Morning Briefing: March 14, 2012

Last night, Rick Santorum overcame the financial advantages of Mitt Romney to pull out significant victories in Alabama and Mississippi. Romney still walked away with more delegates due to his own wins in two other contests. Santorum’s big night helps further his argument that “the Republican nominating fight is becoming a two-man race.”

President Obama’s approval rating has climbed back up to 50 percent, for the first time since July, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans say access to birth control shouldn’t be a part of the U.S. political debate, according to a new Bloomberg poll. “The results suggest the Republican candidates’ focus on contraception is out of sync with the U.S. public.”

David Axelrod, senior adviser for President Obama’s re-election campaign, reportedly canceled a scheduled appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, after the comedian’s criticism of the Rush Limbaugh advertiser boycott efforts.

A Republican-backed voter ID law in Wisconsin has again been ruled unconstitutional by a Dane County judge, who has barred Gov. Scott Walker’s administration from taking any further steps towards implementing it. Judge Richard Niess called the law a form of “voter suppression.”

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) won his primary in Alabama last night against three primary challengers. Rep. Bachus won despite facing allegations of ethics violations. He has held his congressional seat for ten terms.

Just days after the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the country is on edge after a magnitude 6.8 quake hit the northern part of the country. No significant damage was immediately reported, and an initial tsunami warning was quickly lifted.

Defense Secretary Panetta is in Afghanistan today. After a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday — and in light of the burning of Korans by U.S. troops last week — Panetta is there to explain that there will be no change in U.S. strategy, and that Afghan-U.S. relations are strong.

And finally: Last night, President Obama took British Prime Minister David Cameron to witness Western Kentucky’s historic come-from-behind victory against Mississippi Valley State. Asked to remark on observing his first basketball game, Cameron said, “I’m enjoying it. It’s fast, it’s pretty fast and furious. It’s hard to follow sometimes exactly who’s done what wrong.”