WASHINGTON — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012:
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
— GAMBLING ON NEVADA: Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich spent the eve of the first Western contest, in a state with the nation's worst rates of unemployment and home foreclosures, arguing that Democratic President Barack Obama isn't doing enough to create jobs. Both candidates, vying for the right to challenge Obama in November, pressed their case despite a government report earlier in the day showing that the unemployment rate had inched down to 8.3 percent, the lowest it has been since February 2009. It also was the fifth straight month of decline in U.S. joblessness. Romney was favored to win Saturday's contest. He won the 2008 caucuses with a whopping 51 percent of the vote in a seven-candidate field. Gingrich, on the other hand, was fighting for a respectable showing after his drubbing earlier in the week in Florida's primary. Ron Paul also was competing in Nevada. Rick Santorum has moved on to Missouri.
— WHAT'S IN THIS? Rick Santorum was taken by surprise by the size of the omelet he was served at the Mark Twain Dinette in Hannibal, Mo., where the famed author grew up. "This is a serious omelet. What's in this?" he asked a nearby scrum of reporters. A waitress informed him that the steaming, football-sized meal was made of eggs, onions, green peppers, cheese and more, with hash browns folded into the omelet. "It's like a cake," Santorum said, shaking his head. He asked for extra plates and began cutting it up and doling out the pieces to table mates. "That's one serving. That's two servings," he began. The omelet fed four. — By Associated Press writer Philip Elliott.
— JOBS: The monthly unemployment report showing that 243,000 jobs had been added in January provided a dose of good economic news for Obama. The slow-recovering economy figures to be a central issue in his campaign to win a second term. Obama said far too many people still don't have jobs but that the latest numbers show the recovery is speeding up. The positive report wasn't the best news for Republicans, who weren't in the mood to give Obama any credit for the improving economic picture. Romney said the numbers can't hide that Obama's policies have prevented "a true economic recovery." Gingrich said "anemic growth is not growth." The news was still good enough for the stock market: The Dow Jones industrial average closed Friday at its highest level since before the 2008 financial crisis.
— JOBS FOR VETERANS: Obama crossed the Potomac River for the short trip to an Arlington, Va., fire station, where he offered new proposals to reduce unemployment among military veterans by helping them find work as firefighters, police officers and park rangers. The president announced that communities that make it a priority to recruit veterans will be among the first to get financial aid from the federal government. Obama also wants to help put up to 20,000 vets to work in local communities or rebuilding national parks. The proposals require funding from Congress, which is not assured.
The government said January's 8.3 percent unemployment rate was the fifth consecutive month of a drop in the number. Here are the past six months of monthly unemployment figures. The rate was 9.1 percent in June and July of 2011.
— August: 9.1 percent
— September: 9 percent
— October: 8.9 percent
— November: 8.7 percent
— December: 8.5 percent
— January: 8.3 percent
NEVADA GOP CAUCUSES:
— In short, it will be a long night. Don't expect to find out who won until after 10 p.m. East Coast time. Nevada Republicans will meet at precincts around the state, beginning at noon Eastern in most counties. But the final caucus, a special one in Clark County for Jewish observers of the Saturday Sabbath, doesn't start until 10 p.m. Clark County, the state's largest, in the past has accounted for more than half the total vote in statewide GOP primaries and caucuses.
—Nevada will award 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention, proportionally based on the statewide vote. A look at the delegate breakdown by candidate, heading into Saturday's contest:
HE SAID WHAT?
— "Don't muck it up." — Obama, prodding Congress to keep the economic recovery going.
— "The policies of this administration have not been helpful. They in fact have been harmful. They have slowed down the recovery, made it more difficult." — Romney.
— "I believe the economy will begin to recover the day Barack Obama is voted out of office." — Gingrich.
— "It's unfortunate that public pressure builds to provide money to an organization that goes out and actively is the No. 1 abortion provider in the country. That's not health care ... Killing little children in the womb is not health care." — Santorum, after the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, under heavy public pressure, reversed course Friday and abandoned plans to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.