- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

MITT AND MARCO

Even the most connected Democrats are not above handicapping the potential Republican ticket and the likeliest team to seriously challenge President Obama come November. The best bet? It’s Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, says Don Peebles, a prominent Miami real estate developer and political fundraiser who also serves as a member of Mr. Obama’s finance committee.

“While I think it’s still a very tall order to defeat President Obama, Mitt Romney’s economic background plays well at a time like this, and the excitement that Marco Rubio brings to the table, along with Florida’s 27 electoral votes, presents a formidable opponent for the president,” Mr. Peebles tells Inside the Beltway, naturally asserting that Mr. Obama will triumph.

Meanwhile, both Predictwise and Intrade — a pair of “prediction markets” that aggregate and forecast political, sports and financial results — say Mr. Rubio has the greatest likelihood of being selected as Mr. Romney’s running mate, with a 24 percent chance. The senator is followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 13 percent and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell at 7 percent.

HANDICAPPING JEB

Other than some recent speechifying, Jeb Bush has been a low-key presence in the Florida primary. But this reclusiveness has convinced Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes that Mr. Bush has not one, but three possible roles in the 2012 race.

“First, having not endorsed a candidate, Bush could emerge as an acceptable compromise nominee in the unlikely event there’s a deadlock between Romney and Gingrich at the GOP convention in August. In other words, a brokered convention might turn to him, thus unifying the party,” Mr. Barnes says.

“Second, he could play a unifying role as a vice-presidential choice of either Romney or Gingrich. It’s significant he’s from Florida, a state that President Obama won in 2008 — and Republicans must capture in 2012 to defeat Obama’s re-election. With Bush on the ticket, winning Florida would be all but assured.”

Mr. Barnes adds, “Third, Bush could play a kingmaker role in the Republican presidential race. He would have the credibility to promote an agreement among leading Republicans about choosing the best nominee. Again, this would occur only if neither Romney nor Gingrich had won a majority of the delegates at the end of the primaries and caucuses.”

APPROVED NACHOS

Buffalo wings and chili dogs? Uh, we’ll see. Nachos? For sure. First lady Michelle Obama reveals that Super Bowl Sunday at the White House this year likely will feature a healthy version of the Tex-Mex snack, with some extra guacamole.

“Super Bowl food. You know nachos are always good, as long as it’s fresh tomato sauce and you get it on sort of a good-quality tortilla. You can do it. Yeah, I love nachos, and the president loves avocado — that’s his favorite snack food, a chip dipped in some guac,” Mrs. Obama tells celebrity chef Rachael Ray in an interview on her syndicated program, which airs Wednesday.

Mrs. Obama anticipates watching the big game “at home,” adding “it’ll probably be a quiet Super Bowl this year.”

ROCK THE NEWT

Well, so much for certain classic rock anthems at Newt Gingrich fundraisers. The Republican presidential hopeful is being sued by Rude Music Inc. for unauthorized use of the 1982 tune “Eye of the Tiger” during public appearances — even at CPAC and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. The company in question is owned by a member of the band Survivor, which originally recorded the song.

The suit claims Mr. Gingrich used the tune made famous in the film “Rocky III” to “push his political agenda” and also names the American Conservative Union for republishing the song without permission. It was filed Monday in federal court in Illinois, says TMZ, the news and gossip site.

Gingrich isn’t the first GOP candidate to be sued for using music. Back in 2008, Jackson Browne sued John McCain for using the song ‘Running on Empty’ in a political ad,” TMZ reminds us.

LOVE THE NEWT

Despite the aforementioned musical machinations, Mr. Gingrich still wins adoration among the smaller-government, lower-taxes fiscal conservative crowd. He won a Tea Party Patriots straw poll of 600 Florida tea partyers conducted Sunday with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum with 31 percent, Mitt Romney with 18 percent and Rep. Ron Paul with 11 percent.

READERS CORNER

“There is a very serious misunderstanding in the item ‘Rifle Chic’ ” says Inside the Beltway reader Benjamin W. Hartley of Jaffrey, N.H. — in reference to a headline for a Jan. 18 column item drawing attention to the new Eddie Bauer Sports Shop collection of hunting apparel that harkens back to the retailer’s traditional roots.

“It is not ‘rifle chic,’ it is ‘shotgun chic.’ Sporting clays, trap and skeet shooting are all shotgun sports. It is also generally assumed that “upland [game] hunting” is taken to be done with a shotgun, not a rifle,” Mr. Hartley points out. “Minor point? Maybe. But it does betray a bit of carelessness with the facts, don’t you think? I really don’t think you’d be so condescending as to have done it on purpose.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 64 percent of Republican “political insiders” in Florida say Mitt Romney’s changing views are his biggest obstacle in winning the primary vote in the state.

• 17 percent cite his taxes, 15 percent his record in Massachusetts.

• 63 percent say Newt Gingrich’s temperament is his biggest obstacle in winning the vote there; 17 percent cite his work with Freddie Mac, 15 percent his “personal life.”

• 55 percent are concerned about the negative tone of the GOP presidential race.

• 40 percent say Mr. Romney will win the primary vote in Florida on Tuesday

• 32 percent say Mr. Gingrich will win, 14 percent say Rick Santorum will win, 11 percent Rep. Ron Paul.

Source: A CNN survey of 47 “Florida GOP political players” (state legislators, consultants, fundraisers, activists) conducted Jan. 26 -28.

c Tunes, runes, cartoons to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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