A political tip sheet for the rest of us

By Michele Salcedo

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 5:40 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greeets patrons at The Mitt Restaurant during a campaign stop in Mount Clemens, Mich., Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Friday, Feb. 24, 2012:

WHAT HAPPENED

ROMNEY'S MEDICARE Rx: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney offered a fix for Medicare: raise the eligibility age one month per year until it's tied with life expectancy. It was a new detail in a campaign speech that was otherwise short on new policy ideas. He delivered the speech to the well-heeled Detroit Economic Club at the cavernous and largely empty Ford Field — where the Detroit Lions play football. While Romney has been trying to erode challenger Rick Santorum's support among blue-collar tea party voters, Friday's speech highlighted his support among wealthy voters — and his family's own personal wealth. When he referenced "higher income" taxpayers, he pointed at the crowd. And he closed his remarks with good news for Detroit's largest employer, General Motors: Ann Romney drives "a couple of Cadillacs" — one in Massachusetts and another in California.

BACK ON THE BALLOT: Indiana voters will find former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's name on the primary ballot after all. A county Board of Voter Registration had disqualified Santorum because he fell eight signatures short in the 7th Congressional District. But the four-member Indiana Election Commission voted unanimously to keep Santorum on the ballot. Indiana holds its primary on May 8.

GAY MARRIAGE THE "RIGHT WAY": Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich isn't outright rejecting Washington state's new law legalizing same-sex marriage. He says if voters approve the measure the law will at least have been enacted the "right way." Washington's Democratic governor signed the gay marriage bill into law last week. It takes effect in June unless opponents can gather enough signatures to force a referendum in November. Gingrich made clear he opposes gay marriage personally. He made his comments during a visit to the state Capitol, where he met with Republican legislators. He's passing on campaigning in Michigan and Arizona, which hold primaries on Tuesday.

ARTIST'S HOPE — FOR LENIENCY: The creator of the Barack Obama "HOPE" poster pleaded guilty Friday to criminal contempt, saying he made a "terrible decision" in 2009 to destroy some documents and fabricate others in a civil lawsuit pertaining to The Associated Press photograph he relied upon to make the poster. Shepard Fairey entered the plea in federal court to the misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum potential penalty of up to six months in prison. Sentencing was set for July 16.

BY THE NUMBERS:

1,200: People who attended Romney's speech in Ford Field.

65,000: Ford Field's overall capacity.

Contributions to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting President Barack Obama

$5.5 million: Total contributions

$1 million: Amount from comedian Bill Maher

$2 million: Amount from Dreamworks Animation executive Jeffrey Katzenberg

$1 million: Amount from Service Employees International Union

IN THEIR WORDS:

— "I think at least they're doing it the right way, which is going through voters, giving them a chance to vote and not having a handful of judges arbitrarily impose their will. " — Gingrich, on efforts to put a referendum before Washington state voters in November on a law legalizing gay marriage.

— "When it comes to Social Security, what I will do is slowly raise the retirement age. We're also going to slow the growth in benefits for higher-income future retirees. And then when it comes to Medicare, tomorrow's seniors will have a choice among insurance providers, including traditional Medicare offered by the government, and, as with Medicare Part D, the private sector will also compete to offer insurance, and they'll provide coverage at the lowest possible price." — Romney, speaking to the Detroit Economic Club.

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