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Public Policy Polling’s first national survey shows President Obama leading likely nominee Mitt Romney 49%-44% — Obama’s best number since last May after killing Osama bin Laden. As PPP notes, it’s not that Obama’s popularity is surging, but rather that Romney’s is headed south:

It's not as if Obama's suddenly become popular. He remains under water with 47% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But Romney's even less popular, with only 35% rating him favorably while 53% have a negative opinion of him. Over the last month Romney's seen his negatives with independents rise from 46% to 54%, suggesting that the things he has to say and do to win the Republican nomination aren't necessarily helping him for the general. Obama's turned what was a 45-36 deficit with independents a month ago into a 51-41 advantage.

One thing that really stands out in this poll is the extent to which Obama has claimed the middle. He's up 68-27 on Romney with moderates. He also leads by 20 points with voters under 45, a group there's been some concern about slippage with, and he has a 66-30 advantage with Hispanics.

The Palmetto Public Record reports that SC Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard may have committed an ethics violation today when he endorsed Newt Gingrich by using taxpayer-funded resources to announce the endorsement. Ard has a history of ethics scandals — like, ironically, the man he endorsed. From the Palmetto Public Record:

Ard sent out his endorsement on Tuesday through his taxpayer-funded spokesperson using official letterhead. According to Section 8-13-1346 of the Ethics Reform Act, “A person may not use or authorize the use of public funds, property, or time to influence the outcome of an election.”

If Ard or his spokesperson, Julia Foster, violated the act by using taxpayer resources to endorse Gingrich, it would be the latest in a series of potential ethics violations by the lieutenant governor related to political campaigns. About a year ago he was accused of spending campaign funds on personal items such as gifts and football tickets, telling the Free Times’ Corey Hutchins he was simply trying to recoup as much of the money he put into his campaign as possible.

Additionally, a state grand jury is investigating more serious allegations that Ard may have used the names of friends and family to pad his campaign donations list. So far there’s no word on when the results of that investigation will be made public.

Neither Ard’s office nor the State Ethics Commission have responded to requests for comment on Ard’s endorsement. If and when they do, Palmetto Public Record will bring you updates as soon as they become available.

Wisconsin Democrats announced Tuesday that they have collected over a million signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker — nearly twice the 540,208 signatures, or 25 percent of the total votes in the previous election for governor, needed to trigger a new election.

The signatures will now go through a lengthy review process by state election officials, before an election will go forward later in the year.

A man accused of shooting at the White House and attempting to kill President Obama was formally charged Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez faces 17 counts, including attempting to assassinate the president and doing more than $1,000 of damage to the White House.

A new PPP survey of likely Republican primary voters in Texas shows Rick Perry with the support of just 18 percent of respondents. That places the Texas governor third behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who tally 24 and 23 percent respectively. That’s a huge drop in home state support for Perry, who led with 49 percent when PPP polled Texas in September.

From PPP:

Romney even leads Perry in a head-to-head matchup among Republican Texas Primary voters, 46-45 – a striking reversal from our last poll when Perry led 72-18. Romney also leads Gingrich head-to-head (43-42) and Paul (a whopping 64-25). The only candidate who beats Romney head-to-head in Texas is Rick Santorum (45-42), but it’s unclear if he’ll ever get the chance to do battle with Romney with the Republican field sufficiently narrowed.

Google is the latest company to come forward against anti-online piracy bills in Congress. The search giant on Wednesday will place a link on its homepage to highlight the opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, Business Week reports.

“We oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith told BW.

Wikipedia and Reddit are planning to go dark on Wednesday to protest the bills.

After taking over Stephen Colbert's Super PAC, Jon Stewart has found himself suddenly in the money. And what to spend it on?

Except for a bejeweled crown, Stewart on Monday was stumped. Since he can in no way "coordinate" with Colbert, who is exploring a White House bid, Stewart was forced to listen to Colbert on television and try to read between the lines. From Colbert's apperance on This Week, Stewart got the message.

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Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will serve as “senior adviser on urban policy” for Mitt Romney’s national campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reports:

“Mitt Romney is the strongest Republican candidate and he is the only person capable of defeating Barack Obama in 2012,“ Baker said in a statement. "Mitt Romney has the experience, the vision and the commitment to conservative values that our Republican nominee will need to draw bold contrasts with the President’s failed, big government agenda. It is an honor to join his team and I look forward to working to ensure that he is elected the next President of the United States.”

A new Ron Paul ad called “Three of a Kind” lumps together Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney as three big-government conservatives who have supported policies like an individual mandate and TARP. After attacking all three, the ad touts Paul as the true fiscal conservative.