Today’s Headlines – March 7, 2012

Good morning! Here are your headlines for Wednesday — halfway through the week!

USA Today: Romney Takes 6 Of 10 Super Tuesday Contests
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, scored substantial wins in GOP primaries in Tennessee and Oklahoma and won easily in North Dakota’s caucuses, where Ron Paul finished a distant second and Romney finished third. Romney easily won primaries in his home of Massachusetts, neighboring Vermont and Virginia, where only he and Paul were on the ballot (Welch, 3/7).

Los Angeles Times: Battle In Ohio Reinforces GOP Divide
Mitt Romney squeezed past Rick Santorum to win Ohio’s presidential primary, capturing the biggest Super Tuesday prize but raising enough doubts to quash hopes of quickly ending the Republicans’ bruising nominating fight (Barabak, 3/6).

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The Washington Post: GOP Race Takes Toll On Front-Runner Romney
The GOP fight has been extremely negative, and super PACs have contributed significantly to the tone of the contest. Former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) have attacked Romney throughout the winter, and their super PACs have done more. Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael S. Steele said Monday on C-SPAN that Romney missed an opportunity last week to reach out to independents by not taking a stronger stand against Rush Limbaugh after the conservative talk show host attacked Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her position on health insurance coverage of contraceptives (Balz, 3/7).

The New York Times: ‘He Should Be All Right,’ Massachusetts Voters Say Of Their Ex-Governor
Yet at several polling places around Massachusetts on Tuesday, even some of those who helped give Mr. Romney a victory here in the Republican presidential primary were hazy on his accomplishments as governor and lukewarm on his candidacy. Not a few expressed frustration, or outright anger, about his support for the state’s 2006 landmark universal health care law, which has become a lightning rod (Goodnough, 3/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Romney Extends His Lead
Speaking to supporters Tuesday night, Mr. Santorum took aim at Mr. Romney, arguing he offered voters a deeper contrast with Mr. Obama because of Mr. Romney’s support of a law in Massachusetts requiring most residents to buy health insurance (King and O’Connor, 3/7).

The Washington Post: At News Conference, Obama Criticizes GOP Candidates For Talk Of War With Iran
He was father in chief, fretting about whether the rough-edged debate over health insurance coverage for women’s contraception will keep his daughters and other young women from engaging in public life. … When a reporter asked whether other Democrats are pandering by referring to the contraception debate and Limbaugh’s remarks as a “war on women,” Obama referred to his wife, saying she has helped him understand that women will make up their own minds (Wilson and Nakamura, 3/6).

The New York Times: AARP Study Says Price Of Popular Drugs Rose 26%
The prices of drugs used most widely by older Americans rose by nearly 26 percent from 2005 to 2009 — nearly twice the rate of inflation — according to a report issued Tuesday by AARP (Thomas, 3/6).

Politico: House Slowing Down On Contraception Legislation
House Republican leaders are taking their foot off the gas, slowing down plans to pass legislation taking aim at the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirement, according to sources close to leadership (Feder and Nocera, 3/7).

NPR: How Birth Control Saves Taxpayers Money
While the controversy continues to swirl around radio talkmeister Rush Limbaugh and his admittedly inappropriate comments about Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke, an analysis from the left-leaning Brookings Institution adds an economic twist to the debate over coverage of contraception (Rovner, 3/6).

Los Angeles Times: Ventura Country Seeks To Keep Healthcare Plan Audit A Secret
A Ventura County commission is trying to keep secret the details of a state-ordered investigation into the management and claims procedures of a healthcare plan designed to serve the county’s neediest residents (Saillant, 3/7).

The Washington Post: D.C. Council Passes Bill Expanding School Mental Health Services
The D.C. Council agreed Tuesday to increase behavioral health services and testing for city youths to try to keep students in schools and out of jail, but officials caution that the District still has to find money to pay for some key provisions of the bill (Craig, 3/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: State Analysts Brief Maryland Lawmakers On ‘Doomsday’ Budget Plan
Maryland analysts outlined nearly $800 million in potential budget cuts on Tuesday that would have considerable consequences for education, health and aid to local governments in a so-called doomsday alternative plan to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget. The plan has been presented to lawmakers in case they fail to agree on new revenues and savings needed to balance the state’s books for the next fiscal year and reduce an ongoing $1.1 billion deficit by half.  … Another $101 million could come from reductions in Medicaid. The state also could save $115 million by reducing funding for higher education by 10 percent (3/6).

Politico: Fetal ‘Heartbeat’ Bill Advances In Oklahoma
The bill, approved 34-8, will now head to the Republican-dominated state House, Reuters reported. The original proposal required that women hear the heartbeat before having an abortion, but the bill’s author watered down the measure to only require the abortion provider let a woman know of her right to hear the heartbeat (Weinger, 3/7).