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Mitt Romney's terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad night on Tuesday was especially awful in Minnesota -- where he didn't just lose to Rick Santorum, but came in a distant third behind both Santorum and Ron Paul.

Moreover, this was a contest that Romney won back in 2008, when he had become the alternative for conservative voters who didn't like establishment frontrunner John McCain. Romney took that contest by a 41%-22% margin. But this time, Romney got less than one-third the number of raw votes as he did before, with overall caucus turnout declining.

So how did this happen? A deep-seated dissatisfaction among conservative base voters -- and a state whose system is ideally suited to make that dissatisfaction heard.

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A federal judge in D.C. ruled Wednesday that an unredacted copy of an independent report on prosecutorial misconduct during the federal investigation of the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) has to be made public by March 15.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said the report written by Henry F. Schuelke "chronicles significant prosecutorial misconduct in a highly publicized investigation and prosecution brought by the Public Integrity Section against an incumbent United States Senator."

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What makes Rick Santorum's triple-win Tuesday night so impressive is his sheer lack of resources. Of course, that's also what makes his ability to sustain that momentum questionable.

When it comes to battling Mitt Romney for frontrunner status, Santorum is vastly outmatched. Santorum raised $2.2 million in all of 2011, an amount he then doubled after his win in Iowa. Still, that's nothing to the over $50 million Romney raised in 2011, not to mention the millions raked in by his Super PAC. If Romney really feels threatened, his well-heeled supporters can unleash a torrent of negative ads that can overwhelm a candidate. Newt Gingrich learned this the hard way in both Iowa and Florida.

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The line on cable news Tuesday night to explain away the irony that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lost the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, two contests that he won in the 2008 campaign, was that back then Romney was the conservative alternative to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and that now various candidates are succeeding as the conservative alternative to Romney.

That partly explains the shift in Romney's fortunes in Minnesota and Colorado, but the larger context is that the volatile Tea Party-fueled uber-conservative GOP primary electorate of 2012 is deeply dissatisfied with Romney and continues to fish around among the available alternatives. It's the same dynamic that ignited the big swings Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain enjoyed earlier in this cycle.

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House GOP leaders are set to shoot down a silver-bullet pay-for to fix Medicare physician payment rates, sources close to leadership tell TPM, even though the idea has strong support among Democrats and some key Republican lawmakers. The so-called "doc fix" is being negotiated as part of the payroll tax cut package and momentum to use war savings to eliminate the Medicare flaw has recently halted due to GOP divisions over the idea.

The idea of using unspent Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funds from troop withdrawals Iraq and Afghanistan has the support of top Democrats as well as influential Republicans like Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ) and GOP Doctors Caucus chairman Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA). While President Obama and Dems want to tap into the $838 billion fund for infrastructure as well, GOP backers say it shouldn't be used for anything other than a doc fix.

But two former Republican staffers turned health industry lobbyists say House GOP leaders are now opposed to tapping into the money even for that.

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State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-WI) has become the second Democrat to declare her candidacy for governor, in the pending recall against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Vinehout has a background as a dairy farmer, and as an academic specializing in health care policy. She was elected to a swing seat in the state Senate in 2006, defeating a Republican incumbent, and was narrowly re-elected in the 2010 Republican wave.

Vinehout said in a press release on Wednesday:

“We need a governor who will lead with self restraint; who will be clear and open about her intentions; who will respect Wisconsin’s traditions of good government; who supports and takes pride in our schools; who values the skills workers bring to their jobs. We need a governor who wants to solve problems, not score political points,” said Vinehout. “I pledge to be that kind of governor.”

The other Democrat to have announced so far is former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who entered the race in mid-January soon after Democrats submitted the petitions to recall Walker.

Addressing reporters at a briefing today, Obama press secretary Jay Carney called Mitt Romney an "odd messenger" to criticize President Obama over a new birth control rule given that the policy mirrors Massachussets law. 

Below is video of that exchange:


White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in his daily briefing said that President Obama is senstive to concerns over the White House's birth control rule. 

"We are very sensitive to and understand some of the concerns that have been expressed," Carney said, stressing that the administration is also concerned with women receiving important health care services.

After Romney's disappointing finishes in Tuesday's primaries, his campaign is going on the attack against both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. In fact, he's attacking them both on the subject of earmarks: "Newt opened the door and Santorum walked right through it." The Romney camp sent out an email with the following statement from Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul:

Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum have over half a century’s worth of time in Washington between them. They can’t fix our country’s spending problem because they helped create it. While Newt Gingrich may have opened the door to the abuse of earmark spending, Rick Santorum walked right through it. He renounced his belief that deficits are bad and voted to raise the debt ceiling by trillions – all while supporting billions in pork-barrel spending in Pennsylvania and across the country. That is not a record that fiscal conservatives will embrace once they know the facts.

One of the effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is that it allowed corporations to give unlimited amounts to independent expenditure political action committees capable of supporting or opposing political candidates.

But a new report from the non-profit group Demos shows that the majority, 55.6 percent, of donations to super PACs in 2010 and 2011 still came from individuals rather than for-profit entities. The report finds that 17 percent ($30 million) of the itemized funds raised by super PACs came from for-profit businesses, with the rest coming from 527 political action organizations, 501(c)(4)s, unions and other super PACs. 

This chart from Demos breaks it down: