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Daily Santorum: Wis., NYT, Welch

Published by Karen Langley on .

Rick Santorum is campaigning today in Wisconsin ahead of the April 3 primary, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports he'll get some on-air backup from a PAC supporting his candidacy. But, the paper reports, the $300,000 buy is no match for the $2 million in airtime bought by the PAC supporting Mitt Romney and $700,000 by the Romney campaign.

It's now the second morning after Santorum lashed out at a New York Times reporter who asked about a remark the candidate made at a campaign event, but he hasn't put the episode to rest. A story in today's Washington Post is titled, in the print version: "No More Mr. Nice Guy: Rick Santorum's fiery run-in with a reporter rekindles memories of his once-ornery persona." An excerpt:

But for people who have followed Santorum’s decades-long career in politics, it was the latest sign that Santorum is reverting back to a prickly persona that predated his rise in the polls.

“Most of us who followed his career were just stunned at how, for seven or eight months, he was remarkably disciplined,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Lately, he said, he has seen signs of a more familiar Santorum. “He’s visceral, emotional, provocative,” Madonna said. “It’s who he is.”

His campaign is looking to capitalize on the incident: Yesterday, it sent out a fundraising email proclaiming "I'm ready to take on the New York Times" and asking supporters to help "expose the liberal press for what they are, a defender and enabler of Romney's and Obama's liberal agendas."

And on Monday night, Santorum got backup from Sarah Palin, who said on Fox News: "When I heard Rick Santorum's response, I was like, well welcome to my world, Rick, and good on ya. Don't retreat." See the video in Politico.

Santorum also gets a shout-out in the first TV ad (see below) of Senate candidate Steve Welch, which says the businessman won the state GOP endorsement because "grassroots Republicans saw in Welch what they saw in Rick Santorum, Tom Corbett and Pat Toomey -- a strong conservative who can win in November."

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Blast from the past to replace Orie?

Published by Laura Olson on .

Last night's guilty verdict on 14 counts against state Sen. Jane Orie will trigger a special election for her Senate seat, and the frontrunner to replace her is a name familiar to voters in the district. 

The P-G's Tim McNulty reports this morning that Orie's Republican predecessor, Melissa Hart, could be returning to government service.

Hart has been working in law since losing her congressional seat to Democrat Jason Altmire in 2006, and has been spotted in the state Capitol several times during the debate over a school voucher proposal.

For more on last night's verdict, here's a recap from Paula Reed Ward, who writes that Orie was "emotionless" as the verdict was read.

She faces incarceration, though the assistant district attorney would not say whether he will seek it. Until her May 21 sentencing -- at which point Orie will have to resign her Senate seat, if she does not do so before -- she must wear an electronic ankle bracelet. 

The jurors, who took nearly 50 hours to reach their conclusion, seemed to have bonded during the experience: the jury foreman said "lasting friendships" were formed, and that the panel already was planning a reunion.

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Sen. Orie guilty on 14/24 counts

Published by Laura Olson on .

After deliberating for 48 hours, an Allegheny County jury has found state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, guilty of theft, conflict of interest, and forgery charges.

The panel of five men and seven women also acquitted Orie on 10 of her 24 counts related to perjury, election code violations and obstruction of justice.

The PG's Paula Reed Ward wrote earlier this afternoon that the jury deliberated all day with two breaks:

"Jurors have not asked any questions or given any indications what they might be discussing. ... Jurors told Judge Jeffrey Manning on Saturday that they had reached a "serious impasse," but he instructed them to keep trying."

The guilty charges will mean Orie will lose her state pension and her Senate position once she is sentenced. But like state Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, who was convicted last month on five felony counts, she will be able to remain in office until her sentencing date.

UPDATE: Here's a joint statement from the two top Senate Republicans -- President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi -- on the verdict:

"Throughout her 15 years of service in the General Assembly, Senator Jane Orie has worked tirelessly on behalf of her constituents. We thank the men and women on the jury for their service, and we respect their decision."

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Critz internal poll: gap narrows

Published by Laura Olson on .

Democrat Mark Critz's campaign released an internal poll today that they say shows the Johnstown congressman narrowing the gap between him and opponent Jason Altmire.

That survey, from Global Strategy Group, has Altmire leading Critz, 45 percent to 38. A February poll of Democratic primary voters in the district had a 10-point difference between the candidates.

Click here for a copy of the polling memo distributed by Team Critz.

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Daily Santorum: Anti-NYT, pro-VP?

Published by Karen Langley on .

The daily on Rick Santorum is out of Racine, Wisc., where the candidate last night lashed out a New York Times reporter who asked him to expound upon a remark he'd just made calling Mitt Romney "the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama."

When reporter Jeff Zeleny repeated the words to Santorum afterward, adding, "Is that true?" the candidate appeared to become angry. 

"What speech did you listen to?" he said. "Stop lying. I said he is the worst Republican to run on the issue of Obamacare, and that's what I was talking about."

He went on: "Quit distorting my words ... It's [B.S.]."

CBS caught the exchange on tape.

Meanwhile, as Santorum blasts Romneycare outside the Supreme Court's health care lawsuit hearing, an interview he did with Christian Broadcasting Network is grabbing headlines this afternoon.

In the segment, Santorum is asked -- with the interviewer noting that he might "laugh off" the question -- if he would accept the VP nomination if asked. Santorum, who has spent most of his recent speeches referring to Romney as ill-equipped to defeat President Obama, replied that he would consider the job offer.

Here's the transcript:

David Brody: "If [Romney] for some reason asks you to be the Vice Presidential candidate on his ticket? I know, after it's all said and done. Would you even consider it?"

Rick Santorum: "Of course. I mean, look. I would do in this race as I always say, this is the most important race in our country's history. I'm going to do everything I can. I'm doing everything I can. I'm out there. In the last 10 months, I've had five days off. Two for Thanksgiving, and three for Christmas. I've been working every single day. My wife and my kids, we're just busting our tail, because we know their future and all of our childrens' future is at stake in this election and I don't want to be the guy who has to sit with my granddaughter, 20 years from now, and tell stories about an America where people once were free. I don’t want to have that conversation."

David Brody: "So, you're keeping your options open."

Rick Santorum: "I'll do whatever is necessary to help our country."