- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SANTORUM RISING

It’s like a political horoscope: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum now appears to be the “rising” candidate, generating timely buzz as his polling numbers edge up, less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. He has earned the precious endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats, founder of the Family Leader, a conservative group that hosted a recent debate centered on pro-life issues. Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, also backs Mr. Santorum.

“Get ready for Santorum time,” predicts Daily Beast political analyst Michael Tomasky, who says the candidate is “kosher with all three wings of the party: neocons, theocons and plutocons.”

Indeed, Mr. Santorum is no longer languishing at the bottom of the hopeful heap: A Public Policy poll placed him fourth behind Rep. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, tied with Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas. Gov. Rick Perry. It’s a bona fide “boomlet” observers say. The candidate, meanwhile, is feisty.

“The lamestream media continues to argue about who is the front-runner. Luckily, the talking heads don’t vote in the caucuses. Their opinions don’t matter. The values voters in this country do matter,” Mr. Santorum says. “And unlike the TV personalities, I have actually gone out and talked with them.”

ROBUST REPUBLICANS

Their Christmas stocking is losing its lean look. The Republican National Committee managed to raise $7.1 million last month - a new record for off-year fundraising in the month of November. The party now has $14.1 million in cash on hand, “more cash in the bank than debt,” says chairman Reince Priebus.

“Heading into 2012, the RNC will be operating from a position of significant fiscal strength. The combination of Republican voter enthusiasm and the RNC’s robust fundraising makes me confident that we have a winning year ahead of us,” the ebullient Mr. Priebus says, adding, “Every dollar raised brings us one step closer to making Barack Obama a one-term president.”

DRIVING FORCE

To chat or not to chat while motoring? Republicans, Democrats and policy wonks are mulling over the National Transportation and Safety Board’s recent recommendation to ban most use of cellphones and other electronic devices by drivers. Some say the ban is downright intrusive.

“Police already have more than enough reasons to stop cars. Absent hard evidence that a cellphone ban would improve traffic safety, NTSB has no business recommending such a ban,” says Sam Kazman, general counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

His colleague and transportation analyst Marc Scribner says the proposed ban would be “difficult if not impossible” to enforce. Driver-passenger conversation is a greater hazard than phone use, he says.

Republicans, meanwhile, are keener for their phone freedom.

Among Americans in general, 49 percent support the idea of a driver phone ban; 56 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans agree. Forty-four percent overall oppose it; 39 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans agree, according to a Poll Position survey of 1,133 voters conducted Dec. 15.

GINGRICH GRIT

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