WASHINGTON (AP) — A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway for Southern Tuesday, March 13:
SOUTHERN COMFORT OR DISCOMFORT: Who wins and who loses after the votes in Alabama and Mississippi are counted? The pair of narquee primaries mean different things for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. A win in either or both states for Romney would solidify his standing as the front-runner and also go a long way toward quieting critics who question whether he can rally the Republican Party’s conservative base. For Santorum, victories or strong finishes ahead of Gingrich will help lock up his position as the chief conservative alternative to the front-runner. Gingrich appears to have the most to lose. He spent the better part of the past week shuttling between the two states and must defeat his rivals to continue to be taken seriously as a candidate. Gingrich has said he’ll stay in the race, even if he ends up as the big loser Tuesday night. Ron Paul has not competed in either state.
AFL-CIO FOR OBAMA: Not much suspense in the AFL-CIO’s vote to endorse President Barack Obama for a second term. Union leader Richard Trumka said the labor movement has never doubted Obama’s commitment to working families, despite disagreeing with him at times and pushing his administration to do more and do it faster. Trumka said Obama honors the values of hard work, mutual respect and collective problem-solving while each of his GOP rivals would continue special privileges for the few that have produced historic economic inequality and drowned out the voices of America’s working people. The union says it will mount a huge door-to-door effort for Democratic candidates to counter the flood of outside money that conservative groups are spending on the campaign.
HOLA PUERTO RICO: With the U.S. territory holding its presidential primary on Sunday, at least two of the GOP candidates were finalizing plans — and flight plans — to campaign on the island. Santorum was getting a jump on his rivals with two days of appearances beginning Wednesday, including a news conference in Old San Juan with Gov. Luis Fortuno, a Romney supporter. Santorum also scheduled a town hall meeting in San Juan on Wednesday, followed by a second San Juan stop on Thursday. Romney planned to visit on Friday. No word on whether Gingrich would make the trip before Sunday. Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens but they cannot vote in presidential general elections, only in the primaries.
— Ron Paul: Hawaii Bar Owners Association, U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Illinois.
— Rick Santorum: U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi.
AP DELEGATE TRACKER:
Totals heading in to Southern Tuesday. It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
— Romney: 454
— Santorum: 217
— Gingrich: 107
— Paul: 47
— Saturday: Missouri caucuses
— Sunday: Puerto Rico primary
— March 20: Illinois primary
— March 24: Louisiana primary
WHERE THEY’LL BE ON WEDNESDAY:
— Gingrich: Illinois
— Paul: Illinois
— Romney: TBA
— Santorum: Puerto Rico
— Obama: Washington
IN THEIR WORDS:
“This is all about getting delegates.” — Romney.
“Pretty good.” — Gingrich, assessing his chances in Alabama and Mississippi.
“I wasn’t really jumping for joy. I like (Romney’s) views a little more than the other candidates.” — John Powell, of Madison, Miss., on why he voted for Romney.
“Ron Paul can stand on his voting record alone. All the others are running from theirs.” — Barbara Hall, of Clanton, Ala., after casting her vote.