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Why Rick Santorum connects with voters

Sporting his signature sweater vest and telling stories of his coal miner grandfather, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has struck a chord in the Rust Belt that is helping propel his once long-shot candidacy. Although he is a millionaire, Santorum has found a common touch that has helped put him atop opinion polls in the industrial states of Michigan and Ohio and raised serious doubts about whether longtime front-runner Mitt Romney can win the Republican nomination to take on President Barack Obama in the November 6 election. Santorum’s portrayal of himself as the blue-collar Republican has managed to overshadow Romney’s
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FBI sting nets terror suspect who planned to bomb Capitol

The Moroccan man accused of trying to blow up the U.S. Capitol told acquaintances that America’s war on terrorism actually was a war on Muslims and they needed to be ready for battle. Then the 29-year-old unemployed man started preparations of his own — and he thought everything was going according to plan. A man brought him an automatic weapon. He got a suicide vest, scouted out targets and practiced setting off explosives. On Friday, Amine El Khalifi’s goal to detonate the vest at the Capitol ended with his arrest in an FBI sting, said U.S. authorities who had been
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Tax cut extension passage ends long, bitter battle

Congress ended a three-month battle on Friday by passing legislation to extend a tax cut for 160 million workers, a boon for both the economy and Democratic President Barack Obama in this election year. The outcome for Republicans and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner is far more murky. While Boehner has put behind him a bill that has been nothing but political heartache, nearly 40 percent of his rank-and-file voted against the measure he advanced by compromising on a core Republican cause – deficit reduction. In quick bipartisan votes on the bill that also extends long-term jobless benefits, the
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Dems blast male-dominated hearing on contraception

Religious leaders told a House panel Thursday the Obama administration was violating basic rights to religious freedom with its policies for requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to birth control coverage. The unity of the religious leaders contrasted with the partisan divide among lawmakers on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with Democrats saying they had been denied the ability to present witnesses who might support the government stance or speak for the rights of women to reproductive health coverage. They asked why women weren’t better represented among the 10 witnesses at the hearing. The issue has sparked
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Santorum got rich after leaving Senate

Rick Santorum grew wealthy over his four years working as a corporate consultant and media commentator after leaving the Senate in 2006, his newly released federal tax returns show. He made more than $3.6 million and drove an Audi luxury sedan – details that could be at odds with his effort to attract blue-collar voters in the GOP’s upcoming presidential primary in Michigan. Santorum, 53, has presented himself in the Republican primaries as both a social conservative and a Washington outsider, stressing his family’s coal-mining background and his appeal to religious and working-class voters. His personal finances detail the trajectory
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Santorum: Aspirin? We don’t need no stinkin’ aspirin

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum is distancing himself from a high-profile supporter’s comments about contraception. The main donor behind Santorum’s “super PAC,” Foster Friess (freeze), said on MSNBC on Thursday that aspirin used to be an acceptable method for contraception. Friess said that “gals,” in his words, “put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” He followed the comment with laughter. Santorum, a devout Catholic, has said he opposes contraception. But he’s calling Friess’ comment a “stupid joke.” And he says he’s not responsible for everything his supporters say. Speaking to reporters after a speech in Michigan, Santorum
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Congress set to vote on payroll tax cut extension

Congress is getting ready to vote on extending a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for people out of work the longest, a showdown that many legislators hope will finally end a standoff that has dominated Washington since the fall. Lawmakers were expecting the House and Senate to vote Friday on the $143 billion package, which also would forestall deep cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. The tax cuts, jobless coverage and higher doctors’ payments would all run through 2012. Passage seemed virtually assured in the House and likely in the Senate, though questions about its
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Can Romney survive a loss in Michigan?

On paper, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shouldn’t need to break a sweat to win the Feb. 28 Michigan primary. He won the state easily in 2008. He’s the native son of a legendary governor and part of a famous automotive power. But polls show Romney trailing a surging Rick Santorum by as much as 15 percent.  Coming off a political trifecta last week, Santroum heads into Michigan as the news frontrunner not only in the state but nationally. So Romney is pulling out the stops, setting aside more than $1.2 million in broadcast air time and unleashing the same
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Is Rick Santorum a real alternative to Mitt Romney?

For months, right-wing Republicans have searched for a lasting”alternative” to frontrunner Mitt Romney. Flash-in-the-pan pretenders came and went: Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, et. al.  For a while it looked like former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich would seize the mantle but that prospect scared the hell out of most Republicans and he has faded, once again, into political obscurity. Now the part of the elephant appears to have a new — perhaps lasting — alternative: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, an extreme right-winger that scares even some of the party’s most fervent conservatives. In most national polls,
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Gingrich on dropping out: ‘Hell no, I won’t go’

Republican Newt Gingrich on Monday dismissed calls to drop out of the presidential contest in order to set up a direct contest between rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The former House speaker insisted that his ideas and a new determination to stay positive would help him once again resuscitate his flagging candidacy. “I think my ideas are much bolder than Santorum or Romney’s. I think my ideas are much clearer and more specific and I have to focus on communicating those ideas. Let’s see how it plays out,” Gingrich told reporters after addressing a Hispanic leadership event near Los
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