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2012: Gay marriage no longer a potent political issue?

The New York Times: “President Obama’s decision to abandon his legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act has generated only mild rebukes from the Republicans hoping to succeed him in 2012, evidence of a shifting political climate in which social issues are being crowded out by economic concerns.” Examples: “In the hours that followed, Sarah Palin’s Facebook site was silent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was close-mouthed. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, released a Web video — on the labor union protests in Wisconsin — and waited a day before issuing a marriage statement saying he was ‘disappointed.’”

“Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, took their time weighing in, and then did so only in the most tepid terms. ‘The Justice Department is supposed to defend our laws,’ Mr. Barbour said.”

Gallup has more from its latest poll testing presidential hopefuls: “[Respondents] focused on government spending and power are most likely to favor Huckabee or Romney, while those focused on the economy favor Romney or Palin. Republicans who say social and moral values are most important favor Huckabee or Palin.”

DANIELS: Following up on Politico’s earlier scoop, Princeton’s school paper, the Daily Princetonian, makes note of Mitch Daniels’ conviction on charges of drug use as a Princeton undergraduate, after which he said he thought any political aspirations were shot: “More than 20 years later, Daniels, now the governor of Indiana, has proved his own nay-saying wrong, emerging as a national political figure that many speculate will make a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.”

GINGRICH: Before speaking at the Palm Beach County Lincoln Day dinner, Newt Gingrich told the Palm Beach Post that “he's within a week or two of deciding whether to run for president. He also said that “Florida could produce a vice presidential candidate on the 2012 GOP ticket. ‘Florida has two and maybe three potential vice presidential candidates right now, maybe four if you count Jeb Bush,’ Gingrich said. He mentioned Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, and Gov. Rick Scott.”

HUCKABEE: “Mike Huckabee thinks all the early evidence suggests he, not the former Massachusetts governor [Mitt Romney], is the Republican Party’s presidential front-runner,” National Journal writes of an interview with the former governor.

(If you’re the front-runner, though, don’t you clearly have to be running?)

Huckabee “stopped by Comedy Central on Thursday to riff with his biggest fan in the fake punditry, and the two played off each other like he had never left the set. Huckabee, the original beneficiary of the so-called Colbert Bump, paid due deference to his political patron of Comedyland,” Politico writes.

“Even though Mr. Huckabee has said that President Obama will be a formidable opponent for any Republican nominee,” the New York Times writes, “he was quick to add that his own decision about seeking the party’s nomination was not going to be based on Mr. Obama’s political standing. ‘No, because I don’t know if you could get any weaker than he is now,’ Mr. Huckabee said. ‘I really don’t. I mean, every day he does something that just astonishes me in his political naiveté.’”

“Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will make several stops in Iowa on Sunday and Monday on a book tour as he considers whether to run for president in 2012,” the AP notes. “Huckabee's first stop is at 2 p.m. at Sam's Club in Davenport on Sunday and his last is Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Borders in West Des Moines. In between, he'll be in Dubuque, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.”

HUNTSMAN: Politico notes a potential legal snafu for Huntsman’s political action committee, Horizon PAC, which a PAC staffer called a “campaign-in-waiting” for the ambassador to China: “If Huntsman overtly signaled that aides should prepare an operation to help elect him president, that would put him in dangerous territory, lawyers said. That’s because anything resembling campaign activity on Huntsman’s part could potentially run afoul of the Hatch Act, which restricts executive branch officials from campaigning for office — or authorizing others to campaign and raise money on their behalf.”

PALIN: Republican activists in key conservative early primary states are turning on Sarah Palin, McClatchy writes. “At a recent gathering in South Carolina, the site of a crucial early presidential primary next year, party activists said the former Alaska governor didn't have the experience, the knowledge of issues or the ability to get beyond folksy slang and bumper-sticker generalities that they think is needed to win and govern.”

PAUL: “Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) told supporters his Presidents Day ‘money bomb’ raised $730,000 and that he will boost his political travel in the coming weeks,” Roll Call writes. So, he’s going to New Hampshire.

PAWLENTY: “Tim Pawlenty slammed Wisconsin Democrats on Wednesday for leaving the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would curtail collective bargaining rights for the state’s public employees,” the Minnesota Independent writes. “Pawlenty called them ‘ninnies’ who ‘skedaddled,’ and he said the controversy is not ‘Fantasy Island’ but ‘Alice in Wonderland.’"

Pawlenty “will hold a luncheon and political briefing for his Washington, D.C., supporters and others on Monday at Carmine’s restaurant in Penn Quarter, according to an invitation obtained by Roll Call.”

SANTORUM: “Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Thursday in Iowa that President Obama’s decision to instruct his administration not to prosecute violations of the federal ban on same-sex marriage would ignite the issue in the 2012 Republican presidential campaign,” the Des Moines Register writes.

Channeling First Read, The Hill notes that some of the GOP’s power players are sitting on the sidelines and maybe waiting for 2016.