Morning Examiner: Southern Fried Tuesday

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Only two states go to the polls today (and a third caucuses in Hawaii), but if Mitt Romney sweeps them both it could mean an end to the longest Republican primary since 1976.

Polls close at 7 PM Central Standard Time in both Alabama and Mississippi this evening, but winners will not be determined until late tonight. Recent polls in both states show a tight race between all three remaining candidates: Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, with no candidate more than two points ahead of any other rival.

But it does appears that Gingrich has the momentum. Public Policy Polling surveys from both Alabama and Mississippi show him pulling ahead of Santorum. A Gingrich win in either state would be a huge blow to Santorum’s claim that he is the conservative alternative to Romney. If Gingrich can pull out one win today, and then solidify his alliance with Rick Perry, he could steal a lot of delegates from Santorum all the way through to the Texas primary in late May.

But if Romney manages to win even one state, that would put to rest complaints from some in the party that he cannot get southern Republicans to the polls. And if he wins both states, it would raise serious doubts about his rivals’ continued viability. If Gingrich can’t beat Romney in the south, and Santorum can’t beat Romney in heavily evangelical states, then neither candidate has much of a chance of beating Romney anywhere.

Campaign 2012
Romney: Romney turned 65 yesterday and his campaign announced that the candidate will not enroll in Medicare.

Santorum: A new Santorum campaign strategy memo admits Santorum cannot win a majority of delegates outright and is now shooting for a contested convention.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin election officials will ask a judge on Wednesday to schedule Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election on June 5.

Around the Bigs

CBS News, Obama’s approval rating sinks to new low: President Obama’s approval rating has hit the lowest level ever in CBS News polling, dropping to 41 percent. It was 50 percent last month. Another 47 percent disapprove of his performance, up from 41 percent last month.

USA Today, Federal deficit up in February and on pace to top $1T again: The Treasury Department says last month’s budget deficit was $232 billion and is on pace to hit $1.3 trillion by the end of this fiscal year.

Associated Press, Reid moves to end GOP filibuster on judges: Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on 17 judicial nominees yesterday, a move that could tie up the Senate this week as Reid tries to find the 60 votes needed overcome Republican filibusters.

The Wall Street Journal, Split on Export Bank Clouds Jobs Bill: Senate Democrats plan Tuesday to attach a four-year renewal of the U.S. Export-Import Bank to the JOBS Act which passed the House 390-23 last week.

The New York Times, G.O.P. Split Over a Bid to Revise Budget Deal: House Republicans are divided over overall spending levels for the FY 2013 budget. Conservatives want a budget that spends less than last August’s deal with Obama on the debt ceiling. Leadership wants to stick to the August spending agreement.

The Wall Street Journal, Fed Fights Subpoena on Bernanke: The Federal Reserve is fighting a subpoena from lawyers in a civil lawsuit who want the central bank’s chairman, Ben Bernanke, to testify about conversations he had with Bank of America Corp. executives before the lender completed its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.

The Wall Street Journal, Texas Law Requiring Voter IDs Is Blocked: Obama’s Justice Department on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a law that requires voters to show state-issued photo identification at the polls, saying it would disproportionately affect Hispanics.

The Wall Street Journal, Rail Line Collapses in China: A section of new high-speed rail line in central China has apparently collapsed two months before it was scheduled to go into use, in the latest blow to the nation’s already troubled high-speed rail ambitions.

Righty Playbook
Hot Air posts a 2008 Obama campaign commercial attacking President Bush over gas prices.

The Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack notes that The New York Times new poll shows Americans opposes Obama’s birth control mandate by a 21-point margin.

At RedState, Brian Darling notes that Harry Reid’s cloture filing on judicial nominees is really an attack on Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Lefty Playbook
The Democratic National Committee is sending millions of mailers to women in several states promoting Obamacare.

The American Prospect‘s Robert Kuttner says Obama’s reelection will face tough tests on national security and energy.

ThinkProgress attacks the Medicare memo issued by the Romney campaign yesterday.

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