Trump's On His Side, But Mitt Romney's Antagonists Remain (The Note)

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

By accepting the endorsement of Donald Trump yesterday, Mitt Romney removed at least one threat of a third-party run that could have complicated his chances of beating President Obama in November.

But in the short term, Romney has some obstacles in his way. Two of his three remaining rivals for the Republican nomination, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have emerged this week as antagonists that just won't go away.

Well, make that three. The latest employment numbers out today showed the economy creating 243,000 jobs during the month January and the unemployment rate decreasing from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent.

It's better-than-expected news and gives a big boost to the Obama administration's argument that the president is steering the economy in the right direction. Will it moderate Romney's rhetoric on the campaign trail?

But, back to the Republican primary. Despite Romney's big win in Florida and his big lead in the polls in Nevada where voters will caucus tomorrow, Gingrich and Santorum have shown no signs of letting up.

Santorum criticized Mitt Romney during a speech in Reno, Nev. yesterday, referring to a comment Romney made on Wednesday about not caring about America's poor, ABC's Russell Goldman reports.

"Out of touch much?" Santorum said of Romney.

Both Santorum and a super PAC supporting his candidacy have no plans to give Romney a pass during the course of February's nominating contests, and neither does Gingrich.

The Washington Times' Paul Bedard reports that the Gingrich campaign is preparing a new and sharper line of attack on Romney's governing career in Massachusetts.

"Let's have more than a peek at the Romney record in Massachusetts," Gingrich pollster Kellanne Conway told the Times. "This man runs around saying he is a successful business man who saved the Olympic Games, which are laudable, but he has never been called to account for his record in the only elected position of voter trust that he held."

And Gingrich kept the heat on Romney's "poor" comment on the campaign trail yesterday too, saying: "I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Gov. Romney, but I believe we should care differently than Barack Obama."

ROMNEY WALKS IT BACK. In an interview with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, Romney called his comment about the poor a "misstatement."  "I misspoke," he said. "I've said something that is similar to that, but quite acceptable, for a long time," Romney said he does "thousands of interviews," and "now and then you may get it wrong. And I misspoke, plain and simple."

Does The Donald's endorsement matter? ABC's David Muir took a closer look at yesterday's big political news on "Good Morning America." WATCH:

FROM THE SPEAKER'S DESK: JOBS TAKE. House Speaker John Boehner released the following statement on the January unemployment report: "There's welcome news in this latest jobs report as more Americans found work last month, but the fact is our unemployment rate is still far too high. Our economy still isn't creating jobs the way it should be and that's why we need a new approach."

THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK." Tune in on Sunday when ABC's George Stephanopoulos sits down with this week's top newsmakers as well as a roundtable including George Will, Matthew Dowd, Dana Loesch and Arianna Huffington.



THE MAN BEHIND RICK SANTORUM'S MONEY. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports:The man fueling Rick Santorum's presidential campaign is a Wyoming cowboy with a special interest in conservative cause who wears a tall, white hat and likes to call himself the "man atop the  horse." He's also a billionaire. His name is Foster Friess, and he's largely bankrolling the pro-Santorum super PAC behind the effort to make the former Pennsylvania senator the 2012 GOP nominee. In an interview with ABC News, the mutual fund manager says he will continue "to be supportive in helping raise funds for the Super PAC" called the "Red, White, and Blue Fund," and he's encouraged by Santorum's plan to stay in the race for the long haul. "I think Rick's intention is to go all the way to the convention, about which I'm excited," Friess told ABC News in an email interview. Friess is a born-again Christian who, along with his wife, Lynn, has given millions to conservative and Christian causes, including $1 million to Koch-brothers-related causes, as well as non-political charities, including raising money for children orphaned in the Haitian earthquake.

TEAM GINGRICH TO CHALLENGE FLORIDA RESULTS. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is preparing to challenge the Republican Party of Florida after losing the Republican presidential primary there to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, ABC's Elicia Dover notes. The "winner-take-all" state had 50 delegates, all of which went to Romney, who won the state with 46 percent of the vote. The Republican National Convention voted to make early voting states proportional for the 2012 election. Florida was penalized for keeping the "winner-take-all" status. If Florida allotted proportional delegates, Gingrich would likely have picked up 16 delegates, while Romney would have walked away with 23 delegates, leaving the other 11 delegates to be split among Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. "Florida was held before a certain date," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said. "Therefore, we're asking the state of Florida Republican Party to enforce the existing rule." Hammond told reporters Thursday at a campaign stop in Las Vegas that the campaign is mailing a letter to the Republican Party of Florida, asking it to enforce the RNC proportional rule.

TRUMP CARD: THE DONALD BETS ON MITT. Real estate mogul Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday in a ballroom of his opulent Las Vegas hotel, saying that Romney won't "allow bad things to continue to happen to us," ABC's Emily Friedman notes. "It's my honor, real honor, and privilege, to endorse Mitt Romney," Trump said. "Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp, he's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Gov. Romney, go out and get 'em. You can do it," Trump added. Romney, in accepting Trump's endorsement, said it was a "delight." "I'm so honored to have his endorsement and, of course, I'm looking for the endorsement of the people of Nevada," Romney said. "There are some things that you just can't imagine in your life. This is one of them."

BACKSTORY: A political aide in Trump's office spoke directly with Mitt Romney by phone last night before Trump's private plane took off from New York City to Las Vegas. The call, sources say, was to inform Romney of Thursday's endorsement, which took place at the Trump International Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. A contracting company used by the Romney campaign has been setting up for the event since Wednesday night. Ever since Trump decided not to run as a Republican candidate last spring, members of his team indicated that if Trump was going to endorse, he wanted to pick a winner. Evidently, the real estate and reality television mogul, has settled on Romney as that candidate. Trump's endorsement of Romney comes on the heels of multiple discussions between members of Romney's team and Trump's office over the past few months. These conversations took place at the highest levels of the Romney campaign apparatus, including campaign manager Matt Rhoades.

ROMNEY'S IMMIGRATION VIEWS RUN AFOUL OF MORMON CHURCH. "While Mitt Romney is taking a hard line on immigration even as the Republican primaries head toward the heavily Hispanic states of Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, the Mormon Church to which he belongs has become a decisive player in promoting policies that are decidedly more friendly toward immigrants," The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein reports. "The church was instrumental last year in passing controversial legislation in Utah that would provide "guest worker" permits to allow illegal immigrants with jobs to remain in the United States. The church also threw its weight behind the Utah Compact, a declaration calling for humane treatment of immigrants and condemning deportation policies that separate families, which has been adopted by several other states. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its reluctance to be seen as meddling in politics. But on immigration, the church actively lobbied legislators, sent Presiding Bishop H. David Burton to attend the bill signing and issued a series of increasingly explicit statements in favor of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work."


@Austan_Goolsbee : jobs trends over svrl mo.: 1) big gains, 2) across many industries, 3) LFP not up but not …

@waltershapiroPD : What if the conventional wisdom is wrong again - and Romney remains a Potemkin Village frontrunner? My latest for TNR:

@CHueyBurnsRCP : Re: GOP react to jobs  #s, read  @CarlCannon and  @ErinMcPike Dec. story on how GOP has to be careful in crafting response…

@JimMerrillNH : Reno Gazette Journal endorses  @MittRomney as the one "who best represents the long-held values of Republican Party."

@hollybdc : Hilarious: Lead singer of Survivor performs Gingrich's book to music of Eye of the Tiger

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