THE BIG BOYS
"Bare-knuckle politics. Now it matters. Bring your big-boy pants."
- Advice to the Republican presidential hopefuls on successful campaigning in South Carolina, from Chip Felkel, a leading Republican strategist in Greenville
THE HE-MAN BOUNCE
Yee-haw. Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have an edge in a state where bare-knuckle politics are a given. He's right at home. One look at his campaign stops in South Carolina reveal all. In the next week, Mr. Perry will frequent barbecue joints, gun shops, Southern-style eateries, municipal halls. Mr. Perry is in hearty he-man mode, making the most of his down-home, Lone Star cachet, a factor that could lend him a measurable bounce with Palmetto State voters when primary day dawns. He may not play so well in Peoria, but Columbia?
"He's got a real good crowd today. They're receptive to him, they like him," says a spokesman for Doc's Barbeque in the state's capital, where Mr. Perry hosted a midday meet-and-greet-and-eat on Wednesday with an eager, hungry crowd. And no wonder. On Doc's menu: pepper vinegar pulled pork sandwiches, banana pudding and such side dishes as black-eyed peas, okra and tomatoes, catfish stew, corn casserole and bread-and-butter pickles.
And while Mr. Perry is eagerly defining himself as the consummate man of the people, his credibility as a military veteran in the Republican field is now coming into play with a campaign spot showcasing loyal vets who vouch for the former U.S. Air Force pilot's presidential prowess.
"The decorated military veterans in this TV ad speak strongly for Gov. Perry's character, faith and leadership. These vets know Rick Perry's pro-American, pro-job and pro-veteran record," says campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan. "He is the one true Washington outsider left in this race."
"We can either nominate a timid Massachusetts moderate Republican to take on a secular socialist who threatens to turn us into a nation like the decrepit republics of Western Europe, or we can nominate a bold Reagan conservative who will take the fight to Barack Obama in the fall. There's no more time for talking about stopping Mitt Romney."
- Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, in a new campaign command to his supporters
"Go back to work. Two states have made their voices heard. Forty-eight more are anxiously waiting."
- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, in a new campaign command to his supporters
"Queasiness in the right-leaning media."
- Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh's characterization of subtle buyer's remorse emerging among certain journalists such as American Spectator contributor Matt Thomas and syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, who now appear uneasy with Mitt Romney as the "inevitable" Republican nominee for the White House
Though the nation's 21 million eligible Hispanic voters traditionally lean Democratic, the Republican National Committee is determined to woo this vast voting bloc, pushing the idea that traditional values are part of the GOP playbook, and that unemployment among Hispanics now stands at 11 percent.
"I happen to believe that the Latino community is just tired of the broken promises and empty rhetoric of this president," says committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has named Bettina Inclan as the project's director. She is the strategist who secured more than 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida that put Gov.Rick Scott in office, and now vows to bring the "Republican message of economic opportunity and family values" to Hispanic communities in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada.
See the new GOP campaign at http://rnclatinos.com in English and Spanish, including a telling section called "El Record De Obama."
There's much work to be done. A recent Pew Hispanic Center poll found that 59 percent of Hispanics nationwide have not paid much attention to the Republican primary contests, while only 30 percent have ever heard of Sen. Marco Rubio. Republicans also have competition — like from progressives at the American Worker Pac's "Latino Project," who are intent on electing "pro-worker Democrats" in 15 Hispanic-heavy congressional districts.
ON THE RADAR
It's a motley trio, indeed. Sarah Palin, Al Gore and former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are the keynote speakers at the upcoming SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, a global economic gathering better known as "Salt." The high-profile event has drawn former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton plus Mitt Romney to the podium in years past. The four-day conference will be staged at the swank Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in early May.
Also on the speaker's roster: Karl Rove, who joins former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs onstage to offer "White House insider's perspectives."
POLL DU JOUR
• 66 percent of Americans say there are "strong conflicts" between rich and poor in the U.S.
• 55 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of conservatives, 73 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of liberals agree.
• 23 percent overall say there are mild conflicts between rich and poor; 7 percent say there are no conflicts whatsoever.
• 46 percent overall say the rich became wealthy because they "know the right people" or were born into it.
• 32 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.
• 43 percent say the rich are wealthy because of "hard work, ambition or education."
• 58 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 2,048 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 6-19 and released Wednesday.
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