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Caucus Day, 2012

ALSO: Suspended “Jacko” back in school; Daily raps Maturi “golden parachute”; a “purple” Peyton Manning proposed; a guilty plea in terrorism case; rabbis oppose amendment; and more.

OK, it’s Caucus Day. Excitement is at a fever pitch. The Big Question? Can we beat Nevada’s turn-out of … 33,000? Beth Reinhard of the National Journal writes: “The heavy influence of the conservative and tea party movements make Minnesota’s caucus on Tuesday one of Newt Gingrich’s best and possibly only hope for an outright win in the month of February, which mostly features contests in states favoring Mitt Romney. Gingrich allies point to exit polls in Florida, where he lost badly to Romney but siphoned support from the most conservative voters, the strongest tea party supporters and voters who consider abortion the most important issue. Still, Romney is riding momentum from winning Florida and Saturday’s caucus in Nevada as well as endorsements from two prominent Minnesota Republicans, Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman, while Rep. Ron Paul boasts a well-organized campaign and has visited the state consistently. These intangibles, along with a low turnout — less than 63,000 voters participated in the 2008 Republican caucus — make the results hard to predict.”

Speaking of Paul, The Wall Street Journal follows him to St. Cloud and Michael Crittenden reports: “Paul made a plea Monday to Minnesota’s younger voters for support, attributing his popularity among 20-somethings to his focus on personal liberties. ‘There is a good reason why young people are more open to it … Freedom is a young idea,’ Mr. Paul told a sizable crowd here. ‘Young minds are not muddled up’ by conventional wisdom and the media, he added. It was the first of two events Mr. Paul scheduled for Monday in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Has anyone tested how Paul would fare with “young voters” if he favored fully re-criminalizing pot?The St. Cloud Times’ Mark Sommerhauser was there for the same event and writes: “Paul rallied supporters in St. Cloud on the eve of the Minnesota caucuses, endorsing a ‘mind-our-own-business’ U.S. foreign policy and tighter monetary policy, and decrying what he described as a rollback of civil liberties. Introduced by radio host Sue Jeffers as ‘the Thomas Jefferson of our time,’ Paul took the stage … at River’s Edge Convention Center for the second time in about three months. … In Paul’s remarks in St. Cloud, he said it’s time to end U.S. wars overseas and bring our troops home. Paul railed against what he described as an incursion against personal freedoms since Sept. 11, 2001, and said repealing the PATRIOT Act would be ‘one of the first things I’d like to do.’ ‘There’s no need to give up your liberty to be safe,’ Paul said. Paul also suggested the latest federal jobs report, which showed the U.S. unemployment rate dropping to its lowest point in three years, didn’t give an accurate picture of the economy. ‘There’s a very good reason to be very suspicious of any statistic that the government gives us,’ Paul said. Supporters praise Paul’s independent thinking … Other Paul supporters, like Cindy Corrieri, believe the stakes couldn’t be higher in the coming elections. Corrieri, who lives near St. Joseph, said she sees two bad options in President Obama and Romney, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination. … ‘If Ron Paul is not elected,’ Corrieri said, ‘we are going to be under the rule of the one-world government.’ ”

Philip Caulfield of the New York Daily News isn’t going to let Winona off easy on the suspension of that 9-year-old kid for grabbing his crotch while performing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” at a school talent show: “Mindy Boberg says the principal of St. Stanislaus in Winona, Pat Bowlin, tore into her and her son, Lenny, immediately after the boy’s Jacko act on Thursday night, claiming the crotch-clutching portions constituted ‘gross misconduct,’ the Winona Daily News reported. ‘[Lenny] is heartbroken,’ Boberg wrote on her Facebook page. ‘He worked so hard on this and then to have your principal scream at you immediately after.’ ‘And as of now we are told, he’s suspended indefinitely and he won’t even meet with us until Monday,’ she wrote. … The boy has performed the routine at the fundraising event for the past two years, and school officials signed off on the act during a rehearsal on Tuesday, Boberg said. In a grainy video of the performance posted on YouTube, the crowd of grade-schoolers mostly giggle and cheer as Lenny, wearing Jackson’s signature single glove, nails the King of Pop’s routine from the 1983 video. … In posts on her Facebook wall, family friends slammed the principal for going too far. ‘Poor guy … You should be very proud of him, he didn’t do anything wrong,’ one friend wrote. ‘Someone needs to moonwalk all over the principals face!!!’ another supporter said.” In the end, though, Lenny was back in school on Monday, KAAL-TV reports.

A Minnesota Daily editorial says outgoing Athletic Director Joel Maturi is being paid too much money: “While Maturi’s retirement was widely expected, his newly formed role as special assistant to University President Eric Kaler was not. This new role comes complete with a ‘golden parachute’ of sorts as Maturi retains his compensation package of a $345,000 salary for another year plus additional retirement benefits. Regardless of one’s opinion of Maturi’s tenure as the University’s athletics director, this newly formed position and compensation package is a slap in the face to every student struggling to pay increasing tuition and every department stretched thin by continued budget cutting. Though the University claims that Maturi’s ongoing compensation package comes from endowment funds and not tax-payer dollars, this money could be spent better on scholarships and other priorities.” Impertinent damned kids.

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What took our great sports minds this long? At the PiPress, Bob Sansevere floats the idea of the Vikings signing … Peyton Manning. “Item: Peyton Manning is likely to be released by the Indianapolis Colts, making him available to sign with another team. I think: Why not the Vikings? If he’s fit enough to play, why not attempt to sign him and let Christian Ponder sit and learn from one of the best? You’d have to think Manning would enjoy handing off to Adrian Peterson and throwing the ball to Percy Harvin. The word is, Manning is willing to sign an incentive-loaded contract and won’t be demanding big up-front money. So he wouldn’t be a huge financial risk.”

Another guilty plea in a case of money-raising for terrorist activities in Somalia. Amy Forliti’s AP story says: “Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, 27, of Westerville, Ohio, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Mahamud, who lived in Eden Prairie before moving to Ohio last year, is the seventh man to plead guilty in Minnesota’s ongoing federal investigation into the recruitment of fighters for the al-Qaida-linked group. A total of 18 Somali-Americans have been charged in connection to the investigation. Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats, Mahamud admitted that from 2008 through February 2011, Mahamud and others conspired to provide money and people to al-Shabab, knowing the group was a designated foreign terrorist organization. Specifically, Mahamud said that in the summer of 2008, he and others told members of Minnesota’s Somali-American community that they were raising money for a local mosque or for orphans in Somalia. Instead, Mahamud said, the $1,500 went toward airline tickets for men who would eventually go to Somalia.”

Perhaps the rabbis should have a chat with the bishops. The Strib’s Rose French writes: “Dozens of Minnesota rabbis have gone on record opposing the proposed marriage amendment, urging ‘all Minnesotans of conscience and faith’ to vote against the change to the state constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman. The Minnesota Rabbinical Association, made up of 35 rabbis and 15 synagogues and groups representing the majority of the state’s Jewish population, announced Monday they had signed the statement that was adopted on Jan. 18. Orthodox rabbis did not sign it. … The rabbis’ statement says the amendment ‘seeks to continue the practice of leaving individual families within the LGBT community vulnerable and unprotected by the law. To honor an individual is to fight against discrimination in society for any reason, including race, religion, natural origin, gender, age or sexual orientation. Throughout history the Jewish community has faced discrimination, and therefore we will not stand by while others are targeted.’ ” A sheynem dank.