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Three people are dead and two are injured after a shooting at a lumber company just north of Star, North Carolina, WXII 12 reports:

Sheriff Dempsey Owens told WXII 12 that 4 people were shot inside the company Friday morning, 3 people died, 1 worker was airlifted to the hospital, and the gunman was transported to the hospital after shooting himself at his home.

The current putative path to victory for Mitt Romney in South Carolina now is a divided vote. Most polls show him with a lead in the state that can likely only be sustained if his opponents continue running and remain at similar levels of support, meaning the “anti-Romney” vote is split.

It’s a similar situation to what allowed Sen. John McCain to win the primary there in 2008, and it’s revived a battle from the time.

On Fox News on Thursday, Mike Huckabee, who placed second in the state in 2008, accused Fred Thompson of staying in the race at John McCain’s bequest, just in order to split the “anti-McCain” vote and prevent Huckabee from winning the state.

On Fox News this morning, Thompson had some harsh words for Huckabee. “You know, what mike just said is fine except for one thing,” he told the host. “There’s not one shred of truth to it.”

Senator McCain and I never had a conversation about staying in the race, staying out of the race. I think he called me the day after Iowa, I had beat him by like, you know, 15 votes or something in iowa and he called and told me he was going to demand a recount or something. We had a good laugh and I didn't talk to him until after South Carolina was over with. I didn't endorse John until after Super Tuesday. If I had wanted to hurt Huckabee, I would have stayed in and as we went down to Tennessee and places -- or I would have endorsed John before then so we didn't have a conversation about it. We didn't have a conversation with the intermediaries, you know, person -- representative to representative, there was nothing said about that. I mean, if you know me and if you know John, that's not us.

A new poll from Arizona pollster Behavior Research Center shows President Barack Obama best all possible GOP challengers in the state besides former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The trial heat breaks 43 – 37 for Romney among registered voters in Arizona, while the President beats former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) by between 8 and 10 points.

From the pollster’s analysis:

There is every possibility the victor in an Obama and Romney race will be determined by a good old fashioned get out the vote effort and a slugfest to see who has most appeal with Independent voters, who compose close to a third of all voters in this state. Democrats are not abandoning Obama. Currently, 77 percent of Democrats are loyal to Obama and only eight percent defect to Romney. At the same time, 80 percent of Republicans favor Romney and only eight percent defect to Obama. Assuming that Democrats and Republicans get their troops to the polls, the outcome of the presidential election could well be decided by how Independents vote and at this point in time, Romney has a 48 percent to 29 percent lead over Obama and 23 percent sitting the rail among Independents. Obama does very well with younger voters (43%) and gets a powerful 67 percent of the Latino vote. He trails Romney among Caucasian voters, with Romney holding an impressive 49 to 32 percent lead among them.

California’s economy has slipped to number nine in the world, behind Brazil, reports the AP:

The Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy issued a report this month saying California had a $1.9 trillion economy in 2010, putting it just ahead of India. California, with a population of 37.5 million, previously had the eighth largest economy, behind Italy and ahead of Brazil.

Despite Mitt Romney’s insistence that the government is an impediment to business growth, the LA Times notes that one of the biggest success stories Romney cites from his Bain Capital days relied heavily on taxpayer help. Steel Dynamics, an Indiana company, received a combined $37 million in state and county subsidies and grants for a plant.

In a moment that harkened back to his infamous mental lapse during a November debate, Rick Perry blundered once again when an interviewer asked which federal departments he would abolish.

“Three right off the bat, you know, commerce, interior and energy are three that you think,” said Perry in an interview this morning with Bill Edwards on WTKS Radio in Savannah, GA.

The problem: he replaced the Department of Education, one of the most frequent targets of his criticism, with the Department of Interior.

A Perry spokesman dismissed the notion that the candidate suffered another pratfall, saying that it’s no surprise that the “governor is talking about another federal agency that needs to be looked at and cut.”

h/t ABC News

"Osama bin Laden" was a fan of American Idol.

At least that's what was suggested by copies of a typed, two-page letter -- purportedly from the al-Qaeda leader -- which started showing up at schools, law enforcement agencies, a medical facility, municipal agencies and private and religious entities in the spring of last year.

The letters demanded that America "neutralize" all its nuclear weapons and arrest unnamed individuals "responsible for unnecessary crimes of War, poverty, and suffering of families in the world" and bring them "to OHare Air Force Base for a live, unedited trial on TV, just like American Idol where people vote to determine results."

FBI officials knew the letters were a hoax from the beginning, but the threats were still a violation of the law. Ten months later, they say they've got their man.

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Too bad for Mitt Romney. Turns out income inequality -- that thing he claims has no place in our political debate, or anywhere outside of "quiet rooms" -- will be a central theme of President Obama's re-election message. We know this because one of his top economic advisers essentially claimed as much in a public address at a top DC think tank on Thursday morning.

And the data he brought to the table suggests Democrats will have an easy time making their case.

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COLUMBIA, SC -- South Carolina's primary isn't just the presumed last stand for the candidates who hope to stop Mitt Romney. It could also be the last stand for the Tea Party movement that was created to stop a candidate like Mitt Romney from ever getting the nomination in the first place.

A week out from votes being cast, the Tea Party shows no signs of coming together to stop Romney, who after all is the very architect of the type of health care law that helped bring tens of thousands out in protest in 2009.

Like they were in Iowa, Tea Partiers here are split among the several candidates vying for the title of anti-Romney and that means Romney has a path to victory right around them. And if the Tea Party fails to stop Romney, it will prove that the movement has failed to convert its electoral power in any real way beyond electing the 112th Congress (aka, The 9%).

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