The Big Conversation:
One roadblock stands between Mitt Romney and a much-needed comeback this weekend: Ron Paul.
Romney, looking to stop the bleeding after losing losing three straight contests to Rick Santorum on Tuesday, has turned his focus to Maine, which will announce the results of its weeklong caucuses on Saturday.
But Romney, who won the state handily in 2008, faces stiff competition from Paul, the only candidate who had campaigned in the state before its caucuses began last weekend. And, as The Associated Press notes, Romney has spent few advertising dollars there — potentially troubling for a candidate has tended to lose states in which he hasn't shelled out millions of dollars in attack ads.
"Romney has been the presumed front-runner, which means he’s walking around with a big target on his back," said Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver. "So unless he or a Super PAC is on the air critiquing the other candidates, voters aren’t going to hear a lot of negative messages about them.”
The campaign will air a few ads on cable this weekend in Portland, the state’s largest city, and Romney hosted a town hall via phone with Maine voters on Wednesday. But according to the AP, Romney advisers have privately said they expect Paul to finish first or a strong second.
Paul, who will visit the state today for the second time in recent weeks, said Thursday on CNN that he expected to fare well in the state. ”I think we have a chance to do that,” Paul said when asked if he thought he'd win the state. “And I’ll be up there and struggling up to the last minute. But every time I’ve been up there so far, it has been wonderful. And I’m so pleased that they’re very receptive to the ideas of liberty, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Saturday.”
- Texas homeowners will receive $287 million as part of the $25 billion state and federal mortgage settlement announced Thursday — the largest federal-state settlement in the nation's history. The aid, however, is expected to help only a fraction of the borrowers facing foreclosure, with most of the settlement going to homeowners who would either have their mortgage debts reduced or who lost homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011. "It's something for the borrowers, and it's a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, it leaves a lot of things undone," an Austin attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid told the Austin American-Statesman. "It deals with principal write-downs for loans that are underwater, and that's not the primary problem in Texas."
- Rick Perry has donated to charity $80,000 in political contributions he received between 2002 and 2005 from Bob Jones, an El Pasoan who was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison on charges of fraud and bribery, the El Paso Times reports. The Times calls the donation one of the largest such distributions in U.S. history.
- Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery on Thursday approved a settlement in a controversial San Antonio-area school-prayer suit. Under the settlement, the Medina Valley Independent School District has agreed that its employees will not pray with students or display religious items. As the San Antonio Express-News reports, Biery, who received intense criticism — and even death threats — for previous rulings in the case, used the opportunity to jab at his opponents. "To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you," Biery wrote in his order. "To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitability trumps probability."
"We do the American people no great service if we replace the current embodiment of big government with a lukewarm version of the same. What 2012 offers us is the chance to offer a starkly different vision for America. We can't tinker our way to victory. We've got to be bold." — Rick Perry during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday
- Business-friendly Texas Republicans spending big to promote Ohio liberal Dennis Kucinich. Why?, The Dallas Morning News
- Mexico Seizes Record Amount of Methamphetamine, The New York Times
- Texas county official busted for possessing pot, The Associated Press
- On the Border, a Battle Over Mexican Mining, The Texas Tribune