Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

During the Fox News debate in South Carolina Monday night, Newt Gingrich took on a familiar target: liberal elites who routinely thumb their noses at hard work. When asked by moderator Juan Williams about his (arguably racially charged) statements on Barack Obama as the "food stamp president," former front-runner Gingrich quickly rejected the accusations of race-baiting and pivoted to explaining one of his alternatives to government benefits.

Gingrich repeated his call to ease child labor laws in order to allow poor kids to work as, for example, school janitors—an idea that has its roots in Gingrich's controversy-laden Earning by Learning program from the early '90s. "Only elites despise earning money," Gingrich said, as he accused the president of hating when poor but enterprising children tried to make their own money.

One thing Newt forgot to mention: President Obama's American Jobs Act explicitly includes sections on summer, as well as year-round, jobs for kids in low-income families. The bill, which Gingrich derisively labeled as the "American Government Rebuilding Act"—would allot a grand total of $1.5 billion for programs that provide employment opportunities for youths. (Specifics can be found here.)

A billion and a half bucks is a funny way of showing how much you hate seeing schoolchildren earn their own lunch money.

We'll say this for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum: He can surprise you from time to time. He was, for instance, the first and only GOP candidate to seize on a lack of income mobility as a serious problem in the United States, as he did at an October debate in Las Vegas. And at Monday's to-do in South Carolina, Santorum attacked the front-runner on the unlikeliest issues in a deep-red, law-and-order southern state: felon voting rights.

Santorum raised the subject because the pro-Romney super-PAC "Restore Our Future" has recently released an ad statewide hitting Santorum for supposedly voting to allow felons to vote while still in prison. That's false—Santorum voted to restore voting rights to felons only after they've left prison and had been restored all of their other rights—and he called Romney out of it. Then he asked a question: "I would ask Governor Romney, do you believe people who are felons, who have served their time, who have exhausted their parole and probation, should they be allowed to vote?"

Romney initially dodged the question, switching to his prepared defense of super-PACs. But Santorum pressed: "I'm asking you to answer the question...this is Martin Luther King Day. This is a huge deal in the African-American community because we have a very high rates of incarceration, disproportionately higher rates, particularly with drug crimes in the African-American community. The bill I voted for is the Martin Luther King voting rights bill." Pressed again for an answer, Romney at last said he'd oppose restoring voting rights to anyone who has committed a violent crime.

And then Santorum played his trump card: While Romney was governor, Massachusetts had a policy of allowing felons to vote once they'd left prison—even while they were still on probation. Think Progress flagged the whole exchange, which you can watch below:

This isn't likely to win Santorum any votes in South Carolina; if anything, it might still cost him a few—that's why Romney's super-PAC initially thought this was a winning issue. But it's an issue that's worth raising and one that candidates for presidents should be forced to take a stand on.

You can almost set your clock to it at this point. If Mitt Romney gets a question about his record at Bain Capital at a GOP presidential debate, he'll inevitably talk about how many jobs he created as chief executive of the venutre capital firm. At last Saturday's debate in New Hampshire, he suggested he had created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and when pressed for evidence, said he had done the math himself. At Monday night's debate in South Carolina, Romney upped the ante, telling Fox News' Bret Baier that he had created more than 120,000 jobs. Apparently it'd been a pretty good week.

But for all his talk, Romney has still failed to produce any credibile answer for how he arrived at any of the various jobs figures he's tossed out. As I explained last week, the best answer we've seen is that his top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, added up the jobs growth of a few of Bain's most successful spinoffs (Sports Authority, Staples, etc.), and that was it. No consideration of the various Bain investments that lost jobs. No allowance for the fact that Romney is effectively taking credit for every job Staples has ever created—dare I say he invented office supplies?—even though Bain provided just 10 percent of the seed money for the company. No calculation, in other words; just an arbitrary number. It's no surprise it fluctuates so much.

Romney wasn't pressed on the source for his newest figure by the Fox panel, but don't expect him to get off so easy. President Obama's re-election team has already set its sights on the 100,000 figure. On Monday, they took to Tumblr—yes, they're on Tumblr—to taunt Romney's inconsistencies in chart form (click to enlarge):

Via Barack Obama/TumblrVia Barack Obama/Tumblr

Mitt Romney.

At the Fox News/Wall Street Journal debate Monday night in South Carolina, GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney made a breathtakingly bogus claim about President Obama's jobs record. "We have a president in office three years," Romney claimed, "and he does not have a jobs plan yet."

Romney is either suffering from selective amnesia or is trying to dupe the public. Last fall, the president unveiled his American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package of tax cuts for businesses; funds to retain more teachers, cops, and firefighters; and money to hire construction workers to upgrade and retrofit public schools nationwide. The bill also included $50 billion for investing in America's roads, bridges, rail lines, and other infrastructure. All the measures in the Jobs Act are intended to spur hiring and prevent layoffs throughout the American economy. Need more? Check out this entire website devoted to the Jobs Act.

In November, Senate Republicans blocked various pieces of the American Jobs Act on three separate occasions. Now, Obama says he's going to try to implement job-creating measures on his own without sending legislation to Congress. But to claim that the president "does not have a jobs plan yet," as Mitt Romney did on Monday night, couldn't be further from the truth.

Mitt Romney says he watched his dad march with Martin Luther King Jr. He later clarified that he had done no such thing.

On Monday, the five remaining GOP presidential candidates will celebrate Martin Luther King Day by gathering in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and debating Rick Santorum's thoughts about Mitt Romney's response to Newt Gingrich's condemntation of Newt Gingrich's super-PAC's attack on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital. Or something like that. The timing of the Fox News debate hasn't been lost on folks like South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian, who suggested on Thursday it showed a lack of regard for the life of the Civil Rights icon.

The other, probably more plausible explanation is that, with the primary scheduled for Saturday, Monday was just an obvious date to hold the first of two debates. But it does raise the question—one that could come up in some iteration during the debate: How do the GOP candidates feel about Dr. King and his civil rights legacy? Here's a quick guide:

Mitt Romney: It was at a Martin Luther King Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida in 2008 that Romney made the ill-considered decision to chant the lyrics to the Baha Men's hit single, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Except instead of posing it as a question, he seemed to supply the answer: "Who let the dogs out. Who. Who."

His attempts to discuss King's legacy have gone about as smoothly. In 2007, the former Massachusetts governor told an audience in College Station, Texas, "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." But as David Bernstein reported, that wasn't quite right. There was no evidence of Romney’s father, George, marching with MLK at Grosse Pointe, Michigan, as the campaign had claimed; for one thing, MLK had never been to Grosse Pointe. The campaign later clarified that George Romney and MLK had marched together in a metaphorical sense—they were in different cities, and the marches took place on different days—and that Mitt (who was not present for either event) had seen his father march in a metaphorical sense as well. Romney’s justice advisory committee includes failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, who has written that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established "a principle of unsurpassed ugliness."

A Chinook helicopter delivers a M777A2 Howitzer to artillery soldiers of Task Force Arctic Wolves, in southern Kandahar, Afghanistan on December 20, 2011. 1/25 SBCT courtesy photo.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.

Former Utah governor and US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman dropped out of the GOP presidential race on Sunday, just five days after he proclaimed New Hampshire voters had given him a "ticket to ride," and four hours after emailing supporters that "our momentum is building." You could see the end on Tuesday, when Huntsman's father, chemical baron Jon Huntsman Sr., refused to commit to donating any more money to Our Destiny, the super-PAC supporting his son. On Monday, Huntsman will endorse Mitt Romney, a man he once referred to as a "perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day."

Huntsman's endorsement likely won't make much of a difference at the ballot box (the "Huntsman voter moves to Romney" jokes were fast and furious on Twitter) but, as the Democratic National Committee is already pointing out to reporters, it will provide an interesting contrast with...Jon Huntsman's previous statements. Huntsman's spent much of the last six months trying to tear Romney down, in speeches, debates, and advertisements (most of which have now been taken down from YouTube). At a debate in New Hampshire on January 8, Huntsman said that Romney's partisan attitude was "the problem with this country right now," and proceeded to call his rival ill-informed on foreign policy—in Mandarin. In July, he said of Romney's record, "You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina." In November, he told NBC's David Gregory, "I don't know that he can go on to beat President Obama, given his record. When there is a question about whether you're running for the White House or you're running for the Waffle House, you have a real problem with the American people."

He also produced this spot drawing a connection between Romney and a wind-up monkey toy that flips back and forth. You know, a flip-flopper.

Enough of that, though. If you slept through the Jon Huntsman era, what did you miss? Here's a quick guide:

Reuters reports:

"Whenever the word 'Republican' is used, it was almost like an automatic wall that falls," George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party, said at a conference organized by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. "Yet when we used the word 'conservative,' people were more responsive."

Warned off by fiery Republican rhetoric lashing out at illegal immigrants in the last electoral cycle, U.S. Hispanics voted by a two-to-one margin for President Barack Obama over Republican rival John McCain in 2008. And in the 2010 Texas gubernatorial race, 61 percent of Latino voters chose Bill White, the Democrat, over Republican Governor Rick Perry, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

To reverse that allegiance, Rodriguez said that conservative Texans have to overcome established voting patterns. "For some reason, these folks continue to vote liberal, only because their parents did," he said. "When you ask them, 'Why do you vote like that?', they don't know, they don't know, they just do it."

Frank Luntz would be proud. But at the risk of pointing out the obvious, it's not that hard to figure out why "they just do it": The right has a miserable track record on hot-button immigration issues. In early November, President Obama suggested that the GOP presidential candidates were  essentially doing his campaigning for him:

I don't think [the situation] requires us to go negative in the sense of us running a bunch of ads that are false, or character assassinations. It will be based on facts…We may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim. We won't even comment on them, we'll just run those in a loop on Univision and Telemundo, and people can make up their own minds.

To be fair, conservatives' attempts to redirect this portion of the Democratic base aren't entirely futile (Newt Gingrich has been big on this). On issues like abortion and marriage equality, polls show the majority of Latino respondents coming down on the side of social conservatism. Who knows: If Republicans manage to dampen their immigration fire-breathing, a future realignment might not be out of the picture. But that day isn't anywhere close to dawning, and that would be true even if Latino tea partiers renamed the GOP the "Super-Friendly and Totally Awesome To Spanish-Speakers and Their Religious Traditions, Jobs, and Kids" Party.

Newt Gingrich prepares to speak outside the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

As we've documented previously, shortly before kicking off his presidential campaign last spring, Gingrich deleted much of his Twitter archive. Prior to that point, @NewtGingrich had offered a snapshot of his soul—a cornucopia of restaurant reviews, musings about dinosaurs, and condemnations of Sonia Sotomayor. And, for a week-long period in 2010, a space for Gingrich to vent about President Obama's hand-off approach to the Somali pirate menace.

Obama, according to Gingrich, was guilty of appeasing the ruthless corsairs. As he put it: "The correct answer to piracy is to destroy it not negotiate with it Seals can retake the lifeboat Track every boat leaving somalia" (sic). Gingrich argued that Obama needed to outline "the rules of civilization" and make clear that the United States wouldn't be pushed around. This sequence, flagged by Tommy Christopher, was typical:

And then this happened.

Newt Gingrich holds up a stuffed animal at a town hall in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

On Thursday, Newt Gingrich told CNN that the South Carolina Republican primary "is going to be Armageddon." On Friday, the candidate picked up the endorsement of the co-creator of the End Times series, Left Behind.

That, at least, is this morning's big announcement from the Gingrich campaign: Per a release, Tim LaHaye, best-selling author and probably the single greatest influence on the way Americans think about the Rapture (to the extent that we think about the Rapture), has come off the bench to throw his support behind the former House speaker. It's not a game-changer, but it's not nothing, either; LaHaye and his wife, Beverley, supported Mike Huckabee in 2008 and carry a good deal of weight with a certain kind of evangelical Christian. After intitially declaring he could support any of the trio of Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Tim Pawlenty, he'd been forced to find someone new.

President Obama's policies are "going to work against our country and bring us closer to the apocalypse," LaHaye says.

But, as befitting an End Times novelist, LaHaye's views are also quite radical. In a May interview with the Daily Beast, LaHaye explained that President Obama couldn't be a Christian because of his supposedly socialist views. And besides, he added, "have you ever heard of as many communists or socialists that have been appointed as tsars in our country? There are 134 of them and they've been appointed by this man who you claim is a Christian." In the same interview, he said that the Haiti earthquake and Japanese tsunami were "warnings to mankind that we ought to get right with God."

But LaHaye's most damning criticism of the president came in an interview on Huckabee's Fox News program in 2010, in which he stated explicitly that President Obama's policies were helping speed up the arrival of the Apocalypse. "Our present president doesn't seem to get it. He doesn't understand that some of the things he's introducing that many of us call 'raw socialism'—it's a different name, but it's essentially government control and government domination of everything. And he sees that as a panacea, but instead it's going to work against our country and bring us closer to the Apocalypse."

In a statement released by the campaign, Gingrich said: "I am honored to have Tim's endorsement. His work as both a minister and author is truly unmatched. Tim will be a terrific partner for the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition as we work to combat the influence of radical secularism and activist judges." Or else.