Tom Rouse presents our round-up of news from around the world, including the latest on the 2012 US Presidential election campaign.
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Mitt Romney took a big step towards securing the Republican nomination after storming to victory in Arizona and just edging out Rick Santorum in Michigan.
Although the delegates have been evenly split in Michigan, Romney looks to have done enough to keep his nose ahead and diffuse Santorum’s big chance to cause an upset ahead of Super Tuesday.
Ohio may well prove the last chance for Santorum to prove he is a serious contender to Romney and the latest polls and in-trade betting suggest he has a small lead. Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog, gives Santorum a 64% chance of seizing Ohio. If he can take Ohio and deny Romney victory in Georgia, momentum may once again swing in Santorum’s favour.
Romney, however, is continuing to pour funds into the state, with his Super PAC ‘Restore Our Future’ feeding more than one million dollars into an advertising fund in the last week, which has allowed Romney to close the gap between the two candidates.
In total, 410 delegates will be on offer on Super Tuesday and a strong showing by Romney could seal the race, which has doubtless encouraged his supporters to throw even more money behind him in an attempt to set the stage for a show-down with President Obama.
Obama’s approval ratings have continued their slow steady climb back towards 50% with the latest Gallup poll putting him at 47%. Despite this slow increase, polling suggests Republican voters are still marginally more enthusiastic about this year’s election than Democratic ones, with 53% of Republicans saying they are enthusiastic compared to 45% of Democrats.
However, this is still far below the levels reached by the Democrats in 08 and if Obama continues to throw red meat to his base, the Democrat figure is likely to increase.
Rush Limbaugh has proved once again that Republican shock jocks will do almost anything for attention. Wading into the debate over contraception, the radio host called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress about the cost of contraception.
Obama seized on the opportunity to claim the moral highground and energise his female supporters, publicly calling the Georgetown law student to express his solidarity with her and her support for his administration’s stance over free contraception as part of medical insurance.
Elsewhere, the mad delusions of the birther movement refuse to go away. Joe Arpario, the controversial Arizona Sheriff, has announced the ‘findings’ of his investigation into the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has announced his ‘cold case posse’ had determined the certificate was a forgery.
Critics of Aparo have alleged his fascination with Obama’s birth certificate is an attempt to distract attention from the upcoming grand jury investigation he faces and to boost his re-election bid.
Iran went to the polls on Friday, with elections taking place to the country’s parliament. However, with the major opposition movements boycotting the elections due to their being under house arrest, there is little prospect of real change.
The major battle is between two different wings of the conservative movement, with supporters of the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fighting those of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It is the first nationwide poll since the much disputed 2009 presidential election.
No independent observers have been invited to monitor the elections or the results and so any results will be impossible to verify.
Negotiations between the US and Afghanistan governments on the former’s long term military presence in the region look set to break down with President Hamid Karzai refusing to consider compromising over control of jails and the continuation of American night-time raids.
The US and her allies had hoped to have a deal in place by May, when a NATO conference in Chicago is expected to pledge to support Kabul in the long-term with military training and financial aid. Supporters of Karzai are adamant that the country will not surrender sovereignty and refuse to consider any possibility of foreign control over Afghan jails.
Twenty five of the 27 European Union member states have signed a new treaty, which they hope will enforce budgetary discipline, by ensuring members do not spend drastically outside their means. The new treaty still needs to be ratified by the 12 eurozone member states before it can officially be enforced.
The UK joined the Czech Republic in not signing the treaty, following on from David Cameron’s decision to opt out in December. Despite this, Cameron still claims to have played an integral part in the talks, saying a letter he co-signed with other sceptical nations – calling for increased action to boost growth and cut red tape – played a vital role in setting the direction of the talks.
Also this week:
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