- - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NEW YORK

ABC interviewed ex-wife of Gingrich

NEW YORK — ABC News interviewed Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s second wife  with whom he’s said he has no relationship  and is likely to air the segment Thursday on “Nightline,” an ABC News executive told the Associated Press.

That’s two days before the South Carolina primary, where the former House speaker is trying to topple GOP front-runner Mitt Romney by casting himself as the more conservative option.

The ABC News executive did not indicate what former wife Marianne Gingrich said in the interview. The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans for airing the interview were tentative.

The interview, should it air before Saturday’s primary, would shine a spotlight on a part of Mr. Gingrich’s past that could turn off Republican voters in a state filled with religious and cultural conservatives who may cringe at Mr. Gingrich’s two divorces and acknowledged infidelity.

NEW YORK

Lawmaker to retire after 10 House terms

KINGSTON — A 10-term Democratic congressman from upstate New York is planning to announce that he won’t see re-election.

Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey’s office said the Hudson Valley lawmaker will make an official retirement announcement Thursday in Kingston.

Mr. Hinchey is 73 and recently completed treatment for colon cancer. He has been declared cancer-free by his doctors.

His 22nd Congressional District includes a large swath of upstate New York.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama campaign launches first TV ad

President Obama has released the first television ad of his re-election campaign. It defends his energy record against criticism from a Republican-leaning outside group in a sign that the presidential race is entering a new phase even though Republicans have yet to choose a challenger.

The ad, released Wednesday, responds to a $6 million ad campaign by a group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers accusing Mr. Obama of engaging in pay-for-play politics in the bankruptcy of California energy company Solyndra, which imploded despite a $528 million federal loan.

Mr. Obama’s ad opens by citing “secretive billionaires attacking President Obama with ads fact-checkers say are not tethered to the facts.” It says that the president has added 2.7 million clean-energy jobs while reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, calling Mr. Obama’s record on ethics “unprecedented.”

The voiceover ends by saying, “President Obama. Kept his promise to toughen ethics rules and strengthen America’s energy economy.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to visit five states after speech

President Obama plans to visit five states after next week’s State of the Union address to court voters who will be critical to his re-election campaign.

The president will discuss proposals from Tuesday’s address in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix on Wednesday and in Las Vegas and Denver on Thursday. On Friday, Obama will speak in Detroit.

The White House has not outlined policy proposals the president will make in his address. With the nation trying to move forward from a deep economic recession, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday the speech would have economic themes similar to those the president has been discussing in other forums.

“He is fiercely focused on economic growth and job creation and … using every tool available to him to assist him in that project,” Mr. Carney said.

The president will “travel around the country to talk about the issues that are important to Americans in every state, including, most importantly, economic growth and job creation,” he said.

A Republican spokeswoman said Mr. Obama’s travels are politically motivated and they accused him of being focused entirely on his re-election campaign.

“It’s clear President Obama has abandoned governing and is in complete campaign mode,” said the Republican National Committee’s Kirsten Kukowski.

The five states are expected to be heavily contested by both Mr. Obama and his Republican challenger this year.

Mr. Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, setting him on a path to the White House, but the state looks like a toss-up this year. Colorado, Nevada and Arizona are three Western states that the president’s campaign covets, while Michigan is expected to get ample attention from Republicans because of the economic recession that hurt the state’s manufacturing base.

CAMPAIGN

Christie to Romney: Release tax returns

Gov. Chris Christie is urging political ally Mitt Romney to immediately release his tax returns rather than wait until April.

The New Jersey governor said on NBC’s “Today” that Mr. Romney should “put them out sooner than later because it’s always better to have full disclosure.”

Mr. Romney’s taxes have become an issue just days before the South Carolina primary. He agreed during Monday night’s debate to consider making his returns public, and then on Tuesday committed to releasing them in April. But the multimillionaire candidate now is on the defensive after acknowledging that his effective tax rate is 15 percent. He said most of his income came from investments and speeches rather than earned income.

Mr. Christie said he wants to remain as governor, but he wouldn’t rule out joining a Romney ticket.

From wire dispatches and staff reports