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Slouching Towards Tampa

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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.

James Q. Wilson: RIP

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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.

What To Watch For Tonight?

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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.

The EU & Gaudium et Spes

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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.

Dionne on Romney's Ohio Problem

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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.

The Blinders on the Right

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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.

Can Israel Trust the U.S.

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Many Americans are worried about the fallout of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. But, in a post at TNR, Yossi Klein Halevi, who is no warmonger, explains that Israelis ask themselves if they can trust the U.S. to honor its commitments to Israeli security and he cites a particular relevant historical precedent from May 1967.

Look for the GOP to try and demagogue the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama next Monday. But, we don't need demagoguery when such portentious and complicated issues are at stake. The worry for Israel is not that Obama may not care enough about their security, anymore than they worried about President Johnson's commitment to Israel. The worry is that the American people are so war weary, no President would feel able to come to the defense of Israel. Remember that the next time tells you about how pro-Israel George W. Bush was. Even is he was, he may have ruined the chance that any predecessor could act on Israel's behalf.

MSW Responds to CatholicVote.org

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Matt Bowman has a post up at CatholicVote.org in which he chastises me for backing away from my earlier assertion that only a "fool" would accept a compromise on the HHS mandates that was promised to be reach after the election. Of course, when I made that remark originally, it was before the President announced his accommodation, so the political calculus is a bit different. The President has been spanked on the issue and, so long as certain conservative politicians and bishops do not over-reach, I think we can find a way through this to a solution that is satisfactory. But, I wish to re-assure Mr. Bowman that I have not wavered in my conviction that we should expect this to be resolved before, not after, the election.

N.B. I should add that I may be somewhat responsible for the mix-up. In posting yesterday, I mangled one sentence, and went back and changed it, but if anyone has me on an RSS feed, they got the original in which I suggested that the current proposal on the table requires the White House to fix this in the summer of 2012. In fact, the administration gave itself until 2013 to work this out.

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