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So, how deep did Romney end up digging into his pocket?


Maybe you remember -- it seems like only about three weeks ago -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was flying back and forth across the country in a last-minute bid to score well in the Super Tuesday Republican primary voting.

And, sure enough, after a disappointing showing that day, he quit. Soon after, he endorsed Sen. John McCain.

But while Romney was talking to reporters before that Tuesday, someone asked how much of his personal fortune he was willing to invest in the campaign. Romney said that he and his wife of 38 years, Ann, had indeed set a limit. But he wouldn't say what it was.

Now we know: $42.3 million.

That works out to about $150,000 of his own money for every convention delegate Romney won. He also spent $55.7 million of other people's money on his campaign. A total of $98 million.

Those are some of the figures mined from the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Other interesting financial tidbits:

The GOP candidate with the most cash in hand at the end of January? Ron Paul, the 72-year-old House member with the libertarian leanings and the devoted followers who've given so generously and left him with $6 million cash -- and no debt.

McCain had $5.2 million cash on hand at the end of January, but, oops, $5.5 million in debts. And Mike Huckabee, hanging way behind McCain in delegates but way ahead in quips, had less than $1 million in cash.

Do you remember a well-coiffed fellow who used to be a senator and a Democratic presidential candidate? John Edwards spent $41.8 million on his campaign through the end of January when he dropped out of the race. He raised $38.9 million and got a bank loan of nearly $9 million.

At the end of last month he had $7 million on hand, but debt of about $9 million.

No wonder Edwards was so opposed to foreclosures.

Bush ponders successor

President Bush landed at Andrews Air Force Base the other night after a long flight from Liberia and an even longer five-nation trip around Africa, news of which was overwhelmed back home by the political races to succeed him.

During a conversation aboard Air Force One with traveling reporters, including The Times' James Gerstenzang, Bush said the foreign leaders he met showed an intense interest in the unfolding American political story. "They were fascinated with the election," Bush said.

Asked if he'd be voting in the March 4 primary in his home state of Texas, Bush said yes. And would he be voting in the largely settled Republican primary among John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul or in the more hotly contested Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton?

"I think I'll be in the Republican primary this year," said the president, which reporters interpreted to mean voting, not running.

Bill calling for Gennifer

Does the name Gennifer Flowers ring a bell?

She's the alleged other woman from a previous presidential campaign, that of then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas. In 1992, Flowers publicly claimed to have had a 12-year affair with the politician, who then went on national TV sitting next to his supportive wife, who's now in her own presidential campaign.

According to Flowers, she came home the other day, punched the retrieve button on her answering machine and gasped as she heard the familiar voice of that same man, Bill Clinton.

It was, however, only one of those automated campaign phone calls and Bill just wanted to tell Gennifer how much he would really appreciate her support and vote for his wife, who's ready to become president on "Day One."

"Now it's funny," Flowers says in an interview on "Extra." "At the time it almost gave me a heart attack."

No spin for Mrs. Obama

What in the world is going on in talk radio when someone wants to make an unverified slur on the air and the host -- the notoriously confrontational and not very shy Bill O'Reilly -- won't let them say it until he checks out the details?

It all has to do with what Michelle Obama said at a Monday rally: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." The "really" part got dropped in some versions, which allowed all kinds of people who don't like her anyway an opening to criticize her and her husband.

But who cares about individual words at a time of intense political passion? Well, it looks like O'Reilly does.

Much of the current online attention to this incident centers on his use of the word "lynching" in regard to a black woman, as in, "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels."

What's even more interesting, however, are the O'Reilly words that came after that. A caller who said she had a friend who allegedly had direct knowledge of Michelle Obama who reportedly called Michelle Obama "very angry" and a "militant woman" and . . .

But O'Reilly cut her off. No, really. He wouldn't let her continue. "It's not fair at this point for you to say, 'My friend said X and Y,' because we just don't know. But if you would give us your information, we would like to talk to your friend. And then whatever your friend tells us, we'll track it down. We'll do it in a fair and balanced and methodical way."

Stay tuned.


Excerpted from The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at topoftheticket.

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