- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DEBATE NO. 18

“I take this process seriously, I respect these candidates. This is their debate, and they will decide the tenor and tone of it, and anyone suggesting otherwise hasn’t spoken to me,” CNN anchor John King tells Inside the Beltway, dismissing rumors that the five remaining Republican presidential hopefuls will be “unleashed,” or that the 18th encounter among rivals will devolve into mayhem.

Not going to happen, he says. The debate is too significant to be compromised. Mr. King moderates the two-hour CNN/Southern Republican Leadership Conference Debate from Charleston, S.C. on Thursday at 8 p.m.; Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Soledad O'Brien will anchor their respective programs live from the city as well.

“I want this to be a fair match, the time spread evenly between candidates. The value and urgency of this event also lies in the moment,” Mr. King adds. “It’s a close race, but Newt Gingrich is moving in on Mitt Romney. It’s still very competitive, and this is the last, crucial debate before South Carolina voters pick their nominee. They have a long history of picking the winner. So we need to pay close, serious attention.”

Indeed, the horse race is still on, despite persistent talk of Mr. Romney’s status as the “inevitable” or “acceptable” candidate. A new CNN/ORC poll reveals that he commands 33 percent of voter support in South Carolina. But Mr. Gingrich garners 23 percent, followed by Rick Santorum with 16 percent, Rep. Ron Paul with 13 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 6 percent. And unlike a large majority of Iowans who did not make up their minds until they stood in the polling booth, six out of 10 decisive voters in the Palmetto State say their vote is already set, their support definite, the poll found.

CANTOR, KING OF K.O.

“The Republican whom Democrats — especially President Obama — hate most. The Virginia congressman masterminded, and then masterfully carried out, the GOP’s strategy of legislative intransigence that has stymied the White House these past three years. In the process, he imposed his will on all of Washington, refashioning the city into a hyperpartisan capital of gridlock. And if Obama’s a one-term president, it will be Cantor — as much as Newt or Mitt — who’ll deserve the credit/blame for knocking him out.”

- GQ magazine’s rationale for naming Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, No. 1 on its list of “The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington, D.C.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky incidentally, came in second. See the complete list here: www.gq.com.

RIFLE CHIC

Before his company took to selling duvets and accent pillows, there was a real Eddie Bauer. The Seattle outdoorsman founded a single hunting and fishing shop in 1920; there are now 353 stores and a massive lifestyle empire. But management is determined to get back to its “sporting heritage,” it says. For spring, the company plans a line of apparel for sporting clays, trap and skeet shooting — shirts, jackets and vests based on past designs, with such features as leather quilted shooting patches, air mesh recoil pads and gusseted underarms.

The company should send a catalog to Rick Perry.

Meanwhile, a full line of shooting apparel for upland hunting will be ready for summer that “remains authentic to the sport and the Eddie Bauer heritage, but is also pushing the limits of innovation for technical shooting apparel.”

OH BEHAVE

Yeah, well. Maybe there’s a partisan cootie issue. Or petty jealousy. Or something. Only 120 members of Congress have agreed to sit with a colleague from the opposite party when President Obama delivers his big State of the Union speech on Tuesday. So says No Labels, a bipartisan grass-roots group that pines for all lawmakers to make the cozy gesture of civility; its membership has inundated Congress with letters, emails and calls.

“Getting members of Congress to sit next to each other may not seem like a big deal. But trust me, it’s an important first step. If we can get them sitting together, we can get them working together, too,” says a hopeful Kiki McLean, co-founder of the group.

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