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CNN's Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Star, says Pentagon officials are beginning to review the potential military options they would have to present to President Obama were he to request it. 

From her report: 

One of the senior U.S. officials called the effort a “scoping exercise” to see what capabilities are available given other U.S. military commitments in the region.

Both officials pointed out that this type of planning exercise is typical for the Pentagon, which would not want to be in the position of not having options for the president, if and when they are asked for.

The officers and an array of civilian officials have all stressed that the U.S. is currently centered on exploring non-military options. 

Ron Paul is addressing a Republican caucus site in Maple Grove, Minnesota, delivering a stump speech in which he describes his background as a doctor, military veteran and lifelong conservative. He is also, of course, laying out his platform of ending the Federal Reserve and returning to the Gold Standard, cutting spending, and sharply reducing the size of government in both police powers and the welfare state.

"I believe that most of our problems have come because we have violated the Constitution," said Paul. "And we could solve our problems if only we sent people to Washington who took their oath of office seriously, and obeyed the Constitution."

Karl Rove appeared on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, and was at pains to play down Mitt Romney's chances tonight, even as the FNC host Bill O'Reilly talked them up. 

"Seems to me this is just not a race any more. Am I wrong?" asked the host.

"Missouri is a beaty contest," Rove replied, noting no delegates would be awarded from it. "Rick [Santorum] is going to have a little bump."

"Do you really expect him to beat Romney?" O'Reilly asked. 

"Santorum is going to win things... Newt Gingrich is going to win things from hereon out," Rove continued.

O'Reilly expressed surprise and began to say, "yeah, but if he really beats Romney in something tonight..."

"This is far more complicated than it looks," Rove continued. "We will know within the next two or three weeks," he said, but finished that he didn't want to make any "prognostications" because he wanted to let the voters decide. 


NBC News reports:

Rick Santorum began what could end up being a very good day for his campaign emphasizing the importance of the Colorado caucus during the first of three campaign stops in three different states on Tuesday.

Santorum made stops in Colorado and Minnesota, which host caucuses tonight, and will end the day in Missouri, where voters head to the polls for a primary.  Signs indicate Santorum could do well in all three contests, possibly even win one, prompting Santorum to stress the importance of the three states and taking shots at other candidates claiming to not compete there.

"Colorado is a state that, four years ago, Gov. Romney won with 61 percent of the vote. He won and he campaigned hard here. He didn't pass it off like he's been doing the last couple of days and saying, 'Oh, well these are just non binding caucuses, they don't really matter much,'" said Santorum here this morning. "Well they mattered four years ago when he came out here and he campaigned in these very same states. You have an opportunity to reset this race, you have an opportunity to put the best person forward that can defeat Barack Obama tonight."

The polls in the Missouri primary have closed. Results are expected to start coming in from roughly 8:30 Eastern onwards. 

CNN reports:

One of Minnesota's most prominent Republicans isn't participating in the North Star State's caucuses Tuesday.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who dropped her own bid for the White House in January, said on CNN she was unable to get home because of votes in Congress. Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Bachmann said she wished she could be in Minnesota caucusing.

"I'm here doing my job in Washington, D.C.," Bachmann said. "We were voting tonight, Wolf, so I was here on the House floor and doing my job. But my family members and friends and all the great people back in Minnesota, they're out in mass. This is a fun night in Minnesota because our state, with our caucuses system, is very grassroots, very bottom-up. It's politics at it's best. That's what you'll find in Minnesota."

Democrats are emboldened enough by their political turn of fortune that party leaders are laying payroll tax cut contretemps at the feet of Republicans rooting for further economic strife.

"[W]e've seen improvement: The unemployment rate's going down; people are getting back to work; there's a more confident air in America," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters Tuesday at a leadership briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill. "Let's make no mistake: There's some Republicans that don't think that really works with their strategy of defeating President Obama. These are some of the same voices that are opposing any bipartisan agreement to extend the payroll tax cuts."

Other top Democrats say the same.

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The remaining GOP presidential candidates face tests in three states tonight: Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota.  Things start happening from 8pm Eastern and you can follow every twist in TPM's Livewire.

Hackers operating under the banner of Anonymous and another related Indian hacker group on Monday night dumped the source code of a program made by Symantec, one of the world's largest antivirus software firms and the maker of the popular "Norton" brand of anitvirus programs.

Intriguingly, the dump, which was claimed by the hacker group Lords of Dharamaja, contained several weeks of email correspondence between a purported hacker and someone who said they were a Symantec employee, revealing what appears to be a pretty clear-cut case of extortion on the part of the hacker, but also a stated willingness by the supposed Symantec employee to pay $50,000 to the hacker in exchange for destroying their copy of the code.

Except now that the emails are out, both sides are saying that they were bluffing all along: Symantec claims there was no such employee and that it was a decoy account set up by a law enforcement agency to snare Anonymous, and the hacker claims he or she was attempting to expose Symantec's shady practices all along.

First, to the emails:

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