Columnist

Mitt Romney ’s offer of a $10,000 bet got us wondering about the state of oddsmaking around the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

And while Romney is clearly a betting kind of man, he might not like his own odds at the moment.

Political betting has surged in recent years, and online bookies now offer gamblers the chance to bet on everything from the Iowa caucuses to the 2012 general election.

Bookies at the Irish site Paddy Power have insurgent rival Newt Gingrich neck and neck with the former Massachusetts governor. Currently, both men’s odds of clinching the nomination are 6-5.

“A couple of months ago, Mitt Romney looked like an absolute racing certainty,” said Ken Robertson, head of communications for Paddy Power. “But a couple of months is a very long time in American politics.”

Robertson said his company took in half a million euros in wagers on the 2008 elections and expects that figure to double for the 2012 races.

The two front-runners are followed by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas (7-1), former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (14-1), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (33-1), former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (40-1), and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (50-1) .

And even though there’s no such thing as a sure thing, the oddsmakers seem right on this one: Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson (who?) has odds of 100-1.

Aponte’s lifeline

Not dead yet?

It seemed Monday night that Mari Carmen Aponte’s tenure as ambassador to El Salvador was about to expire. The administration and Senate Democrats fell 10 votes short of what they needed to break a GOP filibuster of her nomination. (Aponte had been serving in San Salvador since September as a recess appointee, which she can do until the end of the year.)

But apparently the State Department and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose support is critical to get enough Republican votes to break the filibuster, were in intense and fluid negotiations on an agreement addressing Rubio’s concerns that Washington adopt a more forceful line toward Nicaragua and Cuba.

Rubio told GOP colleagues at lunch Thursday that if that agreement is reached he will be prepared to vote to break the filibuster on Aponte and lift the holds he had placed on the nominations of Roberta S. Jacobson to be assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs and Adam E. Namm to be ambassador to Ecuador.

We’re hearing that if it turns out that Rubio gets sufficient votes to break the filibuster, a Senate vote will be rescheduled on Aponte’s nomination.

Stay tuned.

Who’s where

Location, location, location, as the real estate folks say. The closer you are to the Oval Office when the president wanders down the hall, the more face time you may get with the leader of the free world.

With that in mind, we’ve updated our interactive map of the first and second floors of the West Wing to show who’s sitting where. There’s been much movement ’mongst senior staff since the map was first launched at the end of January 2009. Rahm Emanuel is gone, as are David Axelrod, James Jones, Jim Messina, Patrick Gaspard, Greg Craig, Larry Summers and Robert Gibbs.

And there’s going to be lots of prime real estate opening up in the next few weeks, with the departures of Domestic Policy Council chief Melody Barnes — in a fine corner office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue — and Obama adviser Phil Schiliro.

If proximity is king, no one could be more proximate than Obama “body man” Reggie Love, who sits right outside the Oval Office. He’s leaving soon to go to business school.

You can find the interactive map at washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Simply scroll over the offices to see who sits where. There are brief bios of all and photos of most. (Still working on a few.)

The math of better halves

Somewhere, Mitt Romney is chuckling — probably along with his one-and-only-ever wife, Ann.

The former Massachusetts governor has, of late, been trying to draw a contrast between his own stable family life and the comparatively tumultuous one of his closest rival, former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

And now he’s got this: In the “Callista’s Canvas” section of the Gingrich campaign Web site, where visitors can “meet” the candidate’s current (as in the third of three) wife and read press clippings about her, there’s an odd headline. “A Tale of Three Wives,” it reads.

Hmm. Isn’t that a Shakespeare play? No?

Oh, maybe it’s a reference to the fact that Gingrich is thrice-married? (And in rather dramatic fashion.)

No, actually, it’s just the headline on a story by CBN News about three wives currently hitting the campaign trail on behalf of their husbands: Callista Gingrich; Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman; and Anita Perry, wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Does that make the headline a triple entendre, we wonder, instead of a double?

Unorthodox Judaism

There’s more shopping to be done. Our colleague Ylan Mui points out that we overlooked a gem in the Loop’s sometimes-annual holiday gift guide earlier this week. With Hanukkah fast approaching, there’s still time to order a new Obamulke — a yarmulke emblazoned with “Obama 2012.”

For $9, that’s an ivory suede skullcap, or kippah, perfect for stylishly expressing one’s political leanings at shabbat service (it’s available at Obamulkes.com or J. Levine Books & Judaica in New York City).

And there’s a GOP alternative, too. Slightly kitschier is the yarmulke printed with the word “yarMITTkah” for those who favor Mitt Romney (you can find it on eBay for $21).

Funny — we would have gone with “Rom-ulke.”

Quote of the week

“Dear Vlad, is it something I said?” — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), playing coy in a Twitter war this week with Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin. According to our colleague Jason Ukman , McCain set off the spat by tweeting that the Arab Spring was “coming to a neighborhood” near Putin; the Russian leader then called McCain “nuts.”

With Emily Heil

The blog:
washingtonpost.com/intheloop

Twitter: @InTheLoopWP