* GOP leaders in a jam over payroll tax cut: So what’s next in the payroll tax cut fight? Rosalind Helderman reports that GOP leaders are working overtime to persuade rank and file Republicans to support extending it, and are looking to package it with a vote on the controversial Canada-Gulf Coast pipeline. A vote in the House may take place next week.

GOP leaders — who very much want the tax cut extended, but not paid for with a millionaire surtax — have concluded that not supporting the extension could create serious political complications for the party. But Tea Party conservatives in their ranks have suddenly decided that temporary tax cuts are bad, because they’re not permanent, or something. Here’s the dilemma GOP leaders face, in a nutshell:

What might normally be a no-brainer for most congressional Republicans is being resisted by many tea-party-conscious members who oppose what they consider a short-term gimmick that would worsen the federal deficit and siphon money from Social Security.

Republican leaders fear that the party, which has spent the past year fighting Democrats’ proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy, cannot now allow the payroll tax to increase without handing Democrats a powerful election-year argument that the GOP supports lower taxes only for the rich.

Tea Partyers oppose temporary tax cuts, because they’ll worsen the deficit! Who knew? Where was this concern over permanence and the debt when they supported a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich?

Here’s another way to phrase the dilemma GOP leaders face: Conservative support for lower taxes on the rich, and not on workers, could allow Dems to portray the GOP as only supportive of lower taxes on the rich, and not on workers.

* Senate Republicans say No to payroll tax compromise: Meanwhile, over in the Senate, GOP leaders are turning down the compromise offered by Senators Claire McCaskill and Susan Collins, because it would raise taxes on income over $1 million — even though it would specifically exempt small businesses and “job creators.”

* Some Senate Democrats still uncertain about Richard Cordray: Another dynamic to watch: Some moderate Senate Dems are still uncertain about whether they’ll support Obama’s nominee to head the consumer protection bureau Elizabeth Warren created, apparently because supporting him could supposedly be a negative in tough races for some reason.

The hesi­ta­tion could muddle Obama’s effort to use the battle over Cordray to draw a sharp populist contrast between the parties.

* Gingrich says he helped Romney get rich: Newt makes an interesting admission:

“I was part of Jack Kemp’s little cabal of supply-siders who, largely by helping convince Reagan and then working with Reagan, profoundly changed the entire trajectory of the American economy in the nineteen-eighties,” Gingrich said. “You could make the argument that I helped Mitt Romney get rich because I helped pass the legislation.”

And one imagines Romney is deeply grateful for it! Hard to say which man comes off worse here...

* Mitt Romney’s response to “career politician” charge: Romney has rolled out a new response to those who point out he’s been running for office since the mid-1990s — hey, I often lost! Seriously:

“When I lost elections, I got to go back and be a businessman again and it allowed me to be involved in the economy and to understand at the grass-roots level why Americans are suffering and what I can do to get jobs again.”

* Romney vows to get tough with Gingrich: Also in the above link: With Romney trailing Newt in many polls, sometimes badly, Romney promises to make sure that “the differences in our experience and perspective are well aired.” Translation: Major negative onslaught on the way.

* Obama campaign now sees facing Newt as real possibility: Mike Allen says Obama advisers are now officially preparing for the very real possibility that Gingrich may be the nominee, calculating that Newt may win because he speaks directly to GOP primary voters' intense dislike of the President:

“Republicans want someone who can snarl at the president,” said a Democrat close to the White House. “Newt’s snarl is more genuine than Mitt’s.”

* Why Newt could still flame out: The new New York Times/CBS poll shows Newt surging in Iowa, but it also finds that a full two thirds of likely Iowa caucus-goers could still change their minds, giving Romney plenty of room to make up lost ground.

Of course, as many conservatives have argued, Romney has had literally years now to close the sale with GOP primary voters, and he still hasn’t.

* Mitt Romney as Gordon Gekko? In a cycle where the Web video is becoming a daily means of communication, the labor-backed Americans United for Change is out with a new one imagining our future under a “Romney-Gekko” administration.

The video and accompanying web site envision Romney-Gekko bringing us a “morning on Wall Street” where any and all oversight and regulation is swept away forever, a sign of how heavily Dems will target Romney’s corporate past and link it to Wall Street’s lack of accountability.

* Obama goes big on inequality: As Jonathan Cohn points out, the key to understanding Obama’s speech yesterday was that it delivered a very big-picture critique of inequality as the result of long term trends, exacerbated by the Great Recession, that have hollowed out the middle class and left its future in real peril.

Relatedly, some nice points from David Dayen about Obama’s proposed policy responses to the fundamental problems with the economy he identified yesterday.

* And liberals should be hoping for a Newt victory: Michael Kazin on how an Obama-Newt general battle showdown would represent a pure ideological showdown between the conservative and liberal worldviews — and could end up cleanly discrediting the former and lead to a revival for the latter.

What else is happening?