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2012: Iowa wrap

At the Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa this weekend, the speakers focused on criticizing President Obama and Democrats, and rarely tried to highlight differences among themselves, the AP writes. Health care was another big topic, with Rep. Michele Bachmann getting the “noisiest reception” when she told the Des Moines crowd that voters are ready to overturn the health care law and oust President Obama, calling the law “the ultimate arrogance.”

Des Moines Register: “The five possible prospects who spoke at the conference sponsored by Iowa Rep. Steve King focused primarily on their uniform opposition to President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and his policy initiatives,” but that was where the similarities ended, as Bachmann, Gingrich and Cain spoke about social and economic issues, while Barbour focused solely on the economy.

The speakers at the conservative confab demonstrated the growing rift in the Republican Party between those who believe fiscal issues trump social ones and vice versa, the New York Times adds.

Several likely presidential candidates participated over the weekend on “Rediscover God in America,” a day-long broadcast that reached more than 200 evangelical churches across the country, the Washington Post writes.

Before he delivered the keynote speech at the Conservative Principles Conference, kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint told the New York Times that the presumed presidential field “might not be sufficient to inspire voters and he would welcome a last-minute entry by another candidate.” The only actual name he floated? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he has no interest in running but has boasted that he would do well if he did run. http://is.gd/iAuIUR

BACHMANN: Juan Williams, writing in The Hill: “If Capitol Hill is really one big high school, the ‘It’ girl of the moment is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). A recent Gallup poll of Republicans found Bachmann had the second-highest positive intensity rating of any of the potential 2012 candidates in the GOP field. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and my colleague at Fox, came in first.” And: “Bachmann’s rock-star status on the far right has put the House GOP leadership in a difficult position. She is undermining the ability of the Republican majority in the House to govern.”

BARBOUR: Speaking at the conservative Iowa Renewal Project on Friday, Gov. Haley Barbour vowed not to adhere to any social-issue “truce” if he runs for president, fighting back tears as he spoke, Politico reports.

DANIELS: Dick Armey, the leader of the tea party group FreedomWorks, said he would endorse Gov. Mitch Daniels if Daniels decides to run, the Indianapolis Star reports.

GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich’s courting of an evangelical church -- the pastor of which, John Hagee, called Catholicism (to which Gingrich converted) a “false cult” -- is a good example of how Gingrich is making up for lost time with a constituency he never previously had to pay much attention to, Politico writes.

Gingrich told Fox News Sunday that he expects to be jumping into the presidential race “within a month.” He also “defended his role leading the charge against former President Bill Clinton over his affair, saying he didn't believe that role was hypocritical since the Clinton impeachment centered around the issue of perjury. ‘The question I raised was very simple -- should a president of the United States be above the law?’ he said. ‘I don't think a president of the United States can be above the law.’”

HUNTSMAN: Even though Jon Huntsman himself has been relatively mum on his presidential aspirations, a team around him has a full operation in place, complete with money and messaging, just waiting for a candidate, the AP writes. “They’re floating a rationale for his candidacy — Huntsman could attract independents and centrists while the other candidates fight over — and split the vote of — conservatives who dominate GOP primaries. His support of civil unions for gay couples and belief in humans’ role in climate change, not to mention his time in the Obama administration, could enrage the party’s powerful right wing or alienate tea party voters.”

PAWLENTY: Tim Pawlenty is reaching out to the evangelical community by reaching out to Mike Huckabee’s network of pastors through his own interdenominational church, Real Clear Politics writes.

Team T-Paw today is releasing the names of its fundraising team.

ROMNEY: The Boston Globe notes that Romney and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) are on a collision course. “[A]fter four years of largely ignoring each other, they are crossing paths again. The Democratic governor and his Republican predecessor are heading onto the national stage, eyeing each other warily and trading a few initial barbs as they do the talk-show circuit, promote their books, and stake out opposing territory in the 2012 presidential race.”

It’s too early to say that Mitt Romney won’t compete in Iowa, where he came in second in 2008, Real Clear Politics writes. Evidence: “Republican activists keyed into Romney's operation say he has been invited to two large fundraising events in this state in the coming months and said it's rumored that an event could be on the books soon… Romney apparently has been quietly tapping Republican aides for a second presidential effort, but they aren't on a Romney payroll just yet.”