TIME

Morning Must Reads: May 18

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Good morning from Washington. President Obama will travel to Camden, N.J., this afternoon to tour a police operations center and visit with local youth, in his latest effort to raise awareness about police-community relations following turmoil in Ferguson and Baltimore. Obama will also unveil the results of a report he ordered on the transfer of military-style equipment to police forces, instituting new approval requirements and banning many transfers of camouflage uniforms and grenade launchers that the Administration says are more militaristic in nature.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will skip Obama’s visit to his state in order to deliver remarks on foreign policy in New Hampshire in the latest effort to resurrect his presidential hopes. Breaking with civil libertarians in both parties, Christie will deliver a strong defense of the National Security Agency’s spying programs, calling most privacy fears “baloney.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is returning to Iowa today where she will attend a grassroots organizing event in Mason City.

Must Reads

Republican Candidates Dodge Immigration Questions (TIME)
It’s not their favorite topic

Obama to Limit Military-Style Equipment for Police Forces (NYT)
After Ferguson, Baltimore, White House to order changes

Energized Republicans Put On a Campaign Show in Iowa (TIME)
Joe Klein assesses the GOP field

Sensing a voter shift, Clinton tacks to the left (WP)
Hillary Clinton is running as the most liberal presidential front-runner in decades

Christie to Call For Larger Military, Defend Intelligence Collection (TIME)
Caters to GOP’s hawkish wing

Sound Off

“I don’t understand the question you’re asking,” — Sen. Marco Rubio to Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace during a length back-and-forth over the invasion of Iraq

“Thousands of years of culture and history is just being changed at warp speed. It’s hard to fathom why it is this way.” — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the Christian Broadcasting Network Sunday, saying he does not believe the Constitution provides for a right to same-sex marriage

Bits and Bites

Pentagon faulted in assault cases

GOP: Business lobby blowing it on trade

Defense bills cause transparency jitters

Ben Carson makes faulty Lincoln analogy

Sanders to introduce bill to make college tuition-free

Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez appears to disparage American Indians

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie to Call For Larger Military, Defend Intelligence Collection

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Olivier Douliery—Getty Images New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He'll call for more warships and military planes in a speech Monday

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will call for an expanded military and defend American intelligence programs Monday in a speech laying out his foreign policy vision in New Hampshire.

The all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate is set to criticize the emerging Iran nuclear agreement as well as President Obama’s handling of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to prepared remarks released by his political action committee.

“With Iran, the President’s eagerness for a deal on their nuclear program has him ready to accept a bad deal,” Christie will say.

Christie will issue a full-throated defense of American spying efforts, seeking to draw contrast with more dovish members of his own party, as well as many Democrats, who have unified against the National Security Agency since the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.

“They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie will say. “They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.”

“Let me be clear: all these fears are baloney,” Christie will add. “When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy. And we shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin—while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”

Christie will also propose an expansion of federal defense spending, including a repeal of the mandatory budgetary caps known as sequestration.

“The Army and Marines should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 strength, and our active duty forces should be at 500,000 Army soldiers and 185,000 Marines,” he will say, drumming the call of the nation’s defense hawks. “Our Navy should have more ships,” adding the Navy needs at least 350 vessels. The Air Force, Christie will say, should have 2,000 combat aircraft and a total strength of 6,000 aircraft.

Christie’s call for an expanded military mirrors the plans of other Republicans, even the more dovish Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who earlier this year called for an expansion of the military budget.

Read more: Rand Paul Proposes Boosting Defense Spending

Christie has seen his path to the presidency narrow amid a troubled fiscal situation in his state and the continued fallout of the politically motivated closures of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by former aides in 2013. Monday’s remarks are the third in a series of addresses designed to restart his presidential efforts, as he prepares to make his candidacy official in the coming months.

Casting himself as a decisive leader in contrast to Obama, whom he says has not defined a strategy for America in the world, Christie will argue that the current administration is alienating American allies. One piece of evidence he’ll cite: Last week, Obama was set to host Gulf leaders, but several, including Saudi King Salman, pulled out in an apparent snub to the White House.

“The price of inaction is steadily rising,” he will say. “Just last week we saw the embarrassment of almost all the Gulf leaders, including the Saudi king, pulling out of President Obama’s summit at Camp David. Our allies want policies, not photo ops, and we’re not listening to them.”

Christie will call for the linkage between the sanctions on Iran stemming from its nuclear program to that country’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East, including its support for Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen. Such suggestions have been rejected by the Obama Administration as an effort to undermine the nuclear deal.

TIME Immigration

Republican Candidates Dodge Immigration Questions

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015.
Jim Young—Reuters Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015.

The GOP wanted to talk differently about immigration in 2016. Instead they're trying to avoid talking about it at all

Sitting in a hotel conference room of a Scottsdale, Ariz., resort, Mike Huckabee kibitzed with a few reporters Friday about issues ranging from the Iraq War to the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

But when the talk turned to whether undocumented immigrants should have a path to U.S. citizenship, the former Arkansas governor clammed up. “Until we have a secure border,” Huckabee demurred, “there isn’t any other discussion for us to be having.”

Huckabee isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate to dodge the topic lately. As the 2016 race ramps up, GOP candidates are increasingly skirting the specifics of immigration policy. It’s a trend that threatens the party’s hopes of reclaiming the White House.

Routed in the battle for Hispanic voters in 2012, the Republican Party promised to speak differently about immigration this time. But the need to repair its relationship with Latinos has collided with its candidates’ need to court the conservative activists who dominate the GOP nominating contest. As a result, many of the party’s presidential hopefuls don’t want to divulge the details of their positions on an issue with major political and policy ramifications.

To discern the differences between the candidates on immigration, TIME distributed a brief survey to declared and likely White House hopefuls. The questions focused on the fate of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., a subject at the heart of the bipartisan debate over comprehensive immigration reform:

  1. Do you support an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., and if so, under what conditions?
  1. Do you support an eventual pathway to legal status short of citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., and if so, under what conditions?
  1. Do you support a separate process to give legal status or citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors?
  1. Do you support any government benefits, such as in-state college tuition, for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors?

Some likely GOP candidates offered clear and succinct answers. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was a “no” on all four, according to his spokesman. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the architects of the Senate’s bipartisan attempt to overhaul U.S. immigration laws in 2013, stuck by his support for a path to citizenship under detailed conditions. “Citizenship need not be mandatory, but it needs to be an option for those who are qualified,” said Graham spokeswoman Brittany Bramell. Graham also backed a process to give legal status or citizenship—along with government benefits like in-state tuition—to minors brought to the U.S. by their parents.

But the majority of the field offered muddier responses, or declined to answer at all. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was one of several to argue the debate should be postponed until the southern border is secured.

“Any discussion about dealing with who is already here is counterproductive until the border is secure,” Jindal told TIME in a statement issued through his spokesman. “Any attempt to deal with the millions of people who are currently in this country illegally prior to securing the border is illogical, and is nothing more than amnesty.”

Asked about a pathway to legal status for undocumented workers who met certain conditions, Jindal dismissed it as “a hypothetical conversation.” As for legal status or citizenship for those brought to the U.S. as minors, Jindal turned the focus to Obama. “A serious discussion about those individuals is just not possible right now because of the reckless policies of this administration,” he said. “This President has done everything he can to encourage illegal immigration.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose path to the GOP nomination runs through the conservative grassroots, opposes a path to citizenship for the undocumented. But it’s unclear where Cruz, who casts himself as a proponent of immigration reform, stands on the matter of legal status. He did not directly answer questions from TIME at a recent question-and-answer session hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

These evasions reflect the divisiveness of a topic that splits the party’s bigwigs and its base. The fate of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. is such a freighted question among conservative activists in early voting states like Iowa that White House hopefuls are leery of sinking their campaigns with a single slip of the tongue.

Take former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is likely to launch his second campaign for the presidency next month. Many recall the brain freeze Perry suffered in the middle of a 2011 debate as the moment his first bid for the White House went awry. But the face plant capped a free fall set in motion at an earlier debate, when Perry excoriated critics of in-state tuition breaks for undocumented minors. “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there by no fault of their own,” Perry argued then, “I don’t think you have a heart.”

Perry takes a different tack now. In response to TIME’s questions, a spokesman for the former Lone Star State governor compiled a summary of his tough record on illegal immigration, including a “border surge” to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants from Central America in 2014, an increase in border-security funding and a mandate for state agencies and contractors to use e-verify, an electronic system designed to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers. “Under Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership, Texas did more to secure the southern border than any state in the nation,” said spokesman Travis Considine.

Perry isn’t the only Republican to recalibrate his approach. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has shifted on immigration more than any other GOP candidate. Once a supporter of a path to citizenship, Walker is now a firm no. “He believes citizenship should be reserved for those who follow the law from the beginning,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong told TIME. Asked if Walker supported an eventual pathway to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally or a separate process for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, Strong replied: “He believes that following the President’s illegal executive action, the U.S.’s priorities must be repealing the executive action, securing the border, and enforcing the laws on the books while implementing a workable e-verify system.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped craft the 2013 Senate measure, has edged away from his support of a comprehensive reform bill; he now says he would support a path to citizenship only after tough border measures are imposed first. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is from Mexico, is a supporter of immigration reform who has urged the party to rethink its approach on immigration. But while he once spoke favorably about a path to citizenship, he prefers a path to earned legal status.

“Governor Bush believes once immigrants who entered illegally as adults plead guilty and pay the applicable fines or perform community service, they should become eligible to start the process to earn legal status,” spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger told TIME. “Such earned legal status should entail paying taxes, learning English, committing no substantial crimes, and not receiving government benefits. Governor Bush believes this must be accompanied by measures to secure the border and reform America’s broken immigration system to make it economically driven.”

Candidates like Bush and Rubio are trying to navigate the tightrope on a tricky policy issue by taking a position that can win over moderate voters (including the center-right business community, which favors reform) without alienating the GOP base. Their position grew more precarious recently, when likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, vying to maintain the party’s grip on the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, positioned herself as a greater advocate of undocumented workers than anyone in the field.

“We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” she said, claiming Republican candidate has consistently supported that policy. “When they talk about ‘legal status,’ that is code for second-class status.”

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller/Scottsdale, Ariz.

TIME Campaigns

California Senate Candidate Caught Ridiculing Native Americans

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., participates in the news conference on Food and Drug Administration menu labeling regulations
Bill Clark—AP Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., participates in the news conference on Food and Drug Administration menu labeling regulations on April 28, 2015.

Sanchez used an offensive gesture before a group of Indian Americans

California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a U.S. Senate candidate, was caught using a derogatory gesture directed at Native Americans at an event for Indian Americans on Saturday.

In a video captured by an observer, Sanchez tells a story about how she was invited to an event by what she thought was a Native American group. “I’m going to his office, thinking I’m going to meet with a… ” Sanchez said before clapping her hand over her mouth and making a chanting sound.

The gesture, reminiscent of 1950s depictions of Native Americans widely condemned as racist, drew tepid laughter in the crowd as well audible several outraged cries of “oh my God” and “What the heck was that?”

Sanchez has since declined to comment on the appropriateness of her gesture. “I think that Native Americans have an incredibly great history, and a great presence in our country, and many of them are supporting our election,” she said in response to a question from the Sacramento Bee.

TIME 2016 Election

Marco Rubio Struggles to Say Whether Iraq Invasion Was a ‘Mistake’

Latest GOP presidential hopeful to get entangled in the question

Florida Senator Marco Rubio became the latest GOP presidential hopeful on Sunday to become entangled in answering a question about whether it was a mistake for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq in 2003.

When asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Rubio said it wasn’t a mistake at the time by then-President George W. Bush, given the intelligence he was presented in regards to weapons of mass destruction said to be in Iraq. Wallace asked Rubio whether that was a flip-flop from previous answers, and then pressed him several more times.

“It’s not a mistake. I still say it was not a mistake because the President was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” Rubio said. “It was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction.”

The question came after a week when a number of confirmed or presumed Republican presidential candidates found themselves addressing the same issue. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush came under fire for multiple answers about his brother’s action. He later clarified that he wouldn’t have ordered the invasion given what he knows now about the intelligence at the time.

[Fox News]

TIME Republican

Energized Republicans Put On a Campaign Show in Iowa

Irreverence, optimism and Lindsey Graham's incest joke

DES MOINES—I’m a little worried about burying the lead here. Saturday night was the annual Lincoln Day dinner in Iowa, a major cattle call for Republicans who wish to be President. Twelve candidates attended. And Senator Lindsey Graham…no, wait.

The candidates ranged from very serious and plausible like Jeb Bush, who performed admirably, to has-beens (Rick Santorum), never was’s (George Pataki, the very former governor of New York, was there), to never-will-be’s (Rick Perry), to …to Lindsey Graham, who told a joke…no, wait.

As I was saying, the candidates ranged from Bush, to a soft-spoken and very accomplished surgeon named Dr. Ben Carson—whose slightly bemused presence seemed that of a Buddhist monk in a leather bar—to the inevitable Donald Trump, who was the only one to make a complete fool of himself: he announced that he, personally, somehow, contra the Constitution would—did I mention, personally?—slap—that is, without the Congress, and seemingly overnight, mind you—the Ford Motor company with a 35% tax on products imported from Mexico.

But Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina, came on like a cabaret act, encouraging the crowd to drink up, “The more you drink, the better I sound…” And then, after a series of energetic one-liners—this was like a post-modern deconstructionist version of a political speech—told one about his first case as a lawyer in South Carolina. It was a divorce case. “The husband asked,” the Senator said. “If we get divorced, can we still be cousins?”

Okay, it was somewhat bowdlerized. The version I first heard some years ago, was, “Can she still be my niece?” But still. Senator Lindsey Graham told an incest joke at a Republican Party dinner in Iowa, where the evangelical legions are assumed to be in control. In fairness, the 1,400 GOP activists assembled seemed more from the banker-businessman sector of the party, but still—I’ve been doing this for 46 years and I don’t think I ever heard a presidential candidate tell an incest joke before.

Actually, Graham—who was allotted 10 minutes, as were the other candidates—was wildly entertaining throughout. He ragged Iowa’s famously abstemious farmer-Senator, Chuck Grassley: “You know Chuck’s not paying tonight, or he wouldn’t be here.” He said he wanted to be President because “you get a house, a car and a plane.” He said that if you’re a jihadist who attacks us, “I’m not gonna call a judge”—a slap at civil libertarians—“I’m gonna call a drone and it will kill you.”

In the course of an evening during which every one of the Republicans decried Islamic terrorism without really saying what they’d do about it, Graham said he would put boots on the ground in Iraq and keep them there in Afghanistan. (Before tonight, he was better known for his bellicosity than his humor.) “How many of you think the Iranians want to build a peaceful nuclear power plant and how many think they want to build a weapon?” He said that those who believed the former “shouldn’t be allowed to drive in Iowa.” He also said he was convinced that as soon as the Supreme Leader got the bomb, he would use it against Israel. This is utter nonsense—and afterwards Graham told me he was more concerned about the Iranians leaking the technology to groups like Hizballah than a frontal assault on Israel (which would result in the almost-immediately evaporation of the city of Tehran, 12 million strong). But still, Senator, the ground rules are that you’re not supposed to say mega-scary things in public if you don’t really believe them.

I must say that Lindsey Graham is the cheeriest superhawk I’ve ever seen and while I’m pretty sure he won’t be nominated by the Republicans, I’m really glad he’s in the race.

As for the others, there was a pattern. They talked about an economy constrained by a nonsensical tax code and web of regulations; they talked about the threat of Islamic radicalism—and the seemingly more outrageous fact that the President refuses to call it that. There was much less anger and pessimism than in the Republican class of 2012. Rick Perry, the only one to attempt real churchified oratory, kept saying over and over again, with slightly scary fervor—an evangelist on Ecstasy?—how optimistic he was. And most of the others paid lip service to optimism—which used to be the true American religion—as well. (I should mention that Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, who might have added even more juice to the proceedings, were absent.)

Rand Paul distinguished himself from the pack, as he almost always does, because he is different from the pack: he devoted much of his speech to the coming debate over the Patriot Act, which he sees as an infringement of First Amendment rights. And he launched a particularly effective attack on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State: “Someone needs to ask Hillary Clinton if it was a good idea to topple Qaddafi in Libya,” he suggested, noting that Qaddafi has been replaced by “chaos,” with a significant slice of the (former) country in danger of falling under the control of ISIS.

OK, I’ll admit it: I was expecting a fairly endless evening of predictable and highly-processed red meat. But this was…fun. There is energy and irreverence—without the Limbaugh-Hannity bitterness—in this crop of candidates, although the field could certainly use some pruning. That will come in good time, of course. For now, though, I suspect Lindsey Graham is ready for Vegas…if not for the Nevada primary. He’s crazy good.

TIME Boxing

See Mitt Romney Throw a Punch in Holyfield Boxing Match

Mitt Romney fought boxing champ Evander Holyfield in a charity boxing match

TIME Boxing

Watch Mitt Romney Fight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield

Romney threw in the towel after two short rounds

(SALT LAKE CITY)—Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and five-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield squared off in the ring at a charity fight night event in Salt Lake City.

Romney, 68, and Holyfield, 52, sparred, if you could call it that, for just two short rounds Friday before Romney ran away from the boxer and threw in the towel, giving up a round early in the lighthearted fight that came amid several other fights by professional boxers and an auction.

The two barely threw any punches and largely just danced around, occasionally lightly jabbing each other in the midsection in what was much more of a comedic event than an actual bout.

The black-tie affair raised money for the Utah-based organization CharityVision, which helps doctors in developing countries perform surgeries to restore vision in people with curable blindness.

Romney’s son Josh Romney, who lives in Utah, serves as a volunteer president for CharityVision.

Corporate sponsorships for the event ranged from $25,000 to $250,000. Organizers say they raised at least $1 million.

“He said, ‘You know what? You float like a bee and sting like a butterfly,'” Romney said after the fight.

Attendees just enjoyed the festive atmosphere and the chance to see Romney in the ring.

“Oh, it was great. I was very proud of Mitt,” said Katie Anderson, who attended the event with her husband.

“I was happy it went to the second round,” Devin Anderson said.

Romney, the most-high profile Mormon in America, is hugely popular in the state, where more than 60 percent of the residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Beyond his religious connections, the former Massachusetts governor is remembered by many for turning around Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal.

Romney has recently built a home in the Salt Lake City area and registered as a Utah voter.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Clintons Earned $25 Million From Paid Speeches Since 2014

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech during the David Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University in Manhattan, NY April 29, 2015.  (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
Kevin Hagen—2015 Getty Images Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech during the David Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University in Manhattan, NY April 29, 2015.

Hillary and Bill Clinton have earned a combined $25 million giving paid speeches since January 2014, a massive income boost ahead of Hillary’s candidacy for president.

In addition, Hillary Clinton earned at least $5 million in income from her memoir Hard Choices, published in June. A senior campaign official confirmed the details of a financial disclosure form filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.

The couple’s earnings over the last year puts them among the country’s very wealthiest earners, and among the wealthiest candidates for president in 2016. Their effective federal income tax for 2014 was more than 30%, the campaign official said.

The couple has an awkward history of talking about their wealth. Justifying her speaking fees last year, Hillary said the family was “dead broke” when they left the White House. In an interview this month with NBC, Bill said he had to give paid speeches because “I gotta pay our bills.”

Bill and Hillary combined have given more than 100 paid speeches since last January. Hillary has entertained clients from a camps convention to an auto dealers association.

With reporting by Philip Elliott

TIME mitt romney

Mitt Romney Once Again Set to Lose, This Time in Boxing

The 2012 presidential nominee is set to face world champ Evander Holyfield for charity

Mitt Romney is going to lose. But unlike his 2008 and 2012 presidential bids, he knows it ahead of time.

Romney, who has never previously boxed, is scheduled to face world heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield during a charity event Friday evening in Utah. The former Republican governor of Massachusetts and 2012 GOP presidential nominee enters the ring as the undeniable underdog. Romney’s optimistic entrance music? “I Will Survive.”

“I expect to be beaten but unbowed,” Romney told the New York Times magazine in an interview.

Romney, the stiff patrician who is more comfortable captaining his boat around New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee than throwing haymakers, is using the stunt to raise cash for Charity Vision, which has ties to the Romney clan. The former governor’s wife, Ann, is on the organization’s board of directors; his son Josh is the group’s president.

Promoters estimate $1 million will go to the group, which helps treat blindness and eye problems in 25 countries. That sum would pay for about 40,000 eye surgeries from El Salvador to Indonesia.

But trading in cuff links for boxing gloves is a shift for Romney, who traded verbal jabs with President Obama but little more. Now, he’s facing down a four-time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist.

It is unlikely that Holyfield will be cowed by Romney’s tenure running 2002’s Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“I will be doing a bit of dancing and dodging Friday night,” Romney told the magazine, comparing it to taking political hits during two runs for president.

A 30-second negative commercial, however, is unlikely to have anything close to the pain Holyfield could inflict on Romney’s matinee-idol jawline.

Romney advisers are hoping the jabs will be for show and in good humor. The fight is supposed to go three rounds, but the play-acting in the ring could be cut short once the novelty wears off. After all, one Romney friend says, the governor is doing this more to help his family continue its charity work than to put himself back in the spotlight.

While absurd, Romney is hardly the first political figure to stray from staid formality to help his own cause. Richard Nixon appeared on NBC’s “Laugh-In” variety show as a candidate in 1968, and presidential hopefuls are frequent election year cameos on “Saturday Night Live.” Former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay shook his rump on “Dancing With the Stars,” only to withdraw with a fractured foot.

And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, signed with “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett for her own reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” She has since been branded “the first lady of the outdoors” on the Sportsman Channel’s “Amazing America.”

Still, no politician has yet to take a right cross to the face from a boxing champ. Romney’s allies are betting Holyfield goes easy, and that the two-time presidential hopeful doesn’t become the first politician to know the literal meaning of being on-the-ropes.

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