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Never mind Newt Gingrich. It's Democrats who have been giving Mitt Romney the most trouble lately.

The DNC and the Obama campaign have relentlessly harassed him for weeks, forcing him to battle two fronts as he struggles to secure the nomination. Their efforts have constituted a kind of trial run for the general election as they've ignored other Republican candidates and aimed their full fire on Romney.

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In his first American interview since Syria’s popular uprising, President Bashar al-Assad sat down with ABC’s Barbara Walters. Assad denied ordering a bloody crackdown on protesters. Walters mentioned graphic photos of detained and beaten citizens, but Assad called the criticism against him “false allegations” and “distortion of reality.”

Last week, the UN estimated the death toll in the Syrian uprising at 4,000. Watch Assad’s interview below:



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Eight months is a long time in politics, but it will be eight months ago next week that House Republicans voted overwhelmingly for a budget that envisioned a massively scaled-down social safety net -- a smaller, privatized health care system for old people, to replace traditional Medicare; Medicaid financially constrained, and handed over to state governments; cuts to various other support programs that benefit the poor, the young, and the elderly.

That didn't sit well with voters. And in the months that followed, Republicans tried to contain the fallout by making federal deficits a central political issue while forcing Democrats to agree to real cuts to these programs -- all while refusing themselves to raise taxes, even on the very wealthiest Americans.

This too didn't go according to plan. The GOP upheld its vow not to raise taxes; Democrats insisted new tax revenue was a criterion for cutting benefits; and Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security avoided the scalpel.

At least for now.

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The Hill asked Sen. John McCain on Tuesday if he will back a candidate in the GOP primary. McCain said, “Yeah, I think it would be several months later on.”

The Hill reports that sources close to McCain say he is likely to endorse Mitt Romney.

The Newt-mentous march to the top of the Republican field has led to many head scratching conclusions. Don't Tea Party Republicans, who have been searching for a candidate to call their own, want a Washington outsider to carry the mantle? How has a candidate whose organization literally got its first phone line in their Iowa office this week become the leader there by a huge margin? What happened to Mr. Inevitable, Mitt Romney?

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The BBC and The Guardian report that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is in Dubai undergoing treatment for a “heart condition.”

Rumors have swirled that the trip could signal he is planning on stepping down. The president’s office denies the rumors.

From a formatting standpoint, the fake press release that hit reporters inboxes at 11:40 p.m. on Tuesday claiming that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was withdrawing its endorsement of President Barack Obama looked pretty convincing. The premise? Not so much.

But it started a quick flurry of activity on the web, where a few reporters were taken in by the hoax email and others scrambled to verify or debunk what would have been a blockbuster story.

The email came from "Mark McCullough," a familiar name to journalists on the SEIU press list. It appeared to have been sent from his email address, but it was only when you looked closely that you'd notice it was missing one "c."

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The national media is starting to discover a new candidate for president, who is emerging more and more into the spotlight: Mitt Romney -- the guy who until recently was the steady frontrunner for the nomination, but wasn't anywhere near as visible as his various challengers who have come and gone.

As Ben Smith previously coined the phrase four months ago, Romney's media strategy could be characterized as the "Mittness Protection Program," with the candidate keeping a very low profile other than the national debates. This was compared to other candidates, who would readily sit down for national media interviews and hold press conferences.

In the time since then, there has been a boom-and-bust cycle of Romney opponents, one after another: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and (the now withdrawn/suspended) Herman Cain. But now Newt Gingrich is jumping ahead in the polls, in ways that strike some observers as different and more stable than was the case with the previous Romney challengers.

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The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has taken the unusual step of warning 156 local law enforcement agencies in Alabama that they'll lose their federal funding if they don't comply with federal civil rights laws when enforcing the state's harsh immigration law.

"As you undertake law enforcement activity under H.B. 56, it is critical that your enforcement of this law does not result in the unlawful stopping, questioning, searching, detaining, or arresting of persons in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, or in the targeting of racial or ethnic minorities in a manner that violates the Fourteenth Amendment," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in a letter dated Friday and sent to reporters on Tuesday.

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