1. President Obama’s chances of winning reelection suddenly look very strong, as Republicans dig in for a long, nasty presidential primary season. On Saturday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trounced Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary, snuffing out Romney’s hopes of securing the nomination quickly. The GOP race also has turned ugly — and promises to get even uglier — amid revelations that Gingrich had demanded an open marriage from his second wife, and that Romney has stashed up to $32 million in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and has been paying a lower tax rate than the vast majority of Americans. All the while, the president gets to remain above the fray as the GOP presidential hopefuls bloody each other.
2. State Democratic legislators are balking at Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to shred California’s social safety net in order to start paying down the wall of debt owed by the state government, the Chron reports. Brown is proposing to pay $6.9 billion of the debt next year — but in order to do it, he’s also proposing to slash funding for social services by more than $2 billion. Several Democratic legislators, however, say that deep cuts to social services will harm the state’s economic recovery.
3. Oakland schools Superintendent Tony Smith is proposing to give more power to principals and parents to hire the teachers they want for their schools, the Chron reports. Currently, in most school districts, including Oakland, teachers with the most seniority get first choice of what schools they want to work in. But Smith wants to change the rules so that seniority is only one of several criteria. The overhaul, however, requires buy-in from the teachers’ union, which seems unlikely. Teachers’ union President Betty Olson-Jones is calling Smith’s plan “union busting.”
4.As the cash-strapped City of Oakland prepares to lay off up to four hundred workers this month, the amount of money the city has spent on responding to Occupy Oakland continues to rise, and now stands at about $3 million, the Chron reports. The city’s costs are increasing by about $50,000 a week, city officials say.
5. And the San Francisco 49ers magical season came to end last night, when the team lost a nail-biter in overtime against the New York Giants, 20-17. The Giants will now play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.