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Monday morning, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah will hold a conference call with reporters on why Newt Gingrich is a “unreliable conservative” — one of many lines of attack the campaign is using against Gingrich. Unlike many other Romney surrogates, Chaffetz was elected to the House in 2008 and never served with Gingrich.

Gallup numbers from twelve important swings states in the 2012 election show a virtual tie between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, where other Republican candidates fall to the President in a matchup. Romney bests Obama by a single point, 48 – 47 in combined data from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Obama is up by 14 points.

From Gallup:



Gallup trial heats for the 2012 general election between Obama and Romney have consistently shown a close race across five national polls conducted in August, September, October, December, and now in January, as well as in three swing-state polls conducted since October. Thus, even as Republican voters' support for various candidates for their party's nomination has fluctuated substantially, the preferences of all registered voters for Obama or Romney nationally and in key swing states have remained quite stable...The next major campaign event is Tuesday's Florida primary, which Romney now appears poised to win. If Romney does win in the Sunshine State, the observed pattern of national Republican preferences so far this election cycle suggests he will once again become the front-runner. If that occurs, the national race at this stage will be close, because Obama and Romney remain essentially neck and neck in key swing states and nationally, as they have been for months.

TAMPA, FLORIDA -- According to some final spending numbers shared with TPM by a Democratic media observer, Mitt Romney's lucky number in the final push to the Jan. 31 primary here is five.

As in five-to-one: that's the ratio -- just about -- by which Romney and his allies have outspent Newt Gingrich and his allies on TV in the Sunshine State. The narrative that Team Romney is pushing is that of a new-and-improved candidate, battle-hardened after his South Carolina woes, and sharpened as a candidate by having had to outsmart Newt Gingrich.

The Dems think these figures suggest something else: that it's not Romney who's winning votes in Florida, but the size of his wallet.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is holding steady in Public Policy Polling’s (D) nightly tracking of the Republican presidential primary race in Florida ahead of Tuesday’s vote. After conducting interviews Saturday and Sunday, PPP’s number show Romney getting 39 percent of GOPers polled, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 32, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum 14 and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) 11.

“Mitt Romney is holding steady in our Florida polling,” said Dean Debnam, President of PPP in a release. “It looks like the main suspense in the state is whether he’ll win by single digits or double digits. Right now he’s pretty close to that line."

The TPM Poll Average of the race currently shows Romney with a 13.3 percent lead.

With the Florida primary set for January 31, the Romney and Gingrich camps are competing to set the stage for the coming contest. With Mitt Romney opening up a wide lead in Florida -- by up to 15 percentage points in the latest NBC/Marist poll -- the two camps are trying to shape the narrative and explain what a likely Romney win in Florida really means.

The Romney camp is looking to capitalize on a win in the Sunshine State by framing the race as crucial to becoming the nominee. "I think it means perhaps even more than it did in 2008 because you've got a split between New Hampshire and South Carolina," said Romney-surrogate Sen. John McCain on Meet the Press. "So, it's a vital race here and I'm glad to see Mitt's doing so well."

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On Sunday, Newt Gingrich questioned whether Mitt Romney had the character to be president. When ABC’s Jake Tapper asked if Romney had the character to be president Sunday morning, Newt Gingrich replied “it is a very serious problem.” He went on to discuss Romney’s negative campaign against him as “factually false” and said that “You cannot be president of the United States if you cannot be honest and candid with the American people.”

Now, Romney’s surrogates are rallying to his defense. Throughout the afternoon, through the campaign, several have issued statements on his behalf.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said:



Mitt Romney’s moral fitness for office is beyond reproach and is a major reason that I am so pleased to support his campaign. Mitt Romney has the character and the values we need in our next President."


Tim Pawlenty said:



I thought I had heard it all from Newt Gingrich, but for him to question the character of Mitt Romney is over the line. I have spent a lot of time with Mitt Romney, and I can tell you with zero hesitation that he is a man of flawless character.


Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz said:



Mitt Romney embodies the definition of public servant. He didn’t take a dime in salary as governor – and donated his salary from the Olympics to charity. Newt’s new attack on Mitt’s character is a desperate attempt to save his campaign, and it’s not going to work.

The Florida primary is three days away. Here are ten things you need to know.

  • The Sunday shows line-up: John McCain, Fred Thompson, and David Axelrod will be on Meet the Press. Ron Paul will be on State of the Union on CNN and Tim Geithner will be on GPS on CNN. Newt Gingrich and John Boehner will be on This Week on ABC. Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan will be on Fox News Sunday. Newt Gingrich, then Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus, Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump will be on Face the Nation on CBS.
  • Romney pulls ahead in Florida: A Public Policy Polling survey on Saturday shows Romney leading in Florida with 40%, followed by Newt Gingrich with 32%, and Rick Santorum with 15%. The NBC/Marist Poll out Sunday morning has Romney leading by even more, 42% to 27%. The TPM Poll Average (not yet updated to include the NBC/Marist Poll) shows that Romney has grown his lead over the last few days to 40.1% to Gingrich's 31.7%.
  • Nate Silver predicts Romney win in Florida: The New York Times' Nate Silver predicts that Mitt Romney will win Florida by about 9 points. He puts the chances that Gingrich pulls an upset at a mere 12%.
  • Read More →

On Face the Nation, RNC chair Reince Priebus compared President Obama to Captain Schettino, who crashed the Costa Concordia cruise liner off the coast of Italy and then fled the ship where at least 17 passengers died.

“In a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and we’re going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama who’s abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president,” Priebus said.

Host Bob Schieffer, surprised, followed-up on the comment. Priebus likes his new nickname for the President and pushed back. Priebus replied:

“I called him Captain Schettino, you know the captain that fled the ship in Italy. That’s our own president who’s fleeing the American people and not doing his job and running around the country and campaigning.”

On State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said both parties were in “broad agreement” over extending the payroll tax cut through the end of 2012 and said that would be worked out by the end of February. As of now, however, both parties disagree on how to pay for it. McConnell and Crowley went back and forth on the differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Here’s the exchange with Crowley:




MCCONNELL: Well, there's broad agreement on doing the payroll tax holiday through the end of the year. Republicans, Democrats agree on that. As you indicated the problem is the paying for it. The reason we ended up only doing the two-month extension earlier, Candy, was because our good friends on the Democratic side don't want to pay for anything. They'd love to do this...



CROWLEY: Well, they do. They just don't want to pay for it in the same way you do.



MCCONNELL: They don't want to cut spending. They just don't want to cut any spending.



CROWLEY: They would like to raise taxes on the wealthy.



MCCONNELL: That's what made it problematic. And -- but we'll get it done. We'll get it done by the end of February.

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