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On CNN’s Starting Point Thursday, John McCain kindly knocked Rick Santorum for going after earmarks while in Congress:

I respect all of the candidates. And I respect their willingness to run. It is very tough to do that. It is a grind that is hard to describe unless you have been part of it. I respect Senator Santorum. He and I had very strong differences on earmarking and pork barrel spending. I believe that earmarking is a gateway drug to corruption. Senator Santorum supported it and engaged in it as much as he possibly could. I strongly disagreed with it. That was a fundamental difference we had in the Senate. But I still respect him.

Wyoming investment fund manager Foster Freiss confirmed to NBC that he is one of the principle backers of the Red White and Blue Fund which put over $500,000 into campaign ads in Iowa for Rick Santorum and which is planning to expand its reach to New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida on behalf of the former Senator. From the report:

Freiss, who is based in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is the founder of an investment fund called Freiss Associates, which includes on its website a quote from a Business Week article touting him as "the longest surviving successful growth stock picker."

He has a long history of backing Santorum, having donated $250,000 to a conservative group, Softer Voices, that ran ads on behalf of Santorum during his unsuccessful 2006 reelection campaign. He also has been a major donor to other GOP and conservative causes over the years, having given $250,000 to the Republican Governors Assocation last year as well as pumping a reported $3 million into The Daily Caller, a conservative website run by former MSNBC anchor Tucker Carlson.

“Mitt Romney doesn’t care about jobs, he cares about money,” says former steelworker Donnie Box about former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a new ad from Political Action. Box worked at a steel mill bought by Bain Capital. Romney was the CEO of Bain, a financial firm involved in private equity.

Romney touted his endorsement by John McCain at a rally in Manchester Wednesday, and will hold two more rallies with the Senator before the weekend. On Fox News Thursday morning, Karl Rove questioned this strategy, via The Hill:

"I'm not certain I would've had McCain in an endorsement.

Look, I've been down this road once before. We came into the 2000 New Hampshire primary sort of emphasizing process -- endorsements, nice venues. Not message. What is it that we were going to do.

And we got walloped by a guy who was spending time not worrying about endorsements, but was worried about his message of being a maverick."

The Republican Governors Association has raised $44 million in 2011 — severely outraising the Democratic Governors Association’s $20 million last year. (h/t MSNBC)

“Timid won’t create jobs, and timid certainly won’t beat Barack Obama,” says a new ad released by the campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The ad goes after Romney’s economic plan, which Gingrich argues is more akin to President Obama’s than his more conservative ideas. Watch:

The American Conservative Union announced Thursday that Sarah Palin will speak at CPAC. Palin had turned down previous offers to speak four years in a row, including a big to-do last year about her absence at the event despite being offered the keynote spot. This February, Palin will give the final address at the conference.

Campaigning in New Hampshire today, Newt promised potential voters at a town hall that he would personally pay a visit to the NAACP and explain to the organization why African Americans need to ditch food stamps.

“I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps,” said Gingrich.