Blunt beats back tea party in leadership race; Trump backs out of debate; Obama’s team keeps an eye on Americans Elect; and the S.C. GOP chair doubts Romney’s commitment to his state.

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* Freshman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) defeated freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) for the position of Senate Republican Conference vice chairman Tuesday. The race had becoming something of a cause celebre for tea partiers who supported Johnson, but Blunt, a former GOP leader in the House, won 25 votes to 22. The No. 5 position in Senate GOP leadership opened up when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced he would step down from his position as conference chairman. Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) will take Alexander’s spot — the No. 3 position — while current vice chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) will take Thune’s spot at No. 4. Thune’s and Barrasso’s races were uncontested.

* Donald Trump has backed out of the debate he was scheduled to moderate after only two of the seven major GOP candidates — Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — agreed to participate. But The Donald, in true Trump fashion, made sure the decision was all about him, citing his own potential independent presidential bid. “Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate,” Trump said.

* Former New Jersey governor and senator Jon Corzine (D) was testifying again on Capitol Hill today, assuring that he never authorized illegal activity. “I never directed anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds,” he said. “I never intended to, and as far as I’m concerned, I never gave instructions that anyone could misconstrue.” Meanwhile, Republicans sought to use Corzine’s ties to President Obama against Democrats.

* Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and top adviser David Axelrod are criticizing Americans Elect, which is threatening to get an independent presidential candidate on the ballot in most states. The two suggested the group’s selection process for its candidate, which includes a final sign-off by a candidate certification committee, is anti-democratic. “You have to get approved by a council of elders deal,” Messina said. Axelrod added: “It’s like uber-democracy meets backroom bosses — an amalgam of both.” Messina said the group is “just something we have to deal with.”


* The NewDEAL, a group headed by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to highlight pro-growth progressive politicians, is out with its next list of honorees. They are: Oregon state Rep. Jules Bailey, Maine House Minority Leader Emily Cain, Santa Cruz (Calif.) Mayor Ryan Coonerty, Idaho state Rep. Brian Cronin, Louisville (Ky.) Mayor Greg Fischer, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Anchorage School Board President Gretchen Guess, Texas state Rep. Eric Johnson, New Orleans City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, and Concord (N.H.) City Councilman Rob Werner.

* South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly says Mitt Romney is not trying in his state. “I have felt like he just assumed he can’t win here,” the chairman said. “I think he’s going to do much better than he thinks, but if he doesn’t get here, he’s missing a golden opportunity.” Recent polling in the Palmetto State has shown Gingrich leading Romney by around 20 points.

* Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson (R), who has problems on his right in an upcoming Senate primary, has earned a big endorsement from Mike Huckabee. The two will hold a press conference together Thursday in Milwaukee.

* ESPN college football analyst and former Southern Methodist University football standout Craig James will enter Texas’s open Senate race as a Republican, according to the Dallas Morning News. James faces Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert in the primary.


Even we at The Fix have to start rooting for Tim Tebow.

With Chris Cillizza.