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Posts For: January 15, 2012

Liberal Civility Watch: The Daily Show v. Froma Harrop

Last summer I took to task liberal journalists and politicians who branded those Americans who disagreed with them about the debt ceiling debate as “terrorists.” It was a particularly low moment in American political discourse, but the worst part of it was not so much the invective as the hypocrisy of those who cried out at what they consider the incivility of Tea Partiers and other conservatives while at the same time attempting to smear their opponents by branding them as being indistinguishable from murderers.

Among those who played this nasty double game was liberal columnist Froma Harrop who, amazingly enough, is also the chair of the National Conference of Editorial Writers civility project. Unfortunately for Harrop, the producers of the “Daily Show” got wind of this contradiction and dispatched John Oliver to interview her about it. The result can only be described as both hysterical and deeply insightful about the blind spot that some liberals have about their right to defame those with whom they disagree in a manner that they would never tolerate when the tables are turned. Enjoy:

Last summer I took to task liberal journalists and politicians who branded those Americans who disagreed with them about the debt ceiling debate as “terrorists.” It was a particularly low moment in American political discourse, but the worst part of it was not so much the invective as the hypocrisy of those who cried out at what they consider the incivility of Tea Partiers and other conservatives while at the same time attempting to smear their opponents by branding them as being indistinguishable from murderers.

Among those who played this nasty double game was liberal columnist Froma Harrop who, amazingly enough, is also the chair of the National Conference of Editorial Writers civility project. Unfortunately for Harrop, the producers of the “Daily Show” got wind of this contradiction and dispatched John Oliver to interview her about it. The result can only be described as both hysterical and deeply insightful about the blind spot that some liberals have about their right to defame those with whom they disagree in a manner that they would never tolerate when the tables are turned. Enjoy:

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Time is Running Out in Syria

This New York Times article by reporter Anthony Shadid unfortunately confirms my worst apprehensions about where Syria is headed–namely toward a civil war. He writes that:

the government [is] losing control over some regions and its authority ebbing in the suburbs of the capital and parts of major cities like Homs and Hama. Even the capital, Damascus, which had remained calm for months, has been carved up with checkpoints and its residents have been frightened by the sounds of gunfire….

In a town about a half-hour drive from Damascus, the police station was recently burned down and in retaliation electricity and water were cut off, diplomats say. For a time, residents drew water in buckets from a well. Some people are too afraid to drive major highways at night.

In Homs, a city that a Lebanese politician called “the Stalingrad of the Syrian revolution,” reports have grown of sectarian cleansing of once-mixed neighborhoods, where some roads have become borders too dangerous for taxis to cross.

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This New York Times article by reporter Anthony Shadid unfortunately confirms my worst apprehensions about where Syria is headed–namely toward a civil war. He writes that:

the government [is] losing control over some regions and its authority ebbing in the suburbs of the capital and parts of major cities like Homs and Hama. Even the capital, Damascus, which had remained calm for months, has been carved up with checkpoints and its residents have been frightened by the sounds of gunfire….

In a town about a half-hour drive from Damascus, the police station was recently burned down and in retaliation electricity and water were cut off, diplomats say. For a time, residents drew water in buckets from a well. Some people are too afraid to drive major highways at night.

In Homs, a city that a Lebanese politician called “the Stalingrad of the Syrian revolution,” reports have grown of sectarian cleansing of once-mixed neighborhoods, where some roads have become borders too dangerous for taxis to cross.

We’ve seen this movie before–in next-door Iraq in 2003-2004–and we know what the ending looks like, with violence reaching catastrophic levels, unless something is done now. But what? The Arab League’s observer mission, a farce to begin with, ended in predictable failure with no sign of the killing abating. The best bet, as I have been arguing for some time, is for outside powers–ranging from the U.S., Britain and France to Turkey and Qatar–to do more to aid the opposition, including the armed opposition, so as to speed up the inevitable collapse of the Assad dictatorship and hasten the formation of a new, and one hopes more democratic, government. That could require a range of steps from providing arms and training to armed rebels, to air strikes, to setting up humanitarian corridors and zones of refuge, where the Assad regime will be prevented from continuing its bloodthirsty ways by the presence of Turkish and/or Arab League troops.

The latter option is not as far-fetched as it might have seemed only a few months ago. Shadid notes: “In a suggestion that reflected the sense of desperation, the emir of Qatar said in an interview with CBS, an excerpt of which was released Saturday, that Arab troops should intervene in Syria to ‘stop the killing.'”

But it is still extremely doubtful the Arab League, which failed to do much with an observer mission, could be induced to take a more active hand. Turkish and Qatari intervention is more possible. But for anything to happen, the U.S. will have to galvanize an active coalition to bring down Assad–something that hasn’t happened yet. Time is running short–more action is needed before the slaughter escalates and possibly even spills over Syria’s borders into such vulnerable neighbors as Iraq and Lebanon.

 

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The Truth About Income Inequality

Nothing, it seems, gets the left more worked up these days than the specter of growing income inequality, the gap between the income of the poorest quintile and the highest, and, especially, the gap between the incomes of the top one-percent and the rest of us.

The New York Times has one of its usual editorials this morning:

Republicans are indeed in growing trouble as more voters begin to realize how much the party’s policies — dismantling regulations, slashing taxes for the rich, weakening unions — have contributed to inequality and the yawning distance between the middle class and the top end.

One wonders how “slashing taxes for the rich” contributes to income inequality. There are only two ways it could do so, as taxes don’t diminish income, only disposable income. Either the money taxed away would be given to the less-rich, swelling their incomes, or cutting taxes on the rich stimulates the economy, increasing the incomes of the rich (and everyone else). I vote for the latter. I doubt the Times does.

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Nothing, it seems, gets the left more worked up these days than the specter of growing income inequality, the gap between the income of the poorest quintile and the highest, and, especially, the gap between the incomes of the top one-percent and the rest of us.

The New York Times has one of its usual editorials this morning:

Republicans are indeed in growing trouble as more voters begin to realize how much the party’s policies — dismantling regulations, slashing taxes for the rich, weakening unions — have contributed to inequality and the yawning distance between the middle class and the top end.

One wonders how “slashing taxes for the rich” contributes to income inequality. There are only two ways it could do so, as taxes don’t diminish income, only disposable income. Either the money taxed away would be given to the less-rich, swelling their incomes, or cutting taxes on the rich stimulates the economy, increasing the incomes of the rich (and everyone else). I vote for the latter. I doubt the Times does.

The Times argues that the growing inequality is stoking tensions across class lines, which the AP also claimed. “Two-thirds of Americans now say there is a strong conflict between the rich and the poor, according to a Pew survey released last week, making it the greatest source of tension in American society.”

But as James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Thursday, that’s not what the Pew survey said:

In fact, Pew does not claim to have found, as the AP falsely asserts, that “tensions between rich and poor are increasing.” It finds, rather, that “perceptions of class conflict” and “the belief that these disputes are intense” have become more prevalent, especially since 2009.

The Times’ editorial board, apparently, does not read the New York Times, which got the story right on Wednesday.

In fact, of course, the growing gap in incomes between the very rich and the middle class is a product of the extraordinary technological revolution the global economy is in the midst of, thanks to the microprocessor. Powerful new technologies (the steam engine, railroads, the telegraph, petroleum, the telephone, automobiles, the movies, etc.) always cause an inflorescence of new, huge fortunes, which automatically increase the gap between the very rich and the middle class.  Just look at the Forbes 400 list to see how many gigantic fortunes have been created thanks to the microprocessor. Some of those fortunes were created by people still in their 20s.

The hyperventilating on the left over income inequality is almost entirely self-interested: an excuse for transferring the new wealth from the people who created it (and made us all richer thereby) to politicians who will use it to buy votes.

Margaret Thatcher was on to their game (hat tip: Instapundit), as she made more than clear in her last speech in the House of Commons.

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In Obama They Trust? Israelis Ponder U.S. Intentions Toward Iran

Anyone listening to what’s being said about Iran by the White House and State Department lately could easily be convinced stopping the ayatollah’s nuclear program is one of Washington’s top priorities. But the public “disappointment” being expressed in Israel by senior members of the Netanyahu government tells a different story. While the New York Times was reporting a few days ago that American diplomats were going all out to persuade Japan, South Korea and even China to comply with American sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank as part of a prelude to a U.S.-led oil embargo of the Islamist state, the Israelis seem to be reading from a different playbook.

Though Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has registered support for Obama’s sanctions drive, his chief political deputy today contradicted him and denounced the administration’s cautious approach to pressuring Iran. And though the White House issued a statement summarizing a phone conversation between Obama and Netanyahu on Thursday that emphasized U.S.-support for Israeli security, reports out of Israel about the talk lead one to believe the focus of the chat was something else entirely: an American demand that Israel promise not to attack Iran on its own.

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Anyone listening to what’s being said about Iran by the White House and State Department lately could easily be convinced stopping the ayatollah’s nuclear program is one of Washington’s top priorities. But the public “disappointment” being expressed in Israel by senior members of the Netanyahu government tells a different story. While the New York Times was reporting a few days ago that American diplomats were going all out to persuade Japan, South Korea and even China to comply with American sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank as part of a prelude to a U.S.-led oil embargo of the Islamist state, the Israelis seem to be reading from a different playbook.

Though Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has registered support for Obama’s sanctions drive, his chief political deputy today contradicted him and denounced the administration’s cautious approach to pressuring Iran. And though the White House issued a statement summarizing a phone conversation between Obama and Netanyahu on Thursday that emphasized U.S.-support for Israeli security, reports out of Israel about the talk lead one to believe the focus of the chat was something else entirely: an American demand that Israel promise not to attack Iran on its own.

According to the Times, the U.S. is promising Asian nations which rely on Iranian oil that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations that share Israel’s fears about Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons will make up for any shortages they experience if the embargo goes forward. But the same piece pointed out that America’s Arab allies could only provide the additional oil for a limited time. That caveat about the potential pitfalls of an embargo has led China to declare its absolute opposition to any further sanctions on Iran.

Netanyahu sought to encourage the drive for tougher sanctions when he said this week that “for the first time, I see Iran wobble” in the face of the restrictions placed on its commerce. Yet Deputy Moshe Ya’alon gave a far less sanguine evaluation of the American effort when he said Saturday the government was worried about the president’s willingness to take the crucial next step in the process: an oil embargo. He openly speculated that Obama’s fears about the political impact of a rise in gas prices was the reason why the administration was opposed to the congressional vote on sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank as well as to the implementation of the measure.

That’s where the different spins about this week’s Obama-Netanyahu call phone come into play. The White House statement read like a Democratic Party campaign appeal to American Jews when it said:

The President reiterated his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and the President and the Prime Minister promised to stay in touch in the coming weeks on these and other issues of mutual concern.

As JTA’s Ron Kampeas says in an attempt at translation, what Obama was really saying to Netanyahu was:

I, Barack Obama, am serious about squeezing Iran hard, which is what you have been seeking.

I, Barack Obama, have your back.

But Israeli sources are now saying the purpose of the phone call was to warn Netanyahu not to attack Iran. This would not be the first time Israel has received such a message. Netanyahu has heard this before, but the decision to re-emphasize American opposition to a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities at the same time many in Washington were expressing unhappiness about the way Iranian nuclear scientists have been turning up dead is causing some in Jerusalem to think the U.S. is more worried about an Israeli pre-emptive attack on the existential threat they face than the prospect of an Iranian nuke.

If the American desire to head off an Israeli attack was based on the idea the use of force now would unravel a growing international coalition behind an Iran oil embargo, then such warnings might be justified. But if the U.S. is merely talking about an embargo in order to convince voters Obama is serious about Iran but will never be followed up by action, then Israel’s misgivings are more than justified.

The question here is one of trust. If one believes Obama means business about Iran, then his seeming caution about enforcing the bank ban and desire for Israel to take no military action while an embargo is being planned is entirely sensible. But if, as seems to be the case with many Israelis, you have no faith the president will ever take any concrete action with regard to Iran, than all the diplomatic activity and warnings to Israel are merely attempts to keep things calm during an election year. Unfortunately, after three years of “engagement” with Iran and feckless diplomatic outreach, it’s hard to argue that the skeptics are wrong.

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A Bit Late: Gingrich Calls for Bain Ad Withdrawal

Does this serve any practical purpose, beyond a face-saving move for Newt Gingrich? The ad has already been running in South Carolina since Thursday, and even if “Winning Our Future” agrees to take it off TV, it’s still enshrined on the internet for the rest of time. I guess it takes the force out of the charges now that Gingrich is conceding a lot of them are inaccurate – but is it enough to make much of a difference between now and the primary?

On a related note, check out the New York Times’s lede on this story. What’s the chance they would have published a story this sympathetic to Mitt Romney if the ad was put out by “Priorities USA” instead of a pro-Newt group?

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Does this serve any practical purpose, beyond a face-saving move for Newt Gingrich? The ad has already been running in South Carolina since Thursday, and even if “Winning Our Future” agrees to take it off TV, it’s still enshrined on the internet for the rest of time. I guess it takes the force out of the charges now that Gingrich is conceding a lot of them are inaccurate – but is it enough to make much of a difference between now and the primary?

On a related note, check out the New York Times’s lede on this story. What’s the chance they would have published a story this sympathetic to Mitt Romney if the ad was put out by “Priorities USA” instead of a pro-Newt group?

Misleading and exaggerated claims in a film portraying Mitt Romney as a heartless job killer led Newt Gingrich to ask on Friday that the group behind it change or withdraw it, even though Mr. Gingrich is the intended beneficiary of the film.

“I’m calling on them to either edit out every single mistake or to pull the entire film,” Mr. Gingrich said at the opening of a campaign office in Orlando during a swing through the critical primary state of Florida. “They cannot run the film if it has errors in it.”

But the group running the video, the pro-Gingrich “super PAC” Winning Our Future, made no move to alter the work.

Here are some more quotes from the Times piece, just because it’s so surprising to see the paper fiercely defending Romney’s record at Bain. Maybe it really was a stroke of luck for Team Romney that the Bain controversy is blowing up for the first time during the primaries rather than during the general election:

The film is a political screed in the classic sense, a digital prosecution against Mr. Romney as a “corporate raider” whose business was “killing jobs for big financial rewards.” Over forbidding music, the baritone announcer says, “Nothing was spared; nothing mattered but greed.”

But Mr. Romney was not counted among the infamous corporate raiders of the 1980s, like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. While his claim on the campaign trail to have created a net 100,000 jobs has come under question, and many did lose jobs because of Bain’s dealings, Mr. Romney’s tenure there was not marked by the wholesale liquidation of businesses that the film suggests.

If even the Times is acknowledging it’s deceptive to portray Romney as a “heartless job killer” who oversaw a “wholesale liquidation of businesses,” then what does this mean for the Bain attacks the Obama campaign was supposedly going to launch later on? There are still the legitimate questions about the 100,000 jobs Romney says he created, but that line of attack doesn’t relate to his core character – and it’s not like Obama doesn’t have his own dubious job-creation numbers to worry about.

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Abbas Won’t Feel at Home in Gaza

In the latest sign that Hamas is serious about mending fences with its Fatah party rivals, the terrorist group announced on Saturday it would give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas his Gaza villa back. Hamas seized the building during the bloody 2007 coup in which the Islamists seized control of Gaza. But though it isn’t likely Abbas will be sleeping in his Gaza home any time soon, the goodwill gesture is meant to show Hamas is prepared to follow through on the unity pact it signed with Abbas and Fatah last year.

Hamas’s willingness to placate Abbas doesn’t mean however that the two groups have settled all their differences. Though both Fatah and Hamas don’t differ all that much about the question of peace with Israel — Abbas and the “moderates” are no more willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and to live in peace with it than the Hamas extremists — both hope to use the unity pact to solidify their political ascendancy. But so long as they are moving closer toward each other, it is a given that peace with Israel is impossible.

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In the latest sign that Hamas is serious about mending fences with its Fatah party rivals, the terrorist group announced on Saturday it would give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas his Gaza villa back. Hamas seized the building during the bloody 2007 coup in which the Islamists seized control of Gaza. But though it isn’t likely Abbas will be sleeping in his Gaza home any time soon, the goodwill gesture is meant to show Hamas is prepared to follow through on the unity pact it signed with Abbas and Fatah last year.

Hamas’s willingness to placate Abbas doesn’t mean however that the two groups have settled all their differences. Though both Fatah and Hamas don’t differ all that much about the question of peace with Israel — Abbas and the “moderates” are no more willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and to live in peace with it than the Hamas extremists — both hope to use the unity pact to solidify their political ascendancy. But so long as they are moving closer toward each other, it is a given that peace with Israel is impossible.

The PA has said it would like to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections this year, but neither side will agree to a vote unless they think they are in a position to win. Winning depends not so much achieving genuine popularity but on holding the reins of power in either the West Bank and Gaza. The jockeying for position between the two groups demonstrates that any further efforts by President Obama to push Israel into territorial concessions is a waste of time. Though representatives of the PA have met recently with Israel, Fatah’s desire to avoid being labeled as the “peace” party will make any progress toward peace impossible.

Abbas’s priority is still to protect his own position and that means avoiding doing anything about peace that will allow Hamas to brand him a friend of Israel. Though he may never live in his Gaza house, its return is a reminder of Hamas’s power and ability to veto any resolution of the Middle East conflict.

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What’s Driving Down Romney’s South Carolina Poll Numbers?

Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:

In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …

There is a problem, though. Here in Gaffney, where deeply held Christian beliefs often matter more than jobs, few remember the Holson Burnes photo album plant, let alone the devastation its closing is alleged to have caused back in 1992. …

At The Gaffney Ledger, a newspaper established in 1894 that seems to cover everything from stolen mopeds to the Y.M.C.A. basketball league, the publisher, Cody Sossamon, looked through old microfilm to refresh his memory. He could not find one drop of ink that was spent on the factory closing.

“Nobody here really cares about that. It wasn’t a big deal,” Mr. Sossamon said. “We’re looking for a new school superintendent. That and the economy are what people really care about right now.”

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Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:

In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …

There is a problem, though. Here in Gaffney, where deeply held Christian beliefs often matter more than jobs, few remember the Holson Burnes photo album plant, let alone the devastation its closing is alleged to have caused back in 1992. …

At The Gaffney Ledger, a newspaper established in 1894 that seems to cover everything from stolen mopeds to the Y.M.C.A. basketball league, the publisher, Cody Sossamon, looked through old microfilm to refresh his memory. He could not find one drop of ink that was spent on the factory closing.

“Nobody here really cares about that. It wasn’t a big deal,” Mr. Sossamon said. “We’re looking for a new school superintendent. That and the economy are what people really care about right now.”

Politico visited Gaffney and found basically the same thing. Though the paper did manage to track down one disgruntled former employee at a Bain-owned plant who was willing to speak out against the company’s practices:

“As far as I’m concerned, it left a very bad taste in my mouth,” said Bob Hayler, who ran the plant shortly after it opened in 1988. “They’re somewhat cutthroat. I’ve worked for a lot of managers over my years but they were almost an angry bunch….They were yellers. They were screamers. There were just huge demands.”

And yet…apparently not a bad enough taste to convince the guy to vote against Romney:

Now retired , Hayler says he’s “more of an independent” than a Republican, but could still see himself voting for Romney, the alleged “vulture” capitalist.

“I don’t know whether I’d vote for the man or not, but in a primary, I probably would, because he’s not as far to the right as the rest of them,” Hayler said.

The thing is, if Bain isn’t what’s driving down Romney’s poll numbers, then what is? It’s certainly possible that South Carolina voters who aren’t from Gaffney might still be turned off by the ads. Then again, the angry reception Gingrich’s Bain attacks received at Huckabee’s forum seem to suggest they’re not playing particularly well with South Carolina voters in general.

Of course, Romney’s also been under fire for his flip-flops on abortion – an issue that will obviously resonate in the socially-conservative state.

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Too Late for Evangelicals to Save Santorum?

Rick Santorum is hoping the endorsement of a major evangelical group will help put him over the top next weekend in the crucial South Carolina primary.  On the third ballot of voting, the leaders of the Family Research Council endorsed Santorum in a vote in which he bested Newt Gingrich by an 85 to 29 vote. Conservative Christians are hoping their backing will send a signal to South Carolinians that those seeking an alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney should choose Santorum. But with the polls in the state still showing the former Pennsylvania senator lagging behind Gingrich and with both trailing Romney, it’s far from clear this will be enough to enable him to duplicate his near-win in Iowa.

The problem for Santorum and his evangelical fans is that Gingrich’s well-financed effort in South Carolina has put him within range of beating Romney himself. The three most recent polls showed Gingrich trailing Romney by two to seven percentage points and Santorum in third some 9 to 15 points out of first. This replicates the same dynamic that has thrust the relatively moderate Romney into a commanding position in the GOP presidential race. So long as conservatives are splitting their votes between Gingrich and Santorum with Rick Perry far behind them with five or six percent of the vote, Romney may well cruise to another victory in a multi-candidate battle.

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Rick Santorum is hoping the endorsement of a major evangelical group will help put him over the top next weekend in the crucial South Carolina primary.  On the third ballot of voting, the leaders of the Family Research Council endorsed Santorum in a vote in which he bested Newt Gingrich by an 85 to 29 vote. Conservative Christians are hoping their backing will send a signal to South Carolinians that those seeking an alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney should choose Santorum. But with the polls in the state still showing the former Pennsylvania senator lagging behind Gingrich and with both trailing Romney, it’s far from clear this will be enough to enable him to duplicate his near-win in Iowa.

The problem for Santorum and his evangelical fans is that Gingrich’s well-financed effort in South Carolina has put him within range of beating Romney himself. The three most recent polls showed Gingrich trailing Romney by two to seven percentage points and Santorum in third some 9 to 15 points out of first. This replicates the same dynamic that has thrust the relatively moderate Romney into a commanding position in the GOP presidential race. So long as conservatives are splitting their votes between Gingrich and Santorum with Rick Perry far behind them with five or six percent of the vote, Romney may well cruise to another victory in a multi-candidate battle.

Had one or two of this conservative trio dropped out after Santorum ran ahead of them in Iowa, that probably would have set him up for a possible win in South Carolina, another state where evangelicals could determine the outcome. But with Gingrich getting a major infusion of cash from big donors in the last two weeks and Perry determined to stick in the race no matter how poor his prospects, it’s difficult to see how Santorum can win. Since a Santorum surge in the last few days in South Carolina will probably come at the expense of Gingrich that may just make it all the more certain Romney comes in first again.

Indeed, the only scenario that could give Santorum a win in South Carolina would involve a collapse by Gingrich. Given the negative reception the former speaker’s attacks on Romney’s business career have received, that’s not out of the question. Santorum’s refusal to engage in Bain-bashing has enhanced his reputation for seriousness while his refusal to pull his punches on issues like abortion or gay marriage have endeared him to evangelicals. But given the major resources Gingrich has put into the state and his current position within striking distance of Romney, it’s going to be tough for Santorum to vault over him as he did in Iowa.

It could be that both Santorum and Gingrich are hoping the third place finisher in South Carolina will drop out after next week along with Perry, leaving just one conservative in the race after that. With 47 states left to vote that would theoretically make it possible for the last “non-Romney” left standing to overtake the frontrunner. But with Romney holding a big lead in Florida, which will be the next primary and with just as good prospects in the states that vote after that, a sweep of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will solidify the impression that his nomination is inevitable.

With both Gingrich and Santorum hoping to score in the two debates to be held in South Carolina this week, there may yet be enough time for one or the other to emerge as the leading conservative in the race. But barring a collapse by either, it’s difficult to see how their intense competition for conservatives will do anything but aid Romney.

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