* More cautious optimism about the economy: With a better-than-usual jobs report expected tomorrow, manufacturing is showing signs of strength for the first time in years.
* Jake Sherman has an interesting look at the travails of a House GOP that’s “weakened,” “divided,” lacking in leverage, and facing another looming payroll tax cut battle.
* Jonathan Cohn makes the case for why Obama’s recess appointments were indeed Constitutional.
* Another day, another Romney falsehood: Politifact dismantles the claims in Romney’s new South Carolina ad bashing Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board as “union stooges.”
* The chart of the day, courtesy of Steve Benen, perfectly captures the absurdity of Romney’s comparisons of his jobs record to Obama’s.
* The special bonus chart of the day, courtesy of Brian Beutler, neatly captures who benefits and who doesn’t under Romney’s tax plan.
* Romney’s tax plan contains a big tax cut for the one percent, but it’s actually moderate compared to the savings the rich reap under his GOP rivals’ plans.
* Indeed, as Kevin Drum notes, the fact that Romney’s tax plan only cuts the one percent’s taxes by over $80,000 is only the latest sign that conservatives shouldn’t trust him.
* Daniel Henninger gives voice to the conservative nightmare scenario about Romney: His insufficient commitment to conservatism is what’s really dividing the GOP, perhaps throwing the election to Obama.
* Santorum-mentum!!! He goes all in with a big ad buy in South Carolina. While we don’t know details, expect it to launch a frontal assault on Romney,
* Bonus Santorum-mentum!!! His campaign pulls in $2 million in the last 48 hours alone, perhaps an expression of conservative yearning for a credible not-Romney to take down the frontrunner.
* More wit and wisdom from Santorum: He scoff at the 99 percent and says the real class war in this country is between those who pay taxes and those who don’t.
Of course, many in the latter class Santorum seems to be talking about actually do pay taxes, but reality is beside the point here.
* Weaknesses in defense of the health law? Legal scholars (including supporters) say the core problem is that Obama’s lawyers need to better articulate the limits on government power in a world with mandates.
* And the Washington Monthly has put together a terrific issue documenting the consequences of a GOP victory this year . I particularly liked this piece detailing this central feature of our politics:
Whoever is the standard-bearer, a Republican victory in 2012 would do nothing to reverse or restrain the radically rightward march of the party. The Tea Party movement has accelerated a process that has been under way for many years within the GOP, which is now firm in its identity as the insurgent party, set upon blowing up policies and public responsibilities that enjoyed bipartisan support for many decades. The Democrats are the status quo party— protective and pragmatic. The asymmetric polarization of the two camps is the most significant feature of contemporary American politics.
What else is happening?