BARBOUR: After South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s swearing-in ceremony, Haley Barbour “convened something of a meet-and-greet with a handful of Republican legislators at the Palmetto Club in downtown Columbia,” CNN reports. “Among those planning to attend the closed-door meeting: David Wilkins, a former U.S. Ambassador and South Carolina House Speaker who remains a power broker in state GOP politics. Wilkins was also the chief of Haley's transition team.”
The New York Times profiles Haley’s nephew Henry Barbour, a lobbyist and RNC member who is leading the campaign to oust Michael Steele. Governor Barbour, the Times writes, “has become synonymous with an old-fashioned approach to politics, driven by force of personality and conducted over Maker’s Mark. He has also, however, been dogged by statements that suggest a considerably old-fashioned, even blinkered, view of history… Henry Barbour, 46, came of age in the Reagan era, when Republicans were not only newly viable in the South but also increasingly dominant, and when the art of politics shifted from the handshake to the database.”
CAIN: Mark it down. We have our first presidential exploratory committee, and it’s Herman Cain, a conservative talk show host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.
CHRISTIE: The New Jersey governor recommended that Sarah Palin go unscripted, The State Column writes. “The New Jersey Republican added that Ms. Palin’s avoidance of reporters will hinder her ability to run for president. ‘And I would contend to you that if Governor Palin never does any of those things, she’ll never be president, because people in America won’t countenance that. They just won’t,’ Mr. Christie added.”
“The verbal spat between political pals Rudy Giuliani and NJ Gov. Chris Christie over the recent blizzard intensified Wednesday as Christie accused his former mentor of ‘shooting from the peanut gallery,’” The New York Post writes. Giuliani had said of Christie: "Chris should've come back … They elected you governor, they've got an emergency, they expect you to be there.”
GINGRICH: A day before speaking to a group of South Carolina business leaders, Newt Gingrich “readily acknowledges the state's historic importance in backing GOP presidential nominees - and his interest in becoming a White House candidate. "’South Carolina has picked the last five Republican presidential nominees,’ Gingrich told McClatchy Newspapers. ‘So it's clear that along with Iowa and New Hampshire, it's a key state in the presidential nominating process. There's no question it will retain that importance in 2012.’”
PALIN: The New York Daily News writes, Palin’s “evocation of the slur on Jews [‘blood libel’] in connection with the shooting of Arizona's first Jewish representative did not sit well with many.”
The Hill says Palin “set off a firestorm” after using the phrase and that it “arguably overshadow[ed] her counterattack to the left’s salvos.”
“Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition's board of directors, did not address Palin's use of the phrase ‘blood libel’ but said she would have been better served by focusing on a more positive message,” The Hill writes. He said, "I liked much of what she said, but it would have been even better if she simply rose above the accusations about her map and focused entirely on the bigger message of loss, tragedy and the greatness of our country and the strength of our people. The better way to repudiate the nonsensical charges against her would have been to rise above them."
PAWLENTY: “Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty took his ubiquitous book launch to the Daliy Show today where he expressed skepticism at calls on political figures to watch what they say,” Politico writes. "’We've got to be really careful here,’ he said, warning about the consequences for speech ‘if you start saying, 'You can't say this, you can't say that.'" http://politi.co/he1lmM
Pawlenty also listed what he believed to be the most important qualities for a GOP candidate in order to defeat President Obama in 2010: “I think the next president is going to have an unusual, really historic amount of fortitude. And I think there’s going to be a lot of similarities on various issues that Republican candidates are espousing. But I think the question people should ask is based on their life experiences, based on their record, not just who gives a pretty speech or who offered a failed amendment,” he said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.
ROMNEY: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has stepped down from the board of directors for hotel chain Marriott International Inc. for the second time in eight years,” Bloomberg reports. “Romney served as a director from 1993 to 2002 before stepping down at the start of his run for governor. He rejoined the board in January 2009.”
SANTORUM: “Rick Santorum will make his eighth trip to South Carolina on Saturday as the Pennsylvania Republican continues his courtship of conservatives while exploring a potential presidential bid,” The Hill writes. “Santorum will address an anti-abortion rally in Columbia on Saturday before traveling to Aiken to speak at a county GOP lunch on Monday.”