Morning Briefing: April 4, 2012

Mitt Romney swept yesterday’s primary contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. With the victories, Romney has taken a commanding lead in the delegate count. Romney’s win, combined with President Obama’s attack on the Republican yesterday, has led many in the media to declare the primary campaign over and the general begun.

After the losses, Rick Santorum has more than delegates at stake in the Pennsylvania primary on April 24 as he clings to life. Romney’s campaign is now debating whether or not to try to crush Santorum in his home state, or save resources for the general.

Despite Republicans’ attempts to portray President Obama as bad for Israel, 62 percent of American Jewish voters want him to be reelected, according to a new poll form the Public Religion Research Institute. About a third of Jewish voters prefer a Republican candidate.

The U.S. Justice Department warned a lawyer for Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a letter yesterday that he’s been negotiating with them in bad faith and that they may have to sue the lawman. The sheriff has refused to allow court-appointed monitor into his department. Arpaio is under investigation for civil rights violations.

The U.S. and Afghanistan are close to signing an agreement to give Afghans effective control over nighttime raids, clearing the way for the two nations to sign a strategic-partnership agreement next month. Night raids have been one of the biggest sticking points in relations between the two countries.

Syrian government officials claimed a few hours ago that they began withdrawing troops in the country, a week ahead of the deadline set as part of the Kofi Annan-brokered truce plan. But renewed violence has broken out in the city of Homs and other pockets across the country, and a U.N. advance peacekeeping team is on its way to Syria.

Thirty people were pepper sprayed yesterday during a protest of high tuition costs at Santa Monica College in California. The protesters were chanting, “no cuts, no fees, education should be free” outside of a trustee meeting when police tried to silence them with pepper spray. Five people were brought to the hospital for treatment.

A new book assessing the impact of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell through studies and personal essays finds the impact to be “negligible, if that.” It’s just further evidence that conservatives’ fears about allowing gay soldiers to serve were unfounded.

And finally: Veteran news anchor and presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer has a message for audiences at debates: “Shut up.” “These debates are critical,” he said in an interview. Audience members should be told that they aren’t participants, he advised. “Shut up. Do not scream. Do not holler.”