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Score one for 'Mama Grizzly'

| Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

It wasn't the best of weeks for former U.S. senator and current presidential wannabe Rick Santorum .

Santorum got into a verbal scrum with Sarah Palin after suggesting in an interview that the former Alaska governor skipped the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., because she could make money elsewhere.

Palin responded by saying that assertion was wrong and she wouldn't call Santorum "the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that perhaps others would want to call him. I'll let his wife call him that."

Ouch.

Santorum also fared poorly in a CNN poll on support for possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

He finished behind -- we're taking a deep breath here -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee , Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney , former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour , Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty .

Santorum finished with the same level of support -- 1 percent-- that U.S. Sen. John Thune did in bringing up the back end of the survey's rankings. But we're uncertain that anyone outside of Thune's home state of South Dakota could pick him out of a police lineup.

OBAMA PHONES DESPITE BIG LOSS. As you might have heard, the Steelers failed to win Super Bowl XLV last Sunday, bowing to the Green Bay Packers in a thoroughly disappointing 31-25 loss.

But that didn't stop President Barack Obama from phoning Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday to congratulate him and the team on what was a successful season overall.

According to a White House spokesman, "(Obama) asked Coach Tomlin to pass along how impressed he was with the team's effort to come back and nearly overcome their first-half deficit in the Super Bowl."

The president also called Dan Rooney , Steelers chairman emeritus and U.S. ambassador to Ireland, to voice similar sentiments. Kind of makes us wonder how interested Obama would have been in consoling the losing team had Rooney not been one of Obama's staunchest supporters during the 2008 presidential campaign.

In case you're wondering, Obama also offered congratulations to Packers coach and Greenfield native Mike McCarthy , which is a bit more understandable than his consolation calls to the Steelers. Remember, McCarthy's team won the big game.

COULD GET A BIT CROWDED IN THERE. Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz might have to face off next year in a battle for a combined congressional district.

So theorized The Washington Post in an analysis of Pennsylvania congressional redistricting.

The Post posited that Republicans in charge of redrawing districts will merge Altmire's 4th District and Critz's 12th District by including the incumbents' respective homes in McCandless and Johnstown.

That could be accomplished fairly easily by extending Altmire's district east to Cambria County and dividing the remainder of Critz's district among three others currently held by Republicans -- U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson , Bill Shuster and Tim Murphy .

PUTTING HIS HEART INTO THE RACE. Critz already is raising money for his potential showdown with Altmire.

He's holding what is labeled as a "Valentine's Day Dance-Dessert Extravaganza" from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight at the Novosel Center in Indiana, Pa. Hosts for the event will pay $500 to enter, sponsors $250, couples $80 and individuals $50.

At those prices, the chocolate torte had better be tasty.

COSTLY COSTA EVENT. Critz's fundraiser seems like a bargain compared to one being held next month by state Sen. Jay Costa Jr. , the Forest Hills Democrat who recently became Senate minority leader.

Costa plans a fundraising breakfast at the Harrisburg Hilton next month, and the contributions required to attend the event strike us as huge. A sponsorship admission runs $1,500, supporter status costs $1,000 and a mere friend will have to fork over $500 to get in.

Yes, it strikes us as unusual that a state senator is charging more than a sitting congressman is for a fundraiser.

At those prices, the English muffins better not be stale.

TRYING AGAIN? Former state Rep. John Pallone is mulling a run for Westmoreland County office.

Pallone, the New Kensington Democrat who was soundly defeated last year by Republican upstart Eli Evankovich of Murrysville, has told friends he is considering running for county commissioner or even county treasurer in the party's May 17 primary.

Pallone, 50, a lawyer by trade, is no stranger to the county courthouse. He worked for more than a decade as the coordinator for the commissioners office throughout the 1990s.

Incumbent Democrat Treasurer Kathalyn O'Brien has announced she will not seek a sixth term.

HELP WANTED. They say the personal is political.

Maybe that's why a recent paid advertisement in the Norwin Star, a Trib sister paper, reads like a personal ad.

Richard Gray , 4th Ward commissioner in North Huntingdon, puts out a call seeking "like-minded individual(s) of any political affiliation" to run for seats on the township board this year.

The ad informs township residents of the qualifications for office and where they can obtain nominating petitions.

"Act now to make a difference in the exciting world of local government," Gray, a Republican, says in the ad.

Seats representing the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th wards are on the ballot in 2011. Three of the four are held by Democrats.

-- compiled by Tribune-Review staff

Have some dirt to dish• A tip to flip• E-mail the intrepid Whispers desk at: whispers@tribweb.com.

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