A political tip sheet for the rest of us

Associated Press + More

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press

A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Monday, April 9:

WHAT'S HAPPENING

QUIET ON THE TRAIL: The day after Easter made for another quiet day on the presidential campaign trail. Of the four Republicans in the race, only Newt Gingrich kept a public schedule. He made several appearances in Raleigh, N.C. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul took Monday off. President Barack Obama was at the White House, where he joined the Easter bunny at the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn and met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. All four Republicans planned campaign appearances Tuesday; Santorum's schedule was dependent upon his daughter's health.

SANTORUM'S DAUGHTER: Santorum's daughter, Bella, was said to be recovering well enough to be released from the hospital soon. The 3-year-old, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, was admitted to a northern Virginia hospital on Friday for undisclosed reasons. She had been hospitalized in January with pneumonia. Santorum did not campaign Monday so he could stay close to the youngest of his seven children.

ROMNEY'S AD ROTATION: In deference to Bella's condition, Romney's campaign pulled down a harsh ad about Santorum that had been running in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. A Romney spokesman said the campaign asked TV stations over the weekend to replace the negative ad with a sunnier, pro-Romney spot touting his record as a fiscal conservative. Santorum faces an uphill battle against front-runner Romney in the race for the GOP nomination. Romney hopes to embarrass Santorum by defeating him in the April 24 primary in the state.

GINGRICH'S SOLUTIONS: Gingrich told North Carolina high school students he believes in "a politics of big solutions" to problems others deem too big to fix. The former House speaker told students at Broughton High School that they should care about Social Security insolvency and the national debt because they're the ones who will face higher taxes and fewer benefits. He also told them to be optimistic about advances in science and technology. Gingrich visited North Carolina a day after saying he expects Romney to win the nomination but that he will stay in the race in hopes of influencing the issue platform the party adopts at its national convention in August. North Carolina holds its presidential primary May 8.

WHAT'S TRENDING

ROMNEY'S TRANSITION: Talk about a to-do list. Romney faces quite a daunting one as he shifts into the role of likely Republican presidential nominee. Among the tasks: Raise as much money as possible for the general election campaign against Obama. Hire more staff and send them to critical states. Sharpen the campaign message to appeal to voters across the political spectrum. And do all of that while fending off challenges from GOP rivals who refuse to leave the primary race. The former Massachusetts governor also has to start thinking about what he wants — and needs — in a running mate, prepare a strategy to get the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the White House in the Nov. 6 election, and prepare to put his imprint on the Republican National Committee.

TEXT MESSAGING POLITICS: Text messaging, the most widely used form of mobile communication, has become one of the most effective ways for political campaigns to reach supporters. But some groups have found ways around federal rules that require people to "opt in" to receive them by using email, which angers voters who are forced to pay extra if they don't have flat-rate messaging plans. That wrinkle has campaign strategists fearing that political texting will be weakened by the introduction of what amounts to spam texting. Unsolicited texts hit the presidential campaign this year when messages targeting Romney surfaced in Colorado, South Carolina and Michigan. The messages urged voters to call a number where they heard a recording that was critical of the former Massachusetts governor.

BY THE NUMBERS:

— $4.5 million: Gingrich's approximate campaign debt.

— 30,000: Number of participants expected at White House Easter Egg Roll.

— 15: Days until next group of states — Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — vote in the Republican presidential race.

AP DELEGATE TRACKER: Updated delegate totals following certified primary results from Alabama, where six delegates were left over.

— Romney: 661

— Santorum: 285

— Gingrich: 136

— Paul: 51

WHERE THEY'LL BE TUESDAY:

— Gingrich: North Carolina.

— Paul: Texas.

— Romney: Delaware.

— Santorum: Pennsylvania.

— Obama: Florida

IN THEIR WORDS:

— "My job is very simple: It is to introduce the powerhouse of the White House, the one truly in charge, as Malia, Sasha and Bo all know, the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama." — President Barack Obama, introducing his wife at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

— "Gas prices could hit $4/gallon this week. Another reminder that we need an American energy plan now." — Gingrich, via Twitter.

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