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Inside Politics

- - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PENTAGON

Sources: U.S. to sell F-15s to Saudi Arabia

U.S. officials say the Obama administration is poised to announce the sale of nearly $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.

Officials say the deal will send 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more, for a total of $29.4 billion.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale has not been made public.

About a year ago, the administration got the go-ahead from Congress for a 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that included F-15s, helicopters and a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles.

The plan raised concerns particularly from pro-Israeli lawmakers, but U.S. officials reassured Congress that Israel's military edge would not be undercut by the sale.

IOWA

Bachmann loses state campaign chairman to Paul

INDIANOLA — Rep. Michele Bachmann's struggling presidential campaign has been dealt another setback: One of her Iowa co-chairmen has defected to rival Rep. Ron Paul's side.

Hours after appearing with Mrs. Bachmann at a Wednesday event, state Sen. Kent Sorenson gave his endorsement to the Texas congressman at a Des Moines rally. Mr. Sorenson said he resigned from Mrs. Bachmann's campaign to join the most conservative of the top-tier candidates.

The Minnesota congresswoman has been unable to recover from a fall slide that followed her Iowa straw poll victory in August. Mr. Paul was a close second.

Mr. Sorenson has strong ties to Iowa's tea party, and he joined her for an afternoon stop on her 99-county tour. He didn't speak at that gathering, citing recent dental work.

Mrs. Bachmann criticizes Mr. Paul as "dangerous" for his hands-off foreign policy.

FUNDRAISING

Gingrich camp says it raised $9M for quarter

MASON CITY, Iowa — A spokesman for Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign says the Republican has raked in roughly $9 million for the past three months of the year, far more than the House speaker has been able to raise in any of the previous quarters.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told reporters Wednesday night that Mr. Gingrich had paid off some, but not all, of the more than $1 million in campaign debt he had accumulated earlier this year.

Mr. Gingrich has been sliding in new polls with the leadoff Iowa caucuses just six days away. The announcement, coming days before the reporting period ends Dec. 31, seems designed to counter signs that his support was dwindling.

Mr. Hammond says the campaign has shelled out about $500,000 for television ads in Iowa running this week. 

IOWA

Gingrich: Greek cruise gave him time to think

MASON CITY — Newt Gingrich says a luxury cruise he took through the Greek Isles earlier this year that prompted top aides to quit his campaign was designed to show he's "a different kind of candidate."

Speaking to reporters after a speech in Mason City on Wednesday, the Republican presidential candidate said the trip had always been planned to give him time to think.

Mr. Gingrich said being in Greece during that country's financial crisis was helpful and gave him a deeper perspective on the difficult economic struggles ahead.

The former House speaker also distanced himself from a mailer circulating in Iowa and paid for by a political action committee that supports him. The mailer says Republican rival Mitt Romney is the "second most dangerous man in America."

NEBRASKA

Nelson: Dems shouldn't concede his Senate seat

OMAHA — Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska says he doesn't think his decision not to run for a third term will automatically hand the seat over to Republicans.

Mr. Nelson told the Associated Press on Wednesday there's still plenty of time for the 2012 campaign, so Democrats shouldn't hesitate to jump in.

He also said he was confident he could have won re-election.

But other Democrats acknowledge they face an uphill battle to keep Mr. Nelson's seat in the party. The GOP field already is crowded with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Deb Fischer, and investment adviser Pat Flynn.

Mr. Nelson said he's not retiring, but he doesn't know what's next. He has more than $3 million in campaign cash he could give to other candidates in the future.

IOWA

Fiery Bachmann questions Gov. Perry's 'outsider' claim

CRESTON — Republican Michele Bachmann, trailing in the race for her party's presidential nomination, went after Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his "27 years as a political insider."

Mr. Perry this week began a television ad lumping Mrs. Bachmann with other Washington figures seeking the GOP nomination in his attempt to come off as the outsider in the race.

"Just because he's held office outside of Washington, D.C., does not mean he is not a political insider," she said. "There aren't very many politicians who have spent more time paying off political donors than Gov. Rick Perry has."

OHIO

Kucinich to run against Kaptur in new district

TOLEDO — Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Wednesday he will run against fellow Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a primary contest that will pit two veteran lawmakers against each other.

Mr. Kucinich had spent the last few weeks mulling whether to run against Ms. Kaptur or seek another seat in Cleveland after the Ohio Legislature approved a new congressional district map.

The new map gave Ms. Kaptur, a 14-term congresswoman who is the senior member of the state's House delegation, a bigger chunk of her current district in the Toledo area, leading to speculation that Mr. Kucinich might run against Rep. Marcia Fudge instead.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Proposed bill would ban cheery greeting mandate

COLUMBIA — Two South Carolina legislators say state employees shouldn't have to answer the phone with Gov. Nikki Haley's mandated cheery greeting unless it's truly a great day in South Carolina.

Democratic state Reps. John Richard King and Wendell Gilliard have filed legislation saying no state agency can force its employees to answer the phone with, "It's a great day in South Carolina," as long as state unemployment is 5 percent or higher. Their bill also would prohibit requiring the greeting as long as all South Carolinians don't have health insurance.

At a September meeting, Mrs. Haley ordered her Cabinet agencies to embrace the greeting, saying it could help change the mood of state government. A Haley spokesman says the Republican governor stands by the greeting.

ARKANSAS

Federal court: State can't stop desegregation funds

LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can't cut off funding for desegregation programs in Little Rock-area school districts without a separate hearing and judge's order.

The ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes months after U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ordered an end to most of the payments, calling them counterproductive. The appeals court heard the case in September.

The state has been spending about $38 million per year to help finance magnet schools that help keep a racial balance in the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts.

CAMPAIGN 2012

Uh, what? Second place might mean more delegates in some states

Look out for some wacky results in the race for delegates in the Republican presidential primaries and caucuses. There might even be a state or two where the second-place candidate gets the most delegates, starting with Tuesday's caucuses in Iowa.

New GOP rules require states that hold nominating contests before April to award delegates proportionally. That usually means a candidate who gets 40 percent of the vote gets 40 percent of the delegates. But not always.

The rules give states a lot of leeway to define proportional, and some states have been pretty creative.

For example, in Ohio, the candidate who gets the most votes in each congressional district wins three delegates. Ohio has 16 congressional districts based on the latest census, so 48 delegates will be awarded this way.

Early on, battles over small numbers of delegates won't get much attention, but if the race continues into late spring, delegate totals become much more important.

From wire dispatches and staff reports