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Inside Politics

CAMPAIGN

Democratic SuperPAC targets Romney via Web

A Democratic SuperPAC is targeting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney with a new Internet campaign that raises questions about his economic agenda one year before the 2012 election.

Priorities USA Action, a group run by former aides to President Obama, said it was spending $100,000 to run advertising across websites such as Facebook, Google and YouTube as well as news websites.

A Web video released Wednesday by the group labels Mr. Romney as the Republican front-runner and outlines the policies it says the nation could expect if Mr. Romney won the White House next year.

The video opens with Republican strategist Karl Rove saying Mr. Obama will not be able to win re-election and includes clips of Mr. Romney saying "corporations are people" and the housing foreclosure process needs to "hit the bottom."

"Mitt Romney's America is not our America," the ad declares.

Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said that while the former Massachusetts governor was "focused on his jobs and economic plan, which will provide relief for the middle-class taxpayers, President Obama and his cronies are worried about their own jobs."

Catholic scholars, diplomats seek religious tolerance

A group of prominent Catholic scholars and diplomats Wednesday called for commitment to religious tolerance in American politics and said the alternative is to risk a "major divisive political issue" in the future.

"We share the concern of many of our citizens of all religious faiths that allowing the question of a candidate's religion to be subject to public ridicule is a grave digression from what we have accomplished in our forward movement as Americans since the establishment of our Republic," read a statement signed by more than 30 Catholic lay leaders from across the country.

Thomas P. Melady, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said Catholics are "particularly sensitive to the history of anti-Catholic bias" in the U.S., a problem that first surfaced in the presidential election of 1928, when Catholic candidate Al Smith faced discriminatory comments about his religion during his campaign.

Since then, Mr. Melady said, there has been a definite improvement in cases of "ridiculing a person's church" in presidential campaigns, but "there is room ... for intellectual discussion."

The statement was prompted in part by recent comments made by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, at the Values Voter Summit. Mr. Jeffress suggested that voters should prefer Christian candidates for office and referred to Mormonism as "a cult."

"We ... wish to cite our concern and our determination to assure that not only civility be maintained in the public discourse but that all inclinations to raise the issue of personal religious affiliation be avoided," Mr. Melady said.

WHITE HOUSE

Biblical blunder takes center stage at briefing

It was a blunder of biblical proportions.

White House spokesman Jay Carney invoked Scripture Wednesday to back up President Obama's suggestion that God wants policymakers to get busy and create more jobs.

Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama was trying to make the point that "we have it within our capacity to do the things to help the American people."

"I believe the phrase from the Bible is, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves,' " Mr. Carney said.

Well, no, not really.

A White House transcript of Mr. Carney's briefing issued later in the day included the disclaimer: "This common phrase does not appear in the Bible."

Mr. Obama started the debate earlier in the day when he took note of House action reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the country's motto.

"I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work," the president said.

IOWA

Santorum campaigns for surprise finish

WILLIAMSBURG — Voters' fascination with other Republican presidential candidates has not deterred former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who lags in national polls but is soldiering on in early-voting Iowa.

Mr. Santorum shows signs of traction with two months until the state's lead-off caucuses.

He's adding staff, picking up endorsements, and when he campaigns in Maquoketa, Iowa, Wednesday night, he will have completed his goal of visiting all of Iowa's 99 counties.

Mr. Santorum steadily has built a reputation in Iowa as a reliable social conservative, an asset in the state that lifted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to victory in the 2008 caucuses.

He told an audience Wednesday that his campaign expects good news in the next two months; he has a shot at "coming out" of the Republican pack.

Bachmann: Can't have nominee with 'surprises'

MARSHALLTOWN — Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann says her party can't have a nominee with "surprises" in his record, a jab at rival Herman Cain as he defends himself against allegations of sexual harassment.

The congresswoman from Minnesota told a meeting of Baptists in Iowa on Tuesday night that the GOP needs to have a candidate the party can trust.

Standing in the pulpit of a Marshalltown church, she told supporters, in her words, "This is the year when we can't have any surprises with our candidate."

Mr. Cain leads the most recent polling in Iowa. He has spent the week defending his tenure leading a trade organization and denying he sexually harassed female employees.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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