Analysis: Mitt Romney's double defeats illustrate just how much the GOP base doesn't like him
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney's losses in Alabama and Mississippi underscore a stark reality: The core of his party does not want him.
And that lingering conservative dissatisfaction -- on display Tuesday night -- threatens to follow Romney into a general election matchup against a Democratic president whose ability to inspire his base is not in question.
Romney's huge lead in the race for delegates to this summer's GOP nominating convention seemed forgotten for a night as Rick Santorum reveled in twin victories handed to him by conservatives and evangelicals who dominate the Republican electorate in the party's only remaining regional stronghold -- the South.
Santorum's success and Romney's failure exposed deep divisions within a party torn between a conservative base that's looking for a candidate who is pure on GOP orthodoxy and the rest of the party, which is looking for a nominee able to beat President Barack Obama. Tuesday's outcomes also virtually ensure the increasingly nasty slog toward the Republican presidential nomination will consume even more of Romney's time, energy and money when he'd rather be focused solely on the general election, and Obama.
"We will compete everywhere," an inspired Santorum told cheering supporters in Lafayette, La.
It's Romney vs. Santorum as GOP race plods ahead, with Puerto Rico up next
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The plodding Republican presidential nomination fight is grinding forward toward Puerto Rico -- and a two-man race, with Rick Santorum ascendant and Mitt Romney vanquished in the Deep South.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the former Georgia lawmaker whose Southern strategy stalled, was all but relegated to an asterisk in the contest even as he vowed to stay in it.
"Now is the time to pull together," Santorum declared to conservatives in Lafayette, La., after winning Tuesday's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, urging the party's faithful to unite behind him to beat Romney. "We are campaigning everywhere there are delegates because we are going to win this nomination before the convention."
Unbowed, Romney issued a statement noting his strong lead in the hunt for delegates to the GOP convention, saying, "I am pleased that we will be increasing our delegate count in a very substantial way after tonight." Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with CNN, Romney had said Santorum was "at the desperate end of his campaign."
Romney fared much better in the night's two Pacific island contests. He salvaged a win in the Hawaii caucuses and won the support of all nine delegates at GOP caucuses in American Samoa.
Bus crash in Swiss tunnel kills 28 people, including 22 school children returning from trip
GENEVA (AP) -- A bus smashed into a tunnel wall in the Swiss Alps, killing 22 Belgian 12-year-olds returning from a ski vacation and the six adults who were accompanying them, police said Wednesday.
Another 24 students were hospitalized with injuries, Valais cantonal (state) police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told The Associated Press.
The bus carrying 52 people, including young students from two different Belgian schools, hit the tunnel wall shortly after 9 p.m. local time Tuesday on the A9 highway near Sierre, Switzerland, in the southern Swiss canton of Valais, an area of popular ski resorts.
Authorities were still identifying all the victims, said Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister. It was unclear exactly how the accident happened, he said.
"It is incomprehensible," Reynders said.
GOP, Democratic lawmakers want to 'stick to plan' in Afghanistan despite deadly incidents
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans and Democrats alike insist the United States should stay the course in Afghanistan, sticking to President Barack Obama's timetable for withdrawing American troops despite the massacre of Afghan civilians and the burning of Qurans -- two offenses blamed on the U.S. military that have stoked anti-American anger.
Key proponents of keeping troops in Afghanistan, like Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., say these tragic incidents shouldn't diminish the American resolve to finish a job begun more than a decade ago.
"When you look at the war through that terrible, violent act -- it can seem hopeless and lost," McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said of the American soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children. "But the reason we liberated Afghanistan in 2001 was right then, and it is the same reason we fight today to keep it liberated."
McKeon's argument for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan more than 10 years after the war began reflects the view of the nation's military commanders and was echoed by several lawmakers, including the Senate's top Democrat and Republican. Support for the current policy puts them at odds with two Republican presidential candidates -- Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul -- and a growing number of Americans exasperated with the drawn-out conflict and clamoring for the 90,000 troops to come home.
McKeon was scheduled to deliver his remarks in a speech Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The Associated Press obtained excerpts of his remarks.
World stock markets rise after positive Fed assessment sends Wall Street soaring
BANGKOK (AP) -- World stock markets rose Wednesday, with Japan's benchmark closing at its highest level in more than seven months, as investors snapped up shares amid signs of a strengthening U.S. economy.
Benchmark oil hovered below $107 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
Gains in European and Asian markets came after a strong rally Tuesday on Wall Street sparked by optimism over the economic outlook. U.S. government figures showed improving retail sales and the U.S. Federal Reserve said it expects the unemployment rate to keep falling.
"Exports stocks, especially focusing on the U.S. market, will definitely benefit," said Dickie Wong, executive director of Kingston Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong.
Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent to 5,974.56. Germany's DAX was 0.8 percent higher at 7,054.96 and France's CAC-40 added 0.6 percent to 3,571.32.
Cameron, Obama navigating tricky issues in White House meeting ahead of formal dinner
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House with all the pomp of a state visit as the allies stress their unity in dealing with hot spots like Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
Amid concerns in Britain that U.S. focus is drifting toward East Asia, Obama is seeking to reassure the British leader with a formal White House dinner and talks on how to coordinate policies on a host of thorny problems.
The serious talks follow a more relaxed day in which Obama and Cameron flew to Dayton, Ohio, to watch an NCAA tournament college basketball game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky -- a new experience for the British leader. Obama gave Cameron the royal treatment, inviting him to fly on Air Force One and enjoy a quintessential American tradition.
The attention to Cameron comes at a time of weighty foreign policy challenges. Britain has been an important U.S. ally in Afghanistan and the bombing campaign in Libya that led to the removal of Moammar Gadhafi.
Obama and Cameron will discuss the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits on Wednesday, followed by a state dinner at the White House.
Iran's parliament questions Ahmadinejad in blow to embattled president
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's parliament grilled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday over a long list of accusations, including that he mismanaged the nation's economy and defied the authority of the country's supreme leader.
Ahmadinejad is the first president in the country's history to be hauled before the Iranian parliament, a serious blow to his standing in a conflict pitting him against lawmakers and the country's powerful clerical establishment.
Iran's constitution gives parliament the legal right to question the president, but the body had never before taken a step that undermined Ahmadinejad's prestige and could set the stage for his subsequent impeachment should lawmakers determine his answers were unsatisfactory.
Ahmadinejad sniped back defiantly at his questioners, displaying some of the populist touch that has won him a mass following despite his strained ties with clerical leaders.
The summons follows a long-awaited petition by a group of parliamentarians for a review of policy decisions by Ahmadinejad, who has come under increasing attacks in recent months from the same hard-liners who brought him to power.
Autopsy shows 2-year-old NJ girl found dead inside septic tank drowned accidentally
LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) -- An autopsy has determined that accidental drowning caused the death of a toddler whose body was found inside a septic tank behind her home, just hours after being reported missing by her mother.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said Tuesday that a preliminary investigation found "no indication of foul play or trauma."
The 2-year-old victim, identified by authorities only by the initials J.C., was reported missing by her mother, Marina Matias, shortly before 5 p.m. Monday. She had been playing in the yard with four siblings.
Search teams found a 3-foot-wide hole in the yard that led to a septic tank, and the Public Works Department was called to pump water from the tank. The girl's body was found inside it around 7:30 p.m.
Toys were strewn about the yard of the ramshackle property on Tuesday, and the front door of the small house sat open. Police tape cordoned off the area where the top of the tank had been covered with dirt. The tank sat just a few feet outside the back door to the home, next to an outbuilding.
'American Idol' finalist Jermaine Jones tweets that he's off the show
Jermaine Jones is apparently out on "American Idol."
The 25-year-old vocal instructor from Pine Hill, N.J., tweeted Tuesday night that he no longer would be on the Fox singing contest.
He wrote on his official "Idol" Twitter account: "Awww I will no longer b on the show." The post and Jones' official "Idol" Twitter account were later deleted.
A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter or confirm his tweet.
The so-called "gentle giant," as he was dubbed by "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, was among the show's viewer-selected top 13 finalists after the judges gave him a last-minute spot among the 11th season's top 13 male semifinalists.
BYU overcomes NCAA tournament-record 25-point deficit to overcome Iona 78-72
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron saw a huge comeback.
Had they stuck around a little longer, they could have watched the biggest one in NCAA tournament history.
Noah Hartsock scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and the Cougars came back from 25 points down to beat Iona 78-72 in the first round Tuesday night.
It marked the biggest comeback in an NCAA tournament game, the NCAA said. Previously, the largest deficit overcome was 22 points when Duke fought back to beat Maryland 95-84 in the 2001 national semifinals.
Hartsock was a little hurt that the president wasn't around to see the fireworks in the nightcap.