Tim Pawlenty admits that his projections for sustained annual 5 percent growth are "aspirational"; Jon Huntsman says he's about "a week and a half" away from making a decision on the presidential race; and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer says Anthony Weiner should step down.
Santorum: Don’t Hold Mormonism Against Romney, Huntsman
11:34 a.m. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a staunch religious conservative, said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that he hopes Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman won't be hurt by their Mormon faith in a presidential race.
“I hope that people look at the qualities of candidates," Santorum said.
Romney already forged a path for Mormons to seek the nation's highest office in his 2008 campaign, but questions still linger among some voters about the Mormon faith, born in the United States and aggressively recruiting new members all over the world.
If nothing else, Santorum has firm credentials as a person of faith, taking positions on abortion and home schooling based on his religious beliefs about family and protecting all life. It is significant for him to suggest that Mormonism shouldn't be an issue in a presidential primary -- particularly when he is trailing Romney and the as-yet undeclared Huntsman by considerable margins.
Santorum will, however, challenge his rivals on their conservatism. "I think they have held positions in the past that are not conservative, and I think they have to account for those," he said.
Wasserman Schultz: Weiner ‘Incredibly Apologetic’
11:34 a.m. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she has spoken with her fellow House Democrat Anthony Weiner personally and that he’s “incredibly apologetic” over his sex scandal. Nevertheless, she said, he ought to resign from the House.
Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Wasserman Schultz -- who represents Florida but was born in Forest Hills, Queens, which Weiner now serves -- said that when she spoke with Weiner, he was “incredibly apologetic, devastated that this is conduct that he has been engaged in.” She added that “I just hope that Anthony goes and gets the help he needs and does the right thing,” leaving office.
Hoyer: Weiner’s Behavior ‘Bizarre,’ and He Should Consider Resigning
10:54 a.m. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., should consider resigning. "This is bizarre, unacceptable behavior," Hoyer said on CBS's Face the Nation. "It seems to me extraordinarily difficult that he can represent his constituency."
To date, Hoyer has been quieter than some of his other Democratic colleagues on asking Weiner to resign after news broke of his cyberspace interactions with women in which he sent them photos of himself in various stages of undress.
Asked whether Weiner should resign, Hoyer said, "I think that certainly he’s got to consider that option."
Hoyer acknowledged House leaders aren't yet willing to force Weiner out, noting that a lengthy judicial process through the Ethics Committee would take time and energy. "We really don’t have that time.... I would hope he would use this opportunity to reflect on whether he can proceed. I don’t see how he can, and I hope he makes that judgment."
Huntsman Says He’s ‘About a Week and a Half’ From Decision
10:05 a.m. Jon Huntsman is “about a week and a half out from” making a formal decision on entering the 2012 presidential race, he said Sunday. He also took a shot at his former boss and potential rival, saying President Obama has “failed on the economic front.”
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, the former Utah governor told host Candy Crowley that he’s “basically checked all the boxes” that go into making a decision but hasn’t quite come to the point of signing off.
He has, however, come close enough to criticize Obama, for whom he worked as ambassador to China. “I found, in politics, you've got about two to two-and-a-half years after you've been elected to get something done and to move out in a positive direction on something as important as the economy,” Huntsman said.
Surveying the scene, he said, “You look at unemployment, you look at the environment in which jobs supposedly can be created, when you look at the debt level and you look at all the economic indicators, it would suggest that we're in bad shape.”
Pawlenty: ‘Aspirational’ Growth Projections Part of ‘Bold’ Plan
9:48 a.m. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Sunday admitted that his projections for sustained annual 5 percent growth are "aspirational."
"This is an aspiration. It’s a big goal. It’s a stretch goal," Pawlenty said on Fox News Sunday. "Is this aggressive and bold? Absolutely."
Part of the economic plan laid out by Pawlenty's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination calls for massive tax cuts, including individual tax cuts and corporate tax cuts of 15 percent to 35 percent. On its own, the proposal could put the country into a deficit of trillions of dollars, but Pawlenty says the tax cuts are part of a broader plan to cut spending just as radically. The combination of drastic tax and spending cuts will boost the economy, he said.
How to cut billions in spending? Pawlenty has an answer, which touches on just a few political sacred cows. Raise the retirement age. Cut cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security beneficiaries who are well off. Cut Medicaid. Cut Medicare.
Pawlenty also beat back accusations that he is too boring, even "vanilla," to run for president. "I’m not running for comedian in chief," he said. "We need people who are serious, thoughtful, seasoned leaders.... If you want the clown in chief, vote for somebody else, not me."