Morning Briefing: March 6, 2012

Voters in 11 states head to the polls today for biggest round of Republican presidential primaries thus far. Super Tuesday could help cement Mitt Romney’s claim to the nomination, but it “has come at a palpable price for November,” the The Atlantic notes, as Romney has lost support among white working-class voters, a key demographic he needs to win against President Obama, if he’s the nominee.

Key Republicans in Congress are renewing their focus on maintaining control of the House and picking up a majority in the Senate, and in the process may be giving up on their hopes of retaking the White House. Amid rebounding polls favoring the President, conservative icons Dick Armey and George Will have argued in recent days that Congress, not the White House, should be Republicans’ top priority.

According to leading economists, the U.S. economy is improving. An AP survey of leading experts predicts faster growth and lower unemployment than estimates from just two months ago, with unemployment expected to fall to 8 percent by Election Day in November.

Minority students face harsher punishments, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education. The study found that African-American students are three times and likely to be suspended or expelled as white students.

Despite constant criticism from the Republican presidential field, the public is siding heavily with President Obama on his decision to issue an apology for accidental burning of Quarans in Afghanistan. According to a new Reuters poll, 56 percent of Americans agree with the president’s decision, while just 23 percent of the public disagrees.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for air strikes in Syria to defend civilians facing a brutal crackdown from the government yesterday. “The president must state unequivocally that under no circumstances will Assad be allowed to finish what he has started,” he said on the Senate floor.

Newt Gingrich said Israel should not give the U.S. advance warning if it decides to attack Iran over its nuclear weapons program because the Obama administration can’t be trusted to keep the information secret. “If I were the Israelis, I wouldn’t give this administration one minute’s notice, because someone will leak it,” he said on Fox News’ Hannity.

Attorney General Eric Holder asserted in a speech on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials declare them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the U.S. and capturing them alive is not feasible. “In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force,” Holder said.

Mother Jones’ Andew Kroll reports that in 1993, when Republicans were fighting Democrats’ efforts to reform healthcare, Rick Santorum called for greater government involvement in healthcare, saying that Republicans were “wrong” in wanting to let the marketplace decide health care costs.

And finally: Education cuts have been so severe in Alabama that a cheeky Democrat introduced a resolution in the House to mock Republican rhetoric on schools. It jokes that large class sizes help students “make more friend,” and touted that Alabama children will soon stop “learning useless skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic that are completely unessential in today’s economy.”