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News and Commentary from Around the World

    Today, the US Supreme Court upheld a previous decision that allows prayer at ...
    Despite some harsh words from critics, "Taken 2" dominated the weekend box office. ...
    This Tuesday the state of Wisconsin will hold its Republican Primary. The ...
    The federal trial over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been delayed by ...
    Bubba Watson took him home his first green jacket on Sunday by ...
    Warrantless domestic surveillance has been going on longer than many thought. While ...
    Amazon is expected to announce their next gen Kindle Fire series in the ...
    The Mobile County Sheriffs Department has made an arrest in the murders of ...
    Ever since Semmes became a city, it has lacked one thing: a ...
    The job numbers from the Labor Department are in, and they are sure ...

Strong Job Growth Projected for March

Posted by David Merrell On April - 4 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    According to payroll-processing company ADP, over 209,000 private sector jobs were created in March. That marks the fourth straight month of 200,000+ jobs being created. Around 125,000 jobs are needed each month just to keep pace with population growth. The number is slightly less than experts were expecting, but strong nonetheless. At this pace it will take a few years to reach the pre-recession levels of unemployment which were around 5%.

    Small businesses powered the job creation once again. Over 100,000 jobs were created by companies with fewer than 50 employees. Big companies with more than 500 employees added 22,000 new employees. Medium size businesses with 50-500 employees added 87,000 workers. The government is expected to lose another 10,000 jobs.

    Economic numbers continue to point towards a growing recovery. March also saw great car sale numbers for Detroit and foreign automakers in the US. Consumer spending has been up despite stagnant wages. This shows that credit lines are beginning to free up. This may not be such a positive trend, as over extending credit is one thing that got the US into the previous financial crisis in the first place. If it manages to get the country out of the slump, though, it may be worth it in the short run.

    The numbers will be music to the ears of the Obama administration. With Mitt Romney all but sealing the Republican nomination last night with three big primary wins, President Obama will have some firepower to open the general election campaign. The economy has been the GOP’s main talking point against the president. With jobs being created every month and the unemployment rate plummeting, conservatives figure to pivot to high gas prices which could endanger the nascent recovery.

    Though the signs are pointing towards a true recovery this time after some hiccups the past few years, it sits on a fragile foundation. Several factors could slow down or trip up the economic upturn. The most pressing concern is high energy prices. Gas is closing in on $4 a gallon nationally and it is only April. Prices normally peak during the summer driving season. If gas goes to far above $4 a gallon it would have serious implications for the economy.

    War in the middle east could have disastrous effects as well. Though the tension between Iran and the US (and Israel) seems to have died down a bit lately, the threat of war still looms over us all. A war between either the US or Israel and Iran would probably cause energy prices to sky rocket. A price shock in gas could cripple the recovery.

    Economic weakness abroad is another major concern. Europe is having a tough time due to its sovereign debt crisis. The US stock market was having trouble late last year and early this year due mostly to European concerns. Those concerns seem to have passed for now, but trouble in the Euro zone is still a major threat. Economic slowdown in China is another problem. We now live in a global economy, and weakness abroad affects us here in the US. When demand in those areas go down, that lead to less exporting for the US.

    For now the signs are all good. The hope is that job creation will pick up further to 300,000 or 400,000 jobs created per month. That would lower the unemployment rate in a hurry. At the current rate it will be years before we reach full employment again. While that is certainly an improvement over the scenario we were facing just a few months ago, it is still no solace to those who remain without work.

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Romney Sweeps Three Primaries

Posted by David Merrell On April - 3 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    Mitt Romney won three primaries on Tuesday night, all but sealing the Republican nomination. The former Massachusetts governor won contests in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Wisconsin. The latter state was viewed as Rick Santorum’s last stand in his bid to prevent Romney from reaching the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. After making a remarkable comeback to become the prime competitor to Mitt Romney, it appears Santorum will fall short.

    Santorum has stressed that he plans to go on, even though his path to victory is virtually nonexistent. On April 24 his home state of Pennsylvania will hold its primary, and Santorum is hoping to gain some momentum there. It will likely be difficult to win even that state, because the narrative in the media is going to be that Romney now has the race locked up. Once the media begins pushing that message, it is hard to over come it.

    Romney quickly attempted to pivot towards the general election in his speech following his victories. He contrasted himself with President Obama by saying he wished to build an opportunity society as opposed to the president’s desire to build a government centered society. Given his background in business, Romney is sure to pound home these themes over the course of the next few months.

    President Obama took shots at Romney and most of the Republican party in a speech at an Associated Press luncheon this afternoon. The president slammed the Paul Ryan budget plan that was recently passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. He also tore into trickle down economics as a failed policy of the past. That economic theory is what Mitt Romney, and most conservatives, follow. Expect to hear that battle waged from now until election day.

    The true campaign season is now set to begin. With the Citizens United Supreme Court decision opening up PACs to unlimited donations, this is going to be the most expensive presidential campaign ever. It also figures to be the ugliest, and President Obama is more despised by his opposition than any president in recent memory. The level of partisan hatred in this country has been growing ever since Bill Clinton took office. It is at a fever pitch now. Mud slinging does not begin to describe the election war we are about to witness. These candidates will be lobbing tactical nukes before it is all said and done.

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Romney Closing In On Republican Nomination

Posted by David Merrell On April - 2 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    This Tuesday the state of Wisconsin will hold its Republican Primary. The state is seen as the last hope for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santroum. If he falls in Wisconsin it will be the third straight mid-western swing state he will have lost following Michigan and Ohio. At that point he would offer little resistance to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney is leading in the latest Rasmussen poll by ten points, 44%-34%. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are far behind at 7% a piece.

    Republicans have begun to rally around Romney. He picked up the official endorsements of former President George H. W. Bush and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan this week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chances were overwhelming that Romney would be the nominee on CNN’s State of the Union. Romney has not had a problem getting establishment figures, though. His problem has been wrangling conservative voters, and that issue is still dogging him.

    Democrats have begun to step up their attacks on the former governor. Vice President Joe Biden accused Romney of being “out of touch” on CBS’ Face the Nation. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton attacked Romney on his foreign policy credentials. He has mentioned that Russia is the country’s number one geopolitical foe, a statement Clinton called “dated” on CNN.

    The Republican Primary has hurt Romney politically. Going into the primary season he had good polling numbers with independent voters. Those numbers have plummeted over the past few months. A majority of independents now disapprove of the former governor. This is not a good sign for him, as independents will play a large role in selecting the next president.

    Another big issue for the Republicans is the improving economy. President Obama’s approval ratings were close to dropping below 40% late last year due to a lagging economy. Three straight months of 200,000+ jobs being created have greatly improved his numbers as they now hover near 50%. Unemployment has fallen to 8.3% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed to 13,000 after falling below 7,000 during the height of the recession. America seems to be on the mend, and that is bad news politically for the Republicans.

    If Romney does wrap up the nomination soon, the most expensive and potentially ugly presidential campaigns in history will begin. The recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision has opened up PACs to unlimited donations. This has led to the creation of Super PACs. More money will be spent on this election than any other election in history. Romney has proven quite effective at smearing his foes, and he has been honing his attacks on the president for months. President Obama has a campaign machine of his own, and he may raise $1 billion this year to run that campaign. It is not going to be pretty.

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Newt Gingrich Shuffles Staff, Vows to Remain in Campaign

Posted by David Merrell On March - 28 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    According to reports by CNN and Politico, Newt Gingrich is making some major changes to his campaign staff. The former Speaker of the House is replacing his campaign manager and laying off a third of his staff. Michael Krull is being replaced as campaign manager by Vince Haley, a longtime aide of Gingrich. Krull took over as campaign manager in June of 2011.

    R.C. Hammond, a Gingrich spokesman, explained that the campaign is transforming to be ready for the Republican National Convention in August. The campaign plans on convincing delegates that Gingrich is the best choice to be the Republican nominee. The plan obviously assumes that neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum will get the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. They plan on using low cost online communications.

    What this move really indicates is that the Gingrich campaign is running out of money. Laying off staffers and using “low cost” communications are dead giveaways. Considering the fact that Gingrich has only won two states and is now being written off by pundits that is not surprising. It is hard to raise money when you are not winning.

    Given Rick Santorum’s recent string of wins in the South, which was supposed to be Newt Gingrich’s home turf, one has to ponder why the former Speaker remains in the race. The odds of him somehow pulling off the nomination at this point are astronomically low if not zero. If someone other than Romney is going to win the race at this point it is going to be Santorum.

    It is no secret that Newt has animosity towards Mitt Romney following a very brutal campaign in the state of Florida. At that point Newt was riding high after his win in South Carolina. He was competing well in Florida until he was buried by Romney’s super PAC advertising. Some pundits believe he is staying in the race only to dig at Romney, yet he has become the former Massachusetts Governor’s biggest ally by siphoning votes away from Rick Santorum, who is a similar candidate.

    If Romney fails to secure 1,144 delegates it looks like we are going to be in for one nasty summer. The political bloodshed that comes from the fight of a brokered convention could do severe damage to the Republican brand. With the economy on the mend, President Obama is looking stronger every day. One thing is certain, and that is the fact that we are in for a very interesting presidential campaign this year.

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Rick Santorum Wins Louisiana Primary

Posted by David Merrell On March - 24 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Primary on Saturday night. The win adds yet another southern state to Santorum’s growing collection of wins. Santorum won Tennesse on Super Tuesday, and picked up wins in Mississippi and Alabama on March 13. He still trails front runner Mitt Romney in the overall delegate count.

    Romney failed to seriously challenge Santorum in Louisiana despite winning a few primaries since Santorum’s last wins in the South. Romney picked up wins in Hawaii, Illinois, and Puerto Rico since Santorum took Alabama and Mississippi. Tonight’s primary shows that Romney has still not convinced southern conservatives that he is the right candidate for them.

    The next state up for grabs is Wisconsin. Pundits are saying this could be make or break for Santorum. If he wins that state he might have a chance at preventing Romney from reaching 1,144 delegates, the number needed to clinch the nomination. If that happens there will be a brokered convention, where anything is possible. Santorum has narrowly lost the previous big mid-western contests in Ohio and Michigan. If Santorum loses Wisconsin, the math may be to great for him to overcome.

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Mitt Romney Wins Puerto Rico Primary

Posted by David Merrell On March - 18 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    Mitt Romney won the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday evening. Romney took home all of Puerto Rico’s 20 delegates as he won more than 50% of the vote. Romney now stands at 501 delegates won. He needs 1,144 to win the nomination.

    Both candidates had already left the Carribean island after short campaign stops. This Tuesday there is a primary in Illinois, and it figures to be hotly contested. Later in the week Louisiana will hold its primary. Romney is now almost half way to the total number of delegates he needs to win the nomination.

    Rick Santorum has no plans of exiting the race anytime soon. After sweeping a pair of southern states last week, the former Pennsylvania Senator has now won 10 states. His delegate count stands at 253, about half of Romney’s. Santorum has done well in rural states due to his evangelical background, and he figures to win a few more states. He plans on staying in the race because he feels Romney is a weak front runner.

    Newt Gingrich has yet to drop out of the race. His campaign began floating ideas about teaming up with Rick Santorum to topple Romney after he lost both the Mississippi and Alabama primaries last week. Most feel Gingrich is essentially finished now, and his presence will only split the conservative vote allowing Romney to win states he might otherwise lose.

    The campaign does not look like it will end anytime soon. No candidate is close to the number of delegates required to take the nomination. If no candidate gets the required 1,144 then we will have a brokered convention when the Republicans meet in August in Tampa. A fight to the finish would probably greatly weaken the GOP’s chances of defeating President Obama in the November election.



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Rick Santorum Sweeps Southern Primaries

Posted by David Merrell On March - 14 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    Rick Santorum once again haulted front runner Mitt Romney’s momentum dead in its tracks yesterday. The former Pennsylvania Senator picked up wins in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries. Santorum won 35% of the vote in Alabama, and 33% of the vote in Mississippi. This marks the third straight southern primary Santorum has won following his victory in Tennessee on Super Tuesday.

    The victories were achieved more in the perception department than anything else. Romney picked up victories in American Samoa and Hawaii later in the evening, and both southern states handed out their delegates proportionally. Santorum’s delegate gain was minimal. What the wins did show was that Romney is still struggling to get conservative voters, and that is very much a concern for the former Massachusetts governor.

    The spotlight will now turn momentarily towards Newt Gingrich. The pressure to step down and allow Santorum to challenge Mitt Romney one on one is about to be turned up to eleven. There is essentially no path towards victory for Newt at this point. Santorum still has an outside chance of challenging Romney. Oddly enough, most analysts believe Newt is remaining in the race because of his hatred for Romney after the wave of attack ads thrown at him in Florida. The irony is that his continued presence in the race is going to help Romney get the nomination.

    A lot of interesting information came from the exit polls from both Mississippi and Alabama yesterday. The ability to defeat President Obama was listed as the most important quality for a candidate. Given the GOP’s hatred of the president this is not surprising. The economy was listed as the top issue worrying voters. Most voters were unhappy with the way the federal government has been run.

    A pair of Alabama Representatives fended off primary challenges on Tuesday. Jo Bonner defeated three other Republican candidates in convincing fashion. Spencer Bachus also took home a primary victory. Both representatives had to fend off attacks from the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC from Texas looking to unseat incumbents.

    For the first time in a long time Alabama mattered in presidential politics. Candidates and media figures alike descended on our neck of the woods and the state was given a lot of exposure. Through the entire process, Alabama was revealed little by little to the whole country over the past week. It was refreshing to see the candidates campaign in a state that is normally just glanced over because its primary comes later in the season. Given the new rules in the Republican nominating process, this could be the new normal.

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Presidential Politics Come to Alabama

Posted by David Merrell On March - 8 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    With Alabama’s Republican Primary coming up next Tuesday, the candidates have begun to show our state a little attention. Newt Gingrich was touring the state earlier this week. Rick Santorum will speak at the Mobile Convention Center tonight at 5:30 at an Alabama Policy Institute event. Both Santorum and Gingrich will attend a presidential candidate forum on Monday evening in Birmingham. Attempts are being made to bring Mitt Romney and Ron Paul to the event as well.

    Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. He cited Romney’s business experience as the determining factor. Riley believes that experience will come in handy given the shaky economic situation the country is currently in.

    There will be 47 delegates at stake when Alabamians go to the polls on March 13. Alabama has the ninth most delegates in the Republican primary season. Normally a primary race would have been decided by now, but changes to the rules now award proportional representation of delegates in most states. That means when a candidate wins a state’s primary, he does not get all the delegates, but a proportion based on his vote tally. This rule change has made it much more difficult to clinch the nomination.

    Added on to the rule changes is the fact that long time front runner Mitt Romney has had trouble connecting with the base of the Republican party. Romney had long been viewed a moderate Republican for his time as governor of Massachusetts. He has shifted to the right for this election, but the conservative base has yet to rally around him. Other candidates have risen to the national leader board, but all have lacked the staying power to hold on to the lead.

    Right now the conservative vote is split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. As long as both are in the race it is likely that Romney will pull out the nomination. If one of the candidates dropped out, the other could become the conservative alternative to Romney. Santorum is currently ahead of Gingrich in the national polls. At this point it doesn’t seem likely that Gingrich will be dropping out, especially after his victory in Georgia.

    The polls currently show a very tight race in Alabama. At this point any of the candidates could take the state’s delegates. Odds point to either Santorum or Gingrich taking the majority of delegates, but Romney could pull out a win if he puts big money into the state over the weekend. Romney will be in Pascagoula on Thursday as Mississippi also has their primary this coming Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if Governor Romney shows up and tries to battle for Alabama.

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GOP Candidates Stage Last Debate Before Super Tuesday

Posted by David Merrell On February - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

    The four remaining candidates for the GOP nomination took to the stage last night in yet another debate. The two front runners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, sparred over health care and government bailouts. Santorum hit Romney for setting up a health care system in Massachusetts that is similar to the health care law President Obama signed into law in 2010. He also accused the former governor of supporting the bailout of Wall Street. Romney hit back at Santorum for supporting former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter. Specter later went on to switch parties and voted for Obamacare.

    The Republican primary season is about to heat up in the coming weeks. This coming Tuesday there will be primaries in Arizona and Michigan. On March 6 Super Tuesday occurs, which is ten primaries in one day. The candidates were all in need of good press as all four are currently losing in the polls to President Obama. Voters are now more optimistic about the state of the economy and the direction of the country.

    Mitt Romney has long been the front runner in the campaign, but he has struggled to seal the deal. Several candidates have risen to challenge him for the top spot, including Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum is the latest to rise to the top with recent wins in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. Santorum is known more as a social conservative while Romney is known for his corporate experience. Romney is currently leading comfortably in Arizona, but faces a stiff challenge from Santorum in Michigan.

    Alabama’s Republican primary is scheduled for March 13 along with Mississippi and Hawaii. The latest polls show a very tight race in Alabama. The Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery had Romney leading with 27% of the vote in a survey conducted February 6-8. Santorum followed with 23% and Gingrich was right behind with 22%. Ron Paul came in last with 7%. Alabama has followed the national pattern of consistently changing front runners.

    The winner of the Republican nomination will likely not be of great significance in the fall. The 2012 presidential election is going to be a referendum on President Obama. If the economy continues to improve in the coming months the president will likely get reelected. If the economy falters and gas prices continue to rise he will likely lose. A key number to look at is the unemployment rate. If unemployment drops below 8% then President Obama is almost assured of winning the election.

    Who is your candidate of choice to run against President Obama? Leave a comment and vote in our poll to let us know what you think.

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