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2012: Handwringing over Romney

GINGRICH: “Newt Gingrich, suddenly in danger of losing his perch as Mitt Romney's strongest GOP challenger, is fine-tuning his presidential campaign to place more emphasis on raising money, guarding his home turf and trying to avoid nasty quarrels with the front-runner,” the AP writes. “Gingrich … again faces a dilemma that has dogged him for much of the election. Should he show his feistier, meaner side at the risk of turning off voters who want pragmatic solutions more than expressions of anger? Or should he use a tamer, high-minded tone and risk losing economically anxious, resentful Republicans such as those who handed him his only victory, in South Carolina? His aide R.C. Hammond said Gingrich favors the second option, at least for now.”

Despite Karl Rove saying he was “offended” by the Clint-Eastwood-Chrysler ad, Newt Gingrich liked it, GOP 12 notes. "While there's some controversy about it, I have to confess, I liked the Clint Eastwood halftime ad,” he said in Cleveland. “I mean, I liked the tone of that ad, I like the idea that the world has counted us down before, we're just regrouping. I believe with your help in the primary, with your help in the general election, we can, in fact develop an approach that will put America back on the right track.”

“Newt Gingrich asserted on Wednesday that an Iranian nuclear attack on the United States was ‘a real danger’ and that it could kill and wound hundreds of thousands of Americans,” the New York Times writes.

ROMNEY: “It is still the case that Romney will almost certainly be the GOP nominee,” John Podhoretz writes in the New York Post. “But if Romney handles the next six weeks badly, he’ll do himself a great deal of damage on the way to accepting the nomination. And it’s not beyond imagining he could cause so much harm to himself that someone else will limp into the nomination…  [I]f Romney devotes most of his energies to keeping Gingrich down and leveling Santorum at the same time, he will simultaneously suck whatever life is left out of the Republican primary season in an effort simply to drag himself across the finish line.”

To that point, here’s a rough headline from the New York Post: “All Mitt’s money can’t buy GOP core.”

The New York Times’ Zeleny: “The Republican Party may never have been destined to fall in love with Mitt Romney, but even persuading voters to fall in line behind his candidacy is proving far more taxing than he had once hoped. The rejection from Republican voters in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Tuesday is more likely to slow, rather than derail, his path to the party’s presidential nomination. Yet a new competition with Rick Santorum and a lingering feud with Newt Gingrich will consume the attention of Mr. Romney, forcing him to guard his right flank rather than turn his attention to President Obama.”

“Rick Santorum may have swept Tuesday's GOP nominating contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, but on Wednesday all eyes were on Mitt Romney,” the New York Daily News writes. “Political analysts say Santorum's wins says more about the ex-Massachusetts governor and solidifies the notion that voters are unsettled about Romney and that he's not the inevitable Republican presidential nominee.”

Michele Bachmann on CNN: "I think what we saw is that the voters haven't made up their mind yet on who the Republican nominee should be.”

Stu Rothenberg writes that despite Santorum’s sweep Tuesday, “the dynamics of the Republican presidential race have changed little. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems unable to actually win the nomination, it is still awfully difficult to see him losing it. As others have already noted, Santorum becomes relevant again, which is a bigger problem for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) than it is for Romney. … Of course, while Romney remains the favorite to win his party’s nomination, his strategists can’t afford to delude themselves about their candidate’s appeal. The Romney campaign’s observation in a pre-primary memo that no delegates were selected on Tuesday is both accurate and totally irrelevant.”

“Mitt Romney is headed into the conservative lion’s den just as concerns about his appeal to the Republican Party’s right flank are reaching a fever pitch,” The Hill writes of his Friday speech at CPAC, which begins today. More: “In the audience will be a high-octane crowd of party insiders, many of whom are deeply suspicious of the former governor of Massachusetts, whose state has legalized gay marriage, and passed healthcare reform strikingly similar to that of Obama while Romney was governor. And, as his GOP rivals love to point out, he was for abortion rights before he was against them.”

SANTORUM: NBC’s Andrew Rafferty reports that Santorum says he’s raised $1 million in the past 24 hours, $800,000 of which in online donations.

The Washington Post’s front page today features an above-the-fold photo of Santorum in a chapel in Texas, head bowed with a man’s hands on his shoulders, flanked by oil paintings of angels.

“With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum scoring victories in all three non-binding nominating contests on Tuesday, the next question will be whether the candidate can boost his fundraising to match the organizations of his rivals,” the Boston Globe writes before looking at the donors to his Super PAC.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who endorsed Romney in 2008 but hasn’t this time around, accused Santorum of flip flopping on earmarks.

Santorum on the overturning of Prop 8 in California: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no inalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you do and when you'll do it. What's left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentleman, we're a long way from that, but if we do and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are heading down that road.” (Hat tip: GOP 12.)

ARIZONA: Gov. Jan Brewer says she’ll endorse after the Feb. 22 debate in her state hosted by CNN.