- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

SOUTH CAROLINA

Campaign stumbles plague Gingrich

COLUMBIA — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was greeted with a standing ovation when he was announced at the South Carolina barbecue.

Too bad the former House speaker wasn’t around to see it.

He was inexplicably missing from Friday’s event. His absence forced the event’s moderator to ask awkwardly, “Can we check and see where the speaker is?”

It was just one in a string of clumsy, head-scratching events staged by the Gingrich campaign since the Republican primary moved to South Carolina. It’s a state that the candidate says he must win if he wants a shot at the nomination.

The chain of slip-ups raises questions about the campaign’s staffing and organizational skills, issues that have haunted Gingrich during the 2012 race.

NEW MEXICO

Harsh tone pushing Hispanics from GOP

ALBUQUERQUE — The Republican Party is beefing up its minority outreach nationwide and preparing to put its rising Latino stars on the campaign trail amid concerns that tough immigration rhetoric in the presidential primary is taking on an increasingly anti-Hispanic tone.

But immigrant-rights groups and some political watchers say the damage may be irreversible. They say the GOP has severely hampered itself as it looks to woo the critical Latino voting bloc that could decide who wins key states like New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida this fall.

The government projects Hispanics will account for roughly 30 percent of the population by 2050. Overall, Hispanics traditionally tilt Democrat, meaning the Republican Party is looking at a future threat to their power if they don’t make inroads with the politically pivotal group now.

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas mark MLK’s birthday at morning worship service

President Obama and his family celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at morning worship service.

Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia sat in the second row of Washington’s historic Zion Baptist Church as bright sunlight streamed through stained-glass windows.

The church commemorated the civil rights leader’s 83rd birthday with a photo of King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the words “I Have a Dream” on the program cover. A deacon welcomed the first family and read a passage from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

The sermon by the Rev. Keith Byrd came from Matthew 5:13, which describes the salt of the Earth. Mr. Byrd urged the congregation to “preserve our morals, preserve our values” like salt amid political, social and economic turmoil.

CONGRESS

Tax cut talks focus on budget cuts, fees

How will the White House and Congress come up with the money to extend an average $20-a-week Social Security payroll-tax cut without adding to the government’s long-term debt?

Republicans are trying to cut federal employee benefits. President Obama wants to hit airline passengers with higher fees, and he’s looking to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

Democrats and Mr. Obama aren’t insisting any more on taxing the wealthy to offset the impact of the payroll-tax cut and of providing jobless benefits to millions of people out of work for more than six months.

Some $160 billion or so is needed to continue the tax cut and federal jobless benefits beyond Feb. 29, when they are set to expire.

CAMPAIGN

Perry: Marines in video are ‘kids,’ not criminals

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is accusing the Obama administration of “over-the-top rhetoric” and “disdain for the military” in its condemnation of a video that purportedly shows Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan.

No one has been charged in the case, but officials in the U.S. and abroad have called for swift punishment of the four Marines.

A military criminal investigation and an internal Marine Corps review are under way. The Geneva Conventions forbid the desecration of the dead.

Mr. Perry told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he thinks the Marines involved should be reprimanded but not pursued with criminal charges.

Mr. Perry said “18-, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that’s what’s occurred here.”

WHITE HOUSE

Administration concerned about online piracy bills

The Obama administration says it would oppose pending legislation that would undermine “the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

The White House said in a blog post Saturday that while online piracy by foreign websites presents a “serious problem,” it is concerned with legislation that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk” or acts to undermine the global Internet.

The administration is responding to measures under consideration in Congress that would allow the Justice Department to seek a court order targeting rogue offshore websites.

The White House says efforts to combat online piracy needs to guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity. It says the openness of the Internet is critical to innovation and must be protected.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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