WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Friday, Jan. 27, 2012:
— FOCUS ON FLORIDA: Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney urged conservatives to back away from anti-immigration policies as they courted Hispanic votes before Florida's presidential primary on Tuesday. The compassionate approach was aimed at improving the party's tarnished image among Hispanics. Both men spoke to the same group of Hispanic leaders meeting in Miami, and avoided criticizing each other. Gingrich pushed for a measured approach to revising the nation's immigration laws. He also called for a U.S.-based "Cuban spring" uprising against the long-standing communist government. Romney said the U.S. needs to work harder to promote democracy in Cuba and across Latin America. He pledged to appoint a Latin American envoy and create a task force to focus on drug trafficking and other issues.
— SANTORUM GOES HOME: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum planned a short break from the campaign trail. The reason? Well, there are several. He's tired. His campaign is almost broke. And he doesn't expect to win Florida. But even more pressing, the former Pennsylvania senator said he wants to sit at his kitchen table on Saturday and finish his income tax returns. It's been a tough few weeks for Santorum. He finished strong in Iowa and eventually was declared the winner there. But he lost big in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and his Florida campaign appears headed in the same direction. He was leaving Florida Friday night, spending Saturday at home and returning to Florida on Sunday. He has pledged to keep his campaign going regardless of the Florida outcome.
— PAUL GOES TO MAINE: Republican Ron Paul left sunny Florida and landed in snowy Maine, where he was spending Friday and Saturday on the hunt for delegates. He's skipping Florida's primary to follow Barack Obama's model and focus on caucus states like Maine. Such states helped Obama collect enough convention delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Maine is awarding 24 delegates this year, compared to 12 four years ago.
— OBAMA CAME HOME: Obama returned to Washington after a three-day tour of politically important states to promote his State of the Union message of economic opportunity. On the final stop, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Obama warned colleges and universities that they could lose federal funding if they don't control spiraling costs. After returning to Washington, he went immediately to Maryland's Eastern Shore to address a meeting of House Democrats. Obama told them to work with Republicans if they show an interest in putting politics aside, but also said they should stand firm and push back when the GOP stands in the way. He followed that with a re-election campaign fundraiser in Washington with Native American supporters.
— $15,000: Starting price for tickets to Obama's fundraiser with about 70 members of the Native American Leadership Council. No word on how much money was collected. Proceeds go to a joint committee between Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Obama raised more than $220 million for the committee last year.
— President Barack Obama answers questions Monday in what he says will be the first entirely virtual town hall from the White House. The session, a follow-up to his State of the Union address, will take place at 5:30 p.m. EST from the Roosevelt Room. People are being asked to vote on questions or submit new ones through the White House YouTube Channel. Hurry up: Saturday is the deadline. "This is going to be an exciting way to talk about the steps that we need to take together at this make-or-break moment for the middle class," Obama said.
WHAT THEY SAID:
—"We convince people around the world to buy a brown, caramel-colored water called Coca-Cola and to pay like a half day's wage for it. And they'll buy it. It's unbelievable. We're able to convince people of things that sometimes you scratch your head ... And yet democracy, we don't sell that so well." — Romney.
"Any bill you write that is comprehensive has too many enemies." — Gingrich on pushing for a measured approach to revising the nation's immigration laws.
—"When it comes to putting anything into your body, or your mouth, in your lungs, you can't do it without permission of the government." — Paul, railing against government involvement in lifestyle choices.
—"We haven't even had a discussion about a discussion. ... We feel good that as time goes on, we're going to look better." — Santorum on whether he was considering dropping out of the race.