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Hotline Sort: The Santorum Surge

6) Here's something of a surprise move in Ohio, and a break for a Democratic incumbent: Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner announced late last week she has opted against challenging Rep. Marcia Fudge in the 11th District. "The redistricting process was manipulated to allow incumbent politicians to guarantee their re-election," Turner said. Keep in mind that Turner could still run as an independent. 5) The Weather Channel has a closer look at Tuesday's Iowa weather forecast, which looks pretty mild, with no major storms anticipated and temperatures cold, but relatively tame for the Hawkeye State in January. Sounds like good news for Mitt Romney. 4) Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is doing an about face, saying now that he won't try to get GOP candidates who fell short of the requirements onto the ballot to in the commonwealth. Gubernatorial politics are afoot here, and Cuccinelli's rival appears to have gained the upper hand in this particular battle. GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling had said moving to get more candidates onto the ballot would be unfair to the two who had fulfilled the requirements to get on in the first place. Bolling praised Cuccinelli's decision, but also offered a harsh warning, saying, "Going forward, I would also encourage Attorney General Cuccinelli to avoid making public statements that criticize our state election laws while his office is defending the State Board of Elections in a lawsuit that has been brought against them by Governor Perry and certain other presidential candidates." 3) How cautious/calculating has the Romney campaign been, even when it comes to basic campaign stops? This tidbit from the New York Times tells you all you need to know:

Every candidate for the Republican nomination has campaigned at Pizza Ranch, a beloved restaurant chain in Iowa with strong ties to the Christian right. Every candidate except Mr. Romney. His campaign prides itself on a vigilance and meticulousness bordering on the obsessive. So before Mr. Romney appears at a campaign stop or accepts an endorsement, his staff conducts sometimes painstaking vetting to avoid potentially embarrassing disclosures. A founder of Pizza Ranch, it turned out, spent time in prison on charges of sexually abusing male employees. "There is not a lot of room for mistakes," said David Kochel, Mr. Romney's top strategist in Iowa.

2) The final Des Moines Register poll before Tuesday's caucuses shows Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul running neck and neck, with former Sen. Rick Santorum in third place. Romney is at 24 percent in the poll, while Paul is at 22 percent and Santorum is at 15 percent. The story, as it has been in the several other stretch run surveys in Iowa, is Santorum's surge. 1) Another sign that the Santorum surge is palpable: Romney went after him over the weekend in Iowa, saying, "like Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum has spent his career in government, in Washington. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a very different background than I have." Aside from limited back-and-forths in debates, Romney has largely avoided clashing with the former senator, who up until last week, was registering in single digits in the polls.

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