“These days it seems the race for the GOP presidential nomination is more about who isn't running than who is,” the AP writes. “’What if they held an election and no one ran? That's kind of where we are right now,’ Curt Anderson, a veteran GOP pollster, says with a chuckle.”
The real impact of smear websites like JonHuntsman.com and ExploreNewt.com, which both feature unflattering news about their namesakes, remains an open question, Politico writes. “Some campaign operatives dismiss them as juvenile pranks or minor headaches, while others say they can reinforce certain narratives or even affect search engine results. Gingrich’s advisers were unfazed by the redirect attempts that plagued their campaign launch… ‘Briefly amusing and entertaining but irrelevant,’ said Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler.
CAIN: At a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Herman Cain said that while he may have a strong business background that would help him as president, his lack of experience in Washington is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Eastern Iowa Government. If he learns too much, Cain said, “Then I’ll just become just like the other people who go to Washington.” And some of the 200 attendees at the Linn County GOP chili cook-off seemed to like the message. “‘He puts things in perspective,’ said Mary Bowman of Cedar Rapids.”
CHRISTIE: On Sean Hannity’s radio show, Chris Christie once again knocked down the suggestion that he might accept the vice presidential nod if he were asked. “I don’t see that either, Sean,” Christie said according to the Star Ledger.
DANIELS: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told the Indianapolis Star that he’s “not going to take much longer” to make a decision on whether to run for president.
GINGRICH: Gingrich’s spokesman told First Read that while Gingrich was “inartful” in describing Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering,” he maintained that Ryan’s plan was “absent a political plan.” And that Gingrich wants to "help Republicans design a Medicare reform plan that Americans support."
When asked by the Washington Post whether he would disclose what he bought from Tiffany’s that put him between $250,001 and $500,000 in debt with the company, Gingrich emailed back a one-word answer and signoff: “No. Newt.”
At a campaign appearance in Iowa last night, Gingrich was hit with questions about whether he believed in creationism or evolution (he said both views could be right) as well as a box of glittery confetti, thrown at him by a protester, the AP reports.
HUNTSMAN: The New Hampshire Union-Leader’s DiStaso writes that Jon Huntsman’s five-day trip to New Hampshire is “chock full of small-venue "retail" stops with a strong John McCain 2008 flavor.” Huntsman will speak at several parties at the homes of former McCain backers.
Huntsman became the latest Republican presidential hopeful to visit Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s office on Tuesday, Real Clear Politics writes. Portman has a strong role in the elections process and has the ability to school candidates on Ohio’s political terrain, introduce them to Ohio’s donor base, and send his winning 2010 jobs platform to “legitimate” candidates who ask for it, so they can see what worked in the state during the midterms.
PAWLENTY: “Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker has signed on as chairman of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign steering committee,” the Des Moines Register reports. Whitaker is in private law practice in Des Moines and served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa from 2004 to 2009, according to the Register.
“Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday added to already widespread criticism of healthcare reform law waivers, calling the practice an example of ‘crony politics,’” The Hill reports.
ROMNEY: A survey of Republican officials at the RNC’s meeting in Dallas yesterday revealed a tepid reaction to Mitt Romney’s $10.25 fundraising haul on Monday and his candidacy overall, the AP writes. “The harshest assessment of Romney in Dallas came from pollster Whit Ayres, who is aligned with [Jon] Huntsman. He gave a closed-door presentation to RNC members on political messaging. ‘There is a huge anybody-but-Romney contingent in the party,’ Ayres said in an interview. He said the discontent centers on the health care issue and Romney's shift from liberal to conservative positions over the years on abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.”
SANTORUM: “Former Sen. Rick Santorum said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years enduring brutal treatment at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, doesn't know how effective waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques can be,” the AP writes. In a radio interview with host Hugh Hewitt, Santorum said that the U.S. would not have acquired key information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed without waterboarding. “This idea that we didn't ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he (McCain) doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works.”