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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2012

CONSERVATIVES: UNITED OR NOT?

"Contrary to some media reports of bitterness, suspicion and acrimony at the meeting, in my 50-plus years in conservative politics at the national level, I have rarely seen a gathering conducted in such a spirit of goodwill," says ConservativeHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie, who journeyed to Houston over the weekend to meet with 150 fellow social conservatives who ultimately endorsed Rick Santorum as their choice for Republican presidential nominee.

The very canny Ralph Z. Hallow, senior political writer for The Washington Times, detected discord during the gathering in Texas, however. Charges emerged that the votes were "rigged" — unsettling news as Republicans scramble to present a united front to the nation. Indeed, interpretations vary about the event. Newt Gingrich's national campaign co-chairman J.C. Watts, for example, calls Mr. Santorum's victory "misleading," framing it instead as "unanimous support for the not-Romney." Mr. Viguerie still insists that harmony prevailed.

"This was not an anti-anyone meeting. Everyone there was united in their commitment to find the best candidate to defeat Barack Obama," he says. "We are long past trying to find the perfect candidate who achieves 100 percent on every conservative scorecard. Each of the major Republican candidates had their articulate advocates, but after the third ballot, it was clear that there was a strong consensus behind Santorum."

Differences of opinion are out there, though. While Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women for America, has already announced her support for Mr. Gingrich, Penny Nance, president of the group, is backing Mr. Santorum, calling him a "champion for faith, family and freedom."

MEDIA WARS

"Why are Obama's critics so dumb?" asks a cheeky Newsweek headline promoting an inside story by Andrew Sullivan. The question immediately prompted a spate of replies from conservative scribes eager to answer the magazine. Among them:

"Why is Andrew Sullivan so dumb?" (Joel B. Pollak, editor of Brietbart.com); "Puppies: Why Our Editors Torture Them" (RedState contributor Caleb Howe); "A desperate play for cheap attention and pageviews." (Townhall.com editor Kevin Glass).

THE VEEP DERBY

While Republicans come to terms with Mitt Romney as their likely presidential nominee, attention turns to his possible running mate. Let the polling begin. From an insta-poll of Pajamas Media readers, the first choice is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. In second place: Rep. Allen B. West of Florida, with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in third and John R. Bolton and Condoleezza Rice tied in last place.

"The person must have enough stature and experience to be able to step in and become president if the awful-awful happens," advises Myra Adams, who organized the survey. The person must not only "do no harm" but help win a state that President Obama won in 2008, unite the GOP, excite the conservative base and be up for a White House run in, say, 2020.

THE DOOR OPENS

It took months of delicate discussion, but the Associated Press has become the first news organization to operate a text and photo bureau with full-time staff in North Korea. The new bureau opened Monday in Pyongyang. Tom Curley, president of the 166-year-old news service, deems the phenomenon "remarkable," while Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll adds that the AP does not submit to censorship.

"Even though our two countries do not have normalized relations, we have been able to find a way to understand one another and to cooperate closely enough to open an AP bureau," observes Kim Pyong Ho, president of the Korea Central News Agency.

MAYORS' DAY OUT

The Republican presidential primaries are just a dull roar to more than 250 of the nation's mayors, who arrive in Washington on Tuesday for some roaring themselves at the 80th winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at a downtown hotel, pushing a bipartisan agenda addressing unemployment, transportation and public safety.

"The mayors will express disappointment that Washington is not listening to the needs of the nation's metro regions, which have thus far been absent from the presidential debates," organizers note.

The gathering will be inundated by Democratic heavyweights in the next four days, with visits from Secretaries of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Housing and Urban Development Shaun L.S. Donovan, Education Arne Duncan, Transportation Ray LaHood, Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack and Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey plus presidential adviser David Plouffe also will address the crowd, along with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. Yes, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also one of the featured speakers.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of the group, releases a major economic report and employment forecast on Wednesday.

POLL DU JOUR

• 94 percent of Republican primary voters say it's important that the Republican nominee can "beat Barack Obama."

• 83 percent say it's important that the nominee be a "true conservative."

• 52 percent of Americans say President Obama will be re-elected; 26 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of conservatives, 78 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of liberals agree.

• 43 percent overall say Mr. Obama "deserves" to be re-elected; 6 percent of Republicans, 21 percent of conservatives, 83 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of liberals agree.

• 50 percent overall would vote for Mr. Obama, 38 percent would vote for Rick Santorum in an Obama-Santorum matchup.

• 46 percent would vote for Mr. Obama and 45 percent for Mitt Romney in an Obama-Romney matchup.

• 46 percent overall would vote for an Obama-Joe Biden ticket.

• 45 percent would vote for a Mitt Romney-Rick Santorum ticket.

Source: A Fox News poll of 906 registered U.S. voters conducted Jan. 12-14.

Opinions, complaints, polite applause to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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