- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

PALMETTO PALM READING

South Carolina press and public are puzzling over Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s decision to appear at a homeownership rally in Columbia on Thursday with Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Palmetto State’s only Democratic congressman. The pair will stand side by side on the Statehouse steps despite the fact that Mr. Clyburn recently told MSNBC that Mr. Gingrich was easily provoked, does not have the temperament to be president and would not win the GOP nomination.

The Home Builders Association of South Carolina and the National Association of Home Builders organized the event to draw attention to proposed lending proposals. Critics, however, are likening the Clyburn/Gingrich appearance to a 2008 public service announcement on climate change featuring then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Gingrich. Fans say Mr. Gingrich is there to counter any “pro-Obama” remarks Mr. Clyburn will deliver and has his own message. And just for fun: Joining Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Clyburn will be state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, who has endorsed Gingrich rival Mitt Romney.

TOUR DE FORCE

With Iowa and New Hampshire in their rearview mirrors, the Republican hopefuls have buffed up a shining new crop of strategically themed tours, mottos and gimmickry to get through 10 days of South Carolina campaigns before the Jan. 21 primary — a veritable eternity on the presidential trail.

Jon Huntsman Jr. has abandoned his “Restoring America Tour” in favor of a “Country First Tour,” to be launched Wednesday in Columbia. Newt Gingrich inaugurates a newfangled “Jobs & Growth Tour” when he arrives in Rock Hill for his first town-hall meeting.

Ever mindful of his dwindling chances to secure the GOP nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry now hammers on the idea that he is the sole “non-D.C., non-Wall Street candidate” with genuine tea party roots. Front-runner Mitt Romney still touts his “believe in America” theme though he urges folks to get out the vote and “earn it for Mitt.”

Rick Santorum has taken to peddling sweaters.

Those who donate $100 to his campaign by Wednesday receive an official Rick Santorum sweater vest in gray cotton and “perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives,” the candidate suggests.

BUMPER PATROL

“Vote Generic Republican for President 2012”

- bumper sticker spotted in Ames, Iowa

INEVITABLY ACCEPTABLE

Forget dramatic talk about conservative standard-bearers, or which Republican hopeful is “authentic.” The operative term now is “acceptable.”

Press and pollsters have lost interest in tracking the best “non-Romney candidate” and now the willingness of GOP voters to simply settle for Mitt Romney. Eight out of 10 say they can “live” with Mr. Romney, says a National Review poll, while Gallup reveals that 59 percent of conservative Republicans — as well as their moderate or liberal brethren — deem Mr. Romney the “acceptable” candidate for the 2012 nomination.

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