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A political tip sheet for the rest of us

By Michele Salcedo

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 13 2012 5:45 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, in Hilton Head, S.C.

David Goldman, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway

Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

WHAT HAPPENED:

SNOOZE AND LOSE: A Virginia judge ruled Friday that Rick Perry and the three candidates who joined him in a lawsuit challenging the rules for getting on that state's ballot should have objected before they were disqualified. Neither Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum nor Jon Huntsman met the petition requirements to qualify as candidates in the March 6 Republican primary. Virginia's Republicans will choose between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the only presidential candidates who did qualify.

PACKING THEIR BAGS: More than 100 conservative leaders, many of them evangelicals, were set to converge this weekend at the Texas ranch of former state appeals court Judge Paul Pressler to consider their options in the primary race. They're still not crazy about Romney as the Republican nominee — he's not conservative enough for them — but they haven't coalesced around an alternative candidate. One topic up for possible discussion: the terms of any eventual endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor.

IS SAYING SOMETHING NICE OVERRATED?: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have taken heat from a broad spectrum of Republicans for criticizing front-runner Mitt Romney for his corporate takeover record. But the strategy may have traction in South Carolina. Workers there have dealt with unemployment over 9 percent for more than three years, and this month it's 9.9 percent. Republicans there tend to be blue-collar with education that stopped at high school. The result: Romney may face rougher sledding in South Carolina than he did in Iowa and New Hampshire. If he does, look for Obama to pick up the theme in the general election.

THE WINDING CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Newt Gingrich hosted a breakfast in Miami before heading to Orlando to open his Florida headquarters. Friday night found him at a candidate forum and barbecue in Duncan, S.C., along with Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. Earlier in the day Santorum visited voters in Rock Hill, York and Greenville. Also campaigning in South Carolina on Friday were Mitt Romney, who began his day at the University of South Carolina Aiken before hosting a veterans event on Hilton Head Island, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was on Hilton Head Island in the morning and met with Charleston voters in the afternoon.

THE SINCEREST FLATTERY: President Barack Obama is seeking advantage on the turf often owned by Republicans: smaller government. He wants more power to shrink the government, and on Friday suggested smashing six economic agencies into one. The election-year idea is intended to halt bureaucratic nightmares and force Republicans to back him on one of their own favorite issues. The reaction on Capitol Hill? Bipartisan skepticism.

BY THE NUMBERS:

— 100: Jobs, in thousands, that Romney claims were created by Bain Capital during the time he led the company.

— 4: Layoffs, in thousands, at Bain-controlled companies between 1984 and 1995.

— 27: Dollars, in millions, that the Republican National Committee says it raised in the last three months of 2011.

— 11.6: Dollars, in millions, Republicans drew in December.

THEIR WORDS:

— "A lot of people want to talk about how we create jobs. By the way, it is not to walk away from free enterprise. It is not to say that there's something wrong with the free-market system. No, it's instead to hold fast to that system and make it work for the American people." — Mitt Romney, speaking at the University of South Carolina.

— "Republicans are again thinking about nominating another bland and boring candidate for president — Mitt Romney." — Rick Santorum, in a fundraising email to fellow conservatives.

— "I am calling on them to either edit out every single mistake or pull the entire film." — Newt Gingrich, on the film "King of Bain," which criticizes rival Mitt Romney for layoffs and closing companies when he headed a venture capital firm.

— "The government we have is not the government we need." — President Barack Obama, announcing a new initiative to streamline government.

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