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2012: Wrapping up the Faith & Freedom forum

“Five possible Republican White House hopefuls including Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty courted conservative voters on Monday in Iowa, the state that holds a critical early contest on the road to the party's 2012 presidential nomination,” Reuters writes of last night’s Faith and Freedom Coalition event in Waukee, IA.

The L.A. Times’ takeaway: “The candidates essentially pledged the same thing, with a few variations in language and emphasis: defending marriage as a covenant between man and woman; curbing abortion; slashing the federal deficit; and shifting power away from Washington in favor of state and local governments.”

“Earlier at the event, [Faith and Freedom Coalition head Steve] Scheffler rapped other states for trying to leapfrog ahead in the primary calendar,” Politico recounts. “‘This is the start of the 2012 presidential caucus process,’ Scheffler said. ‘The focus on the nation is on Iowa and we want to tell all of our other friends in all the other 49 states, don’t get cute because we are going to be first.’”

BARBOUR: “Former Republican National Committee communications director Jim Dyke has signed on with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's political action committee, a major signing in the below-the-radar fight for staff talent in advance of the 2012 GOP presidential primary fight,” the Washington Post’s Cillizza writes.

"Haley is delighted to have someone as talented as Jim Dyke joining his team to help us managed the increased national media interest and demand in the Governor,” said Haley’s PAC Treasurer Henry Barbour. "Jim's knowledge and experience will prove invaluable to Haley in the coming few months."

GINGRICH: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted ”that his team bobbled the news last week prior to the announcement Thursday that he planned to begin raising money to explore seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nod,” the Des Moines Register reports. “Top Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord told The Register Tuesday Gingrich planned to form an exploratory committee during a Georgia appearance two days later. Later Tuesday, Gingrich’s spokesman and press secretary Rick Tyler issued a press release stating the announcement would not be an exploratory committee. Gingrich said Monday Gaylord was mistaken, and that it took a few hours to iron out the inconsistency.”

HUCKABEE: The Boston Globe reports on all the ways Mike Huckabee has been able to make money, including his half-million dollar Fox contract, his book, a cruise this summer and a bus tour in Israel in which he charged a "team of helpers" $4,479 per person for five-star hotel stays with meals included. He's very sensititive about construction of his new $3 million home in Florida. In fact, "Huckabee, through his publisher, initially agreed to a 30-minute interview for this article, but canceled once he learned that the Globe had taken a photograph of the construction on his new home in Florida."

HUNTSMAN: Roll Call looks at how Utah Tea Party activists think John Huntsman is no conservative.

PAUL: Ron Paul's headed to New Hampshire March 25 for a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser.

ROMNEY: The former Massachusetts governor pens a Boston Herald op-ed that revisits many of the same themes he unveiled in his speech Saturday in New Hampshire. “When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he hung the Misery Index around Jimmy Carter’s neck. It consisted of the sum total of unemployment and inflation. Today, we have a different set of ailments. Instead of unemployment coupled with inflation, we have a toxic blend of unemployment, debt, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies. Their sum total is what we can call the Obama Misery Index. It is at a record high; indeed, it makes even the malaise of the Carter years look like a boom. Unemployment has fallen, but it’s fallen to a level that is still, by any historical marker, a national disaster. To suggest it as an achievement is to engage in what Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called ‘defining deviancy down.’”

“Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said on Monday that Mitt Romney must assuage concerns about his healthcare law if he wants to win the GOP presidential nomination,” The Hill says. “‘For Mitt Romney, there is a healthcare elephant he has to deal with among the base,’ he said on ABC's ‘Top Line’ webcast.”

IOWA: Christie Vilsack -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s wife -- is considering a run for the U.S. House.

NEVADA: "As Nevada Sen. John Ensign stood alongside his family in Las Vegas on Monday to announce his retirement, Rep. Dean Heller was in Reno raising money for what insiders believe will be a run for Senate next year," Roll Call writes. "It was a fitting end to the GOP primary that never was. A sense of relief settled over Nevada Republicans as Ensign announced the decision that many worried would not come until much later in the race, if at all."