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2012: Shots are fired

DANIELS: The New York Times economic columnist David Leonhardt has a Q&A with Daniels and points out what he calls two “blemishes” on the Indiana governors’ fiscal record, including what he called his failure to “prevent the Bush administration from turning a big surplus into a huge deficit — not just through the [Iraq] war, but through tax cuts and other policies, too,” while Daniels served as George W. Bush’s budget director. “If he runs for president, that question deserves to be a big part of the vetting of Mr. Daniels by the media, his opponents and the voters.”

DEMINT: “[T]here’s one conservative who, oddly enough, has been withholding judgment on the 2012 crop. That’s South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint,” writes Christian Heinze of GOP12 and The Hill. “What makes his optimism particularly striking is his famed dissatisfaction with candidates who either strike him as insufficiently conservative or lacking the personal moral values to frame a strong career in public service. For example, he told Bloomberg News last year that it would be ‘bothersome to me just personally’ to have a gay in the White House and also told the magazine World that he was ‘just going to have to create pain’ for Republican colleagues who didn’t adhere to what he viewed as fundamental conservatism.”

PENCE: “Dozens of prominent conservatives are scheduled to gather this weekend at the swanky Sanctuary Hotel resort on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, where Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence will keynote the invitation-only Awakening Conference’s annual black tie dinner,” Politico reports. “Pence joins a parade of other potential GOP 2012 hopefuls who have previously addressed the conference, now held in a key early primary state: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint and Mitt Romney have all appeared at the gathering at some point in its 16-year history.”

SANTORUM: The first intra-candidate fight might be breaking out. The Hill reports that potential 2012 hopeful, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) criticized Mitt Romney on health care. "I think it's hard to see a path for him given the 'Obamacare' issue," Santorum said, noting the similarities between the healthcare plan championed by Romney and the one enacted by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama last year. "It's just hard for me to see how he gets past that [in a Republican primary]."

And in an interview with National Journal, Santorum also took shots at Romney, as well as Sarah Palin: “I like her a lot, but I’m not too sure that … ,” said Santorum in the interview. He paused before restating his response. “Let’s put it this way: I’m not waiting for her to decide whether I’m running for president," he continued. "So, to me, she’s certainly been a net plus to Republican efforts. She was a huge factor in the last election, to me mostly to the good, maybe not all to the good. But 90 percent is pretty good.” More: “Asked directly if Palin is qualified to be president, Santorum responded: ‘What does it mean to be qualified to be president? She is born in this country and she’s the right age. Those are the qualifications.’”