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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2012

MAINTAINING APPEARANCES

While magnifying Republican gaffes and infighting, the mainstream press also delights in political cliffhangers, speculating on which presidential hopeful will finally blink and drop out of the race, who's flirting with a surprise announcement, who faces the impending doom of scandal. At this juncture on the campaign trail, the most important candidate chore is to keep up appearances, and party likes it's, well, still 2011.

That in mind, in the next 48 hours, Rick Santorum will visit the Mark Twain Dinette in Hannibal, Mo. — where homemade root beer is the specialty. Out Nevada's way, Newt Gingrich hosts a rally at Stoney's Rockin' Country in Las Vegas while Mitt Romney talks up job creation at El Aero Services in Elko.

But it's Rep. Ron Paul who appears busiest. Among his upcoming appearances: a meeting with "Gun Owners for Ron Paul" and Filipino veterans of World War II — both in Vegas — followed by five grass-rootsy appearances in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Mr. Paul has a big aggressive growl for Mr. Romney, who he has now deemed the "arch enemy of all Republicans."

DREAMING OF CPAC

Conservatives can soon get their bearings and actually smile at one another: CPAC 2012 glitters on the horizon. The fabulous Conservative Political Action Conference starts Thursday, touting evidence that while there is much work to be done, there is still much promise ahead. All four Republican hopefuls will attend. And among the many confirmed for the podium:

Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Jim DeMint; House Speaker John A. Boehner, Reps. Michele Bachmann, Paul Ryan and Allen B. West; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, National Rifle Association President David Keene, American Conservative Union Chairman Al R. Cardenas, Andrew Breitbart and Mike Huckabee.

STATES EVIDENCE

"Democrats have lost their solid political party affiliation advantage in 18 states since 2008, while Republicans have gained a solid advantage in six states. A total of 17 states were either solidly Republican or leaning Republican in their residents' party affiliation in 2011, up from 10 in 2010 and five in 2008," points out Gallup poll analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, after reviewing the opinion trends of 354,000 Americans over the course of a year.

"Nineteen states, including the District of Columbia, showed a solid or leaning Democratic orientation, down from 23 in 2010 and 36 in 2008. The remaining 15 states were relatively balanced politically, with neither party having a clear advantage," Mr. Jones says, adding, "The nation looks to be essentially even in terms of its party loyalties headed into a presidential election year. Clearly, President Obama faces a much less favorable environment as he seeks a second term in office."

PICK THE TARGET

Is it the nation's capital or New York City? That is the question, considering some disquieting news from Israel: Iran is developing a missile with the capability to strike the East Coast, which is the intended target. During a policy conference that ended Friday near Tel Aviv, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff turned Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon warned that said missile was aimed at America, not Israel.

The West, he told his audience, "ignores the fact that Israel is seen as the little Satan. The big Satan is America." The missile has a 10,000 kilometer — or 6,000 mile — range. Mr. Yaalon added that the weapon was "aimed at America, not us."

Such talk is a cultural moment with dire underpinnings, perhaps sparking a quick review of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative and maybe "Brilliant Pebbles," civil defense, the phrase "duck and cover" or fallout shelters. We'll see.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that Washington had more than 600 designated community fallout shelters by 1965, including sites in the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and multiple locations in the Capitol. One volunteer group pines to track down and preserve surviving official fallout shelter signs in signature yellow and black that still languish on city buildings; they're historic icons.

Well, for now, anyway.

See this unusual project here: districtfallout.wordpress.com.

PRIEBUS AT THE READY

"Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration still refuse to take responsibility for the outrageous ATF Fast and Furious gun-walking scheme which allowed weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels and resulted in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer. The radical leftist agenda and shocking incompetence characterized by the Fast and Furious scandal are symptomatic of the entire Barack Obama presidency," advises a feisty Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"Eric Holder may want to point fingers and play the blame game, but as Obama's attorney general, he bears the responsibility. It's past time for him to come clean and actually take responsibility — and if he doesn't, he has a boss who should."

Yes, the committee has launched a "Fire Eric Holder" public petition. Find it here: fireholder.gop.com.

POLL DU JOUR

• 173 million viewers will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.

• 73 percent say Super Bowl commercials are "entertainment"; 8 percent say the ads actually influence them to buy the advertised product.

• 27 percent plan to attend a Super Bowl party; 15 percent will throw a party.

• $11 billion: total amount U.S. consumers will spend on Super Bowl-related items.

• 71 percent will purchase special food and beverages.

• 9 percent will buy team apparel and accessories; 6 percent will buy party decorations.

• 5 percent will buy a new TV especially for the game; 2 percent will buy new furniture or entertainment centers.

Source: A Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey of 9,317 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 4 to 11 and released Jan. 26.

Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com

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