A judge ruled that John Edwards' sex tape must be destroyed but didn't specify who will throw it into the fires of Mt. Doom. A Republican congressman thinks about murder with such creepy specificity that "it rubs the lotion on its skin" probably has a spot on the "issues" section of his website. And reporters wondered whether Marco Rubio's childhood stint as a Mormon will harm him as much politically as his childhood stint as a baby who urinated into diapers. You know what they say: Diapers are the third rail of baby politics. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, February 23rd, 2012:
SURVEY: REPUBLICAN ELECTORATE ENTERING LATEST UNPREDICTABLE MOODSWING - Mark Blumenthal: "If Rick Santorum was hoping to use Wednesday night's televised debate to make inroads with local Republican elected officials and party activists, he fell short. That's the main finding of the latest Power Outsiders survey conducted by The Huffington Post and Patch. When asked who did a better job at the debate, most self-identified supporters of Mitt Romney picked him, but it was Newt Gingrich -- not Santorum -- who most impressed the 'non-Romney' supporters. On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, we interviewed the Power Outsiders list of local Republican activists, party officials and officeholders to gauge their reactions to the Feb. 22 debate. We had surveyed most of these respondents before, as part of an ongoing effort to better observe the so-called 'invisible primary' for endorsements, campaign cash and activist support that occurs in the weeks and months leading up to the early primaries and caucuses." [HuffPost]
BOEHNER RETOOLING HIGHWAY BILL - John Boehner will scale back a five-year infrastructure bill after members of his own conference rebelled. Boehner should've known that better-dead-than-red Republicans enter into into apoplectic shock whenever any kind of five-year plan is mentioned. Roll Call: "Facing increasing opposition from within his own party, Speaker John Boehner may scrap his ambitious five-year highway and energy package in favor of a shorter and more palatable measure...But Republicans privately acknowledged the problems with the bill lie not only in the House, where the transportation portion was expected to fail, but also within Boehner's own conference. According to a GOP aide, Boehner is considering shortening the bill to two years and scrapping a plan to separate transit and highway funding, a plan that led to a moderate revolt within his conference. The retooled bill could also include new cuts to spending as a potential fig leaf to conservatives within the party." [Roll Call]
John Edwards' sex tape will be destroyed. If you're a mental health professional, you might want to cancel that family trip to Cabo and/or the kitchen renovation. That expected uptick in new clients? Totally not going to happen now. ABC News: "The long-running court battle over a sexually explicit videotape featuring former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, has been settled out of court today and all copies of the tape will be destroyed, ABC News has learned. According to North Carolina court officials and a Hunter spokesperson, Hunter and former Edwards' aide Andrew Young, along with his wife Cheri, agreed to end their dispute more than two years after the case was originally filed. Under the terms of the settlement, all known copies of the sex tape are to be destroyed within 30 days. If other copies of the tape surface later, the agreement requires those to be destroyed as well." [ABC News]
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT FAIL - The Obama administration trumpeted a near-milestone Thursday for the Affordable Care Act's fledgling program for people with pre-existing conditions: Enrollment has almost reached 50,000. "For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions were locked out of the health care system and their health suffered," Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. "Thanks to health reform, our most vulnerable Americans across the country have the care they need." Do they? As many as 25 million Americans with pre-existing conditions lack health insurance. Altogether, nearly 50 million people are uninsured. The PCIP is modeled after "high-risk pools" already running in 35 states, but the new program is more affordable and offers broader coverage than the pools, which charge above-market rates and often exclude coverage for certain conditions. Republicans made expanding high-risk pools the centerpiece of their health care reform alternative; the new program's low enrollment suggests the GOP alternative would have been a bust. [HuffPost]
DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Bruce Rotstein, one of DDD's top correspondents from Joblessland, wrote in this morning with an update: He is still jobless. "Here is a pattern that I see happening all around me and to people around the good old USA," wrote Rotstein, who is 65 and lives in Las Vegas and has been out of work since 2008. "You lose your job, you run out of unemployment, you cannot get another job because you are too old. You start cutting back on everything you do. You do not go out to a movie or lunch or dinner with friends. Why this happens is you lose your friends because they do not want to hear about your problems or your lack of money." Hang in there!
UPSIDE DOWNER - New unemployment claims are still going in the right direction (that is, if you're a fan of employment). [Labor Department]
Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill
REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LIKES THE PAUL RYAN BUDGET - How much does Rep. John Sullivan like Paul Ryan's budget? Would he help Paul Ryan's budget retrieve a couch it found on Craigslist? Would he take a grenade while clubbing on the Jersey Shore with Paul Ryan's budget? Would he go see Tyler Perry's Good Deeds with Paul Ryan's budget even though he didn't want to but did anyway because Paul Ryan's budget *really* wanted to? No, Rep. John Sullivan would commit first degree murder for Paul Ryan's budget. For real. TPM: "Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) sent TPM a public apology Thursday after we obtained audio of the five-term Republican telling constituents at a town hall this week that he'd have to personally shoot members of the U.S. Senate to get a budget passed through the chamber. Sullivan, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma's First District, was at a town hall meeting in Bixby, Okla., Wednesday when he lamented that the Paul Ryan Budget which the House passed earlier this year had no chance of passage in the Senate:..."You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don't think they're going to listen unless they get beat." Damn, homie looks out for his crew. [TPM]
RICK SANTORUM WOULD RATHER MAKE STUFF UP ABOUT DUTCH ASSISTED SUICIDE THAN TALK ABOUT HOUSING - Toledo Blade: "Attend a speech by Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum and you're likely to hear all kinds of claims about the economy -- gas prices are too high, deficit spending is out of control, and government regulations are hindering free enterprise. But as the two leading Republican candidates crisscross Ohio and Michigan, an odd omission has emerged in their speeches. Neither has mentioned the housing crisis. During two half-hour speeches in the Detroit area last week, including one dedicated exclusively to his economic plan, Mr. Santorum never once mentioned the collapse of the nation's housing market. In fact, he blamed the recession on high energy prices, not the housing bubble. 'If you look at the recession that we went into, we went into it in 2008. Why? Because of a huge spike of energy prices,' he told a group of executives at the Detroit Economic Club." [Toledo Blade]
"NO LIGHTHEARTED CAMPAIGN MOMENT FOR YOU!!!!" - Amanda Terkel: "In his opening statement at Wednesday night's CNN debate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took inspiration from an unlikely source: 'Seinfeld' character George Costanza. 'I want to restore America's promise, and I'm going to do that,' Romney said during his remarks. But before he could continue, the audience began clapping, so Romney joked: 'As George Costanza would say, when they're applauding, stop.' Very early Thursday morning, the actor Jason Alexander -- who played the famous TV character -- responded to Romney on Twitter, writing, 'Thrilled Gov. Romney enjoys my old character. I enjoyed the character he used 2 b 2. If he'd embrace that again, he'd b a great candidate.'" [HuffPost]
In this equation, the angry debate audiences are Newman, hands down.
ARLEN SPECTER IS BACK, BABY! - And doing what he does best: abandoning people that used to be on his own team! WaPo: "Former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter said Thursday that Rick Santorum got his facts wrong when he said that he endorsed Specter only after securing a promise that Specter would support GOP Supreme Court nominees... Specter said on The Michael Smerconish Program on Thursday morning that that wasn't the case. 'He is not correct. I made no commitment to him about supporting judges,' Specter said. 'I made no deal.' Specter also scoffed at the notion that Santorum's backing helped him turn aside the primary challenge from then-Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). (Toomey again ran for and this time won Specter's seat in 2010, when Specter switched parties but lost the Democratic nomination.)" [WaPo]
MITT ROMNEY REALLY MUST TAKE HIS SELF-AWARENESS TO MEINEKE AND GET IT FIXED - Elise Foley: "Mitt Romney mocked Rick Santorum's debate performance during a speech here on Thursday, saying the former Pennsylvania senator spent most of the night before trying to explain away votes he has made in favor of things he says he opposes. 'He talked about this as 'taking one for the team,' Romney said to laughs from the crowd at the Associated Builders and Contractors National Meeting. 'I wonder which team he was taking it for. My team is the American people, not the insiders in Washington.' Most of Romney's speech was devoted to bashing unions, a popular topic with the conservative business group. He mentioned Santorum's votes against the repeal of right-to-work laws, and in favor of raising the debt ceiling and the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay prevailing wages for public works projects." [HuffPost]
"Frothy Santorum" is easily the best sign to appear on CNN ever.
It was reported that Marco Rubio was a Mormon for roughly five seconds when he was a child. During that time, he baptized 500,000 dead people. Kidding! Jason Linkins has the right take: "Yeah, okay, so Rubio was a 'practicing Mormon' from the age of 8 to the age of 12, when he received Catholic communion. And at some point during that period, Rubio also probably stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too. When did he stop believing in those personages, and how enthusiastic was he as a supporter of both? We obviously need to know this, to understand the super important political calculus." [HuffPost]
JAN BREWER INVITED TO STARE AT HER HANDS IN FRONT OF CONGRESS - Chuck Schumer took a break today from trying to outlaw free refills to invite Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to testify before a Senate panel. Roll Call: "Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) today invited Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to testify before a Senate panel about the state's controversial and far-reaching anti-illegal immigration law..."At this hearing, we will be examining whether it is both constitutional and sound public policy for states to enact broad laws, such as S.B. 1070 in Arizona, that are designed to deter and punish illegal immigration," Schumer wrote." [Roll Call]
JOHN BOEHNER CAN BUILD A GUEST LIST - Eat your heart out, Truman Capote! Amanda Terkel: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney and a group of Bush administration and campaign alumni are hosting a fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on March 26. In addition to Cheney, there are 54 individuals listed as chairmen, co-chairmen or hosts of the event, according to the invitation obtained by The Huffington Post. They include Bush counselor Dan Bartlett, National Economic Council director Al Hubbard, chief of staff Josh Bolten, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and senior adviser Karl Rove." [HuffPost]
STEVE KING: THE VILSACKS ARE SCARED OF STEVE KING BECAUSE STEVE KING IS A WINNER - Prepare yourselves and your families for the coming political storm that is REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING OF IOWA. Des Moines Register: "U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Kiron running for re-election, speculated Wednesday that Democrat Christie Vilsack's campaign has as much to do with her husband's political ambitions as her own. During a speech in Urbandale, King spun the theory that Tom Vilsack, Iowa's former governor and now U.S. agriculture secretary, is positioning himself to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 if Democrat Tom Harkin retires." [DMR]
WIKILEAKS: MANNING DEFERS PLEA - "An Army private has deferred his plea to charges he made the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Pfc. Bradley Manning was arraigned Thursday at Fort Meade near Baltimore. Manning also deferred a choice of whether to be tried by a military jury or a military judge alone. The judge is Col. Denise Lind. A trial date has not been set. Manning faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy. That charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The others carry a combined maximum of 150 years." [AP]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Anti-talking-dog-anti-drug-PSA PSA? "This is why I drink."
VOLUNTARYIST HERO - On HuffPost DC: "In Falls Church, local paralegal and extreme libertarian Eddie Free has been alerting motorists to lurking police officers. It's his way of 'saving people from paying the state.'"
- How we feel when Sara Kenigsberg is filming in our newsroom. [http://bit.ly/zdm20A]
- Kenny (F*cking) Powers unveils a new shoe by K-Swiss. We're guessing this is a real product. [http://bit.ly/yDdfe7]
- Jimmy Fallon talks to that guy who makes a funny face while holding a gigantic cardboard cutout of himself making a funny face. [http://bit.ly/xKYwfN]
- Trailer for 4:44 Last Day On Earth. Willem Dafoe. Limited release March 23. [http://bit.ly/zo3wuD]
- Ads, honestly. [http://bit.ly/xrM1OV]
- Movies, honestly. [http://bit.ly/wf1MOP]
- Another day, another unnecessary and kind of creepy invention. [http://bit.ly/wxt5p7]
- The Simpsons couch-intro-sequence anthology. [http://bit.ly/zdm20A]
@daveweigel: [TK]-mentum! RT @mikememoli: Gallup GOP track: Santorum 34 (-1) Romney 27 (-)
@pourmecoffee: GOP debates over. If you like white guys in suits bossing around women, Mad Men returns in March.
7:00pm: Washington institutions Ann and Lloyd Hand celebrate their 60th anniversary, capping off 58 years serving D.C.'s lobbying and jewelry needs. [Cafe Milano, 3251 Prospect St., NW]
8:00pm: The annual cringe-inducing Commedia dell Media IV asks "should political reporters moonlight as stand-up comics?" Once again, the answer is no. [Riot Act, 801 E St. NW]
Friday 5:30pm: The National Governors' Association kicks off their annual scmhooze-fest weekend with a corporate reception! How fitting. [J.W. Marriott, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW]
Saturday 6:00pm: President Obama hosts a black tie dinner for visiting governors, which means a brand new set of tuxedo-and-gown photos to go along with "lavish spending" stories. [The White House]
All Weekend: Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling's (Both R-Texas) annual Park City ski trip. If you spot two guys skiing in jeans and bomber jackets, that's them. [Park City, Utah]
Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (email@example.com), Ryan Grim (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Arthur Delaney (email@example.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e