Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has widened his lead in the Republican presidential race with a victory in the Florida primary. On Tuesday, Romney took 47 percent of the vote, easily beating his main challenger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 31 percent. In remarks to supporters, Romney looked ahead to the general election, while Gingrich vowed to remain in the race through the Republican National Convention.
Mitt Romney: “As this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching. And they like to comfort themselves with the thought that a competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak. But I’ve got news for them: a competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us.”
Newt Gingrich: “And I think Florida did something very important, coming on top of South Carolina. It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate. And the voters of Florida really made that clear.”
The candidates now move on to Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucuses, followed by contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Already campaigning in Nevada, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum cast himself as the most viable “conservative” candidate in the race.
Rick Santorum: “We can’t allow our nominee to be the issue in the campaign. So I say to the people of Nevada—in fact, to the people across this country—if you want a strong-principled conservative who is not going to be the issue in the campaign, who is going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign, please vote for me and help us out.”
As Republicans voted in Florida, President Obama visited a gathering for U.S. car companies in Washington, D.C. In an apparent dig at Republicans who opposed the bailout of the auto industry, Obama praised U.S. automakers.
President Obama: “The U.S. auto industry is back. The fact that GM is back, number one, I think shows the kind of turnaround that’s possible when it comes to American manufacturing. And it’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die. Because of folks coming together, we are now back, back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world.”
The top U.S. intelligence official is claiming senior Iranian leaders could back attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats against their government’s survival. In prepared testimony for the Senate Intelligence Committee, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said, “Some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real, or perceived U.S. actions, that threaten the regime.” Clapper cited the widely questioned U.S. claim of a foiled Iranian assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year. Also giving testimony, CIA Director David Petraeus said U.S.-backed sanctions against Iran are having their desired effect.
David Petraeus, CIA director: “The overall situation is one in which the sanctions have been biting much, much more, literally, in recent weeks than they have until this time. So, I think what we have to see now is, how does that play out, what is the level of popular discontent inside Iran, does that influence the strategic decision making of the Supreme Leader in the regime, keeping in mind that the regime’s paramount goal, in all that they do, is their regime’s survival.”
A man wearing an Afghan army uniform has shot dead a NATO servicemember in Afghanistan, the latest in a series of similar attacks. It was the fourth time in a month that an Afghan soldier, or someone posing as one, shot dead a member of the NATO occupation force.
A leaked NATO report is claiming to provide further evidence of Pakistani support for the Taliban. The report cites detained prisoners in Afghanistan who say Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency is “intimately involved” in the Taliban’s fight against Afghan forces and the NATO occupation. Pakistan has dismissed the report’s claims.
In Syria, at least six people have reportedly been killed in fighting between Syrian troops and army dissidents near the Lebanese border. Troops have also used tanks to regain control of areas near the capital Damascus. Activists say at least 100 people have been killed in recent days.
Members of the U.N. Security Council are confronting Russia over its refusal to back a proposed resolution calling for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Speaking before the Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged support for a resolution targeting the Assad regime.
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State: “And we all have a choice: stand with the people of Syria and the region, or become complicit in the continuing violence there. To date, the evidence is clear that Assad’s forces are initiating nearly all of the attacks that kill civilians. But as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime’s brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control.”
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said President Bashar al-Assad cannot sustain his hold over Syria.
James Clapper: “I personally believe it’s a question of time before Assad falls, but that’s the issue. It could be a long time, given the protracted—I think two factors here, is just the protraction of these demonstrations, the opposition continues to be fragmented. But I just—I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria.”
In Egypt, hundreds of people tried to march on the parliament building in Cairo on Tuesday in a protest against military rule. The marchers were stopped by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to clashes that left dozens wounded.
In Bahrain, state forces have reportedly fired tear gas at prisoners staging a hunger strike over their detentions for protesting the ruling Sunni monarchy. At least one of the protesters was hospitalized after the tear gas was fired into his prison cell.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is appearing before Britain’s Supreme Court today to appeal a lower court decision allowing his extradition to Sweden. Swedish authorities are seeking to question Assange about claims of rape and sexual assault, though he has not been formally charged. Assange’s hearing will continue through Thursday with a final ruling expected in the coming weeks.
The nation’s leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is drawing controversy for a decision to stop funding screening and prevention programs run by the reproductive rights group Planned Parenthood. The Komen foundation has confirmed it is cutting off support for 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 83 affiliates, citing a new policy barring funding for any groups under investigation. Planned Parenthood has been subjected to intense scrutiny from anti-abortion lawmakers, including a current probe of the group’s finances. The move will stop hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that were used by Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screenings and other related services. Reacting to Komen’s decision, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said, “It’s hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women’s lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying.”
Reports have emerged of Occupy Oakland protesters facing mistreatment in jail following mass arrests on Saturday. The San Francisco Bay Guardian says prisoners were denied medication and that some with food allergies were refused a substitute for more than 24 hours. Prisoners were also kept in overcrowded cells, and some were reportedly beaten.
A dozen protesters have been charged after Saturday’s arrests, and at least 11 have been ordered to stay away from the area outside Oakland City Hall known to the movement as “Oscar Grant Plaza.”
A federal judge has rejected a motion that would have blocked the enforcement of a camping ban targeting Occupy D.C protesters. The judge ruled Tuesday that officials must give protesters at least 24 hours notice if it seeks to evict them. Some protesters left the encampments at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza after a no-camping order went into effect on Monday, but many remained despite the ban.
Florida riot police have cleared out the Occupy Miami encampment after three months. At least three people were arrested when police moved in on Tuesday.