to mine their business and personal networks for maximum campaign contributions. The AP identified likely Romney bundlers through interviews, finance records, event invitations and other publicity about campaign events. Federal law does not require the Romney campaign to divulge the names, but both GOP and Democratic presidential candidates in recent years routinely provided the identities and money ranges of their top fundraisers. The lack of transparency by the Romney campaign about its top bundlers prevents voters from knowing who wields influence inside the GOP front-runner's campaign and how their interests might benefit if he is elected.
SINGLE WOMEN IN POLITICAL DEMAND: In an election year heavily focused on social issues and the economy, Democrats are trying to energize unmarried women who overwhelmingly vote for their candidates while Republicans work to peel them away. Political math tells the story of the so-called marriage gap: Exit polls show that women are a majority of voters in presidential election years and about 4 in 10 female voters don't have a spouse. They lean more heavily Democratic than their married counterparts. But the U.S. census says about 22 percent of them are unregistered, a rich pool of potential new voters for both parties competing for the presidency and the majorities in Congress. Though single women are among the most Democratic groups in the electorate, recent political history gives Republicans hope: In the 2010 elections, Republican House candidates grabbed their highest share of women's votes in decades, at 49 percent. Single women also were hit harder than others by the recession Obama inherited. So in both parties, the race is on to woo single women, register them to vote and inspire them to show up at the polls.
SANTORUM'S STRUGGLES: Rick Santorum is showing signs of fatigue and frustration while grasping for strategies to right his unsteady White House bid. In trying to derail Mitt Romney, the former Pennsylvania senator is using any means available _ even contradictory messages. One example: Santorum has called Romney "the worst Republican in the country" to challenge President Barack Obama, but in a subsequent interview he said he would consider serving as Romney's running mate. Struggling to settle on a consistent message, Santorum turned to social issues as part of a throw-it-all-out-there approach in recent days, hoping to find something that sticks with Republican voters. In recent days he turned to abortion rights, which Romney once supported but has since disavowed. "Gay marriage went into effect under Gov. Romney. Fifty-dollar abortions went into effect under Gov. Romney, and free abortions for low-income people under Romney," Santorum said in Sheboygan, Wis. Santorum has even tried to appear more friendly to the working man, partaking in events featuring guns, golf and bowling. He's also turned to a conservative-friendly strategy of bashing the news media, using profanity when responding to a New York Times reporter who asked him to clarify his assertion that Romney is the worst Republican to run for president. He said later: "If you're a conservative and you haven't taken on a New York Times reporter, you're not worth your salt as far as I'm concerned."
A PLEDGE OF SUPPORT: Under pressure to help unify his party, Newt Gingrich said he would support Mitt Romney if the former Massachusetts governor wins enough convention delegates to clinch the nomination by the end of the GOP primary season in June. Gingrich is short on funds, and his hopes for a Southern-based comeback in the race were all but extinguished by rival Rick Santorum's recent victories in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Even so, Gingrich has insisted he plans to campaign actively into the party convention, which begins Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla. Gingrich and Santorum have come under increased pressure from some Republicans in recent weeks to swing behind Romney, who is on track to pick a majority of delegates before the primaries end with the vote in Utah.
A national McClatchy-Marist poll finds Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama running neck and neck among registered voters. Against other potential Republican nominees, however, Obama has a clear lead.
_Obama 46 percent, Romney 44 percent, undecided 9 percent
_Obama 48 percent, Santorum 43 percent, undecided 9 percent
_Obama 50 percent, Paul 40 percent, undecided 10 percent
_Obama 53 percent, Gingrich 38 percent, 9 percent undecided
IN THE AIR
_"There is a group of women who are up for grabs." _ Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, describing a majority of such voters as older, white and blue collar.
_"Obviously I will support him and will be delighted to do anything I can to help defeat Barack Obama." _ Gingrich, saying he would back Romney if he collects enough delegates to win the Republican nomination.
_"I haven't thought about that." _ Daniel Dumezich, a partner with the Winston & Strawn law firm in Chicago and a Romney fundraiser, when asked whether the Romney campaign should disclose how much he and others are raising.