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MARCH 6,  2012

That's pretty much it.  No "Short Takes" tonight because of Super Tuesday.  We'll be back in the morning.

11:35 P.M. ET:  While neither Fox nor CNN is formally predicting a Romney win in Ohio, their on-air analysts are informally predicting that Romney will pull it out, but not by much. 

10:59 P.M. ET:  CNN claims that Romney has pulled ahead of Santorum in Ohio. 

10:45 P.M. ET:  Ohio tied.  This will be down to the wire between Romney and Santorum.

10:17 P.M. ET:  Rick Santorum has won the North Dakota caucuses, giving him three victories tonight - North Dakota, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.  However, the key race, in Ohio, has tightened, with Santorum only two points ahead of Romney in the vote count.  This one could go on for a long time.  So, seven of the ten states voting today have been decided, with Ohio, Alaska and Idaho still out.

9:42 P.M. ET:  Santorum is edging ahead of Romney in Ohio, but it's still too close to call.  Santorum has given his speech, once again emphasizing his values.  Romney is about to speak.  He looks somewhat stiff, not unusual for him.  He can't be happy about the closeness in Ohio.  He understands the implications of losing that state tonight.

9:26 P.M. ET:  Just a note.  We've covered seven states so far.  Please note that there are caucuses tonight in Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota. 

9:21 P.M. ET:  Ohio is still too close to call.  Even if Mitt Romney wins, the result will likely be very close.  Not a great showing for Romney.  But they're still counting.

9:18 P.M. ET:  Newt Gingrich has spoken, after his win in his home state of Georgia.  He didn't win anywhere else tonight, and it's hard to see a road forward for him.  But he pledged to stay in the race.  He is presenting himself as the man who can successfully debate Obama, which he can. 

BULLETIN AT 8:38 P.M. ET:  Both CNN and Fox have now called Tennessee for Rick Santorum.  This is a big disappointment for Mitt Romney.  If he'd sewn up Tennessee and Ohio, he could have issued a legitimate call for party unity.  But Tennessee is gone, and Ohio is too close to call.  If Romney wins Ohio, he can still claim to be the frontrunner.  But if he loses Ohio, anything might be possible.

8:28 P.M. ET:  Sarah Palin, interviewed on CNN, refused to rule out acceptance of a call to serve if the Republican convention were deadlocked.  Look, she's said this before.  It ain't gonna happen, but Sarah has this remarkable way of keeping herself in the news.  That's all they've been talking about at CNN for about 10 minutes.

8:22 P.M. ET:  Results from Super Tuesday so far:  Romney has won Vermont, Virginia and Massachusetts.  These are not significant victories.  Romney was governor of Massachusetts, neither Santorum nor Gingrich were on the ballot in Virginia, and Vermont is a kind of little Massachusetts.

Gingrich has won his home state of Georgia, no surprise, and not significant.  It would have been significant had he lost.

Santorum has won Oklahoma, not much of a surprise, but enough of a victory to give him justification to go on.

That's five of the ten states up for grabs tonight.  Of the others, the key ones to watch are Tennessee and Ohio.  Both are too close to call at this point. 

IT'S 8:11 P.M. ET, AND WE'LL NOW BEGIN COVERAGE OF SUPER TUESDAY

 

DOES IRAN ALREADY HAVE THE BOMB? – AT 9:53 A.M. ET:  It's an intriguing question, but an article by a very authoritative expert in Germany may provide an answer.  We cannot independently confirm the accuracy of this, but I thought it important enough to bring to the attention of our readers.  The report is by David P. Goldman, who often writes as "Spengler," in Pajamas Media

The Sunday morning edition of Germany’s Die Welt reports that Western intelligence agencies detected two nuclear weapons tests in North Korea in 2010, and that one or both of them might have been conducted for Iran. Die Welt sets the reported nuclear tests in the context of new documentation showing that the Iranian regime began its drive for nuclear weapons as early as 1984, under the direct orders of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The author is the respected German analyst Hans Rühle, whose evaluation of Israel’s capacity to cripple the Iranian nuclear program created a stir last month.

The Die Welt report reads like a line-by-line refutation of the reported U.S. intelligence evaluation that there is no “hard evidence” that Iran is building nuclear weapons. That is a noteworthy reversal: the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs claim that Iran is not an imminent threat, while a former top German official warns of immediate danger to the Jewish state. The fact is that there are some Germans who do not want to be responsible for a second Holocaust.

Rühle, who headed the German Defense Ministry’s policy planning staff during the peak of the Cold War in the 1980s, deplores the “credulousness of Western experts” who accept Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is peaceful.

And...

Evidence of the 2010 nuclear tests in North Korea was published Feb. 3 in Nature magazine, citing the work of the Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer. The Swedish scientist analyzed data showing the presence of radioisotopes that betrayed a uranium bomb explosion...

...But the North Korean tests of 2006 and 2009 used bombs with a plutonium core. The 2010 tests, according to Lars-Erik de Geer’s calculation, employed enriched uranium. North Korea might have secretly enriched uranium on a sufficient scale to produce sufficient explosive material for two test bombs. But the more likely explanation is this, Rühle concludes:

The second explanation would be that North Korea conducted a nuclear test for a foreign entity, in this case, an Iranian explosive. That would be a sensation, although not quite a surprise, to be sure. Intelligence services have observed a close degree of cooperation between North Korean and Iranian experts over a period of years for the preparation of a nuclear test, although the previous assumptions centered on the prospect of an underground nuclear test in Iranian territory.

COMMENT:  Yes, this can be challenged, of course, but it is fascinating, and it comes from serious people.  Goldman goes on to agree with Ruhle, and blast American intelligence officials who constantly tell us there's no proof Iran has decided on a a nuclear bomb.  I wouldn't trust the safety of the American people to such reckless speculation, but Mr. Obama often seems perfectly content with it.

March 6, 2012       Permalink

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SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 9:47 A.M. ET:

From the Washington Post:  CAIRO — Anwar el-Balkimy told reporters a harrowing story last week from his hospital bed, of armed assailants carjacking him, beating him unconscious and stealing more than $16,000 from him.  Turns out Balkimy, an ultra-conservative Salafist member of Egypt’s newly elected parliament, was just trying explain away a nose job.   On Monday, the legislator resigned his post in the midst of the new Egyptian parliament's first juicy and embarrassing political scandal. He was also kicked out of the Nour Party, which follows a puritanical form of Islam, after the group discovered he was lying, a statement on the party’s Web site said.

All this over lying about a nose job?  If this standard were applied to Washington, or Hollywood, we wouldn't have any government and we wouldn't have any movies.

 

OUR GUY IS WINNING – AT 9:22 A.M. ET:  One of the more outrageous political stunts of the year has been the attempt to recall courageous Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, whose gutsy confrontation with public-employee unions probably saved his state from disaster. 

The recall campaign is underway, led by some unions, but Walker appears to be winning in a state that could go either way politically. 

Fifty-four percent of Wisconsinites oppose the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, according to the most recent polling data from Rasmussen Reports. In a phone survey of 500 likely voters, Rasmussen also said 52% at least somewhat approve of Walker’s job performance to date, while 46% at least somewhat disapprove. The findings include 40% who strongly approve and 40% who strongly disapprove. By party, the poll revealed that 78% of Republican voters strongly approve of Walker’s performance and 73% of Democrats strongly disapprove.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, 58% at least somewhat approve of Walker’s performance, including 36% who strongly approve. Forty-three percent say they would vote to recall Walker and remove him from office, but 54% would vote against recall; 80% of the state’s Democratic voters would vote to remove Walker, but 89% of Republicans and 58% of unaffiliated voters would oppose that recall.

Again, it's the independents who make the difference.

Nearly 6 in 10 Wiscy indies would vote to retain the governor, whose inexpiable Crime Against Humanity was to fulfill a campaign promise by passing a responsible budget package. Walker waded into this fight with an ad campaign last fall, and his brand new spot picks up right where he left off -- reminding voters that his controversial program is working exactly as planned.

COMMENT:  It looks like Walker will survive.  The recall is a vicious, mean-spirited attempt to wreak revenge on a man who has performed superbly for his state.  Wisconsinites are starting to realize that. 

Scott Walker is a fighter, and a winner.  We like winners.

March 6, 2012       Permalink

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A GOOD HISTORY LESSON – AT 9:04 A.M. ET:  I love good columns that remind us of historical truths.  William McGurn produces a real gem for The Wall Street Journal reminding us that Ronald Reagan, at this stage in the 1980 campaign, was widely regarded as a sure loser.  Please read this, as it puts much into true perspective. 

Then as now, the chattering classes wondered aloud whether a candidate who could win the Republican nomination could prevail against President Carter in November. On March 1, former President Gerald Ford amplified that view when he told a New York Times reporter, "Every place I go and everything I hear, there is the growing, growing sentiment that Governor Reagan cannot win the election." 

Then as now, some put their hopes on a late entry, in the same way that some now pine for Jeb Bush or Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie to enter the race. In the same interview where Mr. Ford predicted that Reagan's nomination would mean a repeat of 1964, he also declared himself open to a draft if there were a genuine "urging" by the party.

And...

A Harris Poll released just about this time in 1980 bolstered the case for Mr. Ford by reporting that, in a head-to-head matchup, Ford (the noncandidate) would trounce President Carter 55% to 44%. The same poll showed Reagan (the front-runner) trailing Carter 58% to 40%.

Nor was candidate Reagan without baggage. As governor, Reagan had pushed through the largest tax hike in California's history, had signed one of the nation's most liberal abortion laws, and—as George H.W. Bush pointed out—presided over the doubling of the state budget over his eight-year tenure, to $10.2 billion when he left office from $4.6 billion when he entered.

And...

Yes, the parallels to 1980 take you only so far, and Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan. Still, at this same point in his campaign for the GOP nomination, neither was Reagan. The President Reagan we rightly admire for bringing down the Berlin Wall, reviving the U.S. economy, and attracting into the GOP millions of disaffected Democrats was still to come.

And he got there by transcending the conventional wisdom rather than allowing himself or his message to be limited by it.

COMMENT:  A very good history lesson that all of us, even those of us who write about politics every day, should remember. 

March 6, 2012       Permalink

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WILL TODAY BE THE DAY? – AT 8:50 A.M. ET:  Today is Super Tuesday.  Ten states vote.  The Republican race is down to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and the marginally Republican Ron Paul.

Most observers today see only Romney and Santorum as first-tier candidates.  As we've been writing, a sweep or near-sweep by Romney today could pretty much seal the deal, not by giving him enough delegates to be nominated, but by making him "uncatchable."  Santorum, almost red-hot two weeks ago, has cooled considerably.  It's a familiar pattern.  Every candidate who's risen to challenge Romney has wound up defeated.  Romney is not loved, but he has a superb organization and political machine.

The conventional wisdom continues to say that the state to watch today is Ohio.  It will be at the center of every political discussion.  It is the big prize.  As The Hill notes:

Mitt Romney could all but guarantee he’ll be the GOP presidential nominee by winning Ohio on Super Tuesday.

A win there will hand Romney a chunk of delegates as well as a shot of momentum, making it hard for his opponents to catch him and bolstering the former Massachusetts governor’s argument that he’s the best choice to beat President Obama in the fall.

“Ohio is a state that [Rick] Santorum cannot afford to lose,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, who worked for Romney in 2008 but is neutral in this race. “If Santorum loses Ohio, it’ll be practically impossible to stop Romney.”

Romney has crept back into a statistical tie with Santorum after trailing him by double digits at the end of February. Five polls out Monday had the race within the margin of error.

Again, the pattern repeats.  Romney is behind in a state, then, through a vigorous effort, catches up and then wins.  No matter what one feels about Romney, that's a good sign for the general election.  At least the man fights. 

We'll be watching the results tonight and commenting.  This could be a momentous day.

March 6,  2012     Permalink

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MARCH 5,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 8:53 P.M. ET:

NEW ASSAULT ON RUSH – A group of left-wing activists is petitioning the FCC to take Rush Limbaugh off the air.  A group called signon.org, apparently a subdivision of moveon.org, the radical leftist organization, claims that Limbaugh has violated FCC rules.  Limbaugh is under current fire for some unfortunate remarks made about a woman who appeared before a congressional panel.   As we've pointed out here, liberal commentators have made worse remarks, but they are never challenged.   I doubt that this effort will get very far, but pressure on sponsors to leave Rush may have a serious impact.  It is a dream of many on the left, and some on the right, to control free speech.

GOP LOSING HISPANICS – The GOP has made no new inroads among Hispanics, according to a new Fox News Latino poll, and may actually be losing Hispanic support.   The poll shows Obama leading Republican candidates by as much as a six to one margin.  No Republican candidate in a one-to-one matchup got more than 14%.  John McCain, in 2008, got 31% of the Hispanic vote.  This change downward could be catastrophic, and possibly fatal, for the GOP.  Hispanics are the fastest-growing political bloc in the country.

ANOTHER SENATE INDEPENDENT? – Former independent Maine Governor Angus King will soon announce a run for the Senate seat to be vacated by Republican Olympia Snowe.  King has a real chance of being elected, and would have to decide which party to caucus with in organizing the Senate.  Republicans in Maine speculate that he would go with the Dems.  Or, if not elected, he could spoil the chances of either the Democratic or Republican candidate.  Snowe's withdrawal is a major blow to Republicans, as she would have easily been re-elected. 

BARACK AND BIBI MEET – The highly anticipated meeting took place at the White House today.  Everyone was smiling, but tension was evident.  It's clear Bibi doesn't trust Barack, who assured Bibi that he'd have Israel's back on issues of security.  Translators are trying to determine whether "having your back" in Barack talk means supporting you, or stabbing you in the back.  There's a difference, which may be made clearer once the election is over and Obama, if re-elected, doesn't have to worry about those pesky voters out there.

March 5, 2012       Permalink 

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SUPER TUESDAY – AT 9:29 A.M. ET:  It's tomorrow, when ten states vote.  Will it determine the GOP nominee?  The conventional wisdom around the internet is that it will, if Mitt Romney can take the main prize of Ohio.  If he can't, the road becomes more difficult, but the signs still point to Romney.  ABC's Rick Klein explains:

The Republican presidential race is about to slow down.

Super Tuesday’s frenzy of voting across 10 states could lead the race in several different directions. But virtually all of those paths will lead to Mitt Romney winning the nomination.

While no one is mathematically close to clinching the nomination, Romney is already far and away the delegate leader. He’s padded his lead with four straight victories in primaries and caucuses, capped by a win Saturday in Washington State that leaves him with an estimated 184 delegates, to Rick Santorum’s 91, according to ABC News calculations.

Critical Ohio is among the states up for grabs Tuesday, with Santorum slightly ahead in the most recent polls. A loss by Romney will raise new questions about his struggles to unite the Republican Party behind his candidacy, and would embolden Santorum to soldier on and continue to weaken the frontrunner.

But even a staggering Romney loss in Ohio won’t keep him from winning more delegates than his opponents on the biggest day of voting yet.

Romney is continuing a march to the nomination that increasingly looks like it can’t be stopped. The party establishment is starting to rally behind the man they know will almost certainly be their standard-bearer; this weekend brought an automated pro-Romney phone call in Ohio recorded by former first lady Barbara Bush, plus the endorsement of conservative leaders Sen. Tom Coburn and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

COMMENT:   Well, we'll see, but I suspect that Klein is correct.  Republicans increasingly see Romney as the only one of the current candidates who can possibly defeat Obama.  Since there's no prize for second place in politics, no silver medal, the ability to win becomes a giant advantage.

And yet, this has been a season of surprises.  If Romney should falter badly, or fall far below expectations, we can expect a renewed drumbeat for a man on a white charger to come into the race and save the nation.  The trouble is that the white chargers are sleeping in their stables and don't wish to be bothered, and the man to ride one of them has not been found.

March 5, 2012       Permalink

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NATIONAL DEFENSE ALERT – AT 8:56 A.M. ET:  Many Americans aren't aware of the serious threats to national defense posed by the recklessness of the congressional budget process.  Because of a gimmicky process, called sequestration, agreed to by Republicans by the way, the very foundation of our defense over the next ten years is under siege.  Sequestration mandates certain automatic budget cuts, especially to defense, in the absence of a budget deal between Dems and Republicans.  Entitlements, though, are not included.  Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post exposes the very real dangers:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly denounced the sequester. In a letter in November to Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, he called the prospective cuts “devastating.” After a decade, they would result in “the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.” Testifying Feb. 16 before Congress, he said sequestration “would . . . inflict severe damage on our national defense.”

Even the threatened sequester has bad effects, argue defense analysts Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute. It weakens the president’s ability “to signal Iran, North Korea and China that the United States remains as firmly committed to our interests and allies as ever.”

COMMENT:  What is remarkable is the lack of urgency in the Republican Party about these cuts.  As Lindsey Graham has said, the party of Ronald Reagan is no more.  Reagan understood the importance of maintaining a robust defense force in being, as the best way to achieve peace with honor.  And he achieved both.

Today's Republican Party is dominated by factions who, while pro defense, feel little passion about it.  Their main interest seems to be taxes.  That's a legitimate interest, but Americans aren't going to be killed because of tax policies.  They're going to be killed because of a weak national defense that sends exactly the wrong message to our potential opponents.

March 5, 2012      Permalink 

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HEROISM IN JOURNALISM – AT 8:29 A.M. ET:   Readers Joe Gallick and Silvio Canto Jr. alerted me to this.  We all know of the drama surrounding Rush Limbaugh's terrible blunder on the air last week.  To recall, Rush referred to a woman who testified before a congressional panel about her sex life as a "slut," and later called her a prostitute.

The language was terrible.  Rush periodically goes over the top, but never like this.  He was severely criticized, sponsors began to cancel, and Rush was forced to apologize.  Barack Obama, ever the local politician, called the woman in question to ease her pain.

The critics were correct, but hypocritical.  Liberal columnist Kirsten Powers, demonstrating real heroisim in journalism, pointed out that left-wing commentators engage in slurs against women, but are never criticized for it.  I wonder if Powers will now survive.  Some of her thoughts: 

Did you know there is a war on women?

Yes, it’s true. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and Ed Schultz have been waging it for years with their misogynist outbursts. There have been boycotts by people on the left who are outraged that these guys still have jobs. Oh, wait. Sorry, that never happened.

Boycotts are reserved for people on the right like Rush Limbaugh, who finally apologized Saturday for calling a 30-year-old Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, a “slut” after she testified before congress about contraception. Limbaugh’s apology was likely extracted to stop the departure of any more advertisers, who were rightly under pressure from liberal groups outraged by the comments.

And...

But if Limbaugh’s actions demand a boycott—and they do—then what about the army of swine on the left?

During the 2008 election Ed Schultz said on his radio show that Sarah Palin set off a “bimbo alert.” He called Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut.” (He later apologized.)

And...

Keith Olbermann has said that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents, apparently because he finds her having opinions offensive. He called Michelle Malkin a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.”

And...

But the grand pooh-bah of media misogyny is without a doubt Bill Maher—who also happens to be a favorite of liberals—who has given $1 million to President Obama’s super PAC. Maher has called Palin a “dumb twat” and dropped the C-word in describing the former Alaska governor.

COMMENT:  Nice, huh?  Kirsten Powers is to be praised for having the guts to come out and say this.  But where are the so-called "feminist" groups?  They're pretty much where they are when Muslim women are abused.  They're silent.  For these groups have far less interest in women's rights and dignity than in left-wing politics.   In the politics of the left, women are expendable. 

March 5, 2012       Permalink

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AND NOW FROM THE REAL WORLD – AT 8:03 A.M. ET:  As President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu meet in what is billed as a critical conference, the UN's latest report on Iran will unquestionably influence the tone of the session:

(Reuters) - Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the U.N. nuclear watchdog has "serious concerns" about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities, the agency's chief said on Monday.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between the Vienna-based U.N. agency and Tehran this year.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to meet shortly in Washington to discuss Iran, deeply at odds over the timing for possible last-resort military action against Iran's nuclear program.

Even though Obama offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies remained far apart over explicit nuclear "red lines" that Tehran should not be allowed to cross.

COMMENT:  The issue goes far beyond the safety of Israel.  It's the safety of the United States that's also involved.  Nuclear weapons are actually quite small, nothing like the 10,000-pound bomb that we used at Hiroshima.  Two devices placed in the holds of cargo ships and sailed into American ports on the same day, and set off by a small suicide crew, would devastate the United States, its people, and its economy.

And we know that there is deep concern in security circles about the possibility of a weapon of mass destruction being smuggled into the United States from across the Mexican border.  That border is not becoming more secure, it's becoming less secure.  And Iran is establishing important contacts in Latin America.

Obama gave a fine speech before AIPAC yesterday.  But he's given fine speeches before and then not carried through.  Where's all that hope 'n change that we were promised?

Iran is the most serious foreign issue facing this country this year.  We need more than words.  We need a clear policy that doesn't change from day to day.

March 5,  2012    Permalink

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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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