- - Sunday, February 19, 2012

WHITE HOUSE

Obama campaign shifts to targeting Santorum

President Obama’s campaign team has shifted gears to consider the possibility that his GOP opponent will be Rick Santorum instead of Mitt Romney.

Campaign officials confirm that Mr. Obama’s Chicago-based organization has begun combing through the former Pennsylvania senator’s background, looking for possible lines of attack. It also emailed Mr. Obama’s Pennsylvania supporters this past week asking for material that could be used against Mr. Santorum.

The move reflects Mr. Santorum’s sudden surge in nationwide opinion polls and a spate of recent campaign victories over Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, still leads the delegate race. But after capturing caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Feb. 7, Mr. Santorum has enjoyed a burst of attention. Several polls also have given him a lead in Mr. Romney’s native Michigan, where primary voters cast ballots a week from Tuesday.

CAMPAIGN

Romney co-chairman in Arizona steps down

Mitt Romney parted ways with his Arizona campaign co-chairman after allegations of misconduct made by a man with whom Mr. Romney’s co-chairman previously had a relationship.

Pima County Sheriff Paul Babeau, who is running for Congress in Arizona, resigned from Mr. Romney’s campaign after the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly magazine, reported that Mr. Babeau had threatened to deport the man, a Mexican immigrant, if he revealed the nature of the relationship.

Sheriff Babeau held a news conference Saturday and acknowledged he is gay. He denied the allegations of misconduct.

“Sheriff Babeau has stepped down from his volunteer position with the campaign so he can focus on the allegations against him. We support his decision,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

Sheriff Babeau, who has risen to national prominence with his strong opposition to illegal immigration, campaigned with Mr. Romney and was featured in robocalls in Iowa attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was then running for the GOP nomination. He said he’ll continue his congressional campaign in Arizona.

The allegations come as Mr. Romney is fighting to win the Feb. 28 primary in Arizona. He is the only candidate who is making a strong play in the state, although rival Rick Santorum and his allies have spent some money on TV ads. The GOP contenders will debate in the state next week.

Sheriff Babeau’s campaign manager, Chris DeRose, said Sheriff Babeau’s congressional campaign was notified Friday afternoon about the allegations and that they immediately consulted the Romney campaign. Mr. DeRose said Sheriff Babeau offered to step down from his role as campaign co-chairman.

GEORGIA

Gingrich: Negative ads lowered voter turnout

CUMMING | Newt Gingrich is criticizing negative ads run by rival Mitt Romney and an independent group supporting his candidacy, saying they have driven down voter turnout in the Republican presidential contest.

The former House speaker said attack ads run by Mr. Romney and the Restore Our Future super PAC had led to a “circular firing squad” among Republicans when the real target should be President Obama.

Mr. Gingrich campaigned over the weekend in Georgia, one of 10 states holding voting contests on Super Tuesday, March 6. Mr. Gingrich represented the state’s 6th Congressional District for 20 years and is banking on a win here to lift his candidacy.

Herman Cain, who dropped out of the GOP contest in December, was campaigning with Mr. Gingrich.

WHITE HOUSE

Optimistic Obama touts manufacturing revival

President Obama says the painful restructuring of America’s manufacturing base means a lot of jobs are gone forever, but not that Americans must “settle for a lesser future.”

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Mr. Obama said American manufacturers are reinventing themselves with new technology and new efficiencies that have helped lead to what the administration claims are 3.7 million new jobs created over the past two years.

“Factories where people thought they’d retire have left town. Jobs that provided a decent living have been shipped overseas” and will not return, Mr. Obama said. “But that doesn’t mean we have to settle for a lesser future.”

He recorded the address while visiting a massive Boeing Co. manufacturing plant near Seattle on Friday. He toured a modern factory floor and the inside of one of the aircraft maker’s new flagship Dreamliner passenger jets.

Delivering the Republican address, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers accused Mr. Obama of overspending that will set the country up for a financial implosion like the one in Greece.

PRIMARIES

Gingrich: Home states are do-or-die contests

Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he and other Republican presidential candidates must win their home-turf contests or face serious questions about continuing in the race.

The first test will come Feb. 28 in the GOP primary in Michigan, where rival Mitt Romney was born and his father was governor.

If Mr. Romney loses in Michigan, “I don’t know see what he says the next morning to his donors to stay in the race,” Mr. Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday.”

But Mr. Gingrich also acknowledged that he must win the March 6 vote in Georgia, a state that launched his political career more than 30 years ago. The same, he said, goes for Rick Santorum for the April 24 primary in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Santorum was a senator.

“If any of the three loses our home state … you have, I think, very, very badly weakened candidacies,” Mr. Gingrich said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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