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2012: Palin on defense

GIULIANI: “Unless the dominant issue in the 2012 Republican primaries is blizzard management, then -- an area in which Mr. Giuliani excelled and which might win him a few votes in New York and Minnesota -- it is hard to see how a presidential bid in 2012 would amount to much more than a vanity candidacy, if Mr. Giuliani chooses to mount one at all,” the New York Times says.

HUCKABEE: A new Gallup poll finds that Mike Huckabee “has the highest net favorable score among Republicans nationwide in a field of potential GOP candidates for 2012, while former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the most recognized. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are also widely recognized by Republicans, and have favorability numbers similar to Palin's.”

Huckabee will appear in Tennessee to “speak at a fundraising dinner for the anti-abortion movement on college campuses at the Knoxville Convention Center on Feb. 14,” Knox News writes.

PALIN: “An aide to Sarah Palin is defending the former Alaska governor's controversial campaign target map, saying the circles over certain districts were never meant to be gun sights. However, Palin herself described the symbol as a ‘bullseye,’” the Washington Post writes.

“Sarah Palin is charging that President Barack Obama is ‘hell-bent on weakening America’ by pushing to raise the national debt ceiling,’ Politico says. Appearing Friday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Palin “accused the president of ‘purposefully’ trying to harm the country and acknowledged that her stinging comments might ‘get some people all wee-weed up again.’”

PAWLENTY: “In what's a tricky issue right now, Tim Pawlenty tells the National Review if the debt ceiling has to be raised, it has to be raised, but only if it has to be raised,” GOP 12 writes. “I think they should exhaust the possibility of cuts before raising the debt ceiling again,” Pawlenty said in the interview.

The former governor writes in his new book that he watches hockey fights to relax, Politico notes. “Pawlenty has often used hockey metaphors during his tenure as governor. He says in the book that there are ‘unwritten rules and traditions at play in those fistfights on ice.’”

ROMNEY: “Former Governor Mitt Romney is on a weeklong trip to the Middle East for a series of high-level meetings, a trip that could help bolster his foreign policy credentials as he weighs a presidential run,” the Boston Globe reports. “Romney left on Friday for Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, according to senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. He is planning to meet with President Karzai of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.”

SANTORUM: “Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s eighth exploratory trip to the state will include Tuesday night as the first guest at the home of Republican Senate candidate Ovide and Bettie Lamontagne starting a series of meet-and-greets with GOP wannabes,” the Nashua Telegraph reports.

IOWA: “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are in a close contest for the hearts and minds of likely Iowa caucus-goers, according to a new poll of Iowa Republicans conducted by the GOP firm Neighborhood Research,” Politico reports.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: “New Hampshire may have to dig in its heels a bit to protect its first-in-the-nation primary status,” the Laconia Citizen writes. “But with a set date from the DNC and no specific mandate from the RNC, Nevada's Republican and Democratic caucuses have both been scheduled for Feb. 18, just four days after New Hampshire's Primary and, thusly, in conflict with New Hampshire state law. That law states that New Hampshire's primary must fall at least seven days before another state's.”