- - Monday, January 30, 2012

CAMPAIGN

Jeb Bush remains neutral in Florida race

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose endorsement would be a prize for any of the Republican presidential candidates, has remained neutral.

This follows a pattern in early GOP contests: Gov. Terry Branstad in Iowa didn’t choose sides. Nor did influential Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threw his support to Mr. Romney, but there hasn’t been a delegate-selection contest yet in New Jersey.

The New York Times reported in Monday’s editions that Mr. Romney has sought to win over Mr. Bush, a brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush.

Asked about that in a Fox News Channel interview on Monday morning, Mr. Romney replied: “Jeb Bush and I haven’t spoken. He’s a good man. I’d love to get his opinion on any number of issues.”

SOUTH CAROLINA

Romney picks up two delegates in S.C.

Mitt Romney has picked up a consolation prize from the South Carolina Republican presidential primary: two delegates.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich handily won the Jan. 21 primary and got 23 of the state’s 25 delegates. South Carolina Republicans awarded 11 delegates to the statewide winner and two delegates for winning each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

Mr. Gingrich won six congressional districts, but the vote in one district was too close to call on election night. State party political director Alex Stroman said Monday the party had determined Mr. Romney won the district by about 1,400 votes.

Mr. Romney now has 36 delegates, including endorsements from Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the convention. Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, recently added an RNC delegate when he was endorsed by Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, who is a member of the RNC.

Mr. Gingrich has 25 delegates, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has 14 and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has four. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.

CONGRESS

Unions denounce FAA bill compromise

Union leaders are denouncing a deal in Congress that would make it a little harder for them to organize airline workers. The deal was struck 10 days ago by top House Republicans and Senate Democrats as part of an effort to pass a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.

More than a dozen unions issued a statement Monday calling on the Senate to reject the compromise reached by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

The Teamsters, Communications Workers, Machinists and Flight Attendants unions said they don’t want any changes in rules governing union elections at airlines and railroads. Democratic leaders say the deal saved unions from even more drastic changes demanded by Republicans who run the House.

A Reid spokesman declined comment.

WHITE HOUSE

Officials criticize Italian captain comparison

The White House is criticizing comments by the Republican National Committee chairman likening President Obama to the Italian cruise ship captain who is said to have abandoned his sinking ship.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Mr. Obama was “our own little Captain Schettino.” Mr. Priebus accused Mr. Obama of abandoning ship in the U.S. and spending more time on his re-election campaign.

Mr. Priebus’ predecessor, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told MSNBC the analogy was “unfortunate.”

In response, White House press secretary Jay Carney said: “If you are so desperate for attention that you make an analogy that Michael Steele deems inappropriate, you know you’ve probably gone too far.”

Sixteen people remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead in the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia.

OHIO

Willie Nelson performs benefit concert for Kucinich

LORAIN — Country music icon Willie Nelson has come to Ohio to sing out in support of an old friend, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich.

Mr. Nelson performed a sold-out benefit for the congressman on Sunday in Lorain, about 25 miles west of Cleveland. The star previously campaigned for Mr. Kucinich during his long-shot bids for president.

Redistricting has thrown Mr. Kucinich into a congressional primary battle with another veteran Democrat, Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Her campaign said last week that while Mr. Kucinich brings singers to northern Ohio, Ms. Kaptur brings jobs.

Multiple news outlets report that Mr. Kucinich shot back during a press conference before Sunday’s concert that he has worked to save steel jobs in the region.

WHITE HOUSE

Administration concerned over Egypt situation

The White House says it’s concerned and disappointed about the situation in Egypt, where a handful of U.S. citizens who are being prevented from leaving the country have taken shelter at the American Embassy in Cairo.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says the administration has made its concerns clear in discussions with Egypt’s military authorities. He said U.S. officials are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

The unusual situation comes amid an Egyptian crackdown on U.S.-funded groups promoting democracy that has jeopardized more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt.

But Mr. Carney was careful Monday to praise Egypt for taking important steps toward transitioning to democracy since the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak a year ago.

CONGRESS

Obama tax proposals seen as unlikely to pass

President Obama may help frame his re-election campaign’s theme of fairness with his proposals to target millionaires and companies that ship jobs abroad for tax increases. But his tax plans stand virtually no chance of passing Congress.

Republicans have enough votes in the GOP-run House, and even in the Democrat-led Senate, to kill Mr. Obama’s proposals. They say his plans would discourage investment and job creation and deal further blows to the ailing economy.

Top Republican lawmakers say Mr. Obama’s proposals were a campaign speech, not a serious legislative offer.

But for the president, that may not matter.

Since Congress is unlikely to pass anything this election year unless it is uncontroversial, Democrats say the true value of Mr. Obama’s tax plans is to demonstrate that he is on the public’s side.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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