WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway for Friday, March 9, 2012:
"MORNIN' Y'ALL": Mitt Romney, a Yankee born and bred, is trying hard for the Southern vote. Real hard. Aside from shouting out the regional greeting to a Jackson, Miss., audience, Romney shared with them his breakfast menu: cheesy grits with a biscuit on the side. Romney is battling against his perceived weaknesses in the Deep South. In Jackson, he focused heavily on his private-sector background while answering voters' questions and sought to cast himself as the Republican candidate best-suited to tackle the nation's economic problems.
PRIVATE EMAILS IN PUBLIC OFFICE: Mitt Romney used a free Microsoft Hotmail account and a private email address to conduct state business at times when he was governor of Massachusetts, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The communications were legal, although Romney's own administration warned state agencies against the practice because of security concerns. The Romney files span four months in mid-2006. The state archives in Massachusetts says copies of the private emails should have been preserved as state records. Private email accounts used by public officials to perform their public jobs are effectively off limits to review by citizens, watchdog groups, political opponents and news organizations because they're often used secretly. Romney's presidential campaign declined to explain why Romney and his aides used the private accounts or explain how long and how extensively they used them, saying he complied with the law and followed precedent.
SUPERDELEGATES' HO-HUM: Mitt Romney's Super Tuesday victories have been met with a collective yawn from GOP leaders who could play an important role at the party's convention this summer. After Tuesday's voting, Romney picked up only a single endorsement from a member of the Republican National Committee. Those members automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Some of the undecided superdelegates say they expect the former Massachusetts governor to be the eventual nominee. But like many Republican voters, they're not quite ready to embrace him. A new Associated Press poll of the 117 RNC delegates shows Romney with 24 endorsements, Newt Gingrich with four, Rick Santorum with two and Ron Paul with one. Seventy-six RNC delegates said they are undecided or not ready to make a public endorsement.
ROMNEY IS OBAMA, JUST ASK RICK: While campaigning in Kansas on the eve of the state's Republican caucuses, Rick Santorum took swipes at both Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama, casting both as unacceptable for conservatives. Romney, Santorum said to cheers, reinvents himself for whatever the political occasion calls for. Obama, he said, doesn't tell the American people the truth, either. Through a spokeswoman, Romney reminded Santorum — and voters — that he's got more than twice the delegates that Santorum has, making it hard for the rest of the pack to catch up. Santorum is running strong in Kansas, and Republican voters there could give the former Pennsylvania senator yet another win and further challenge Romney's front-runner status.
GINGRICH IS IN, ALL THE WAY: Newt Gingrich insisted Friday that he'll stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination even if he loses two Southern primaries next week. Gingrich said he intends to campaign all the way to the Republican National Convention in August, regardless of whether he has won the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Earlier this week, chief Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said his candidate needed to win every state in the band stretching from South Carolina to Texas. But Gingrich contradicted his spokesman Friday and said he expects to outlast the socially conservative Rick Santorum, a favorite of evangelical conservatives, as the preferred conservative challenger to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
— Kansas caucuses begin at 11 a.m. EST and are expected to conclude by 2 p.m. EST. The candidates are vying for 40 delegates that will be awarded proportionally.
— Wyoming caucuses will finish up its county caucuses in six of the state's 23 counties, beginning between 10 a.m. EST and 1 p.m. EST and ending by 7 p.m. EST. The contests in the other 17 counties were held earlier this week. A total of 12 delegates will be awarded at their conclusion.
— The U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands also caucus. At stake are a total of 18 delegates, six from each territory.
WHERE THEY'LL BE ON SATURDAY:
— Gingrich: Alabama
— Paul: Missouri
— Romney: taking the day off.
— Santorum: Missouri
— Obama: the White House
APPEARING ON SUNDAY'S TV NEWS SHOWS:
— Santorum: NBC's "Meet the Press"
— Gingrich: CBS' "Face the Nation, "Fox News Sunday"
— Obama surrogate: Robert Gibbs, CBS' "Face the Nation"
AP DELEGATE TRACKER
Totals after Super Tuesday voting. Twenty-one delegates from Super Tuesday have yet to be allocated. It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican nomination for president.
— Romney: 422
— Santorum: 181
— Gingrich: 107
— Paul: 46
IN THEIR WORDS:Comment on this story
— "Of all the candidates for president I am the only one with a consistent history of working to limit federal spending, federal regulation and federal taxes. Americans looking for a candidate serious about putting America back to work by limiting government have one clear choice." — Ron Paul, in a statement.
— "I'm not really a politician." — Romney, campaigning in Alabama.
— "We feel very confident that we can win Kansas on Saturday and come into Alabama and Mississippi and this race should come down to two people," Santorum, at a rally in Kansas.
— "We'll clearly do well enough to move on, and I think there's a fair chance we'll win. But I just want to set this to rest once and for all: We're going to Tampa." — Gingrich.