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2012: Romney hits Obama on health care

DANIELS: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may not be a household name, but the potential 2012 Presidential contender beat out better-known politicians in a straw poll of Washington state GOP activists over the weekend,” the Seattle Times writes. In the Roanoke Conference straw poll, “Daniels led with 31 percent, well above second-place finisher Mitt Romney of Massachussetts (14 percent.)”

“Daniels is reportedly close to making a decision regarding whether he will leave office in order to seek the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination,” The State column writes. “’I think I have got to make up my mind fairly soon,’ Daniels said Friday.”

GINGRICH: The Wall Street Journal editorial page excoriates Newt Gingrich’s pro-ethanol speech at Iowa’s Renewable Fuels Association summit, calling it a “pious tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars.” More: “Some pandering is inevitable in presidential politics, but, befitting a college professor, Mr. Gingrich insists on portraying his low vote-buying as high ‘intellectual’ policy. This doesn't bode well for his judgment as a president. Even Al Gore now admits that the only reason he supported ethanol in 2000 was to goose his presidential prospects, and the only difference now between Al and Newt is that Al admits he was wrong.”

HUCKABEE: Israeli “Deputy Minister for Galilee and Negev Development Ayoub Kara (Likud) told visiting former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a likely Republican US presidential candidate, that Obama needed to understand that ‘supporting the masses carrying out a revolution in Egypt is like support for the Muslim Brotherhood which is likely to take Mubarak’s place,’” the Jerusalem Post writes. “Kara told Huckabee he was ‘disappointed by Obama’s turning his back’ on Mubarak.”

HUNTSMAN: “U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, a Republican with potential presidential ambitions, submitted a letter of resignation to the White House on Monday announcing he intends to leave the post April 30, a senior administration official said,” the AP writes, adding: “Huntsman also wouldn't be the first U.S. envoy to China to seek the White House: President George H.W. Bush served that role under President Gerald Ford. Huntsman's allies suggest he would stay in Beijing through April, set up an exploratory committee and make an announcement in early summer, perhaps after the close of the second-quarter fundraising records are released in July. By then, Republican primary voters will have had a chance to assess the early entrants in the GOP field and may clamor for another option.”

“Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the charismatic former Republican governor of Utah who appeared to put his presidential ambitions on hold when he became President Obama's ambassador to China, abruptly resigned his post Monday and appears likely to take a shot at ousting his boss,” the Washington Post says. “White House officials said they were miffed about Huntsman's shift and said late Monday that they doubted he could make a successful run at the presidency.”

The Post also points out some of its poll numbers on whether Americans would vote for a Mormon for president (the poll centered on Mitt Romney’s ambitions, but Huntsman is also Mormon). “In Dec. 2007, 22 percent of Americans said they would be less apt to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate… But also notable is that the percentage turning away from a Mormon candidate dropped significantly - by 13 percentage points - between Dec. 2006 and Dec. 2007.”

Former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said Huntsman’s service in the Obama administration won’t necessarily hurt him with Republican voters. ‘He was doing national service,’ says Cullen, who is neutral in the presidential race so far. ‘It’s like serving in the military in a Democratic administration. It doesn’t do him any dishonor’ to be linked to the Obama White House this way,” the Salt Lake Tribune writes.

PAWLENTY: “Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) sharpened his political rhetoric on Monday, calling President Obama ‘chicken’ when it comes to the issue of entitlement spending,” The Hill writes. “‘He's got all this soaring rhetoric, but the fact of the matter is he's chicken to address the real issues,” Pawlenty said on Fox News, adding, “Don’t confuse nice with being weak.”

ROMNEY: On ABC, Romney said President Obama’s needs “to ‘press the pause button’ on the federal health care overhaul in the wake of a judge's decision declaring it unconstitutional,” the AP writes. Romney said, "We don't need the government imposing a one-size-fits-all system" on the states. But “Romney acknowledged that his own health care law in Massachusetts contained the same kind of individual insurance mandate that a judge in Florida found unconstitutional in the federal law, but says he isn't apologizing for it. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, sought to make a distinction between the options that a state might choose under the 10th Amendment compared with Washington deciding the policy for all states in a single legislative act.” Romney, per Politico: "I'm certainly indicating the things I'd do differently," he said. "But I'm not going to apologize for the rights of states to craft plans on a bipartisan basis to help their people."

He also said the administration needs to urge Mubarak to “step out of the way.”

“Former governor Mitt Romney, in a new introduction to his book, strongly criticizes President Obama, writing that ‘my worst fears about the president have come true’ and that his policies ‘are smothering the American dream,’” the Boston Globe reports. “‘Rather than focusing his energy and political capital on solving the economic crisis, he exploited it to promote his extreme liberal agenda,’ Romney writes in the new paperback version of ‘No Apology,’ according to excerpts provided to the Globe. Romney is expected to expound on such a line of attack in a round of radio and television interviews today and tomorrow.”

“Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised a total of $6.3 million between his federal and state-based political action committees in 2010, ending the year with $1.4 million cash on hand,” The Hill writes. “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's PAC totals lag behind both Romney and Palin. Huckabee's PAC raised just shy of $35,000 to close out the year, ending 2010 with $137,660 cash on hand. In all, Huckabee raised $979,000 in 2010.”

SANTORUM: “Mr. Santorum's media strategist, John Brabender, said the Republican will likely announce the hire of a well-known national political consultant this week,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.