The Note's Must-Reads for Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jacqueline Fernandez, Amanda VanAllen, Carrie Halperin and Alicia Tejada

NEWT GINGRICH ABC News' Elicia Dover: " Newt Gingrich Says Rick Santorum Was Right Not to Drop Out" Newt Gingrich, down in the polls in upcoming primary states and nationally, deflected the notion of a two man GOP race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney today in California, while Santorum said Sunday on CNN that he believes the Republican nomination is now between Romney and himself. "We feel very, very good going into Michigan and Arizona," Santorum said. "We're going to compete, obviously, heavily in Michigan. LINK

ROMNEY/SANTORUM ABC News' Emily Friedman: " As Santorum Rises, Romney Boasts Conservative Credentials" As two new polls put former Sen. Rick Santorum at the head of the pack in the GOP primary race, Mitt Romney leaped onto a stage in the battleground state of Arizona tonight to continue his defense of his conservative credentials while warning voters of politicians who may have been "infected by the Washington disease." "My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of great conservative scholars as it did from living my life, my family my faith, my business," said Romney, speaking to thousands in an outside amphitheater in Mesa. LINK

USA Today's Catalina Camia: " Polls: Santorum, Romney neck-and-neck nationally " Rick Santorum is now neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney in two national polls, reflecting the former Pennsylvania senator's surge in the past week as well as a slide for Romney among the most conservative voters. Santorum leads Romney, 30% to 28%, of Republican and GOP-leaning voters in a Pew Research Center Poll taken Wednesday through Sunday. LINK

RICK SANTORUM Bloomberg's Julie Hirschfeld Davis: " Santorum Electability Pitch Undermined by Senate Loss" Rick Santorum, the former senator who is surging in the Republican presidential race, often says he's the only candidate in the contest "that has actually won a swing state."  Yet six years ago, as he sought a third Senate term in Pennsylvania, Santorum proved he can also lose in such a politically competitive state - and lose big.   LINK

GOP The Boston Globe's Shira Schoenberg: " Labels prove slippery in GOP campaign"Mitt Romney made his political leanings clear at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week: "I was a severely conservative Republican governor," Romney said. "I know conservatism because I have lived conservatism." That's a far cry from Romney the gubernatorial candidate who, campaigning in Worcester in 2002, said, "People recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive." LINK

OBAMA/BUDGET The Washington Times' Dave Boyer: " Obama unveils fiscal 2013 budget proposal" Unveiling a $3.8 trillion election-year federal budget loaded with deficits, tax increases and hundreds of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending, President Obama said Monday that his plan will "restore an economy where everybody gets a fair shot." "The economy is growing stronger, the recovery is speeding up," Mr. Obama said at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., where he also proposed a new job-training program. "We can't cut back on those things that are important for us to grow." LINK

New York Times' Jackie Calmes: " Military Cuts and Tax Plan Are Central to Obama Budget" President Obama's final budget request of his term amounts to his agenda for a desired second term, with tax increases on the affluent and cuts in spending, especially from the military, both to reduce deficits and to pay for priorities like education, public works, research and clean energy. LINK

Washington Post's Paul Kane: " House Republican leaders agree to payroll-tax holiday extension without offsets" House Republican leaders said Monday that they will support extending the federal payroll tax holiday through the end of the year without demanding spending cuts to pay for it, a concession aimed at averting another po­litically damaging showdown in Washington.  LINK

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