Washington Extra – A great gift

February 9, 2012

At the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas today, a resurrected Rick Santorum reveled in his underdog role in this riveting Republican primary season.

“Nobody ever thinks I can win anything,” Santorum told a gathering of pastors. “The gift of being underestimated is a great gift.”

Santorum may not have robbed Mitt Romney of his top dog status with a triple primary win on Tuesday. But days after being dismissed as an also-ran, he now gets some serious consideration from key constituents.

Michael Gamble, a pastor from McKinney, said he was moved by Santorum’s talk to the religious leaders about his family. “Today (Santorum) completely won me over,” he said. “I think he represents the Kingdom of God.”

This Roman Catholic father of seven and social conservative may also have the gift of impeccable timing. Santorum’s second surge – his first coming right before the Iowa caucuses which he won – takes place in the midst of a polarizing debate over religious freedom and access to birth control. Santorum has the gift of the gab when it comes to issues like that.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Romney gets a wake-up call from Republican voters

Mitt Romney acknowledged that his path to the Republican presidential nomination is not going to be easy after three shock losses to newly ascendant rival Rick Santorum. A day after Santorum beat him in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Romney attempted to play down the results, saying his campaign did not devote a lot of time and money to the three state nominating contests and chose to compete strongly elsewhere.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

He has victories, now Santorum needs money, support

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum, fresh off a stunning sweep of three states’ nominating contests, scrambled in Texas to round up support and money he needs to take on rival Mitt Romney. Santorum sought to build on his momentum, addressing Texas pastors, Tea Party movement activists and donors.

For more of this story, read here.

Obama birth-control rule stokes election-year fight

The top Republican in Congress denounced President Obama’s new rule on contraceptives as an assault on “religious freedom” and vowed to overturn it, as the White House sought to prevent the issue from becoming an election-year liability. Fanning a political firestorm, Speaker John Boehner joined an outcry over a requirement that health insurance plans, including those at Catholic hospitals and universities, offer birth control.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro and Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Pelosi urges support for U.S. insider trading bill

House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged fellow Democrats to support a ban on insider trading by lawmakers but accused Republicans of weakening the bill by deleting some provisions passed by the Senate last week. Pelosi said she supported the House version of the STOCK Act, including a clause inserted by Republicans that calls attention to a controversial purchase of Visa Inc shares by her husband — known as the “Pelosi provision.”

For more of this story by David Lawder, read here.

Keystone could be part of Senate highway debate-Thune

The contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline could become part of the debate on the Senate floor over highway funding legislation, an influential Republican senator said. Republicans in Congress want to grant a permit to TransCanada’s $7 billion project, cutting out President Obama, who last month said the pipeline’s route needed more study before his administration could approve it.

For more of this story by David Lawder, read here.

From elsewhere…

The criminal probe of Sheldon Adelson’s casino empire

It’s never good for the candidate when a big donor runs afoul of the law – as President Obama learned this week: his campaign returned large donations from Chicago’s Cardona brothers after it was reported that a third brother is a fugitive from U.S. drug and fraud charges. Some Republican candidates for president could find themselves similarly embarrassed if criminal investigations against casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act come to fruition before November.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Sarah Conard (Santorum at Missouri victory rally); REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (Boenher Boehner with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor); REUTERS/Rick Wilking (Romney at Colorado caucus night rally)

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