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Breakfast Sausage: 5 things to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

 Rick Santorum during a Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Dec. 15, 2015. Santorum and Sen. Rand Paul. of Kentucky both ended their presidential campaigns on Feb. 3, 2016, as the fallout from the Iowa caucuses continued to winnow the Republican field. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times) Rick Santorum during a Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Dec. 15, 2015. Santorum and Sen. Rand Paul. of Kentucky both ended their presidential campaigns on Feb. 3, 2016, as the fallout from the Iowa caucuses continued to winnow the Republican field. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

1) Four years ago, Rick Santorum was the insurgent presidential candidate, winning a tight Iowa race over Mitt Romney and taking 11 other states before bowing out. This year, it seems as though Mr. Santorum has been out-conservatived by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and out-blustered by Donald Trump; he shut down his campaign Wednesday evening.

2) We're not surprised that Rand Paul also closed down his campaign after a poor performance in Iowa. But unlike Mr. Santorum, Mr. Paul was at one time considered to be a favorite to win the Republican nomination. It never seemed that Mr. Paul was enough of a libertarian to win over the large, enthusiastic base assembled by his father's presidential runs, and he wasn't conservative enough to attract support from the most vocal side of the Republican Party.

3) Republican U.S. senators from Pennsylvania old and new love Mr. Rubio; he picked up endorsements Wednesday from Sen. Pat Toomey – who seems to be staking out a claim with the party's establishment for his own re-election run – and from Mr. Santorum, who had some difficulty this morning nailing down the specifics behind his enthusiasm.

4) It didn't last long. Mr. Trump seemed to be actually gracious in his short speech accepting defeat Monday night in Iowa – and that was apparently all the grace he could muster. The real The Donald has surfaced on Twitter and elsewhere since, saying Mr. Cruz committed fraud to win the GOP caucuses and demanded that he be declared the winner. Huh – sounds like it's tough being a loser, right Mr. Trump?

berniesyearning

5) It's bound to be the most delicious endorsement we're going to see in 2016. It probably shouldn't be a surprise that Vermonters Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – you probably know them as ice cream guys Ben and Jerry – are backing the candidacy of Bernie Sanders; besides the geographic connection, the pair has famously supported many progressive causes over the years. And as they have done in the past, there is ice cream involved; Bernie's Yearning is mint chocolate chip, but "all the chips have somehow ended up at the top in one huge slab— just like what happened with most of the financial gains since the end of the recession," Mr. Greenfield wrote in a promotional email. The ice cream, produced by Mr. Cohen and paid for by Mr. Sanders' campaign, will be available to those who enter contests at berniesyearning.com or at a site run by fundraiser Act Blue on behalf of Democracy for America, a progressive PAC founded by Howard Dean.

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Perry on Politics: The biggest loser

Published by James M. Perry on .

Republican caucus-goers cast their ballots at Pella High School in Pella, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)Republican caucus-goers cast their ballots at Pella High School in Pella, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)

Donald J. Trump has been saying all along his opponents are idiots. They're all losers, he says. And now, of course, he's lost the Republican caucuses in Iowa, the first real delegate-choosing election of the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump is a loser, and that's something loud-mouthed demagogues can't abide.

"I don't feel any pressure," he told reporters in New Hampshire, the second stop on the long, winding trail that will terminate at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. "We'll do what I have to do." For the first time, though, he seemed tired and lacking in his usual bombast, reporters said.

It seems to me, viewing this from my own living room, that Iowa showed to all of us that the billionaire wears no clothes. He is, one pundit said, a phony.

The winner in Iowa was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who did what Mr. Trump should have done. He put together a professional army of Iowa foot soldiers who managed to get out the vote. Mr. Cruz's appeal in Iowa was directed at the state's large body of evangelical Christians, who won't figure so prominently elsewhere.

Coming in third was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who (when he isn't playing up to the Tea Party) seems to make some sense. He is, everyone says, the candidate to watch. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey indicated a likely line of attack. "I'm not the boy in the bubble," he said, suggesting that the senator isolates himself from voters. "This isn't a student council election, everybody," Mr. Christie said.

Jeb Bush, once long ago the favorite to win this nomination, came in sixth in Iowa with 2.8 percent of the vote and a single delegate. He and his super PAC spent a staggering $14 million for TV ads, more than anyone has ever spent in Iowa. That works out to something like $2,800 per vote. Most candidates would throw in the towel, but Mr. Bush, with millions left to spend, says he will soldier on.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won. "She not only got more votes than Bernie Sanders but got more votes than any Republican candidate, and she become the first woman ever to win the Iowa caucuses," Dana Milbank, the Washington Post's liveliest columnist, said. "Let's cut her some slack."

Iowa did, however, reveal a glaring weakness – her inability to attract much support from younger voters. In Iowa, they voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Sanders.

Why? He is, after all, 74 years old, a little cranky, and an avowed democratic socialist, whatever that is (he's been, officially, a Democrat since last year). He propounds "revolutionary" changes in government policy, none of which has a snowball's chance of being enacted. So what's his secret? Young people, I read the other day, think he's "cool." And Ms. Clinton isn't. Cool, that is.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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Familiar name steps up to replace Harhai

Published by Chris Potter on .

James Manderino II, grandson of a former speaker of the state House and nephew of Gov. Tom Wolf's secretary of Department of Labor and Industry, is running to replace outgoing state Rep. Ted Harhai in the 58th District.

"I am running to get a fair deal for the people of the 58th District," said Mr. Manderino, who will be running as a Democrat, in a statement this morning. He pledged to "build relationships with other legislators in Harrisburg and work through some of the gridlock that is plauging our great strate."

According to his release, Mr. Manderino currently works as a project manager at City Mission, an agency serving the homeless in Washington PA. He's a Naval Reservist who was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistn in 2013.

Mr. Manderino is seeking to fill the vacancy that will be left behind by state Rep. Tedd Harhai, who announced his intentions to retire last week. Mr. Harhai cited frustrations with an increasingly fractured state government, saying that "In the last several years, there's been little compromise, cooperation and collaboration." Citing the ongoing state budget stalement, he said, "It's just become harder to reach any consensus."

Another Democrat, West Newton Mayor Mary Popovich, also entered the race this week. On the Republican side, Rostraver attorney Justin Walsh is reportedly also gearing up for a run.

Mr. Manderino hails from a well-known political family. His grandfather, whose brother was a state Supreme Court Justice, was well known in state politics when he died in 1989, and for 20 years held the seat the the younger Manderino is now running for. Kathy Manderino, Mr. Manderino's aunt, served in the state House representing the Philadelphia area between 1994 and 2010. She was appointed Labor and Industry secretary in 2015.

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Five things about Iowa

Published by Mike Pound on .

Hillary Clinton (Doug Mills/The New York Times); Ted Cruz (Charlie Niebergall/Associated Press)Hillary Clinton (Doug Mills/The New York Times); Ted Cruz (Charlie Niebergall/Associated Press)

1) Congratulations to Ted Cruz, who has to be hoping that his win in Iowa last night doesn't mean the same thing for his campaign as did Rick Santorum's win in 2012 or Mike Huckabee's victory there in 2008. Third-place finisher Marco Rubio had to feel like a winner; he outperformed his pre-caucus polling numbers by nearly 10 percentage points and nearly caught Donald Trump by the end of the night. Can he catch Mr. Trump in New Hampshire, where Mr. Cruz will likely be less of a factor?

2) Was Mr. Trump penalized by Iowa's voters for making a few unconventional decisions, like skipping the final debate or forgoing retail politics in favor of big rallies? And could it be that many of the people who attended those rallies were there just to hang out with a celebrity? Turnout was up on Monday night, but those voters didn't belong exclusively to Mr. Trump.

3) Officials from the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns are spending the morning squabbling over a neck-and-neck contest that left Ms. Clinton with one more delegate than Mr. Sanders, although it should be noted that the Iowa Democratic Party declared Ms. Clinton the winner. A win is a win – and it's a huge improvement over the last time Ms. Clinton tried to win a caucus in Iowa – but she's going to have a tough time eking out a win in New Hampshire, where Mr. Sanders has a healthy hometown advantage.

4) Graceful: Martin O'Malley and Mike Huckabee, who closed down their campaigns as voting in Iowa wound down. Not quite as graceful: Ben Carson, who blamed his dismal performance on "dirty tricks" by opponents.

5) What's next? John Kasich and Chris Christie are pinning the hopes of their campaigns on strong performances in New Hampshire. Mr. Kasich, in particular, could have an interesting night; he's polling at around 12 percent there now, well behind Mr. Trump but well ahead of his seventh-place finish in Iowa.

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Did McGinty blow smoke on fossil-fuel support?

Published by Chris Potter on .

A day after Pittsburgh hosted the first debate in Pennsylvania's 2016 Senate campaign, Democrat Katie McGinty is being challenged for saying her campaign hasn't recieved any support from the oil and gas industry.

You can watch the debate here: The exchange in question begins around the 1:26:35 mark. Ms. McGinty and two other Democratic hopefuls were asked whether they had "sought or received the endorsement, or ... accepted any campaign contributions from the following organizations: the National Rifle Association, Pennsylvania's LIFE PAC [an anti-abortion group] and the oil and gas industries."

Candidates Joe Sestak and John Fetterman both denied receiving backing from any of those interests, touting their grassroots appeal. When it came her turn to answer, Ms. McGinty launched into a discussion of the support she'd garnered from local Democratic leaders, unions, and environmental groups.

"How about these three?" moderator Paul Klein asked

Ms. McGinty answered "No," prompting Mr. Fetterman to say "oil and gas, really?" 

America Rising, an opposition-research group with strong Republican ties, was also incredulous. "[E]stablishment favorite Katie McGinty lied" in answering the question, the group contended in a statement today.  

Ms. McGinty's most recent campaign-finance report "shows at least 17 donations from executives and employees in the oil and gas industry" totaling almost $20,000 the group said. (Ms. McGinty reported nearly $1 million in contributions that quarter.)

The McGinty campaign shot back, calling the Republican accusations "absurd," and faulting the GOP standard-bearer, incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, for receiving $300,000 from the oil and gas industry. That number tracks with the 2016 support tabulated by the Center for Responsive Politics, which placed oil and gas among the top 10 interest groups supporting Mr. Toomey.

"Katie McGinty has been a life-long environmentalist and was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters," said McGinty campaign spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

America Rising's breakdown of purported gas-industry contributions doesn't identify contributions from industry PACs, political committees that bundle contributions from individuals and make lump-sum donations. And Ms. McGinty might plausibly have had such groups in mind when she gave her answer: The question specified two specific interest groups before adding the much broader "oil and gas industry." 

Still, Ms. McGinty's contributors do include people who have ties to fossil-fuel extraction. Most obviously, she received $5,400 last summer from the head of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, which operates an oil refinery in Philadelphia. And while she didn't receive support from, say, the American Gas Association's political committee, she did take $250 from a vice president there.

Other contributors work at utility companies that provide natural gas to customers, even if they don't pull the fuel from the ground itself. America Rising's breakdown identifies contributors as "people working for companies associated with the oil and gas industries," but arguably a lot depends on how loose that association is. 

Take NRG, from whose executives Ms. McGinty reported accepting $1,750 on her latest report. The firm has solar and wind holdings, but also operates fossil-fuel powered plants (including local facilities in Cheswick and on Brunot's Island). Does NRGcount as an oil and gas company like, say, gas-drilling Range Resources?

Either way you answer, it's not surprising that Ms. McGinty has received support from the energy sector. As the Post-Gazette reported in November, her resume includes work on corporate boards for companies like NRG and Iberdrola, another campaign contributor flagged by America Rising. Republicans have criticized her for that history ... and it seems they are likely to keep on doing so.