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FISHWRAP

Romney heads to Iowa

Mitt Romney tomorrow is taking his unannounced presidential campaign to Iowa, home of the country's first presidential caucus vote Jan. 14, 2008.

The former Massachusetts governor and his son, Tagg Romney, plan to lunch with residents at Buck's Restaurant in Waterloo and tour Hawkeye Renewables, a renewable fuels plant in Fairbank.

They will round out the day at a reception at the Best Western Midway Hotel's Hoffman House Restaurant in Dubuque.

-- S.A. Miller, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Meet the new Newt, same as the old Newt

CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is not known for his brevity.

The Republican was the lunch speaker at today's retreat. Word has it his talk went on - and on - longer than expected. Republican leaders were supposed to meet with reporters staking out the gathering at 1. That became 1:15, then 1:30, and finally they trotted out at 2:10.

"It was Newt being Newt," Minority Leader John Boehner said. "There was nothing new there."

Maryland Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, whose district includes the Hyatt where Republicans were retreating, happily gave five minutes of the region's million-year history. When he started talking about sediment, some of the other leaders sneaked smiles at each other. Seems they'd heard the speech before.

-- Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

GOP fortress

BLUE POINT GRILL in CAMBRIDGE, MD. -- House Republicans gathered here for their retreat will have no need to leave until it's over. The luxurious Chesapeake Hyatt where members are meeting has restaurants, a golf course and a full spa.

It's also in complete lockdown.

Reporters gathered to cover the news generated today had to be escorted by Capitol Police, who have trucked metal detectors here all the way from Washington.

The dogs sniffing my car and officers using mirrors to check its underbelly are understandable since the president plans a visit tomorrow. But word is we're not allowed to leave without an escort either. And there's no in-and-out privileges, at least not for us scribes.

If Republicans do venture out to town, they could take advantage of $1.99 gas, an off-track betting club and a Denny's.

Probably they won't bother hitting the "restaurant" on the main drag that boasted this menu item: "fresh muskrat."

-- Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Natty dresser

CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Reporters always get ripped for commenting on female politicians' attire, so I'll talk about the men for a change.

Minority Leader John Boehner dropped his usual suit combo for the Republicans' casual retreat. Instead the Ohioan donned a thick yellow sweater and underneath peeked a turtleneck perfectly matching his green eyes.

-- Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

So much for that five-day work-week

Die-hards tuning into C-SPAN this morning in hopes of seeing legislative action in the U.S. House will be disappointed. Members, who left town yesterday afternoon, won't be back until Monday night.

This time, they didn't head home for campaigning.

The 200 House Republicans have retreated to Maryland's Eastern Shore, where they will soul search and come up with a game plan for ousting newly empowered Democrats in 2008.

In a red state-blue state switcharoo, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will lead her troops to Virginia next week for the Democratic retreat. Which means, of course, the House will spend 3 days at work next week too.

Not to worry, political junkies - the U.S. Senate will be in session today.

Just not tomorrow.

-- Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

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