Ruy Teixeira has a very informative and smart article up at TNR about "Independent" voters and the myths that surround them. I confess that I have used the term sloppily in the past when a better designation might be "swing voters." But whatever we call them, they are decisive come election time and, as Teixeira demonstrates, part of the political challenge facing the country is that there is no real way for these swing voters to effectively bring about a less partisan, more deal-making political moment.
Most everyone was watching the GOP primary in Ohio, but pro-life Democrats who care about the unborn, the undocumented, and unions can celebrate the fact that Cong. Marcy Kaptur beat Cong. Dennis Kucinich in a newly configured district that placed the two Dems in a primary fight. At last count, with 84 percent of the precincts reporting, Kaptur had a 24-point win, which is about as decisive as it gets. Kucinich not only abandoned his pro-life position, he became one of the whiniest members of Congress who did much harm to the causes he championed with his antics, his Limbaugh-quality rhetoric, and his puerile policy stances. Those who seek purity in politicians love politicians like Kucinich, but I just see the flipside of Santorum. Give me a sane centrist like Kaptur any day of the week.
What rough beast, its hour come round at least, slouches towards Tampa to be nominated?
Mitt Romney’s win in Ohio last night was by the slimmest of margins. With 99.8 percent of precincts reporting, he captured 38 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum’s 37 percent, taking only 12,000 more votes than the former senator out of more than one million votes cast. To achieve his victory, Romney had to follow a method that has worked well in other states: Outspend your rival, in Ohio four-to-one, with heavily negative advertising.
This strategy works, but it has two downsides. First, by angering his opponents, he makes it less likely they will drop out of the race. Santorum and Gingrich, in their speeches last night, complained about Romney’s spending and cast themselves as David’s to his Wall Street-backed Goliath. Santorum and Gingrich both know that if they had not been outspent by such a large margin, they would have won states they have now lost. This does not make them more likely to step aside to allow Romney to begin his pivot to the general election any earlier.
Two tributes to James Q. Wilson came across my laptop.
This, from Alan Wolfe, at TNR and this one from Father Robert Imbelli at Commonweal.
To those who think that some of us are a bit hysterical when we worry about the intellectual decline in our public discourse, I would only point out that in the past week, the airwaves were drenched with commentary on the passing of Andrew Brietbart but nary a word about James Wilson. Mr. Breitbart's death is certainly a tragedy for his family, especially because he was so young. But, Wilson was a genuine scholar who contributed to the intellectual life of the nation with a brand of highly informed, self-critical conservatism that was worthy of everyone's attention. Breitbart's death was not a tragedy for the intellectual health of the nation; Wilson's was.
As always, Politico has its invaluable "Ten Things to Watch For" column in anticipation of the voting today. They list "Who Wins Ohio?" first, and I would make that numbers 1-5 because whoever wins Ohio tonight will have the momentum going forward. But, the list is a great prelude for examining what promises to be, per usualy, a frustrating night of reporting as we are told the vote totals when 1 percent of the precincts have reported, a fact that is meaningless to say the least.
When I got to Puerto Rico on my recent trip, I could not find one of the books I had brought and needed to review. So, I spent some time with another book, published in 2008, by Tracey Rowland, an Australian theologian who is Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne and a woman whose writings in the Tablet I have long admired. Her book, Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, not only sheds light on the different influences that have shaped Pope Benedict’s thinking over the years, she also provides a great synopsis on the leading strands in twentieth century Catholic theology. I could not commend this book more highly.
This morning, The New Republic posted an article I wrote on Jerry Falwell's enduring influence.
Greetings from Amtrak's Acela. I am en route to New York City for an interview on WNYC's "Leonard Lopate" show at noon. Tune in.
E.J. Dionne points out the main difficulty facing the GOP as it approaches Super Tuesday tomorrow. In a key state like Ohio, the primary should be a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves to the voters with a view toward not only winning the primary but laying the groundwork for the general election. Even someone relatively well known in Washington, someone like Sen. John Kerry for example, was not well known outside the Beltway and outside Massachusetts. When the swift-boaters descended, he found himself defined by his opponents. Conversely, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used the primary season to introduce himself to voters on his own terms and without having to pander to the ideological extremes on the left.
Conservative Catholic intellectuals have spent the last few weeks harshly accusing liberal Catholics for being so eager to curry favor with the Obama administration, that they have betrayed the Church, accepting a compromise on the issue of HHS mandates that is inadequate at best. But, I would submit, that conservative Catholics are just as responsible for the failure to find a resolution to this issue and have been frankly surprised at how weak their arguments have been. Indeed, it is not going too far to say that they have been as eager to turn over the precious concern for religious liberty into the partisan hands of their Republican friends as some liberals have been eager to get back into the good graces of the Obama White House.