Morning Briefing: January 9, 2012

Ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, the latest WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll showed that Mitt Romney has a strong lead with 41 percent saying they’d vote for him, but the race for second and third is still close. Ron Paul has 17 percent, and Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum are tied for third with 11 percent.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments over the Texas GOP’s redistricting map and whether it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act requirement that states with a history of voting rights violations get federal “preclearance” before changing election rules.

GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has a new message for unemployed voters: I feel your pain. “I know what it’s like to worry about whether or not you are going to get fired,” Romney said. “There are times when I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.” Romney has faced increased criticism from his rivals and Democrats for laying off hundreds of people during his tenure at Bain Capital.

A record number of Americans identified as themselves independents, according to a new Gallup survey. Forty percent of respondents said they are independents, the highest percent in 60 years.

Appearing on CBS’s Face The Nation yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Iran is not currently building a nuclear weapon. The secretary did say, however, that he believes that Iran is laying the groundwork for a nuclear program that could one day be used to develop such weapons.

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (TX), a staunch foe of government intervention in health care, admitted that health care controlled by big corporations is also bad for the country. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, he conceded that we “don’t have government really running things and owning [the health care system]; that would be very, very bad. But corporate medicine isn’t a whole lot better.”

GOP contender Rick Santorum has long been a vociferous critic of public education, but has shied away from discussing his views on the campaign trail. Many Republican candidates support school vouchers, but Santorum stands out for bizarre characterization of public school education and advocacy of home schooling. “It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools,” he once said.

And finally: Speaking on a particular area of expertise, rapper Snoop Dogg mused on how he’d convince the White House to legalize marijuana: “Before I even said ‘Hi’ to President Obama, I would change the aroma of the room…And then we could start conversing after we had that aroma change. You know what I’m talking about?”

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