(CNN)-It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your cup of coffee.
On our radar this morning: Rising tensions in Afghanistan, rumors of a push to put another candidate in the GOP presidential field, and will the U.S. open the strategic reserve?
Check out what we're reading, and be sure to watch our interviews with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, and Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs.
"I think some people look at him as a CEO," McDonnell told reporters in between meetings at the National Governors Assn. winter gathering in Washington. "People right now want to have somebody that truly just feels their pain and empathizes with what they're going through in this horrible, horrible economy."
“The general election prospects for Republicans certainly would be better served if more focus was spent on Obama’s policies and the failures of those policies,” said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a longtime party leader. “There’s still time for that, but it would improve our prospects greatly.”
Speaking with reporters Saturday on the sidelines of the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington, Daniels said he has received some calls from members of his party urging him to enter the race. But he declined to name names.
“I am pushing for a floor fight,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) told reporters, according to multiple reports.
“I just believe we ought to go to a convention and pick a fresh face,” LePage said. “They’ve beat themselves up so badly that I’d think it’d be nice to have a fresh face.”
The referendum on a draft constitution began in polling centers across the country Sunday morning, Syrian state-run TV reported.
At least 100 people were killed on the eve of the vote, almost half of them in Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak called his American counterpart, Leon Panetta, to offer his condolences and apologized for the attack, Little said. Panetta "urged the Afghan government to take decisive action to protect coalition forces and curtail the violence in Afghanistan after a challenging week in the country," he added.
As late as Saturday evening, United States officials said they still could not predict what would happen when the trial opens Sunday.
If the case is not resolved, Congress and the Obama administration have vowed to cut off the $1.55 billion in annual aid to Egypt, potentially rupturing the three-way alliance among Washington, Cairo and Jerusalem that has been a linchpin of regional stability.
The 16 Americans and 27 others face criminal charges of working for unlicensed nonprofit groups and accepting foreign money to operate them. Nine of the Americans were outside Egypt when the charges were filed, and Egypt has barred the remaining seven, including the son of the United States secretary of transportation, from leaving.
At meeting of G20 economies on Saturday, two people familiar with the discussion said finance officials had discussed the risk to the world economy from oil prices, which rose above $125 a barrel on Friday, but the United States did not push for a release of strategic reserves.
Three House Democrats — Reps. Ed Markey, Peter Welch and Rosa DeLauro — also are urging Obama to open up the spigots.
“This most recent run-up in prices is primarily the result of fear driving oil markets, not an actual loss of supply,” they wrote in a letter to Obama, adding that it would "send a message to Iran that we are ready, willing and able to deploy our oil reserves.”
When Obama tapped the SPR last June, administration officials made a point of distancing the connection to gas prices — underscored by the fact that by the time of the announcement, gas prices had declined 45 of the previous 49 days. Critics pounced at the time, saying it was politically motivated and that there was not a global emergency that warranted the sale.
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