Morning Briefing: February 28, 2012

Republican voters head to the polls in Michigan and Arizona today for one of the most important primary battles yet between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Santorum’s campaign is looking for all the help it can get, including urging Democrats in robocalls to vote for the former senator in the open primary — a call many progressives are happy to oblige, hoping to thwart Romney.

Romney’s campaign called the robocalls “pathetic” and a “new low,” but Romney himself has said he did essentially the same thing, voting for a Democrat in a 1992 Senate primary so the weaker candidate would be nominated to face off against the Republican in the general.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will not challenge signatures initiating his recall, moving the state one step closer to removing Walker. Aides said there was not enough time to thoroughly review the 152,000 pages of signatures for duplications and fraudulent names, but critics said it shows Walker’s supporters do not have a viable challenge to make against the petitions.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) worried yesterday that Republicans are getting distracted by discussing divisive social issues. “I don’t think we’re going to have a sidetrack into social issues,” Ryan said on CBS’ This Morning.

Just after midnight, police began forcefully evicting demonstrators from the Occupy London encampment outside of St. Paul Cathedral. Protesters erected a barricade in an attempt to slow down the process but within hours the park had been cleared and tents removed. UK newspaper The Telegraph live-blogged the eviction.

Germany’s parliament approved its portion of the Greek bailout yesterday, guaranteeing $174 billion for the effort to prevent a Greek default. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged parliament to approve the measure before the vote, saying, “If the euro fails, Europe fails.”

Federal authorities have expanded an insider trading investigation into 120 individuals on and off Wall Street and have begun building cases against them. Since 2009, prosecutors have won 57 cases against 66 individuals on insider trading charges. The government is currently investigating about 240 people in the probe.

Newt Gingrich’s campaign effectively told the FEC to drop dead, Bloomberg reports. Despite warnings that the campaign has failed to follow disclosure laws, Gingrich’s campaign treasurer responded to the FEC — a month late — by saying that the campaign thinks “no further itemization is required.”

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) gave $9.4 million to nonprofits that spent big on the 2010 election, including $4.5 million that went to the conservative American Action Network, iWatchNews reports.

And finally: Mitt Romney may have confused DVDs and CDs last night at a campaign rally with Kid Rock. Romney uses a Kid Rock song as introduction music at campaign events, but said last night that the musician frequently “introduces me by DVD everywhere I go.” To our knowledge, a film of Kid Rock has never been used to introduce Romney.

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