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The Range

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The Surge Is Working

The Straight Talk Express has the momentum of a runaway freight train! With primary wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Arizona Sen. John McCain has scrambled to the top of the Republican presidential sweepstakes, at least in the national polls.

Early this week, Rasmussen had McCain as the favorite of 25 percent of GOP voters nationwide--a climb of 16 points since he was in the single-digits just a month ago. Rasmussen had Mitt Romney at 19 percent, Mike Huckabee at 15 percent, and Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson--who dropped out of the race on Tuesday, Jan. 22-- both at 10 percent.

With the Florida primary approaching next week, Romney still leads in the delegate count, with 72. McCain is in second with 38, according to CNN's Delegate Tracker. Both have a long way to the magic number of 1,191.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton still leads the national Rasmussen poll, but Barack Obama continues to nip at her heels. Here in Arizona, Obama has scored the endorsement of Gov. Janet Napolitano and was expected to bring Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice star Kate Walsh, a former UA student, to Arizona to stump for him this week.

When it comes to delegates, Hillary has 210 after winning New Hampshire, Michigan and (sort of) Nevada, while Obama has 123, according to CNN. The winner needs 2,025 to win the nomination.


Wright Stuff

The Pima County Board of Supervisors picked former Amphi School Board member Nancy Young Wright to replace Lena Saradnik, who resigned from the Arizona House of Representatives to recover from a stroke suffered last year.

In her tenure on the Amphi board, Young Wright exposed numerous unsavory backroom dealings and ultimately helped lead a recall effort that forced the removal of three of her fellow board members.

Wright has to give up a county job to take office. If she wants to keep the seat, she'll also have to run for election later this year in Legislative District 26, a GOP-leaning district that Democrats managed to partially capture in 2006.


It's the Economy, Stupid

Real estate is collapsing; the Dow is crashing; and the economy is continuing to tank. Some recent stats: Arizona's unemployment numbers rose to 4.7 percent in December; the Arizona Business Leaders Confidence Index dropped its lowest level since its debut in 2003, with more than half the panelists surveyed expecting economic conditions to get worse; and home prices continue to slide.

Judy Lowe, executive vice president of Realty Executives in Southern Arizona, predicted the housing market would soon turn around, because the declining prices and low interest rates make this "a great time to buy a home."

A gloomier economic forecast from The New York Times earlier this week: "For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world's largest market."

You know that queasy feeling you get when the dice don't roll your way in Monopoly, and you're mortgaging your properties to pay for a hotel stay on Boardwalk? That's the feeling we're starting to get.


Cat Nipped

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would give up efforts to help the hard-to-find jaguar, invoking a policy that allows them to ignore beasts whose "historic and current ranges occur entirely under the jurisdiction of other countries."

Staffers with the Center for Biological Diversity, who had sued the federal government to force the creation of a recovery plan, said the decision would lead to the extinction of the jaguar in the United States.

"This is a jaguar death sentence," press-released Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

A female jaguar has not been confirmed to be in the United States since 1963.


Backboard Jungle

The uneven Arizona men's basketball team split another series last week, falling to the mighty Stanford Cardinal, 56-52, before defeating California, 79-75. The Wildcats are now 12-6 on the season and 2-3 in Pac 10 play.

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