A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, Monday, April 2:
TUESDAY'S PRIMARIES: Two states and the District of Columbia vote, but the marquee contest is in Wisconsin. It's the kind of big industrial state where a win by Mitt Romney will further solidify his standing as the likely GOP nominee and a Romney loss will infuse Rick Santorum's campaign with new energy. Both candidates have spent the past several days rallying their supporters across Wisconsin _ and eating cheese. Romney has the advantage in Wisconsin, based on the latest polls. He was also favored to win in Maryland and Washington, D.C. A total of 95 delegates to the GOP convention are at stake in the three contests.
TUESDAY'S DELEGATES UP FOR GRABS:
_ 42: Wisconsin
_ 37: Maryland
_ 16: District of Columbia; whoever wins the primary gets all 16 delegates.
AP DELEGATE TRACKER:
Delegate count heading into Tuesday's primaries.
_ 572: Romney, exactly half the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.
_ 272: Santorum
_ 135: Gingrich
_ 51: Paul
_ The GOP presidential primary has been largely overshadowed by the recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, scheduled for June 5.
_ Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to win the state in a presidential election, in 1984.
_ Known as America's Dairyland, Wisconsin ranks first nationally in cheese production and second in the production of milk. It has more than 1.2 million dairy cows, about one for every five residents.
FLOOR FIGHT: Santorum says a floor fight at the GOP convention over who should be the nominee would be "energizing" and a "fascinating display of open democracy" that would encourage more Republicans to participate. The former Pennsylvania senator has pledged to stay in the race, arguing that Romney has yet to win the needed delegates and isn't the strongest Republican to put up against President Barack Obama. Santorum, for one, thinks settling the matter on the convention floor will boost his chances of becoming the nominee. Other Republicans think such a scenario would only ensure Obama's re-election.
RUNNING FOR VP: Republicans eyeing a possible invitation to be Romney's running mate would do well to brush up on American political history. It's been nearly 100 years since a losing vice presidential nominee was also a politician skilled and lucky enough to eventually become president. The year was 1920 and his name was Franklin D. Roosevelt. So one takeaway for this year's much-talked-about group of potential vice presidential candidates is this: If you hope to be president one day, accepting the No. 2 spot is a pretty good deal if the ticket wins _ and a possible pathway to political obscurity if it loses. Of the dozen presidents since FDR, just five were former vice presidents. George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon were elected but the others _ Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald Ford _ became president because of death or resignation.
MARCH MADNESS: Two underdogs for the GOP nomination are comparing themselves to the University of Kansas basketball team, which was down at halftime but rallied to defeat Ohio State and claim a spot in Monday's NCAA Tournament final against Kentucky. Newt Gingrich compared himself to the team during a campaign appearance in Maryland. But Rick Santorum beat him to center court, saying Sunday that to drop out of the race now would be like Kansas giving up after the first half. Santorum said the race "isn't even at halftime yet." But Kansas wasn't down by half, as Santorum is against Romney. Let's see what collegiate sports analogies the candidates make come Tuesday.
ROMNEY-RELIGION: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sidestepped a question about his Mormon faith while campaigning for the Wisconsin primary. A Ron Paul supporter, 28-year-old Bret Hatch, asked Romney whether he agreed with a passage from the Book of Mormon that describes a cursing of people with a "skin of blackness." Romney's staff took away the microphone before the Green Bay man could read the passage. "I'm sorry, we're just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view, but if you have a question I'll be happy to answer your question," Romney said. Hatch then asked whether Romney thought it was a sin for interracial couples to have children. "No. Next question," Romney responded curtly. Hatch was citing verses from Mormon scriptures which he argued called it sinful for blacks and whites to have children. Such allegations are often made by critics who accuse The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of racism and consider Mormon teachings heretical. The church barred men of African descent from the Latter-day Saint priesthood until 1978. Some Mormons may have heard verses from scripture cited in their communities as an explanation of why blacks were not allowed to become priests. However, church leaders have said the origins of the prohibition are unknown. The church recently issued a statement from its offices in Utah denouncing racism and warning against what it called speculation about how the ban came to be.
OBAMA: Obama countered a charge from Romney that he's been weak in projecting American power abroad, but he skipped a chance to blast Romney and the rest of the GOP presidential field. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden alongside leaders of Mexico and Canada, Obama played the statesman's role. He said he's cutting his GOP critics "some slack" because they're still having a primary. But Obama did take exception to Romney's weekend remark that the president doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism," a reference to the unique role of the world's only superpower. Obama reminded listeners that the 2004 Democratic convention speech that thrust him into the national spotlight was all about "American exceptionalism."
WHERE THEY'LL BE TUESDAY:
_ Gingrich: Delaware
_ Paul: California
_ Romney: Wisconsin
_ Santorum: Pennsylvania
IN HIS WORDS
_ "We're going to have a strong showing, maybe even sneak in and have an upset." _ Santorum, on his showing in Wisconsin.
_ "Gov. Romney doesn't have it locked down. And we have no obligation to back off and concede anything until he does." _ Gingrich.
_ "I will cut folks some slack for now, because they're still trying to get their nomination." _ Obama, on Romney's criticism of him.
_ "I'm still passionately in love with that woman." _ Romney, referring to his wife, Ann.