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Afternoon Fix: Mitt Romney might skip Iowa straw poll

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Mitt Romney is skipping the Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty appears to have supported an individual mandate, Rudy Giuliani is going to New Hampshire, and Rick Scott is using his veto pen.

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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:

* Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney might skip the Iowa straw poll, another sign that he is not investing nearly as much time and effort in this state as he did four years ago. Romney won the Iowa straw poll in 2007 after investing heavily in the state, but he lost the state’s caucuses to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. “These are lean times. We’ve got a more lean campaign,” he told reporters today.

* Court records show that former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is delinquent on property taxes for his home in that state. Santorum and his family live in Virginia, but they have always kept a home in Pennsylvania. The question of whether Santorum really lived in the state dogged him on the campaign trail in 2006, when he lost to now-Sen. Bob Casey (D).

* Yet another Republican presidential candidate appears to have supported an individual health-care mandate in the past. In a 2006 speech, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty described a Massachusetts-style mandate as “a worthy goal and one that we're intrigued by and I think at least open to.” As governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty never proposed a mandate, but he did think it could be part of larger health-care reform.

* Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) vetoed a record $615 million in spending today, cutting money for school construction, social services and environmental land-buying programs from an already relatively slim $70 billion budget. Scott’s veto letter also encouraged the legislature to look to expanding gaming for revenue. Earlier this week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Scott with an in­cred­ibly high 57 percent unfavorability rating.

* A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the U.S. law banning direct corporate contributions to candidates is unconstitutional, saying the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission eliminated the legal underpinnings for that ban. The government argued that the Citizens United decision did not apply to direct contributions, only to independent expenditures. The ruling is in contrast to those made by other judges around the country.

WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T MISS:

* Nicole Schlinger, a powerful Iowa fundraiser and political operative, has joined former Pawlenty’s presidential campaign. Schlinger was Romney’s Iowa straw poll director in 2008; she’s one of a number of his former supporters to move to other campaigns this cycle, in part because the former Massachusetts governor appears to be investing fewer resources in the state this time around. Schlinger was one of the top six Iowa free agents profiled by the Fix earlier this year.

* Rudy Giuliani is headed to New Hampshire next Thursday to headline a fundraiser for the state GOP, the same day Romney makes his presidential announcement. The one-time New York City mayor is considering another presidential bid. He finished fourth in New Hampshire in 2008 and folded his campaign soon after. A CNN poll released today found Giuliani at the top of the GOP field, although only a quarter of Republicans expressed enthusiasm about him.

* In a news conference today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted that “significant” Medicare reform would happen before the 2012 election and that anything Democrats said to the contrary was “silly talk.” McConnell’s remarks came three days after Republicans lost a special election in New York that hinged on Medicare. The speech is the strongest sign yet that the GOP strategy on the entitlement program has not changed.

* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced today that he is pulling his state out of a regional agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, saying it won’t work. Christie is the latest Republican to shift against environmental legislation as conservatives have become increasingly skeptical of global warming.

THE FIX MIX:

A world record?

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