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A political tip sheet for the rest of us

By Michele Salcedo

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 5 2012 6:45 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Tunkhannock, Pa.., Thursday, April 5, 2012.

Steven Senne, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Thursday, April 5, 2012:

WHAT HAPPENED

ROMNEY'S PLAYBOOK: The biting attack ads. The imposing fundraising advantage. They worked well for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. And Ben Coes, Romney's campaign manager that year, says you're likely to see his former boss use them again heading toward November's presidential election. Fresh from turning the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City into a success, Romney returned to Massachusetts with a pledge to "clean up the mess on Beacon Hill." He cast his Democratic opponent, state treasurer Shannon O'Brien, as beholden to labor unions, lobbyists and special interests, but especially to Democrats who controlled the Legislature. Romney tapped into a deep vein of voter frustration over patronage, ethics scandals, state budget deficits, job losses and a $1 billion tax increase. When the votes were counted in the predominantly Democratic state, Romney edged out O'Brien by 5 percentage points. Independent voters gave him the win.

ROMNEY CALLS PENNSYLVANIA: Mitt Romney has called dibs on Pennsylvania in November's presidential election, as he phoned supporters to ask them to vote. But the former Massachusetts governor isn't too sure about taking the primary on April 24. Pennsylvania-raised rival Rick Santorum represented the state in the House and Senate for 16 years, after all. Meanwhile, Romney has started broadening his pitch to Democrats and independents. There's more security around him and his team is growing. He's also picked up former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie as a senior adviser. Gillespie had been providing informal advice to Romney's top aides.

BACK TO THE BASE FOR SANTORUM: He may be down in the delegate count, but Rick Santorum met privately with conservative leaders on Thursday to craft plans to try to stop Mitt Romney's march to the nomination. Part of his overall strategy: pressuring rival Newt Gingrich to leave the race so conservatives can unite behind Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator insists he's not leaving the race. Gingrich has ignored calls to leave as well.

THE SINCEREST FLATTERY: President Barack Obama is borrowing a page from the Republican playbook — criticizing the Supreme Court for judicial activism. Expect to see more of it during the campaign, especially if the high court strikes down the president's signature policy initiative: health care. The court also is likely to consider several other issues before the November election that could stir Obama's core Democratic supporters and draw crucial independent voters as well. Among those are immigration, voting rights and a revisit of a campaign finance ruling that Obama has already criticized as an outrage. University of Texas Law School professor and Supreme Court scholar Lucas Powe said Obama's original statement suggests he probably knows the law is in trouble and is seeking political high ground.

COMMON GROUND: White House spokesman Jay Carney tells reporters that President Barack Obama's personal opinion is that women should be admitted as members to the all-male Augusta National. Romney said he if could run the club, "of course" he would allow women in. The home of the Masters golf tournament is one of the last men-only bastions. But although the last four chief executives of IBM have been members and the company is a major sponsor of the renowned tournament, the club has IBM's new chief executive, Virginia Rometty, playing from the ladies' tees.

BY THE NUMBERS: OBAMA TWICE SHAKES THE MONEY TREE FOR THE VICTORY FUND

40: Dollars, in thousands — the price of one ticket for an Obama fundraiser.

20: Number of tickets at that price.

25: Dollars, in hundreds — the price of a larger Obama fundraiser.

250: Number of tickets for Thursday's second Obama fundraiser.

300: Dollars, in millions — The total amount Obama has raised for his re-election and the Democratic National Committee in the current election cycle.

WHERE THEY'LL BE ON FRIDAY

Romney: Easter break at home in La Jolla, Calif.

Santorum: Easter break at home in Virginia.

Gingrich: Easter break

Ron Paul: Easter break at home in Texas.

THEY SAID IT

— "We have a president who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps, or maybe just not enough time working in the real world." — Romney, who holds law and business degrees from Harvard, then went to work at a business consulting firm.

— "It did exceptionally well under his leadership. What this shows is that he was integral to the operation and success of the operation. It's not in any way a failure of leadership or management on his part. It just demonstrates how vital he was to the organization." — Stefan Passantino, Newt Gingrich's attorney, on Gingrich's health care think tank going out of business.

—"The Santorum campaign team recognizes that, because of Mitt Romney's money advantage and his support from the Republican establishment and the mainstream media, Rick has, to some extent, lost control of narrative in the campaign."— Richard Viguerie, who was among the conservative activists who met with Santorum on Thursday, in a statement.

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