“Three of the four Republican presidential candidates are addressing a major conservative gathering in Washington, giving them a high-profile stage to reshape their messages at a moment of uncertainty in the contest,” the AP writes.
“Addressing the annual convention of party faithful is a rite of passage for presidential candidates, but for Santorum and Romney, the stakes are much higher,” The Hill writes. “Still reeling from his bruising Tuesday loss to Santorum in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, Romney must convince activists he’s the bona fide conservative he claims to be. For Santorum, the challenge is to win over those whose doubts about his electability against President Obama make them reluctant to bet on a losing horse.”
GINGRICH: “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has adopted a Southern Strategy that he hopes will keep his campaign alive. It’s only a long shot, but Gingrich doesn’t have many better options,” Stu Rothenberg writes.
“Newt Gingrich was just days away from the Jan. 31 Florida Republican presidential primary when he told reporters that his campaign was down to its last $600,000,” Bloomberg says. “Five losing contests later, Gingrich and Winning Our Future, an outside political action committee supporting him, are almost silent on television airwaves, offering free water and coffee at events, and revamping a fundraising strategy based largely on the support of a single wealthy backer, Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas casino owner’s family.”
Karl Rove says it’s Santorum, not Gingrich who is “Romney’s main challenger.”
ROMNEY: Peggy Noonan likens Romney’s campaign to the “Death Star,” per Political Wire: "Nobody in the conservative base hates Rick. Newt is hated by many and Mitt by some. Mr. Santorum is liked. He has real indignation about what's happened to America, and he brings passion to his ideas about reform. He's got little money, little organization -- there's no broad assumption he can pull it off. And by the time the Romney campaign is done dismantling him, he may have some people who hate him. But this will only underscore the Romney campaign's reputation for destroying, not creating. And nobody loves a Death Star."
“Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of attacking religious freedom because of a federal mandate requiring insurers to cover contraception. But Romney, who overhauled the Massachusetts health care system, did not change an almost identical mandate in Massachusetts,” the Boston Globe reports, adding, “The Massachusetts mandate dates to 2002, when Republican Governor Jane Swift signed a bill requiring health insurers to cover contraception, in the same way they cover other prescription drugs. (Unlike the new federal law, it did not require insurers to provide contraception for free.)”
More: “When Romney was shaping his 2006 health care overhaul, he wanted to allow insurance plans that offered coverage only for hospitalization and catastrophic illness, without other mandated benefits. But the Legislature rejected his proposal. He wrote in his 2009 book ‘No Apology’ that he believed features added by the Legislature, including mandates for in vitro fertilization and dental care, would be expensive. But the contraception mandate never came up… When Romney signed the health care overhaul into law, there was no change to the contraception mandate.”
“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has been attacking former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum for being Washington insiders, hosted a $10,000-a-head event with lobbyists and industry executives today at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C.,” the Boston Globe writes.
“Message to Mitt: Pump up the volume,” the New York Daily News writes. “After losing a trifecta of contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, Mitt Romney’s supporters are calling on him to sharpen his message and soften his image.” More: “He needs to show that he understands that conservatives have been burned before, that they have been sold a bill of goods on the campaign trail only to be betrayed once a candidate gets in office,” said Republican strategist Keith Appell. “He has to convey to conservatives that he is not that guy, that he is not going to be the second coming of George H.W. Bush,” Appell added, referring to Bush’s “read my lips — no new taxes” flipflop.
“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a native of Michigan and the son of a former Michigan governor, says he would like to win the state’s primary later this month but ‘I’m not expecting a landslide,’” the Boston Globe writes.
SANTORUM: “Rick Santorum, fresh off victories in three states, will use a speech to Republican activists to attempt to solidify his position as the prime alternative to Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race,” Bloomberg writes.
“Of the GOP presidential hopefuls, Santorum is by far the most public and emphatic about his faith, drawing on his Catholicism and deeply held views on social issues as the foundation of his message. It serves to solidify his standing among religiously motivated voters -- and subtly remind them of lingering reservations of opponent Mitt Romney's spiritual background,” AP writes, adding, “When the GOP field was at its fullest, several candidates were fighting to be the favorite of religious conservative voters. Now, Santorum is moving to consolidate that wing of the party, which could make him a force in places like Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma and others on the upcoming primary calendar.”
“Foster Friess, the wealthy investor who is fueling Rick Santorum's presidential campaign, is enjoying his new-found fame,” Reuters writes. " ‘I am. You know why? I have a huge ego,’ Friess joked in an interview with Reuters. … On Friday morning, the 71-year-old will formally introduce Santorum at an annual CPAC convention of thousands of conservatives…. A devout Christian whose website is laced with Biblical quotations, he brings an aw-shucks grin to interviews and tries to disarm people with a cornball joke or a rehearsed story. On Thursday afternoon, Friess was in the back of a town car headed for the U.S. Capitol to meet with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl ‘Just a pal. Just a friend,’ Friess said.”
More: "‘Obama is King George III in spades," he said, referring to the British 18th century monarch rejected by American colonists, and his reputation as an overbearing ruler. Friess had no hesitation in bringing the Mormon Church, of which the Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney is a member, into an attack on abuse of welfare benefits, suggesting, without explanation, that ‘little Mormon gals’ were getting pregnant with rich men and taking welfare to pay for their babies.”