The bad news just keeps coming for GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. As I first reported on Wednesday, Romney's 2008 campaign chief in New Hampshire, Bruce Keough, has rejected the Romney campaign's entreaties to return for the 2012 race. Now, two more Romney alums from 2008—his California political director and state finance co-chairman—have jumped ship.

The Orange County Register reports that Mike Schroeder, a former chair of the California Republican Party, has said he's not reprising his role as Romney's California political director this time around. Schroeder blasted Romney's 2008 campaign as "one of the most brain-dead campaigns I've seen. I was planning 15 months in advance, but their planning window for events was five days. That meant they didn't focus on California until five days before the primary." Schroeder also told the OC Register that Romney's support for universal health-care in Massachusetts will be a major liability in challenging the president on his own health-care reform effort.

The other southern California GOPer to bail on Romney is Scott Baugh, the OC's GOP chairman. (Baugh's group, you might remember, made headlines when a member of the OC GOP sent around an email depicting Obama as a chimpanzee, a move Baugh condemned.) Baugh said he wasn't supporting any particular candidate, but instead was "busy building the party and preparing to support whomever the nominee might be." He added, "I don't have a candidate and that's true of a lot of us. This is the latest I've ever gone without picking a candidate."

The defections don't seem to be hurting Romney too much with voters—at least for now. A pair of New Hampshire polls surveying GOPers in the Granite State put Romney far ahead of the GOP field, with double-digit leads in both polls. Romney also won the backing of former New Hampshire House speaker Doug Scammon and his wife, who'd both supported Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

As a dismounted patrol of U.S. soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team walks through the village of Chil Gazy; Staff Sgt. Jordan Cruz provides security. Afghans in the village voiced their opinions to International Security Assistance Forces troops during their visit in an effort to improve the security situation in the village and throughout the area. Photo via US Army.

Last week, Mother Jones took a hard look at the words and influence of pseudo-historian David Barton, a Republican activist and minister who's devoted his life to bringing religion into politics. The separation of church and state, Barton claims, is a perversion of the Founding Fathers' intention to create a Christian nation.

As we reported, Barton's enduring popularity among the evangelical community is the secret sauce that endears him to the Republican Party's heavy hitters, including possible presidential contenders Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. But Barton's message (among other things, he has said that Jesus would oppose the capital gains tax and the minimum wage; that global warming is "self-correcting"; and that the nation's homeland security apparatus has been infiltrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood) is built on a foundation of distortions. Barton is not a student of history, but a manipulator of it.

But today's front page story on Barton by Erick Eckholm in The New York Times almost makes it sound like there's a legitimate debate over his view of history. Eckholm makes only fleeting mention of the fact that Barton has zero formal training in history, referring to him only as "self-taught," and his "research" as merely "disputed" and considered "flawed" by historians.

In lieu of any careful examination of Barton's record are laudatory passages about Barton's drive. "Keeping an exhaustive schedule, he is also immersed in the nuts and bolts of politics and maintains a network of 700 anti-abortion state legislators," Eckholm writes. And there's this:

It is hard to know when Mr. Barton finds the time to pore over documents and write, let alone ride the horses he keeps on a small ranch. Beyond his hundreds of speeches, he tapes a daily radio program, manages a staff of 25 and keeps in touch with his national network.

"He doesn’t sleep much," said his wife, Cheryl, who stayed near through an interview and helped him recall key dates in his improbable career.

Meanwhile, Barton's no spring chicken in the conservative crackpot coop; he's a formidable political player, the man picked by George W. Bush to sell his message to pastors around the country in 2004. Eckholm notes some of this history, but fails to explore how, as Barton's political influence has deepened, he has increasingly distorted history (and the bible) to fit GOP talking points. 

If The New York Times isn't going to take Barton to task, at least Jon Stewart is. Barton appeared on the show last night. Watch a clip below:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - David Barton Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook


And check out Right Wing Watch's point-by-point take down of the arguments Barton made last night.

A sign at a pro-labor rally outside the Wisconsin Capitol in February.

Believe it or not, David Koch, the billionaire donor to right-wing think tanks and political advocacy groups, and liberals have something in common: They both see Donald Trump's presidential bid as a PR stunt by a man who's not suited to run the country.

Koch, dubbed by some as the "tea party's wallet," had some less-than-flattering words for Trump in an interview with New York Daily News earlier this week. Koch described Trump's political positions over the past decade as "highly variable and unusual," adding, "He's a wonderful guy, but I don't think he should run for office." Koch went on to say, "At some point, I think he's going to drop out of the race when he realizes that he's really not qualified to be president." Ouch.

Koch also dealt a blow to 2012 frontrunner Mitt Romney, who counted Koch as a supporter in the 2008 race. At this point in the 2012 race, Koch told the Daily News he hasn't settled on a candidate yet, despite the fact that Koch hosted a major shindig for Romney last summer in the Hamptons and multiple Romney staffers insisting that Koch remains a Mitt supporter.

The potential loss of Koch as a backer comes amidst the news that a key Romney campaign chairman from 2008 cut ties with Romney. As I reported on Wednesday, Bruce Keough, the chair of Rommey's New Hampshire campaign in 2008, declined to sign on for 2012, citing the candidate's ever-changing political identity. Romney, Keough says, "manages to say things that cause people to think, 'Wait a second: I thought I knew him, and now I'm not so sure.'" As for the impact of Keough's departure, one veteran New Hampshire political analyst said, "If somebody like Keough said that to the campaign, it's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out up here."

The Washington Post is out with a new survey suggesting that the number of Americans who doubt President Obama's citizenship has fallen dramatically. One week after releasing his long-form birth certificate to the public, just 10-percent of Americans say Obama was "likely" born abroad, down from 20-percent a year ago. That's progress, I suppose, but 10-percent is still a little high, and it's clear that some people are simply unwilling to let the conspiracy die.

Yesterday, for instance, the Missouri House of Representatives passed its birther bill, designed to protect the state from allowing any non-citizens to appear on the presidential ballot. Per the measure: "When certifying presidential and vice presidential nominees and requesting that such nominees be placed on the ballot, the state committees of each political party shall provide verifiable evidence of identity and proof of natural born citizenship."

When I spoke with the bill's sponsor, GOP Rep. Lyle Rowland, early last month, he emphasized that he's not a birther. "You know when I first started, reporters and other people were getting after me because I did this because of President Obama," Rowland said. "And as I told all the other reporters, it's not about President Obama. I believe the man is President of the United States and has met the qualifications for the presidency."

To that point, the Missouri bill is not as hysterical as some of the other proposals that have been introduced (there's no long-form requirement, for instance). But it's born out of the same hysterical climate, in which prominent conservatives sought to propogate a myth that the President was a foreign agent involved in an elaborate conspiracy to defraud the Republic. Missouri's provision, which is part of a broader package that includes a new voter ID law, still has to pass the Senate and win the approval of Republican Governor Jay Nixon.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee continues to flirt with the idea of running for president in 2012, but Fox News, one of his current employers, is getting annoyed by Huckabee's wavering. So annoyed, in fact, that the network has given him an end-of-May deadline to decide, according to RealClearPolitics' Erin McPike.

Huckabee faces the same situation as former Fox contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. When they announced their respective presidential plans, Fox suspended their contracts in March. And since neither Gingrich nor Santorum pulled out of the race by May 1, their contracts are set to be terminated by Fox.

Huckabee, meanwhile, has continued to host his eponymous talk show on Saturday and Sunday nights while Republican operatives have quietly begun organizing a Huckabee ground campaign. Here's RCPs' McPike:

On a national level, Rollins has gotten verbal agreements from experienced Republican operatives who would join the team. A political director, fundraising team, media team, communications director, press staff, policy shop, and opposition research outfit are locked and loaded. Serious discussions with a respected national pollster are ongoing, and several national Republican operatives have told RealClearPolitics that they've gotten calls with the message: "This thing is happening. Do you want to be a part of it?"

David Beasley, a former governor of South Carolina who would chair Huckabee's efforts in the Palmetto State, said he has spoken directly with Huckabee several times in the past month, and had a serious discussion with him several days ago.

Beasley said he phoned Huckabee last week after it had been reported that he had "released" some of the staffers on his first campaign to work for other candidates and asked Huckabee to explain. Some in Huckabee's circle believe that those lines are being fed by former staffers who have gone on to other campaigns and need Huckabee to stay out of the race so it doesn't hurt their own candidates' chances. What's more, the South Carolinian said it may have been true a year ago when Huckabee seemed less destined to run, but it isn't now.

Having trouble finding a date for the prom? Don't worry; under a bill that recently passed the Alabama state senate, undocumented teens might not be able to attend either. SB 256, the "Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," takes steps to block employers from hiring illegal immigrants, gives law enforcement more authority to check immigration status, requires voters to bring proof of citizenship with them to the polls—and prohibits "participation in any extracurricular activity outside of the basic course of study" for K-12 students who aren't legal residents. In other words, no chess club or drama society for the kids; football might be a religion in Alabama, but that's off-limits too.

The bill, sponsored by GOP state Sen. Scott Beason, has many of the same features as the controversial law passed by Arizona last spring, with a few twists. Police officers would be required to to ask drivers for their immigration papers during routine traffic stops, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" the driver is not in the country legally. And because undocumented residents are already prevented from obtaining driver's licenses, the bill goes one step further, making it a crime to knowingly give a ride to an undocumented resident.

Beason, who did not respond to a request for comment, has previously called his measure a "jobs bill." He drew criticism in February when he told a county GOP meeting it was time to "empty the clip" on immigration reform. In the same speech he said this:

Liberals are always going to want to create their utopia—if they just have a little bit more tax money, if they just let a few more illegal immigrants in—they would just create this wonderful melting pot and it would all be beautiful and we'd run through the field of flowers. Well that’s not going to happen.

That does sound pretty nice, though. There are currently two similar immigration bills before the Alabama legislature; the other bill, which does not include the glee club provision, has already passed the House and made it through a Senate committee. It's not clear at this point which bill will be prioritized by the legislature. If Beason's bill does pass, though, Jared Shepherd, a law fellow with the Alabama ACLU, says the state can almost certainly expect a legal challenge.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Darren C. Rickettes (left), Lt. Col. Donn H. Hill (2nd from left) and Deputy Commanding General of Afghan Development Brig. Gen. John Uberti, 101st Airborne Division, talk with an Afghan National Army commander during Operation Overlord in the Naka district of Paktika province, Afghanistan, on April 14, 2011. Operation Overlord is a division-level air assault mission designed to trap Taliban forces in the province. DoD photo by Spc. Zachary Burke, U.S. Army. (Released)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Now beginneth the backlash against the White House for its decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden's bloated, bullet-busted corpse. According to ABC News:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, believes President Obama's decision not to release the Osama bin Laden photos is "a mistake" that will "unnecessarily prolong this debate" over the death of the world's most wanted man.

"I respectfully disagree with President Obama's decision not to release the photos. It's a mistake," Graham said today.

Well, at least it's a respectful disagreement. But as long as Graham's demanding government accountability, perhaps he can explain why he was against releasing graphic US military photos before he was for it.

Back in 2009, he fought almost singlehandedly to keep additional photos of harsh inmate abuse in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison out of public view. "Every photo would become a bullet or IED used by terrorists against our troops," he said, while threatening to block funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq if the pics were released. He and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) put out a joint release explaining their desire to suppress the pictures:

The photos do not depict anything that is not already known. Transparency, and in this case needless transparency, should not be paid for with the lives of American citizens, let alone the lives of our men and women in uniform fighting on our behalf in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere...Such a release would be tantamount to a death sentence to some who are serving our nation in the most dangerous and difficult spots like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Strangely, that's similar to what President Obama said about the Abu Ghraib photos and the bin Laden shots. Obama's desire to suppress evidence of American service members' handiwork, good and bad, may be disheartening to transparency advocates, but at least he's being consistent. Graham, on the other hand, would do well to explain his photographic flip-flop.

The covert events of the past weekend show the value of keeping certain government secrets closely guarded. But if you're looking for a more quantifiable way of assessing the value the Obama administration places on secrecy, you're in luck.

According to its new report to the president, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)—the federal agency that provides oversight of the government's security classification system—puts the cost of classification for 2010 at over $10.17 billion. That's a 15 percent jump from the previous year, and the first time ever that secrecy costs have surpassed $10 billion. Last month, ISOO reported that the number of original classification decisions generated by the Obama administration in 2010 was 224,734—a 22.6 percent jump from the previous year.

The price tag of government secrecy is actually higher than the ISOO report suggests. The agency reviews the classification of 41 agencies—but not the CIA or the National Security Agency, among other agencies, whose classification is itself classified. The Federation of American Scientists' Steve Aftergood asked two security officials what damage to national security would result from releasing security cost estimates for the agencies in question. Their answer: that classifying that information "was consistent with intelligence community guidance." In other words: because we said so.

Aftergood points out that there's a plan for reforming the classification process, waiting in the wings to the implemented. But the White House has dragged its feet, and it remains in policy purgatory.