- - Monday, February 20, 2012


Obama, Karzai discuss Afghan reconciliation

President Obama spoke Monday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about efforts to reconcile with elements of the Taliban, including his meeting last week with Pakistani and Iranian leaders.

The White House says Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai on Monday discussed regional support for reconciliation in Afghanistan. The conversation came after a three-day summit in Islamabad with Mr. Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The call also followed Mr. Karzai’s assertion last week that the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban had held three-way talks aimed at moving toward a political settlement of the war.


Aide says Gingrich has ‘staying power’

Newt Gingrich’s deputy campaign manager says the former House speaker has “tremendous staying power” in the Republican presidential sweepstakes.

In a CNN interview, Vince Haley said Mr. Gingrich has “bold solutions” for the country’s problems.

He acknowledged that Mr. Gingrich’s candidacy would be “weakened” significantly if he doesn’t win Georgia on Super Tuesday.


Santorum: Global warming more politics than science

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Rick Santorum says President Obama is pushing a radical environmental agenda that unwisely limits energy production and turns its back on science.

Mr. Santorum told voters in eastern Ohio on Monday that science is on the side of those who want to aggressively produce more oil and natural gas in America. He said the notion of global warming is not climate science but “political science.”

Mr. Santorum said Mr. Obama and his allies want to frighten people about new oil-exploration technologies so they can get their dollars and turn it over to politicians to win elections “so they can control your lives.”

Ohio’s GOP primary is March 6.


Romney-leaning super PAC raises $6 million in January

A “super” political action committee backing Mitt Romney’s White House run raised more than $6 million last month.

Financial reports released Monday show the Restore Our Future super PAC pulled in much of its fundraising haul from donors who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. They included Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott and Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Meg Whitman.

Restore Our Future has raised more than $36 million this election cycle. It has used its war chest to run television ads in key primary election states supporting Romney and hammering his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination.

The group had more than $16 million in the bank at the end of January.


One week before contest Santorum barnstorms state

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is storming through Western Michigan, a state that native son Mitt Romney was counting on for a boost going into the Super Tuesday contests.

Voters loudly applauded Mr. Santorum’s promise Monday to revive manufacturing and get rid of environmental regulations. The former Pennsylvania senator’s message of religious and social conservatism clearly was resonating during his stop at a Holiday Inn in Muskegon.

Although Mr. Romney has a large advantage in money and organization in Michigan, many voters say Mr. Santorum is more in line with their values.

Mr. Santorum’s popularity risks embarrassing Mr. Romney in his home state. Mr. Romney was counting on a strong finish in Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary before the Super Tuesday contests a week later on March 6.


Gingrich woos supporters with prospects of $2 gas

TULSA, Okla. — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is dangling the prospect of gas as low as $2 a gallon if he’s elected.

The former House speaker has spoken in the past of gas dropping to $2.50 a gallon under a Gingrich administration. Monday’s prediction, coming as Mr. Gingrich campaigned in Oklahoma, contrasts sharply with rival Rick Santorum, who told an Ohio audience that big-city Americans should brace themselves for $5-a-gallon gas.

Both candidates are citing new sensitivity about rising pump prices to push for relaxed regulation on domestic oil production.

According to AAA’s daily fuel gauge, the national average Monday for a gallon of regular gas was $3.56.

Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum have been highlighting oil exploration in North Dakota and slamming the Obama administration for delaying a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.


Romney on the campaign trail: Santorum is no ‘budget hawk’

CINCINNATI — Mitt Romney says rival Rick Santorum is “no longer a budget hawk” and that he would do a better job controlling spending as president.

Campaigning in Ohio, Mr. Romney accused Mr. Santorum of helping congressional Republicans spend money “like Democrats.” The former Massachusetts governor said he would cut the federal budget in part by giving control of Medicaid, housing vouchers and food stamps back to the states.

Mr. Romney urged Ohio voters to back him in their March 6 primary because Ohio “often decides who the president is.”

He spoke to employees at a Cincinnati-based medical device maker and toured the factory. He took no questions from the media.

Mr. Romney planned a fundraiser Monday night and was scheduled to campaign in Michigan on Tuesday. Michigan votes Feb. 28.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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