Ari Shapiro

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There was a big movie premier Thursday — big in the political world, anyway. This movie is actually an ad of sorts, designed in hopes that it will go viral and help President Obama's re-election prospects.

Every good political campaign has a motif, from President Obama's "hope" to John McCain's "maverick."

Mitt Romney's brand is still taking shape, yet one word finds its way into nearly every speech he gives.

"I want to restore America to our founding principles," the former Massachusetts governor said in Iowa.

"We'll restore those principles to this great country," he told a crowd in New Hampshire.

"I don't want to transform America into something we are not, I want to restore America," he said in South Carolina.

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This weekend, Mitt Romney is doing something extraordinary; something he probably hasn't done in months. Nothing - nothing in public, at any rate. After weeks and weeks of nonstop campaigning, this is a rare weekend off.

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Mitt Romney is on the road again, this time in the deep South. He's campaigning today in Mississippi and Alabama, both states that hold primaries next Tuesday. NPR's Ari Shapiro was at a Romney rally at a port on the Gulf of Mexico.

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In a final burst of campaigning in Michigan on Tuesday, embattled GOP front-runner Mitt Romney complained that rival Rick Santorum was making automated phone calls to Democrats and urging them to vote against Romney in the Republican race. (Although only declared Republicans can vote in the party primary, voters can change their affiliation to cast a ballot.)

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Mitt Romney is on a bus tour across Michigan, hoping to win the votes of the state where he grew up. With primary day on Tuesday, Romney seems to have closed the gap in polls with Rick Santorum.

This trip has the feel of those early days campaigning back in New Hampshire, before any votes were actually cast: the long bus rides, the snowy landscape, even the impromptu restaurant drop-ins.

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There was no 11th-hour surprise in the Nevada caucuses Saturday night. The first state in the West to vote in the Republican presidential race chose Mitt Romney, who won with support from a broad base and left his rivals trailing behind.

No Thanks To You, Mr. President

Nevada has been Romney country since at least 2008. That year, he took about half the vote in the caucuses but lost the Republican nomination to John McCain.

This year, he has his sights set higher.

Saturday is caucus day in Nevada, the first state in the West to vote as Republicans go about choosing their presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney is counting on another win here to keep him on the path to the nomination. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have also been campaigning across the state, while Rick Santorum is in the Midwest looking ahead to later contests next week.

Believe it or not, Nevada leads the country in unemployment, home foreclosures and bankruptcy.

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In Nevada, it's caucus eve. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are all campaigning there, while Rick Santorum has already moved on, looking ahead to some Midwestern contests.

Mitt Romney starts the week having undergone a transformation.

For almost a year, he tried to portray himself as the grown-up in the Republican race for the presidential nomination. Now, over the course of two debates and countless Florida campaign stops, the buttoned-up businessman is showing that he can get tough.

This shift has upended the yin-yang dynamic that has been playing out for weeks between the passionate, fiery Newt Gingrich and the staid, steady Romney.

There are not many things that President Obama, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney agree on, but when it comes to job training there is common ground.

"It is time to turn our unemployment system into a re-employment system that puts people to work," Obama said during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, Gingrich offered a similar solution for helping those facing long-term unemployment.

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It wasn't too long ago Mitt Romney looked like he was on a winning streak; that maybe if things kept going his way, he could sweep all the early primary and caucus states. Now, his record is one for three.

The GOP presidential candidate forum held Saturday in Charleston, S.C., was not exactly a debate. In fact, it was sort of the opposite of a debate.

The event was moderated by Fox News host and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. All the candidates except for Ron Paul attended, but they never actually shared the stage. They were explicitly prohibited from attacking — or even mentioning — each other.

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And Mitt Romney spent the last week celebrating a major victory and then fending off some major attacks. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports from Aiken, South Carolina.

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As New Hampshire voters headed to the polls Tuesday, we spoke with several as they left polling places in Manchester and Bedford.

Dan Yarrington, who owns a series of game stores in Manchester, told us he voted for Ron Paul for his foreign policy stance and his philosophy on government spending.

On Tuesday night, New Hampshire voters could catapult Mitt Romney securely onto the path of the Republican nomination, or they could undercut the air of inevitability surrounding his campaign.

The former Massachusetts governor is clearly expecting the catapult. One indication? On Monday morning, the candidate changed his rhetoric to reposition himself even more squarely as a general election candidate.

When Mitt Romney kicked off this past week with a blitzkrieg tour of Iowa, he had no way of knowing just how true this statement would be: "You guys in Dubuque, you're the best. Get out there and vote tomorrow. I need every vote!"

He wasn't kidding. When the final numbers were tallied in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor edged his closest rival, Rick Santorum, by the smallest margin in Iowa history — just eight votes.

Monday morning in Iowa, I caught up with Mitt Romney's strategist Eric Fehrnstrom after the campaign's first event of the day, a speech at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.

In the last hours before Tuesday night's caucus, Fehrnstrom said, the former Massachusetts governor plans to consolidate his support by visiting areas in the eastern part of the state where he had a strong showing in 2008 — places like Dubuque and Cedar Rapids.

One of the most important things to understand about global affairs is how much lies beyond any one country's control, even for the most powerful country in the world.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the limits on American power were especially apparent this year.

"American power has always had many real-world limits," he says.

In some ways, he says, that makes President Obama's accomplishments all the more notable.

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