A political tip sheet for the rest of us

By Douglass K. Daniel

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 4 2012 4:05 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shakes hands with a patron at Bob's Diner in Carnegie, Pa., Wednesday, April 4, 2012.

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Wednesday, April 4, 2012:

WHAT HAPPENED

ROMNEY VS. HIDE AND SEEK: Mitt Romney has unleashed a strong attack on President Barack Obama's truthfulness, accusing him of running a "hide-and-seek" re-election campaign designed to distract voters from his first-term record while denying them information about his plans for a second. Addressing an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, Romney said Obama's recent remarks to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on a second-term arms reduction treaty had called "his candor into question." Romney, the likely GOP opponent for Obama in November, also accused the president of undergoing "a series of election-year conversions" on taxes, government regulation and energy production. "He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press," Romney said. "By flexibility, he means that what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him. He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking." Romney himself has been sharply criticized by Rick Santorum and other Republican rivals for changing his own positions on issues ranging from abortion to climate control as part of an attempt to win the backing of conservative primary voters.

DELEGATE UPDATE: Mitt Romney won nearly all the convention delegates available in a three-primary sweep Tuesday, adding to a lead that will be insurmountable without a dramatic shift in the race for the Republican nomination for president. How dramatic? He would have to drop out of the race not to win it. With 95 delegates at stake Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor picked up 86 delegates in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. His chief rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, won the other nine delegates, all in Wisconsin. Romney has won 58 percent of the primary and caucus delegates so far. That puts him on pace to reach the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination on June 5, when voters go to the polls in five states, including delegate-rich California and New Jersey. Although he vows to stay in the race, Santorum would need 80 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination before the party's national convention in August. That won't happen as long as Romney stays in the race because most upcoming primaries use some type of proportional system to award delegates, making it hard to win large numbers of delegates in individual states.

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: Republicans considered to be up-and-comers in the GOP are scrambling to declare a lack of interest in becoming Mitt Romney's running mate. With Romney poised to win the GOP nomination in June, if not earlier, speculation is growing over who would be offered the No. 2 spot on the ticket. No one is rushing forward and many of the top prospects are trying to shut down the conversation before it begins. Among those declaring they aren't interested: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. However, part of the dance is trying to appear uninterested in the role of designated attack dog and potential GOP front-runner for 2016 if Romney falls short in November. Resisting the veep talk is also a way of preserving a personal brand. After all, campaigning for the second slot and coming up short is embarrassing, as Pawlenty remembers from his unsuccessful effort to become Sen. John McCain's running mate in 2008.

McCAIN OPENS DOOR FOR SANTORUM: Speaking of endings, Sen. John McCain says Rick Santorum should recognize "it's time for a graceful exit" from the Republican presidential campaign. McCain also told "CBS This Morning" that there's a strong field of Republicans who could be the vice presidential candidate. When asked to suggest some names, the Arizona Republican said with a grin: "I think it should be Sarah Palin." Pressed to elaborate, he said, "I think we have some very qualified candidates," then cited Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Govs. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was McCain's running mate in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency four years ago.

DELEGATE COUNT

—Romney: 658

—Santorum: 281

—Gingrich: 135

—Paul: 51

WHERE THEY'LL BE THURSDAY

Romney: Pennsylvania

Santorum: off the trail

Gingrich: Delaware

Ron Paul: California

THEY SAID IT, VEEP EDITION

—"I'm not going to be the vice president." — Rubio.

—"If offered any position by Gov. Romney, I would say no." — Haley.

—"I've taken myself off the list." — Pawlenty.

—"It's humbling, but I'm not interested." — Martinez.

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