The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, March 15, 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' Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen, and Alicia Tejada

ELECTION 2012: Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman: " Obama-Romney Race Toss-Up in Poll Showing Independents Vital" A strengthening economy and a contentious Republican primary have not translated into a wave of support for President Barack Obama, who runs even in a matchup against his likely challenger, Mitt Romney.  LINK

ILLINOIS PRIMARY: The Los Angeles Times' Paul West: " Illinois primary could be Rick Santorum's big chance" After a pair of pivotal Southern tests, the Republican presidential race has become a battle between Mitt Romney's grind-it-out delegate arithmetic and Rick Santorum's popular momentum. LINK

MITT ROMNEY / RICK SANTORUM: The New York Times' Katharine Seelye: " Fortunes Turn, as Does Style, for Santorum" The pickup truck that carried him through Iowa is long gone, replaced by a small motorcade of S.U.V.'s. There was a police escort, and a phalanx of Secret Service agents. LINK

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold and Philip Rucker: " Whether Romney or Santorum wins, the road to the nomination will be ugly" Now that the Republican presidential field has been effectively whittled to two, each of the front-runners has laid out a detailed plan to beat the other. This much is clear: Whoever wins is going to win ugly. LINK

The Washington Times' Seth McLaughlin: " Romney's delegate gain is still loss of 'cushion'" Mitt Romney extended his lead in delegates in the Republican presidential nomination fight this week, but his hopes of avoiding a contested convention dimmed slightly after third-place finishes in Tuesday night's two biggest contests. LINK

MITT ROMNEY: The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. and Patrick O'Connor: "Romney Banking on Swing-State Strength"  Mitt Romney's stumble in the Deep South Tuesday rekindled worries within the GOP about his weak hold on the most conservative corners of his party.  LINK

NEWT GINGRICH NY Daily News' Aliyah Shahid: "Newt Gingrich after losing to Rick Santorum in  Alabama, Mississippi: I'm not going anywhere" Newt Gingrich has a message for his critics: I'm not going anywhere. Despite increasing pressure from the right urging the ex-House Speaker to drop out of the Republican presidential race, Gingrich - following two disappointing losses in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday night - refuses to bow out.   LINK

Politico's Ginger Gibson: " Republican rift opens over Newt Gingrich's future" Should Newt Gingrich get out of the race? Depends on whom you ask.  If it's a Rick Santorum supporter, the answer is pretty clear: a resounding yes. But if it's a Mitt Romney fan, the answer is the opposite: no, at least not for now. LINK

USA Today's Jackie Kucinich: " Republican calls increase for Newt Gingrich to bow out"   Having come back from the political dead at least twice this presidential cycle, Newt Gingrich and his backers vowed to stay in the presidential race Wednesday despite a growing chorus of conservatives calling for him to quit after failing to win either of Tuesday's two Southern primaries.  LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA - AFGHANISTAN The Hill's Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes: "No sign of speedier Afghanistan withdrawal from Obama, Cameron"  President Obama on Wednesday reaffirmed that the United States will not accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite the recent outbreak of violence in the country and heightened anti-America sentiment in the war zone.  LINK

RICK SANTORUM: ABC News' Michael Falcone: "Does Rick Santorum's Southern Sweep Matter?"  "We did it again!" Rick Santorum told a cheering crowd in Lafayette, Louisiana last night, celebrating a pair of wins in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries.  LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEOS: "Obama, Cameron Watch NCAA, Return to D.C."  LINK "Gingrich Explains Why He's Staying in GOP Race" LINK "British Chivalry, and a Love Pat, on Display at the White House"   LINK

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