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Inside Politics: Dems mark anniversary of Romney health care law

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CAMPAIGN 2012

Democrats mark anniversary of Romney health care law

Mitt Romney doesn't like to be reminded of how his Massachusetts health care reform is similar to the Obama health care overhaul he continually denounces — so a leading Democratic super PAC did just that on Thursday, releasing a new video congratulating the likely Republican nominee on the law's sixth anniversary.

Put together by American Bridge 21st Century, the video features Fox News clips from 2006 after the Massachusetts law was passed. In the video, Mr. Romney defends the law's requirement for people to buy health coverage — even though he has spent the past year slamming the unpopular individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

"Everybody's gonna have to buy their policy, no more free ride," he says in one clip.

"We don't let people drive a car around without insurance because we know that if they have an accident or cause a lot of damage, it could cost the rest of us a lot of money," he said.

CANADA

Clinton, Canadian minister bet on Rangers-Senators

The Ottawa Senators hockey team has extra incentive to win the playoff series against the New York Rangers: a chance to tease America's top diplomat by making her wear one of their jerseys.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a wager with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird ahead of Thursday night's opening game in New York. If the Rangers win, Mr. Baird must wear New York blue. If the Senators prevail, Mrs. Clinton must don Ottawa red.

"I'm pretty confident that you'll look good in blue," said Mrs. Clinton, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Baird said he'd give Mrs. Clinton the jersey of his favorite player, center Jason Spezza, if the Senators win.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama won't issue order sought by gay advocates

The White House said President Obama does not plan to issue a ban on discrimination against gay federal contractors sought by gay rights groups. The decision disappoints a constituency that has been an important source of support for him.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama is committed to gay rights and would support legislation that would protect gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors.

But he ruled out a special presidential order that would accomplish the same thing now. Gay rights groups say Congress won't act to pass such a law and that the White House should step in with an executive order.

Mr. Carney denies the White House is trying to avoid a politically sensitive issue in this election year.

POLLING

Romney leads Obama in latest Fox News poll

Fresh off dispatching his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney also is leading President Obama in a head-to-head matchup, according to the latest Fox News poll.

Taken Monday through Wednesday, the poll found Mr. Romney with a 46-percent-to-44-percent lead over the incumbent president — powered by a strong showing among self-identified independents, who backed Mr. Romney 43 percent and Mr. Obama 37 percent.

In the same poll last month, independents were split evenly at 40 percent each.

The poll also showed that while women back Mr. Obama 49 percent to 41 percent, men back Mr. Romney by an even greater margin, 52 percent to 38 percent, suggesting the gender gap is hurting the president more.

Last week, Mr. Romney swept contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, putting him well ahead of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination. On Tuesday, Rick Santorum, who had been the closest competitor to Mr. Romney, dropped out of the race.

COLORADO

Romney glitter bomber pleads to disturbing peace

DENVER — A college student who tried to "glitter bomb" Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after the Colorado caucuses has pleaded guilty to a charge of disturbing the peace.

Peter Smith, 20, told KCNC-TV that prosecutors dismissed a more serious charge of throwing a missile for the Feb. 7 incident.

Mr. Romney was speaking to supporters in Denver and vowing to fight on after losing nonbinding caucus votes in Colorado and Minnesota. While the former Massachusetts governor shook hands with supporters, Mr. Smith tossed a handful of blue glitter toward him, missing the candidate.

At the time, Mr. Smith was interning for the Democratic-controlled state Senate. He was fired after the incident.

Mr. Smith told the station that he doesn't regret acting against Mr. Romney but would choose a different way next time.

ECONOMY

Unemployment applications up in the past week

More people sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that the job market's recovery remains slow.

The increase also likely reflects some seasonal volatility because applications for unemployment aid frequently rise around the Easter holiday. Many school employees are laid off temporarily during spring breaks and can file for benefits.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications jumped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 380,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week's figures also were revised higher. The four-week average, a less volatile gauge, rose to 368,500.

After declining steadily since the fall, applications have leveled off in recent weeks. The four-week average is essentially unchanged over the past two months.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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