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The Justice Department has to decide by Tuesday whether South Carolina has proven that their new voter ID law doesn't deny or abridge the voting rights of residents on the basis of race, nationality or language -- a decision bound to enrage either the mostly progressive opponents of voting restrictions or the mostly conservative backers of the identification measure, depending on how they come down on the matter.

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As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the Republican contest looked like it was racing towards a final decisive battle between Mitt Romney and a resurgent Newt Gingrich.

But Gingrich's poll numbers are plummeting at such terminal velocity now that there may be time yet for another candidate to make a last-minute move and take over the designated anti-Romney spot. Let's review the case for some of the dark horses out there.

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Gay Republicans are certainly wary of the virulent anti-gay rhetoric of Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum. But when it comes to Newt Gingrich, gay Republican organizations are giving the former speaker a pass.

On Tuesday, Newt told an Iowa man that if marriage equality was the only issue he cared about, then he should support President Obama. Initially, the incident was reported more as a glib comment than a discussion, but the point was accurate: on the issue of same-sex marriage, the candidate cannot represent the interests of the gay community. If you can look past the marriage issue and agree with Newt on the economy, Newt wants your vote.

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Everyone knows House Republicans endured tremendous punishment all day Wednesday, making it clear to most observers that in the standoff over renewing this year's payroll tax cut, they'll have to blink.

But an even more important story, which escaped notice inside the Beltway, is that the lashings followed GOP members of Congress back to their states and districts.

Here's a roundup.

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Sen. Rand Paul appears in a 35-second ad for his father’s presidential campaign. In the ad, Rand explains that his father embodies the Tea Party movement, and that he will always be true to his believes. Appearing next to a Christmas tree, he signs off with “Merry Christmas and God bless America.”

Watch:



Newt Gingrich at an event in Richmond, Virginia, says he wants the U.S. to be “so powerful, no one threatens us.” Gingrich said he does not believe in “equality” when it comes to national security.

A new survey from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas shows President Obama ahead of his possible Republican counterparts in the state. The Nevada poll shows Obama beating former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney by a little less than six points, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by nearly twelve. Romney leads Gingrich in a survey of registered Republican voters in the state by a four point margin, with the rest of the GOP field much further behind.

One of the twelve suspects in a string of Amish beard-cutting attacks will plead not guilty to federal hate crimes charges, according to his attorney.

At a townhall in Bethlehem, NH, Romney said that the NLRB’s suit against Boeing was an example of crony capitalism. He explained that the administration blocked Boeing from relocating to South Carolina because it wasn’t a union state, and the administration was beholden to unions. We have to go back to “the rule of law,” Romney said.

The NLRB’s suit against Boeing – dropped earlier this month – happened because the board alleged that the company had broken existing labor law, not in spite of existing law.

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