TPM News

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Barack Obama is granting national monument status to nearly 1.8 million acres of scenic Southern California desert, a move the White House says will maintain in perpetuity the region's fragile ecosystem and natural resources, as well as provide recreational opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters and others.

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While discussing congressional Republicans' fierce opposition to his agenda on Wednesday, President Obama downplayed the idea that they are motivated primarily by racial animus. He suggested instead that it was merely hardball politics, because if things in Washington, D.C. aren’t working, it’s bad for incumbent president.

"Although there’s no doubt that there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there’s underlying racial fears that may be exploited, overall, what’s more the case, I think, is just the straight hardball politics of running against an incumbent and beating the heck out of him and softening him up," Obama said. "Because if a whole bunch of stuff gets done, he’s going to get the credit."

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Former reality-television host Donald Trump has a substantial 16-point lead in the Republican primary contest in South Carolina on the heels of his New Hampshire primary victory, according to an Opinion Savvy poll released Friday.

The poll, which was the first taken in South Carolina since before the New Hampshire primary, also indicates that competition for second place remains tight in a spread that is consistent with much national polling and with most previous poll results.

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