ASTON, Pa. — Mitt Romney is expected to win all five Republican presidential primaries Tuesday, but Pennsylvania and Connecticut will be watched closely for signs that he could headed for trouble in those states in November.
A weaker-than-expected showing in Pennsylvania against Rick Santorum, who represented the state in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007, would raise fresh questions about Romney’s appeal in a general-election swing state. Pennsylvania polls show the presumptive GOP nominee within striking distance of President Barack Obama.
“What we’re all looking for is, ‘Will there be a sympathy vote for Santorum? A revenge vote?’” asked Terry Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. “Romney doesn’t want a four-point victory. The headline can’t be about residual support for Santorum, or that Romney still has trouble with the conservative base in a state like this.”
Connecticut also will offer some clues about Romney’s November prospects there. The state shares a long border with Massachusetts, where Romney was the governor from 2003 to 2007, and it has a history of embracing GOP moderates. Romney should win it big, but a very low turnout — and lack of enthusiasm — could signal more trouble.
Those states, as well as New York, Delaware and Rhode Island, are expected to help Romney move closer Tuesday to the 1,144 Republican National Convention delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. He has 697 delegates, according to The Associated Press tally, with 231 at stake Tuesday.
Zimmerman released from jail, fades from sight
SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman, who slipped out of jail on $150,000 bail in the early morning darkness, went back into hiding Monday and likely fled to another state to avoid threats as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Later Monday, the Sanford City Commission rejected by a 3-2 vote the resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Zimmerman and had stepped down temporarily in March he said to let emotions cool.
Even though authorities can pinpoint Zimmerman’s location with a GPS ankle bracelet, that he must wear round the clock, the public may not see him again for some time. Zimmerman has waived his appearance at his upcoming arraignment next month, so he can stay underground if he wants.
12th military member tied to prostitution scandal
WASHINGTON — The Secret Service prostitution scandal grew Monday to include a 12th member of the U.S. military as the Pentagon suspended the security clearances of all the military personnel who have been implicated. The Secret Service has also taken action against 12 of its employees.
Three Defense Department officials said the 12th military person involved was in Colombia in advance of President Barack Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas and was assigned to the White House Communications Agency, a military unit that provides secure communications for the president. The defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said he is an enlisted man. One of the officials said he is in the Army.
Another of the officials said the soldier has been relieved of his duties at the White House.
Meanwhile, the White House still faced fire Monday because of the prostitution scandal. It moved anew to keep itself at arm’s length in two ways. Led by its top lawyer, the White House internally investigated and then ruled out misconduct by the White House staff members who helped arrange the president’s trip ahead of his arrival in Colombia. Obama’s chief spokesman, Jay Carney, clarified that the “White House Communications Agency,” which has now been implicated by the widening scandal, is a military unit and not a White House one.
Pa.’s Zippo expects 500 millionth lighter in June
PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania company that makes metal-cased cigarette lighters with lids known for their distinctive “click,” is on schedule to produce its 500 millionth lighter this year.
And by ramping up production, Zippo is projecting it can make that happen on June 5 — the birthday of the late George Blaisdell, the man who founded the company in Bradford in 1932.
To celebrate the milestone, Zippo will produce roughly 60,000 replica lighters that day, each with a commemorative stamp. About 50,000 replicas of the 500 millionth lighter produced that day will come with the company’s well known brushed chrome finish. Another 10,000 will be made with high-polished Armor cases with gold engraving.
Dutch government resigns after austerity talks fail
LONDON — The Dutch government has become the latest to fall because of Europe’s stubborn debt crisis, which appears to be flaring up again after a lull.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Cabinet resigned Monday after they failed to clinch a deal with political parties over austerity cuts to reduce the Netherlands’ budget deficit. It was an embarrassing development for the Dutch, who have repeatedly lectured Southern European nations on the need to rein in public spending.
It helped fuel a day of heavy losses in stock markets across Europe, with investors unsettled by weak manufacturing data in Germany, confirmation of a return to recession in Spain and an uncertain presidential election result in France.
The euro debt crisis seems on the verge of erupting again after a few months of relative calm. The soothing effect of cheap long-term loans from the European Central Bank to the region’s financial institutions is wearing off, and analysts are asking whether the harsh public austerity prescribed by Germany is worsening the crisis instead of solving it.