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Inside Politics

- - Sunday, February 5, 2012

MICHIGAN

Senate hopeful's Super Bowl ad draws criticism

LANSING — The portrayal of a young Asian woman speaking broken English in a Super Bowl ad being run by U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra against Michigan incumbent Debbie Stabenow is bringing charges of racial insensitivity.

GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw flat-out scolded Mr. Hoekstra, a former congressman, for the ad.

"Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement," Mr. De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page Sunday morning. "Racism and xenophobia aren't any way to get things done."

A media consultant who has advised Democrats also thought it could prove problematic.

"Some Asian-Americans may be offended by the stereotype that is portrayed in the spot," said Robert Kolt, who teaches advertising part-time at Michigan State University and had previewed a number of Sunday's Super Bowl ads. "Pete seems like a nice guy in the ad, but I think he is wasting a lot of money now. ... It's just not Super Bowl-worthy. It's not cute, it's not funny and it's not memorable."

Hoekstra campaign spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro said the ad is meant to be satirical. Mr. Hoekstra's Facebook page, which was getting a mix of praise and criticism for the ad, snapped back that those "trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job-creation policies."

SENATE

Bill would broaden feds' role in cybersecurity

A new Senate proposal would give the government more power to regulate the computer security of critical industries.

The plan, which is expected to be released in coming days, would try to ensure that computer systems that run power and nuclear plants, electrical grids and other crucial systems are protected from hackers.

Officials familiar with the bill say it would empower the Department of Homeland Security, with input from businesses, to decide which companies to regulate. It also would enable the agency to demand better security controls.

The proposal is already drawing strong opposition from businesses that say it goes too far. Security experts, however, say the bill should have even more teeth because of the damage that can be done by cybercriminals.

MINNESOTA

Santorum refuses to bow out after loss

BEMIDJI — Former Sen. Rick Santorum has lost four straight GOP presidential-nomination contests, but you can't tell it from his attitude.

The perpetually optimistic Pennsylvanian has been drawing standing-room-only crowds and promising his political fortunes will improve if he can make it to just one more state. On Sunday, he said the upcoming races in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado could be chances for him to reset the race - a line he has used ahead of each of the past four races where he came up short.

On Saturday, Mr. Santorum came in last place in Nevada. He didn't mention that latest setback when he attended church services Sunday, and showed no sign the GOP contest was sliding through his fingers as he toured the factory that produces the signature sweater vests he sells as a fundraiser.

MINNESOTA

Rightward GOP drift challenges front-runner

ST. PAUL — Mitt Romney could face a significant challenge in Minnesota.

The mood has changed since the former Massachusetts governor won the state's caucuses in 2008. A state that once took pride in political consensus has turned as contentious as any other. Last summer's bitter government shutdown was a lowlight.

Mr. Romney campaigned four years ago as the more conservative choice than Sen. John McCain of Arizona. This time around, Mr. Romney is the mainstream front-runner up against more conservative rivals, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

And that makes Tuesday's caucuses unpredictable. Chuck Slocum, who led Minnesota Republicans in the mid-1970s, said that the activists expected to dominate the turnout are among the most conservative in the country.

COLORADO

GOP hoping '12 more like '10 than '08

DENVER — A note to Republican presidential contenders: Colorado's political terrain is as rocky as its mountains.

The state was once solidly Republican, but turned Democratic in the 2000s as the population swelled with people moving into the state.

Colorado's traditional conservative base of evangelical Christians and Western individualists became less influential. Hispanics account for most of Colorado's growth and make up more than 30 percent of Denver's population.

Democrats rolled up big victories statewide and, in 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat in two decades to carry the state's nine electoral votes.

Now, however, the state's unemployment hovers near 8 percent, making Coloradans gloomier about the economy and their elected officials.

Republican front-runner Mitt Romney and his rivals hope that mood could bring Colorado back to the GOP this November, building on gains of two U.S. House seats and pickups of the Secretary of State's Office and state Attorney General's Office in 2010.

From wire dispatches and staff reports