Morning Briefing: February 21, 2012

Negative campaign advertising has increased dramatically during this campaign cycle, with attacks on other Republicans making up more than 50 percent of GOP primary ads, compared to just 6 percent in 2008. Party strategists blame super PACs for the increase.

The latest round of campaign finance reporting reveals that both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are spending money faster than they can raise it, while Rick Santorum is the recipient of some small-dollar donors and a $1 million donation to his Red White and Blue Fund super PAC from Louisiana energy executive William J. Dore.

Big energy and big hedge funds continue to be the key backers of the GOP super PACS: the pro-Romney super PAC added $6.6 million to its coffers in January, including $500,000 each from Alliance Coal CEO Bruce Kovner and Bruce Kovner of Caxton Alternative Management LP.

Greece will receive its second giant bailout from other Eurozone countries in exchange for severe austerity measures and strict conditions, according to an agreement reached by European finance leaders this morning after a marathon round of negotiations. According to a “strictly confidential” report, however, the country may need further assistance after the second rescue runs out.

Sheriff Paul Babeu, an anti-immigration hawk who is running for Congress in Arizona, resigned as co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign amid allegations that he threatened a former male lover with deportation if he exposed their relationship. Since the news broke, Babeu acknowledged that he is gay and has come out in favor of marriage equality, but denied the other claims made in reports.

The Obama administration is working on nutrititional standards for foods that children can purchase in schools outside of the cafeteria to make sure healthy options are available. Representatives for the food and beverage industries argue their products should not be banned, but nutritionists suggest that school vending machines filled with junk food and sugary soft drinks contribute to obesity and other health problems.

Yemenis went to the polls today to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh after more than a year of antigovernment protests and violent clashes in the street. Although the vote was hardly democratic — the only candidate is Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi — “it represents an important transitional moment.”

Fox News contributor and Republican strategist Frank Luntz warmed up a Michigan crowd waiting for an appearance by Rick Santorum by joking that he has a “Run, Barack, Run” bumper sticker on the front of his car.

And finally: A video clip of President Obama singing a few bars of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” went viral recently, but what about a full tour? When Green joined Obama at a fundraiser in San Francisco last week, the president joked, “After re-election I might go on tour with the good reverend — be his opening act.”

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