A roundup of some of Friday's political stories.
Lawmakers approved legislation to continue a payroll tax holiday and extend benefits for the long-term unemployed. The goal is to make sure enough people have enough spending money to keep the still-fragile economy growing. But some analysts say the economy doesn't need more help.
Symbolically speaking, this month's Michigan's primary may be the most important of the GOP presidential race to date. It's the state where Mitt Romney grew up, and his father was a beloved government and business leader. And now, Romney seems to have a real chance of losing the state to Rick Santorum.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is leading Michigan-native Mitt Romney in polling ahead of the state's Feb. 28 primary. At stops in Michigan on Thursday, Santorum spoke of economic rival through lower taxes, fewer regulations and commitment to conservative family values.
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell asked billionaire Santorum backer Foster Friess whether he thought the GOP presidential candidate's very conservative social views would be disadvantageous to Santorum in the general election. Friess not only didn't think so; he indicated he didn't see what all the fuss was about. And then he dispensed some advice about contraceptives.
The monthlong lull in the Republican debate cycle may have come as a welcome break to some likely voters and political observers. The debates will be back soon enough. But turn away from them at your own risk — it's precisely at this point in the campaign season when they might be most decisive.
It's estimated the nation faces a $3 trillion backlog in unmet road and transit needs. Since the Reagan administration, public transit has been funded from the same revenue stream as roads and bridges. Now there's a movement to fund public transit with revenue sources other than the gas tax.
GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney is campaigning in Michigan, where he was born. Romney's father was beloved — both as president of a car company, and as Michigan's governor. But that was decades ago, and a new generation feels less devoted to the Romney name.
The latest threat to Mitt Romney's front-runner status in the Republican presidential field is Rick Santorum, who is tied with Romney in national polls. Ads from the Romney team define Santorum as a friend of K Street, but the former U.S. senator's conservative credentials may help him with Republican primary voters.
The Republican presidential candidate's returns show a sharp rise in his personal wealth spurred by his growing work as Washington-based corporate consultant and media commentator. But it doesn't come close to Mitt Romney's the multimillion-dollar fortune or Newt Gingrich's smaller but still-lucrative blend of foundation and consulting work.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's name and those of his father and grandfather appeared on a list used to select people for posthumous Mormon baptisms. Wiesel is calling on Mitt Romney to use his stature as perhaps the nation's most prominent Mormon to condemn the practice. Romney has not commented.
The poll, released Tuesday, found President Obama's approval rating had bounced back up to 50 percent from 47 percent in January. Not a huge improvement but in presidential politics, getting to at least 50 percent approval is key for an incumbent seeking re-election. The recovering economy gets much of the credit for his rising approval rates.
Santorum makes the case that not only is he an authentic conservative but the most electable GOP candidate versus President Obama. Romney's ad, on the other hand, is more biographical, intended to reinforce his Michigan roots for voters. His ad, called "Growing Up," also aims at leveling Romney with average voters by showing him driving a car around what appears to be Detroit or its suburbs.
In a state so auto-industry dependent, it would seem dubious to call for GM and Chrysler to go through the regular bankruptcy process with all their uncertainties and pain. Experts inside and outside the industry at the time and since said bankruptcies would have meant millions of jobs lost. But Romney's position could appeal to many Michigan conservatives who opposed the bailouts.
President Obama unveiled his fiscal 2013 budget at Northern Virginia Community College Monday. His proposal includes $8 billion for community colleges to partner with businesses to provide training in job skills that are in demand. Students there were pleased to hear the president call for more support for their type of school.