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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US elections live: Mitt Romney endorsed by Mississippi governor” was written by Richard Adams, for guardian.co.uk on Friday 9th March 2012 18.24 UTC

1.02pm: Barack Obama: mercantilist. Speaking at a car plant somewhere in America this afternoon, the president said:

I don’t want stuff made there and sold over here. I want stuff made here and sold over there.

D’oh. In fact “stuff” can be made here and there, and sold both here and there. It’s called comparative advantage, and everybody wins.

An odd example from the latest trade figures published today: US imports and exports of cars rose during February.

12.46pm: So what happens if Mitt Romney actually wins one of Alabama or Mississippi next Tuesday? It could be all over, according to an enthusiastic Romney staff member:

In a message obtained by Politco, regional political director Michael Joffrion asked Romney volunteers in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia to pitch in for next week’s elections – and close out the 2012 primary season.

“I know everyone is exhausted and still scatter brained from Tuesday. With that said, I need a HUGE favor. We are within one point here in Alabama. A win in Alabama will end this process,” Joffrion wrote.

Larry Sabato, the Oracle of Charlottesville, appears to agree:

And not just Newt but Rick too, surely.

12.22pm: Hey it’s another poll from Mississippi, this time from Rasmussen Reports:

A new statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the Magnolia State shows Romney with 35% of the vote, while former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each draw support from 27%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul runs last with six percent (6%).

11.56am: Oh god: get ready for the third coming of Newt Gingrich, based on today’s polls from Alabama and Mississippi.

Mississippi: according to a post-Super Tuesday ARG poll, Newt Gingrich leads with 35%, Mitt Romney with 31%, Rick Santorum with 20%, and Ron Paul with 7%.

Alabama: according to Rasmussen Reports, Gingrich is just ahead with 30%, compared with 29% for Rick Santorum and 28% for Mitt Romney. Ron Paul trails with 7%.

Yikes. If that patterns holds, then no one is dropping out anytime soon. Except in this scenario: Mitt Romney wins both Alabama and Mississippi, which he could easily do based on these polls. In that case, it might very well be all over.

In conclusion: only time will tell.

11.29pm: Before HBO’s Game Change makes you all sentimental about Sarah Palin, the real life Sarah Palin smacks you across the face like a Rush Limbaugh apology.

Appearing as herself on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last night, the former governor of Alaska accused Barack Obama of being a pre-Civil War Southern confederacy slave-supporter, or so it would appear. Yes, it’s that crazy.

11.05am: And some more good news – in one sense – from the US economy, in the form of a widening trade deficit.

The US trade deficit hit $52.6bn last month, with both imports and exports up. Why a deficit is good news: it suggests domestic demand is picking up, enough to suck in more imports.

And it wasn’t oil: there was a 10% increase in imports of cars and auto parts, and more importantly in imports of capital goods such as computers and industrial machinery.

10.40am: The reviews are in for Game Change, the 2008 election-o-drama debuting tomorrow night on HBO.

The Los Angeles Times likes it and supplies a thoughtful review:

It is impossible, and superfluous, to attempt a letter-perfect chronicle of almost any historical event, especially a political campaign, and no doubt Palin and others depicted here will argue that the script takes liberty with the facts, if only in the selection of which events or conversations are presented and which are not.

But the overall atmosphere of the film is surprisingly kind to all, much more fatalistic than hypercritical and certainly not derisive. Palin’s rise and fall is depicted as series of bad decisions made in relatively good faith that lead up to a hideous car crash.

The Wall Street Journal goes with a lazy, snotty review:

Truth be told, “Game Change” does not make anyone look good. John McCain, as portrayed by Ed Harris, comes across as an insecure figure, part Bubba, part booby, with repetitive expletive syndrome.

10.30am: More detail on the rosy jobs numbers, from the CEPR’s Dean Baker:

The rise in manufacturing employment was impressive; with upward revisions to the prior two months, the sector has added 111,000 jobs over the last three months. The auto industry has been a driving force, directly accounting for 20,700 of these jobs. The pace of growth may slow, but it seems likely that manufacturing will be a major force in the recovery going forward.

That’s also good news for the White House, since its support of the auto industry has been a subject of much debate, and similarly bad news for Mitt Romney, who wanted Detroit to drop dead (I paraphrase).

10.20am: The RomneyBot 2000 software had another bug yesterday, revealed when the Mitt Romney avatar said the following in a speech in which he described how he was being turned into “an unofficial Southerner”:

I am learning to say ‘y’all’ and ‘I like grits,’ and things. Strange things are happening to me.

What a stroke of luck that Mitt Romney should learn to like grits just before a crucial election. And it’s not at all patronising.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, suggests that while Romney has endorsements from almost all of the state GOP hierarchy in Alabama and Mississippi, the actual voters are not so convinced:

Waiting to hear [Newt] Gingrich speak Thursday in Jackson, Shane Brown, a 43-year-old nondenominational Christian minister, said he and his wife are not Romney fans but they’re resigned that he will probably win the nomination.

“He just does not seem like a real person,” Brown said. “We’re going to end up getting a candidate that the base doesn’t really love. You may go vote for him, but you’re not going to tell 10 people to go vote for him.”

He said that enthusiasm gap will hurt the Republicans. “I think that’s something the party establishment doesn’t quite understand.

Not a real person? But he likes grits, since yesterday.

10am: The latest job figures are unalloyed good news for the White House and President Obama’s re-election hopes – and put the Republican party and its presidential candidates into a pickle.

US employers added 227,000 jobs in February, and January and December figures were revised up by 61,000, meaning the economy has now generated an average of 245,000 jobs in the past three months.

And while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3% despite the job growth, that was also a form of good news: previously discouraged workers were being attracted back into the labour force and were out looking for work.

While 8.3% unemployment is still not a great number for the White House, the trend is more important. And it places the Republican party in a tough spot: Mitt Romney, its front-runner and presumptive nominee, has based his candidacy on his private sector record as a businessman. Remove that plank, and what’s left?

9.30am ET: It’s another day of campaigning in the Republican presidential contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with events overshadowed by more good news on the economic front, with the US adding another 227,000 jobs last month.

Here’s a summary from Ryan Devereaux with what to look out for today:

• Ahead of Mississippi’s primary, Mitt Romney received a key endorsement from the state’s governor, Phil Bryant, who said he thought Romney had the best chance of beating President Obama. The endorsement is an important gain for Romney as heads into southern Evangelical territory. On average, exit polls have indicted that in the five states where the majority of GOP primary voters are born-again Christians, Romney has trailed his rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich among Evangelicals by 20 points among evangelicals. Among Romney’s qualities that enthused Bryant were his ability to hold a baby: “I like to see a man when he’s holding a baby. And he looks like he’s held a baby before.”

• Rick Santorum has attempted to appeal to Christian conservatives in the south by renewing attacks on John F Kennedy. Running for president in 1960 Kennedy said he believed “in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Speaking at a banquet in Alabama on Thursday, Santorum said: “That’s not America. That’s France. That’s a naked public square where people of faith are out of bounds.”

• Despite their candidate choosing not to appear in Kansas this week, Gingrich’s Super Pac has outspent competitors in the state by a wide margin. According to Politico, Winning Our Future has spent $180,185 on television ads in the first week of March, well ahead of his rivals.

• The candidates have a full day of campaigning ahead of them. Romney and Gingrich will both be rallying support in Mississippi and Alabama. Santorum will be in Alabama this morning and then is scheduled to appear in Kansas by early afternoon. Texas congressman Ron Paul, who is indeed still in the race, will be in Kansas all day

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Obama derides Republican ‘posturing’ over use of force against Iran” was written by Chris McGreal in Washington, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 6th March 2012 22.02 UTC

Barack Obama has accused Republican presidential candidates of casually “beating the drums of war” over Iran without having the political courage to directly advocate a military attack or considering the human cost of battle.

In his first press conference of the year Tuesday Obama turned on the Republican politicians who for days have been accusing him of weakness and naivete over Iran, ramped up by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit and a meeting of the US’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

The president said that his policy of sanctions has united much of the international community to pressure Iran and that “we have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically”.

“That’s my track record. Now, what’s said on the campaign trail – those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war,” he said.

“I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it.”

Obama returned to the theme later in the press conference.

“When I sign letters to families that haven’t – whose loved ones have not come home, I am reminded that there is a cost. Sometimes we bear that cost. But we think it through. We don’t play politics with it,” he said.

“Typically, it’s not the folks who are popping off who pay the price. It’s these incredible men and women in uniform and their families who pay the price.”

The president went on to challenge his Republican opponents to say if they want a war and then address the consequences of attacking Iran.

“Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk,” he said.

Obama’s comments were aimed, among others, at Mitt Romney, who described the president as “feckless” over Iran in Tuesday’s Washington Post and advocated a policy of “peace through strength”.

The press conference came hours after the announcement that the US will join Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany in a new round of negotiations with Tehran, a move that led Rick Santorum to accuse Obama of “appeasement”.

Obama defended those talks, saying they are an opportunity to judge whether Iran understands that “the world community means business”.

“I don’t expect a breakthrough in a first meeting, but I think we will have a pretty good sense fairly quickly as to how serious they are about resolving the issue,” he said.

Obama derided the aggressive posturing of some of his opponents and more hawkish supporters of Israel who have pressed for an explicit commitment to the use of force against Iran by setting “red lines” that Tehran’s nuclear programme must not cross.

“When I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem,” he said.

The president had a similar reaction to calls for military action against Syria, including Senator John McCain’s demand this week that the US bomb in support of the forces fighting the regime in Damascus.

Obama said that events in Syria are “heartbreaking” but that military intervention is not the answer.

“For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake. What happened in Libya was we mobilised the international community, had a UN security council mandate, had the full cooperation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation,” he said.

“The notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, that hasn’t been true in the past and it won’t be true now. We’ve got to think through what we do through the lens of what’s going to be effective, but also what’s critical for US security interests.”

The president has been accused of weakness over both Syria and Iran, but the focus of recent days has been on Tehran because of differences with Netanyahu over the value of sanctions and diplomacy.

The Israeli prime minister on Monday derided the effectiveness of sanctions in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and said that “none of us can afford to wait much longer” to act against Tehran.

Romney told Aipac on Tuesday that Obama’s policy of “engagement” with Tehran is naive and gave the Iranian leadership time to develop its nuclear programme.

“Hope is not a foreign policy. The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve backed by our power and our readiness to use it,” he said. “As president I’ll be ready to engage in diplomacy but I will be just as ready to engage our military might.”

Newt Gingrich went the further in telling Aipac that as president he would give Israel the means to attack Tehran’s nuclear facilities and let it do so without question.

“I will initiate a strategy in the tradition of Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II to undermine and replace the Iranian dictatorship by every possible method short of war in order to achieve a government we could trust and could deal with,” he said.

“At the same time I would provide all available intelligence to the Israeli government, ensure that they had the equipment necessary and reassure them that if an Israeli prime minister decides he has to avoid the threat of a second Holocaust through pre-emptive measures that I would require no advance notice to understand why I would support the right of Israel to survive in a dangerous world.”

Santorum said Obama should put an ultimatum to Tehran to end its nuclear programme and “that if they don’t tear down those facilities, we will tear down them ourselves”.

Obama’s pushback was reinforced by the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who told the president’s critics not to mistake a willingness to pursue diplomacy for weakness.

Panetta, speaking to Aipac on Tuesday, said the military option is on the table as a last resort if sanctions fail and the president’s record demonstrates that he will use it if he believes there is no alternative.

“As the president made clear, the United States does not bluff. In this town it’s easy to talk tough. Acting tough is a hell of a lot more important,” he said.

“The president ordered 30,000 additional troops to battle in Afghanistan to confront a resurgent Taliban. He launched a comprehensive precision bombing campaign to protect the Libyans and ultimately toppled a brutal dictator. He has ordered US warships to pass through the straits of Hormuz despite the threats that we have received from Iran.

“And he has been the driving force behind the most successful and lethal counter-terrorism campaign in US history culminating in the bold decision to send US special operations forces hundreds of miles into Pakistan to take the risk to take down bin Laden. And he did.”

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Newt Gingrich promises moon base by the end of his second term” was written by Stuart Millar, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 25th January 2012 23.36 UTC

There are two givens in any election campaign: 1) the candidates will make grand promises that they can never keep and 2) they will pander to their audience at every opportunity.

But on Wednesday, Newt “grandiose is my middle name” [it isn’t] Gingrich took those truisms on to a whole new, extraplanetary level. Speaking to an audience on Florida’s Space Coast ahead of the state’s primary next week, the big-thinking Republican hopeful turned his science fiction fantasies into a hard and fast campaign promise.

“By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Talking Points Memo Gingrich went on to say that the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and to create a “robust industry” modelled on the airline business in the 20th century.

And from there, how could a president ever top that? Well, that would be a mission to Mars obviously, said Gingrich – or Newt Lightyear as my colleague Richard Adams has now dubbed him.

Some reporters in the room undoubtedly would have known that they were witnesses to a historic moment: Gingrich finally losing his mind. But that’s not how Newt saw things, according to Andrew Kaczynski from Buzzfeed Politics.

Of course, Newt has aired his space musings in public before. In December, he defended his policy in favour of lunar mining during one of the live televised debates. Then of course there are his repeated warnings over the dangers to America from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear warhead detonating in space.

By all accounts, Gingrich’s promise drew huge applause on the Space Coast. On Twitter, a far more forbidding place at the best of times, the response was more sceptical. Philip Klein, of the Washington Examiner, was typical.

But then, if Newt can win the Republican nomination, beat Obama in November and then go on to secure a second term, anything is possible.

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