Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney serves pastries on his charter jet in North Charleston, S.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, as he traveled to Greenville, S.C.

WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Monday, Jan. 23, 2012:


PRESIDENTIAL SERENADE: "I'm ... so in love with you," President Barack Obama sang — pretty well — last week to his supporters at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Now, he can serenade you via ringtone made available by the Obama 2012 campaign.

It's not at all clear, of course, that Americans feel the same toward Obama. Polls show the electorate divided over his performance.


The presidential campaign trail winds through the Capitol on Tuesday night when Obama delivers the annual State of the Union address.

The 9 p.m. EST speech is, effectively, a campaign event, a bonanza of free media to a national audience. The Democratic president will use it to break through the commotion in Florida this week between Republicans competing for the right to take him on.

Obama will focus on his vision for restoring the middle class and face the tricky task of persuading voters to stick with him even as unemployment remains high at 8.5 percent. Look for a narrative of renewed American security with him at the center leading the fight, according to officials familiar with the speech.

Expect him to announce ideas to make college more affordable and to address the housing crisis that has hit Florida especially hard and still hampers the economy three years in to his term. Obama also will propose fresh ideas to ensure that the wealthy pay more in taxes, a matter, he says, of basic fairness, the officials said.


GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney releases his tax returns a few hours ahead of Obama's speech. The release should shed light on the dimensions and sources of Romney's wealth, which he's estimated to be as much as $250 million and has become a key issue in the roiling GOP campaign.

For months, Romney dismissed calls to release his personal income taxes, but after a stinging loss to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary, he agreed to release his 2010 return and a 2011 estimate.

Romney has said he's taxed at around 15 percent, lower than most Americans who earn paychecks. Romney's wealth mostly comes from investments.


Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum tells Florida's seniors that since Romney and Gingrich once supported the idea of an individual mandate, they share the blame for the impact of Obama's health care law on Medicare.

Santorum is trying to draw a connection between Medicare and a key provision of the health care law, the so-called individual mandate, which doesn't affect older Americans because virtually all of them are already covered through the government program.

But he argues that the health care law puts a cap on Medicare spending. "I never supported anything close to Obamacare. Sadly, that is not the case with the rest of the people in this field," he said.

Some 3.3 million Floridians are over the age of 65.


Romney on Gingrich: "He's gone from pillar to post, almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic and does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course which is normally associated with leadership."

Gingrich on Romney: He is "somebody who has released none of his business records, who has decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent."


200,000: The number of comments the Health and Human Services Department received on a proposed federal rule requiring church-affiliated institutions to provide free birth control for employees.

1: The number of years the rule will be postponed.

600: The number of Catholic hospitals that were denied exemption from the proposed rule and will have to provide free contraception to their employees when it goes into effect.

1 million to 2 million: The number of people who work for religious-affiliated institutions.