WASHINGTON – A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012:
— GOP RACE. Caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota. Front-runner Mitt Romney hoped to stretch a two-state winning streak to four. But an electorate in both states now more conservative than when he won them in 2008 could prove troublesome for a candidate whose allegiance to conservative principles has been questioned. Rivals Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were trying to blunt Romney's momentum. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wasn't a significant presence in either state. Missouri held a nonbinding primary, to be followed by caucuses next month.
— OBAMA'S ABOUT-FACE. Reversing an earlier stand, President Barack Obama told Democratic donors it's OK to give freely to the kind of political fundraising groups he once labeled a "threat to democracy." His re-election campaign says he had little choice if he wants to compete with the big-money conservative groups that are raking in millions to spend against him in the fall. The campaign is urging its top donors to support Priorities USA, a "super" political action committee led by two former Obama aides that has struggled to compete financially with Republican-backed groups.
— CONTRACEPTIVE POLITICS: Republican presidential candidates tried to take advantage of an Obama administration policy requiring church-affiliated employers to begin providing birth control coverage to their workers. Romney, a Mormon, decried Obama's "assault on religion." Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, told Ohio voters the decision was an "attack on the Catholic Church." Gingrich also turned his fire on Romney, saying that as Massachusetts governor he "insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills, against their religious belief." Santorum, a strong anti-abortion advocate and a Catholic, made similar remarks about Romney in an article. As governor, Romney enforced a law that required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. Some Catholics say the so-called morning-after pill is a form of abortion. Romney said he did not support the law, which passed despite his veto. But he also said at the time, "My personal view, in my heart of hearts, is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraception or emergency contraception information."
— PERRY SURFACES: Nearly three weeks after quitting the Republican presidential race, Rick Perry surfaced and vowed in a speech in his home state of Texas that "I'm not slipping off into the sunset." Perry had never lost an election, a winning streak that dated to 1984 when he was elected to the Texas House as a Democrat. He entered the presidential race with great promise, but his campaign quickly buckled. The Texas governor promised in the speech to battle federal energy and environmental policies he says would cost his state jobs. "I've got plenty of fight left in this old 61-year-old body," he said.
— KERREY STAYS PUT: Former Sen. Bob Kerrey has said no to another Senate run in Nebraska, dashing Democratic Party hopes of keeping a coveted seat from falling to the GOP. Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska's only Democrat in Congress, is retiring at the end of the year.
SUPER PAC MONEY:
— 51: Amount, in millions, raised last year by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two groups tied to Republican strategist Karl Rove.
— 19: Amount, in millions, raised last year by Priorities USA Action, a group run by former Obama White House aides.
RECENT CAMPAIGN ENDORSEMENTS:
— Santorum: Pat Boone, singer.
— Gingrich: Dan Reeves, former Atlanta Falcons football coach.
— Romney: James Bopp Jr., conservative activist.
— Romney: Pete Wilson, former California governor.
IN THEIR WORDS:
— "Just another broken promise." — House Speaker John Boehner on Obama's turnaround on super PAC funding.
— "The stakes are too important to play by two different sets of rules. If we fail to act, we concede this election to a small group of powerful people intent on removing the president at any cost." — Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on super PAC funding.
— "If you look at the polls, today could be a very good day for conservatives." — Santorum.