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Morning Briefing: February 13, 2012

A majority of Catholic voters support President Obama’s new contraception policy, according to a poll released this weekend by the Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Care, which includes the Center for American Progress. Just 29 percent of Catholics polled opposed the policy, while 57 percent (and 59 percent of Catholic women) support it. An additional 5 percent wanted the policy to be stronger.

Obama will unveil his 2013 budget proposal today, which the White House is calling a “blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy” and Republicans are already attacking. The plan includes increased spending on infrastructure and education, with spending cuts in many other places.

Athens saw its biggest riots yet this weekend as the Greek Parliament passed strict new austerity measures. The vote paves the way for a bailout from its European neighbors and the International Monetary Fund; without it, Greece would almost certainly have to leave the Eurozone, which could seriously harm global markets.

Mitt Romney claims to be an outsider, but his campaign has made room for lobbyists. At least 294 registered lobbyists donated more than $400,000 to Romney’s campaign in 2011 and bundled more than $2 million in donations. Several advisers are also lobbyists.

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Romney picked up two much-needed wins this weekend in Maine’s caucuses and at the CPAC straw poll, but his competitors are contesting both. Rick Santorum accused Romney of essentially buying the straw poll by purchasing tickets for supporters — a charge supported by reporting from Politico and the New York Times — while Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) suggested the Maine GOP favored Romney.

A new PPP poll released this weekend shows Santorum is the new national leader with a huge 15 point margin. However, the poll was conducted before the Maine caucus and CPAC straw poll.

Newt Gingrich is in desperate need of cash and struggling to raise money. Having largely struck out with top bundlers, he is now focusing on mid-tier donors and has been forced to spend less time with voters and more with potential donors.

The New Jersey state Senate is expected to pass a bill today to recognize gay marriage. On Thursday, the state Assembly is expected to do the same, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) has promised a veto. Democrats hope to muster enough votes to override Christie’s veto.

The administration is preparing to call for reducing the corporate tax rate, a proposal Obama hinted at in his State of the Union address last month. The current rate of 35 percent is one of the highest in the world and the new rate would put it more in line with that of other developed nations.

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And finally: Rick Santorum was overheard this weekend in Northern Virginia asking if the sushi he had just eaten was cooked.

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