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Seems Rick Santorum heeded publisher — and former GOP presidential candidate — Steve Forbes’s advice that he stop talking about Satan. A close study of the transcript reveals absolutely no mention of Satan — or the devil or Lucifer — at any time during the GOP debate Wednesday night.

Forbes’s counsel, as we noted Wednesday, was offered via a telephone interview with an unknown radio reporter as Forbes took the Acela to Manhattan.

Unfortunately, Santorum didn’t fill the time talking about jobs — never said the word once, our colleague Felicia Sonmez reported.

Instead, with an able assist from Mitt Romney wingman Ron Paul, he lapsed into unfortunate blather about earmarks, the budget process and such.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Santorum plunged into a detailed explanation of his views on the one thing that truly concerns all Americans, rich and poor: his support of former senator Arlen Specter. Specter’s name came up eight times that evening — as opposed to “children,” which came up 15 times.

Specter, repaying Santorum Thursday for that support, disputed Santorum’s version of events.

The pundits instantly panned Santorum’s performance. Remains to be seen, though, how much it will affect the vote in the critical Michigan primary on Tuesday. (The debate was seen by only 4.7 million people, far fewer than the 5.4 million who watched the Florida debate last month.)

What might be of more significance is the Michigan Democratic Party’s move Wednesday to officially encourage Democratic crossover voting in the GOP primary. As our colleague Aaron Blake reported, Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer sent an e-mail to supporters encouraging them such voting.

Of course, they may end up voting for Newt Gingrich.

The coast is not clear

There was plenty of truth-stretching in Wednesday’s GOP debate — along with a few outright whoppers. But one slip-up from Romney, we assume, was a simple matter of geographical confusion.

The former Massachusetts governor, talking about the threat from Iran, mentioned Syria, which he said was Iran’s “only ally” in the Arab world. Well, maybe not. There’s Iraq, reduced to pretty much a vassal state of Iran these days. But let’s give that a pass.

Then Romney, in highlighting the ties between the two countries, claimed that Syria “is also their route to the sea.”

Um . . . that seems unlikely, unless the Iranians are taking a pretty convoluted path. In fact, Iran itself has direct access to waterways, with about 1,520 miles of coastline along the Arabian Sea. It doesn’t even share a border with Syria, so this “route to the sea” that Romney spoke of would involve cutting through Iraq before cutting through Syria to get to the sea. The journey from Tehran to Damascus is about 1,000 miles.

Not exactly an easy jaunt.

Syria has a measly 119 miles of coastline fronting the Mediterranean.

Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, says Romney probably was referring to the fact that Syria is Tehran's “most heavily used logistical route for resupply of Hezbollah and Hamas.” But, she says that’s got nothing to do with water. “That relationship has little if anything to do with acccess to the Mediterranean,” she says.

But hey, if Romney’s right, there’s no wonder Iranians are having such a hard time developing nuclear weapons — it seems math might not be their strong suit.

Need strategery, Utah?

It’s never easy to figure out what to do after leaving a fine job on the Hill. Some lawmakers return to their early professions, such as disgraced former senator John Ensign (R-Nev.), who resigned last year in a scandal over a long-standing affair he had with a staffer who was married to a close friend and top aide.

In Ensign’s case, as CNN’s Dana Bash reported , he’s back in Nevada, working once again as a veterinarian, ministering to dogs and cats.

Many others seem to find their way back to Washington and over to K Street. For example, former Utah senator Bob Bennett , who left Congress last year after losing the GOP nomination to a tea-party-backed candidate, is now working as a “senior policy adviser” at local law firm Arent Fox.

He has also formed the Bennett Group, a lobbying and consulting outfit specializing in energy, health care and tech issues.

Under a 2007 ethics law he co-sponsored, Bennett is barred from actually lobbying Congress for two years. But in the meantime, he can, as so many do, “strategerize.” And the law doesn’t prohibit him from lobbying the administration.

He’s been looking for clients, according to an e-mail invitation we got this month from the Utah Association of Counties.

The invite was directed to commissioners from “energy-producing counties and counties where the Dixie and Fishlake National Forests are situated.”

“Former Sen. Bob Bennett recently approached” two association staffers “offering to perform congressional executive branch lobbying services in Washington, D.C.,” the e-mail said.

Bennett “believes his lobbying services would be beneficial” in “increasing energy production on Utah public lands” and “reversing multiple road closures in Dixie and Fishlake National Forests.”

Bennett would be “willing to explain the details and answer questions at the State Capitol” on Feb. 2, the e-mail said.

Alas, we couldn’t make it.

K Street’s Triple A

And speaking of the revolving door . . . if a new watchdog report is correct, and the ranks of congressional staffers form the “farm team” for future lobbyists, which minor-league “team” is the best to play for?

If you’re a House staffer looking to cash in on K Street, the best place on the Hill to come from is the House Financial Services Committee, which according to a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, had the highest percentage of staffers who became lobbyists. The panel, which oversees Wall Street, lost 12.7 percent of its staff to the “other side,” says the report, which covered 2009-2011. The committee with the next-highest number of lobbyists launched was Judiciary (at 9 percent) and Oversight and Government Reform (8.7 percent).

The data help track many of the Democratic staffers who left after the crushing midterm elections — of the 147 Democratic staffers who left the Hill to become lobbyists, 63 came from the offices of members who were defeated or retired in 2010.

Moving on . . .

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Douglas B. Wilson told Pentagon colleagues Thursday that he’s retiring at the end of March after a 40-year career in foreign policy and communications — including three stints at the Pentagon.

Wilson had also been then-Sen. Gary Hart’s foreign policy adviser, congressional director at the U.S. Information Agency and political director at the Democratic Leadership Council. We’re told he plans, after a break, to do some speaking and writing on national security issues.
With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.