The Big Conversation:
Newt Gingrich, grasping for momentum, may have just found his Hail Mary play: Rick Perry for vice president.
Fox News reported late Sunday that sources aligned with the Gingrich campaign have begun floating the prospect of a Gingrich-Perry ticket to be announced before the Republican National Convention in August.
Perry endorsed Gingrich after exiting the presidential race in January. But the former U.S. House speaker has struggled to gain traction recently, having won only Georgia, his home state, on Super Tuesday since his comeback victory in South Carolina in January.
Discussion of such a ticket could be interpreted as a play for conservative voters in Alabama and Mississippi, which hold their primaries on Tuesday. Gingrich has said publicly that he expects to win both states, despite polling showing Mitt Romney gaining in Alabama and a close race in Mississippi.
Both Gingrich and Perry camps denied the speculation. "While there's certainly a lot of people who are great admirers of Rick Perry on our campaign. whether or not the campaign has gone as far as to reach out to Governor Perry about a possible VP ticket, any sort of talks along those lines would be premature," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told CBS News. "It would be something more appropriate for later on in the process."
Perry spokeswomen Catherine Frazier called the talk "humbling but premature," according to CBS.
A senior aide to Rick Santorum called the speculation a desperate ploy for conservative votes. The Romney campaign told Fox it was focused on the delegate race.
Perry's ties to Gingrich don't end with his endorsement. Two of Perry's longtime political aides, Dave Carney and Rob Johnson, worked on the Gingrich campaign before defecting in June and re-joining Perry, who launched his presidential bid in September. Gingrich also penned the foreword to Perry's book Fed Up!, which was released in 2010.
- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday during a visit to Houston that the federal government, as expected, will not renew funding for Texas' Women's Health Program. Sebelius' announcement came a day after Rick Perry said the state would continue funding the program, from which Republicans have been seeking to exclude Planned Parenthood — a move the Obama administration has called illegal.
- Though he placed fourth in the Kansas caucuses on Saturday, Ron Paul reportedly won the popular vote in the U.S. Virgin Islands caucus over the weekend. But several media outlets called the race for Mitt Romney, who walked away with seven of the territory's eight delegates, scuttling Paul's ability to claim his first outright victory. Still, the Paul campaign reported the contest as a victory. "The media is trying to have it both ways with Romney and the Virgin Island Caucus while ignoring Ron Paul’s actual straw poll first place victory,” Paul's campaign said, according to The State Column.
- Several newspapers have refused to run a "Doonesbury" comic strip that uses off-color language to satirize Texas' abortion sonogram law. “On behalf of Governor Rick Perry, may I welcome you to your compulsory transvaginal exam,” a doctor says in one panel of the strip, set to run this week. The strip's syndicate has offered replacements to newspapers that don't want to run the series.
- Comptroller Susan Combs endorsed Rick Santorum for president on Saturday, calling him the "only real conservative left in the race." Combs, who had previously endorsed Rick Perry, told the Tribune that the endorsement had nothing to do with her likely 2014 bid for lieutenant governor, but Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, also vying for lite guv, called Combs' move an effort to boost her conservative credentials. Patterson said he wouldn't endorse anyone in the presidential race. "I don't need to prove anything," he said.
“This is happening in statehouses across the country. It’s lunacy, and lunacy, of course, is in my wheelhouse.” — "Doonesbury" author Gary Trudeau to Reuters on Texas' abortion sonogram law, which he lampoons in a controversial strip running this week
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