On a night in which he could have lost the presidential nomination, Mitt Romney survived the worst crisis of his campaign by sweeping both the Arizona and Michigan primaries. With polls showing his native Michigan being too close to call, Romney’s 41-38 percentage point win was not impressive, but Rick Santorum lost his one golden opportunity to demolish the frontrunner. Santorum can claim a moral victory of sorts because he managed to come so close to winning in a state in which few gave him a chance several weeks ago.
But Romney’s Michigan win combined with a big victory in Arizona denied his rival the chance to alter the dynamics of the race. A Santorum win in Michigan would have permanently demolished the idea that Romney was the inevitable nominee. Slim though Romney’s margin was, two more states in his column make it highly unlikely anyone else can take the nomination from him.
As soon as the polls closed in Arizona tonight, the networks declared Mitt Romney the winner of the state’s Republican primary. The state’s winner-take-all format will ensure that all of Arizona’s 29 delegates go to Romney, which makes it a not inconsiderable prize. Romney’s decisive advantage there makes it an impressive win but unfortunately for him, his Arizona triumph won’t mean much if he can’t hold onto the slim lead he currently holds in Michigan.
Michigan remains the true test tonight and a Santorum win there will be a devastating blow to the frontrunner. Santorum’s camp will, not without some justice, proclaim even a close loss there as a moral victory for their candidate. But if Romney escapes his native state with a victory of any kind, it will be a lost opportunity for Santorum. An upset in Michigan is his best chance to knock off his rival.
A few minutes ago, CNN showed a graphic of how much the two leading contenders spent on television ads in Michigan. A rough breakdown shows that Mitt Romney spent $3.1 million to $2.1 million for Rick Santorum. A 3-2 edge is a clear advantage for Romney but nowhere near the big edge he had in Florida where he literally drowned Newt Gingrich in negative broadcast advertising. Of course, these figures don’t include the funds available for organizational needs or turnout, but it demonstrates that for all of the talk of Romney’s overwhelming advantage in fundraising, Santorum has demonstrated the capacity to raise enough money to compete.
This means we shouldn’t listen too much to Santorum’s complaints about Romney buying the election if he loses. At the same time, the assumption that Romney has the resources to overwhelm his opponents if the race proves to be a long, drawn-out slugfest may also be incorrect.
Earlier today we were speculating about the impact of Democrats participating in the Republican primary in Michigan. Would Democrats vote for Rick Santorum as part of a dirty trick in order to promote a less electable Republican, as Mitt Romney seemed to be claiming? Or would these crossovers be legitimate Reagan Democrats who like Santorum’s stands on social issues as well as expressing working class disdain for a swell like Romney? Or would, as Romney hopes, more moderate independents and Democrats prefer him to a candidate whose views on abortion, gays and contraception are considered extreme?
We don’t know the answer to that question but it is clear that whatever their motivation, Michigan Democrats and independents are going to have a disproportionate impact on a crucial Republican contest. The New York Times reports exit polls show that 10 percent of those voting today in Michigan are Democrats. It also says that irrespective of party affiliation, six in ten consider themselves conservative while 30 percent say they are very conservative and another thirty percent say they are moderate. In theory that is a picture of an electorate that might be more sympathetic to Santorum.
What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it’s hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world. But give Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.
However, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace “now” was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest. Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group’s critics could have come up with.
It’s easy for politicians and political commentators, myself included, to focus on the foibles, mistakes and awkward language that sometimes characterizes the current crop of GOP candidates. That’s why Bill McGurn’s words are worth reflecting upon:
As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum force Republican voters to make their choice in a hotly contested Michigan primary, once again we hear the great lament that we have looked at the candidates and found them all unworthy. Not everyone puts it as harshly as the headline over Conrad Black’s piece in the National Post: “The Republicans Send in the Clowns.” But it’s a popular meme in the campaign coverage.
Like so many others who find the field wanting, Mr. Black laments that “the best Republican candidates—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Haley Barbour—have sat it out.” We’ll never know, will we? Because the “best” Republicans opted not to put their records and statements up for national scrutiny, commit themselves to a grueling campaign trail, and subject themselves to TV debates moderated by media hosts who often seem to be playing for the other team.
So say this for the final four: They had the guts to put themselves out there—and stick with it. That’s something a winner needs.
Could the Obama administration make it any clearer that it has little regard or respect for the men and women who make the world safe so that the president can indulge so happily in the rich man’s game, and his wife and family can gallivant so luxuriously around the globe?
Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday on some strong opposition from the VFW, the Military Officers Association of America, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon to the Pentagon’s plan to lay some of its budget cutting squarely on the backs of military personnel by raising their healthcare fees.
Environmental activists are already up in arms about the White House’s decision to support the partial construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But they should prepare themselves for a lot more disappointment down the road.
President Obama has been playing both sides of the Keystone XL debate since the beginning, and his thumbs-up to the partial construction is the latest sign he’s only interested in delaying the pipeline long enough to hold onto environmentalist support until after November 2012.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan held a hearing today with Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. During the hearing, this important exchange took place:
CHAIRMAN RYAN: As you may know, I’ve been working across the aisle with a member of the Oregon delegation from the Senate on a premium support plan that uses competitive bidding to help determine the contribution. Competitive bidding we’ve seen has worked well in Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage. I’d like to get your thoughts on choice and competition as it relates to these previous successful reform plans. Given what we’ve seen in these aspects of Medicare, do you believe that competitive bidding is a process that can be successfully applied Medicare-wide?
CMS CHIEF ACTUARY FOSTER: Yes, I think it can. Obviously, it would represent a large change from the status quo, but I think it could work. We’ve seen the signs of this – you mentioned the Part D prescription drug program, for example, where the different drug plans compete against each other on the quality of their benefit package and the premium level. And we’ve seen – every year since Part D started – a migration of beneficiaries to more efficient plans with lower premiums. So that can help. We’ve also seen for durable medical equipment that competitive bidding, in this particular area of Fee-For-Service Medicare, reduced prices that we had to pay by 40 percent.
RYAN: By forty percent?
FOSTER: Forty percent, that’s right.
RYAN: Those are the kinds of cost savings we’re going to have to achieve if want to make good on the promise of the Medicare guarantee.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has wisely decided not to challenge the validity of the petitions that were presented to the state demanding his recall. Rather than getting involved in a nasty Bush-Gore lawsuit he might lose even before fighting for his office, he’s better off simply going straight to the voters sometime this summer.
The hundreds of thousands of signatures were largely the work of his union opponents who hope to undo the results of the 2010 elections when the people of Wisconsin chose a conservative Republican for the governor’s chair as well as a GOP-run legislature. The vote will be something of a referendum on the 2010 election in which Wisconsin can, in effect, get a mulligan for its choice at that time. The recall will enable us to see whether the state was ready for a politician who meant what he said when he campaigned on a platform of pushing back against civil service unions that are driving states into bankruptcy. While the most recent poll rates this a tossup, the Walker vote represents both an opportunity and a danger to both parties as they seek a leg up heading into this fall’s presidential election.
Mackenzie Eaglen of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Michael O’Hanlon of the liberal Brookings Institution make an important point regarding the looming dangers of sequestration, about which much of Washington seems to be in denial. If nothing is done, in January 2013 the Defense Department will have to start chopping another $500 billion or so from its budget–on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts already being implemented. The results could be catastrophic, and we don’t have until Dec. 31 to head off this disaster. As Eaglen and O’Hanlon note, Congress must act now to avoid the willy-nilly budget cutting that otherwise will occur in less than a year’s time. They warn:
Sequestration will cause its greatest disruptions immediately in early 2013, when mechanistic and severe cuts have to be imposed overnight. The military can adapt to reductions that it sees coming; for all the inefficiencies of the Department of Defense, it is still one of the world’s most competent planning bureaucracies. But this is a whole different kettle of fish: Because spending would have to decline for 2013 based on cuts taking effect only in January, there would be no opportunity to use natural attrition in the force to cut personnel costs, no opportunity to use the natural annual cycle of working with defense industry to restructure contracts and keep alive those weapons programs that are needed and desired, no realistic way to scale back training carefully in a way that saves money yet keeps the military ready.
Intrade is still giving Mitt Romney a 55 percent chance of winning Michigan tonight. But imagine what those internal campaign polls look like if Romney’s holding a press conference like this the day of the primary:
The morning after confidently declaring he would win Michigan’s primary, on Tuesday Mitt Romney acknowledged a series of gaffes had damaged his effort and downplayed expectations for the voting results in the state where he was born. …
When pressed by reporters, Romney acknowledged he had hurt his campaign with a series of comments in which he seemed to casually flaunt his wealth. Over the past several days, Romney mentioned his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs” and told an Associated Press reporter he has friends who are NASCAR team owners.
A reporter asked if these remarks had hurt him.
“Yes,” Romney said. “Next question.”
Earlier, Alana noted that Mitt Romney’s “indignant tone” concerning Rick Santorum’s attempt to get conservative Democrats to cross over and vote for him in the Michigan primary may embody the concerns David Brooks wrote about today in the New York Times. In his column, Brooks demanded that moderate Republicans — or as conservatives refer to them, RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only — fight back against right-wing “protesters” whom he believes are destroying the GOP and ruining its chances of beating Barack Obama. Brooks reduces the narrative of the last 50 years of American political history to a constant struggle between the grass roots and the elites in which the latter have been consistently routed. He believes this is largely the result of fear on the part of party professionals who have chosen to play possum and not fight back against the influence of people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Brooks is right that Republicans appear to be fumbling what had once seemed an excellent chance of unseating an unpopular incumbent. But he’s wrong to blame it on the unwillingness of moderates and party elites to fight back and educate the rebellious hoi polloi who are too stupid to listen to the advice of their betters.
Laments for the extinction of “Rockefeller Republicans” tell us nothing about what conservatives should be doing. What the GOP needs are not more RINOs or right-leaning Washington establishment types like Richard Lugar (whom Brooks lauds but is in fact, a more reliable indicator of conventional wisdom on most issues than any liberal establishment pundit), but leaders who care about ideas and have the ability to convince the nation to get behind them and then govern accordingly. It is the absence of such persons in the presidential race that is the GOP’s problem in 2012.
The Associated Press is getting some attention for its article alleging that Israel will not warn the U.S. if it decides to launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Kimberly Dozier reports:
The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations with U.S. officials, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel’s potential attack, said one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to convince them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran’s nuclear program.
After days of Mitt Romney and his advisors insisting he will win his home state of Michigan, today’s too-close-to-call polls are clearly taking a toll on his nerves. Romney lashed out at the right wing today, and again accused Rick Santorum of trying to hijack the election with dirty tricks. AP reports:
Mitt Romney says he’s struggling with the Republican Party’s right wing in Michigan because he’s unwilling to make “incendiary” comments. He also accused rival Rick Santorum of trying to “kidnap” the presidential nominating process with automated calls urging Democrats to vote in Tuesday’s primary in Michigan.
Speaking to reporters hours after the polls opened, Romney suggested his rivals are making headway with the GOP base because they are willing to say “outrageous things” that help them in the polls.
Romney says he’s not willing to light his “hair on fire” to try to earn support.
Mitt Romney has been running for the Republican presidential nomination for more than five years. But after all the millions of dollars he has spent on attaining this goal and the endless trips and speeches he has made and all the debates in which he has participated, it may just come down to what happens today in Michigan. A loss in the Michigan primary isn’t necessarily fatal to his hopes. He is expected to win easily in Arizona today and given the fact that many in the party would regard Rick Santorum’s nomination as an unmitigated disaster, it should be expected that even after a defeat in his home state, Romney could eventually prevail in a long race. But a loss in Michigan would puncture, perhaps fatally, the notion of Romney’s inevitability. And it could also set in a motion a series of events, heretofore considered highly unlikely, that could lead to a deadlocked convention and the emergence of an alternative Republican candidate. All of which is to say if Romney intends to take the presidential oath in Washington next January, he had better pull out a win today.
Yet with the polls tightening in the last days before the Michigan primary, a Romney victory is very much in doubt. As Alana noted, Romney is complaining about Santorum’s effort to get Democrats to vote for him, something he considers a dirty trick. But while he might consider the robocalls underhanded, the attempt to get registered Democrats to cross over and vote for Santorum is a reflection of Romney’s weakness, not a dirty trick. Though the former Pennsylvania senator may be unelectable in November, he is well placed to appeal to one element of the old Ronald Reagan coalition: the working class Democrats who voted their values and backed the GOP in 1980 and were immortalized in Stanley Greenberg’s study that centered on Macomb County, Michigan.
At the New York Times, Nate Silver writes that the race in Michigan is too close to accurately predict:
People sometimes apply the term “tossup” a bit too broadly, using it to refer to anything close enough that they don’t want to render a prediction about it.
In Michigan, however, the term is appropriate. Rick Santorum, who once trailed Mitt Romney badly in the state, then surged to a clear lead there, then saw Romney regain his footing and pull back ahead, appears to have some late momentum in the race — perhaps just enough to win, and perhaps not.
The Iranian regime’s reaction to the country’s Oscar victory, in which the Iranian film “A Separation” beat out Israeli contender “Footnote” for best foreign-language film, was indeed revealing, as Alana noted. But far more revealing was the fact that Israelis have been flocking to see the Iranian entry. For that one fact constitutes an eloquent rebuttal of all those who seek to paint Israel as being “undemocratic” and “anti-peace.”
Here’s how AP, after noting that “an impressive 30,000 Israeli filmgoers” have seen “A Separation” since it opened a week and a half ago, described the scene in Israel: “Ticket buyers stood in a long line on Sunday night at the Lev Smadar movie theater in Jerusalem. Omer Dilian, manager of the theater’s cafe, said ‘A Separation’ has drawn hundreds of viewers, even on weeknights … All the screenings in Lev theaters were sold out last Friday and Saturday.”
On March 28, 2011, when President Barack Obama addressed the nation to explain U.S. forces’ involvement in operations over Libyan skies, he made a compelling moral argument. In his speech, Obama illustrated the rapid chain of events that led to U.S. and international intervention and referred to Libya’s late dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s forces closing in on Benghazi by saying, “If we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
Benghazi, noted the president, is a city of 700,000 people – the size of a big American city.
Expecting the worst, then, the rationale for U.S. intervention was driven by humanitarian considerations – a pre-emptive strike to save human lives from an anticipated massacre that had not happened yet and was in America’s power to avoid.