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Inside Politics

- - Monday, December 26, 2011

IOWA

State gets bus-tour blitz in week before caucuses

After a quiet holiday weekend, the GOP presidential contest returns in earnest to Iowa this week with several of the candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota kicking off bus tours on Tuesday.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas arrives Wednesday. Recent polls suggest he is peaking as caucus day, Jan. 3, approaches, and in some surveys is tied with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or even ahead.

The result figures to be a short but intense stretch of campaigning through small towns and even smaller towns, the sort of one-on-one politicking that has largely vanished in the electronic age.

The Perry bus will belly up to Doughy Joey's in Waterloo and to the Fainting Goat in Waverly, an establishment whose website says that "after 10 p.m., we are the type of place your mothers warned you about." Mr. Perry also will visit a vineyard and winery in Carroll.

Mrs. Bachmann will make an early-winter stop at a Dairy Queen, as well as Pizza Ranch establishments in Harlan, Red Oak and Atlantic, three localities with a combined population of 17,282.

VIRGINIA

Gingrich team: Ballot issue in Va. akin to Pearl Harbor

Newt Gingrich's campaign director, Michael Krull, said he and his boss see the candidate's failure to submit enough signatures to be put on Virginia's Republican primary ballot next year as an "unexpected setback" similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to the Hill newspaper's Briefing Room blog.

Writing on the campaign's Facebook page, Mr. Krull said: "Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941. We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus with increased determination, commitment and positive action. Throughout the next months, there will be ups and downs; there will be successes and failures; there will be easy victories and difficult days — but in the end we will stand victorious."

The Hill reports that the Gingrich campaign, which initially vowed to pursue a write-in campaign, is "exploring alternate methods to compete in Virginia — stay tuned."

IOWA

Romney, Perry release new ads as caucuses near

DES MOINES — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, released a new television commercial for Iowa in which he cited a "moral imperative for America to stop spending more money than we take in. It's killing jobs," he said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry countered with an advertisement that said four of his rivals for the GOP nomination have served a combined 63 years in Congress, "leaving us with debt, earmarks and bailouts."

Mr. Perry's ad shows images of Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann as it criticizes Congress and renews the governor's call for halving lawmakers' pay and time spent in Washington.

CAMPAIGN 2012

Campaign denounces ex-aide's 'defense' of Paul on gays, Israel

A former top aide to Ron Paul "defended" the Republican presidential candidate Monday in the conservative blogosphere against charges of homophobia and anti-Semitism.

According to Eric Dondero, who was Mr. Paul's senior congressional aide from 1997 to 2003 and worked on some earlier Paul campaigns, the Texas lawmaker is not anti-Jewish or anti-gay — he just supports Israel's abolition and won't use a gay man's bathroom.

"Is Ron Paul an anti-Semite? Absolutely no," Mr. Dondero said, before adding that Mr. Paul told him "numerous times in our private conversations … that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs."

Gary Howard, the Paul presidential campaign's national press secretary, denounced Mr. Dondero as not a credible source. "Eric Dondero is a disgruntled former staffer who was fired for performance issues, and is now trying to grab some attention for himself," the spokesman said in an email.

Mr. Dondero also ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Paul in 2008 for his former boss' seat.

In a lengthy, detailed statement posted at the Right Wing News website, Mr. Dondero insisted his former boss is not anti-gay, but he recounts two incidents that suggest otherwise. In one, Mr. Dondero writes that Mr. Paul refused to shake the hand of an openly gay supporter at a barbecue; and in the other, Mr. Dondero claims Mr. Paul went to some lengths to avoid using a bathroom in the home of a gay supporter.

NEW YORK

Schumer brother-in-law gets federal judge post

Sen. Charles E. Schumers brother-in-law was quietly nominated this month to a federal judgeship in New Jersey, the New York Post reported Monday.

Kevin McNulty, married to Mr. Schumers sister, Fran, was named to the U.S. District Court by the White House on Dec. 16.

The Post article said the nomination has raised questions about political favoritism in New Jersey.

The White House said Mr. McNulty is a "distinguished individual" who "will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice."

WHITE HOUSE

'Fingers in Obama's mouth' moment goes viral on Web

Photos and video of a baby's impromptu interaction with President Obama went viral Sunday and Monday, turning up on news websites, Facebook, Twitter and other social-media sites.

During a Christmas Day visit with Marines in Hawaii on Sunday, the president — as politicians are wont to do — was holding a cute baby handed to him by a supporter. The baby — as babies are sometimes wont to do — decided to put a tiny hand into the mouth of the person holding him. In this case, the president's.

After pretending to nibble the infant's fingers, the smiling Mr. Obama handed the baby back to a laughing mom.

From wire dispatches and staff reports