CHRISTIE: “In a letter dated Tuesday to U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.), federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered to return $128 million of the $271 million the feds are charging the state, and deposit that money into a fund to be used for future New Jersey transportation projects,” the Newark Star-Ledger reports. “Christie said he has still not heard from LaHood about the offer. ‘I’m always happy to talk to Secretary LaHood,’ Christie said, adding that he wanted to discuss the tunnel with the federal administration instead of through the press.”
GINGRICH: The Spartanburg Herald Journal: “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a possible 2012 Republican presidential contender, delivered a thoughtful 34-minute speech full of red meat, Orwellian references and philosophical underpinnings at the Spartanburg GOP's annual Bronze Elephant fundraising banquet Thursday night.”
And then there’s this: A Dallas strip club gave him a lifetime membership: “Last year former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich mistakenly gave Dallas businesswoman Dawn Rizos an Entrepreneur of the Year Award and invited her to a private Washington dinner to discuss ways to revitalize the economy. For her part, Rizos donated $5,000 to Gingrich's group called American Solutions,” the Dallas Morning News writes. “But it turned out that Gingrich had confused Rizos, the owner and CEO of the Lodge, the famed Dallas gentlemen's club, with another businesswoman. After learning of the mistake, Gingrich rescinded Dawn's invite to the dinner. Apparently Gingrich didn't learn from last year's embarrassing episode. He recently sent Rizos an American Solutions membership card and asked for another donation.”
JINDAL: “The presidential commission investigating the BP Gulf of Mexico spill has concluded that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wasted $220 million building controversial sand berms that captured a "minuscule amount" of oil and proved to be ‘underwhelmingly effective’ and ‘overwhelmingly expensive,’” USA Today writes.
PALIN: Palin told ABC her decision on running for president is “months down the road.” Palin said, "It's a prayerful consideration because, obviously, the sacrifices that have to be made in order to put yourself forward in the name of public service is, it's brutal.” When confronted with poll numbers that would show a steep climb for her against President Obama, she responded, "A poll number like that, it's like, 'Oh yeah, that doesn't look really pretty today,' but a primary is months and months in the process, and there are thankfully many debates," she said. "And if I were to participate in that contested primary -- you know, it -- I would be in it to win it."
Palin also said of John Boehner’s crying that there’s a “double standard” for women: "I don't know if a woman would be given a pass necessarily. I respect John Boehner because he has worn his feelings on his sleeve on things that are so important to him ... and I give him that pass, too. But that's one of those things where a double standard certainly is applied," she added. "I'm sure if I got up there and did a speech and I started breaking down and cried about how important it is to me that our children and our grandchildren are provided great opportunities, I'm sure that I would be knocked a little bit for that. It makes us work that much harder and be that much tougher and more committed to the message and the mission at hand.”
She also called the tax deal “lousy” but praised Obama for “flip-flopping.” "He, you know, can term it compromise. I term it flip flop," she said. "I was thankful that he did, but it's still not good enough because our economy is ... at a breaking point and we are on a path towards insolvency if we do not start incentivizing businesses to start producing more in our own country."
ROMNEY: The Boston Globe’s Lehigh takes aim at Romney’s positions on START and the tax deal as pandering: “[F]or those eagerly awaiting the new, improved 2012 Romney, a word of caution: Don’t get your hopes too high. So far, the prototype suffers from many of the same flaws that plagued the 2008 model Mitt.”
IOWA: And so it begins… The Ames presidential straw poll will be Aug. 13, 2011. The Iowa GOP “is partnering with Fox News to host a debate on Aug. 11 at” Iowa State University in Ames.
A second debate is tentatively set for early 2012, the Des Moines Register notes, adding, “Tying the party fundraiser in Ames with the debate on Fox, an influential outlet for conservatives, will give incentive to candidates campaigning for Iowa’s leadoff nominating caucuses to participate in the straw poll, state party chairman Matt Strawn said.”
NEVADA: “The Nevada Republican Executive Committee voted Wednesday night to hold the party's 2012 presidential caucus on February 18, a decision that could make GOP voters in the “First in the West” state third in line to vote for their party's next nominee,” Politico writes.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: “Reports that President Barack Obama is vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2012 are exaggerated, according to a new survey conducted by Magellan Mapping and Data Strategies,” new website NHJournal reports. “Obama would handily defeat three well-known politicians sometimes mentioned as potential challengers for the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination,” Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton.