Following criticism that she is out of touch with women and hasn’t “worked a day in her life,” Ann Romney, wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appeared on Fox News Thursday to respond to the claims made by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.” My career choice was to be a mother and I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices women make,” she defended.
Rosen’s comments have not just prompted a debate about whether presidential nominees are able to relate to women, but about the status of stay-at-home moms in general.

Following criticism that she is out of touch with women and hasn’t “worked a day in her life,” Ann Romney, wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appeared on Fox News Thursday to respond to the claims made by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.” My career choice was to be a mother and I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices women make,” she defended.

Rosen’s comments have not just prompted a debate about whether presidential nominees are able to relate to women, but about the status of stay-at-home moms in general.

ann romney mitt romney hilary rosen GOP politics neon tommy

The Republican Party has been accused by many of being trapped in a bubble. It might be more apropos to call it a cocoon.
When asked on Bloomberg TV if the Republicans were fighting a “war on women,” wonderfully named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.”
Um, no.

The Republican Party has been accused by many of being trapped in a bubble. It might be more apropos to call it a cocoon.

When asked on Bloomberg TV if the Republicans were fighting a “war on women,” wonderfully named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.”

Um, no.

birth control GOP war on caterpillars war on women contraception

Mitt Romney sits comfortably as the GOP frontrunner with a win Tuesday in the Illinois primary.
With seven percent reporting, Romney won with 55 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum at 28 percent.  Newt Gingrich trailed with 10 percent and Ron Paul pulled in 7 percent, according to CNN’s projections.
Early polls predicted Romney would take a comfortable 15 point lead over Rick Santorum, according to NPR.
The primary was seen as a two-man race between Romney and Santorum.  Despite Santorum’s increased campaigning across the state over the past few days, the extra effort could not eclipse Romney’s lead.  Santorum fought an uphill battle against Romney, as he did not have delegate slates in four of the 19 Congressional Districts, said the New York Times.
A win in Illinois, seen as a ‘must win’ for Romney, helps prove his political prowess as the GOP frontrunner.  A successful campaign in a state with competitive suburbs is crucial for Romney’s long-term campaign, said the San Francisco Chronicle.
"If Romney does well in the suburbs here, I think it will indicate to people across the country that he has the potential in the fall to do well in the key parts of the battleground states, where Obama did well in 2008 and, where Republicans have to recapture some of the ground we lost last time," said Dan Curry, a Chicago party strategist.
For Illinois voters, key issues included the economy and electability.  About 4 in 10 voters said they were looking for a candidate who can beat President Obama in the fall, according to USA Today’s Live Blog.
According to the New York Times, Romney’s delegate amount now totals 522, Santorum at 253, Newt Gingrich at 135, and Ron Paul at 50.  To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1144 delegates.

Mitt Romney sits comfortably as the GOP frontrunner with a win Tuesday in the Illinois primary.

With seven percent reporting, Romney won with 55 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum at 28 percent.  Newt Gingrich trailed with 10 percent and Ron Paul pulled in 7 percent, according to CNN’s projections.

Early polls predicted Romney would take a comfortable 15 point lead over Rick Santorum, according to NPR.

The primary was seen as a two-man race between Romney and Santorum.  Despite Santorum’s increased campaigning across the state over the past few days, the extra effort could not eclipse Romney’s lead.  Santorum fought an uphill battle against Romney, as he did not have delegate slates in four of the 19 Congressional Districts, said the New York Times.

A win in Illinois, seen as a ‘must win’ for Romney, helps prove his political prowess as the GOP frontrunner.  A successful campaign in a state with competitive suburbs is crucial for Romney’s long-term campaign, said the San Francisco Chronicle.

"If Romney does well in the suburbs here, I think it will indicate to people across the country that he has the potential in the fall to do well in the key parts of the battleground states, where Obama did well in 2008 and, where Republicans have to recapture some of the ground we lost last time," said Dan Curry, a Chicago party strategist.

For Illinois voters, key issues included the economy and electability.  About 4 in 10 voters said they were looking for a candidate who can beat President Obama in the fall, according to USA Today’s Live Blog.

According to the New York Times, Romney’s delegate amount now totals 522, Santorum at 253, Newt Gingrich at 135, and Ron Paul at 50.  To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1144 delegates.

mitt romney GOP 2012 election neon tommy politics

The Winners and Losers of Super Tuesday
Winners
Rick Santorum - “Make no mistake, Rick Santorum had a Super Tuesday night,” NBC “Meet the Press” Moderator David Gregory said. Citing exit polls, Gregory said that Romney did not significantly gain support from groups that back Santorum, such as Tea Party voters and evangelical voters. Santorum was declared victorious in three states Tuesday night: North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Mitt Romney – In sheer numbers, Super Tuesday can be considered a victory for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor was named the winner of six races (Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia), putting him far ahead in the delegate count. According to CNN, Romney leads the pack with 404 delegates and is followed by Rick Santorum who has garnered 165 delegates since the nomination process officially began earlier this year.
Newt Gingrich – Though not victorious to the same degree as Santorum, or perhaps Romney, the former House speaker won his home state of Georgia and still has his foot in the race. Leading up to Super Tuesday, even Gingrich admitted how integral a Georgia win was to his campaign’s vitality. “I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race,” he said in Atlanta March 1. Despite his win last night and his 106 delegates, Georgia’s favorite son faces an uphill battle, trailing more than 20 points behind Romney in national polls.
President Obama – The president’s Super Tuesday presser stole some of the limelight from the GOP hopefuls. The conference also gave Obama a chance to publicly chide the candidates for “the casualness with which” they “talk about war.” As the primary battle continues in full swing, the press conference is a reminder that Obama is immune from the vicious inter-party attacks lobbed by the competing GOP contenders. This coupled with Obama’s ability to use the bully pulpit of the White House briefing room should prove advantageous for him come fall.
Sarah Palin – The former Governor of Alaska and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate could potentially benefit in the scenario that a long nomination process leads to a brokered convention. When asked by CNN whether she would not be opposed to her name being on a ballot in an open convention, Palin responded: “as I say, anything is possible. And I don’t close any doors that perhaps would be open out there. So, no, I wouldn’t close that door. And my plan is to be at the convention.”

Losers
Mitt Romney – Although Romney won a majority of the 10 Super Tuesday contests and bolstered his delegate count, he fell short of vanquishing the threat of a Santorum or Gingrich comeback for the nomination. Because Romney was unable to secure a strong enough victory to begin wrapping up the nomination, one thing is certain, the primary process is likely to continue for quite some time. A longer nomination battle could also hurt Romney’s general election campaign should he emerge the nominee. As Dan Balz points out in his Washington Post piece, “as [Romney] advances toward victory in the primaries, he is losing ground in the general election.”
Ron Paul – While the Texas congressman is staying in the race, he did not win any of the 10 Super Tuesday races. Paul, whose delegate count is at 66, had hoped to secure wins in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. He lost those contests by respective margins of 9 points, 44 points and 12 points. Although Paul has admitted the probability of his winning the nomination is “slim,” he said he remains committed to his campaign.
Dennis Kucinich – The eight-term congressman and former Cleveland mayor lost in a Democratic primary to incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio’s 9th district. Kucinich’s district was abolished after redistricting. In his concession speech, Kucinich, who is considered one of Congress’ most liberal members, said Kaptur “ran a campaign lacking in integrity, filled with false truths.” Kaptur, the longest serving woman in Congress, will take on GOP nominee Samuel Wurzelbacher, known as “Joe the Plumber,” in the district’s general election.

The Winners and Losers of Super Tuesday

Winners

Rick Santorum - “Make no mistake, Rick Santorum had a Super Tuesday night,” NBC “Meet the Press” Moderator David Gregory said. Citing exit polls, Gregory said that Romney did not significantly gain support from groups that back Santorum, such as Tea Party voters and evangelical voters. Santorum was declared victorious in three states Tuesday night: North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Mitt Romney – In sheer numbers, Super Tuesday can be considered a victory for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor was named the winner of six races (Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia), putting him far ahead in the delegate count. According to CNN, Romney leads the pack with 404 delegates and is followed by Rick Santorum who has garnered 165 delegates since the nomination process officially began earlier this year.

Newt Gingrich – Though not victorious to the same degree as Santorum, or perhaps Romney, the former House speaker won his home state of Georgia and still has his foot in the race. Leading up to Super Tuesday, even Gingrich admitted how integral a Georgia win was to his campaign’s vitality. “I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race,” he said in Atlanta March 1. Despite his win last night and his 106 delegates, Georgia’s favorite son faces an uphill battle, trailing more than 20 points behind Romney in national polls.

President Obama – The president’s Super Tuesday presser stole some of the limelight from the GOP hopefuls. The conference also gave Obama a chance to publicly chide the candidates for “the casualness with which” they “talk about war.” As the primary battle continues in full swing, the press conference is a reminder that Obama is immune from the vicious inter-party attacks lobbed by the competing GOP contenders. This coupled with Obama’s ability to use the bully pulpit of the White House briefing room should prove advantageous for him come fall.

Sarah Palin – The former Governor of Alaska and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate could potentially benefit in the scenario that a long nomination process leads to a brokered convention. When asked by CNN whether she would not be opposed to her name being on a ballot in an open convention, Palin responded: “as I say, anything is possible. And I don’t close any doors that perhaps would be open out there. So, no, I wouldn’t close that door. And my plan is to be at the convention.”

Losers

Mitt Romney – Although Romney won a majority of the 10 Super Tuesday contests and bolstered his delegate count, he fell short of vanquishing the threat of a Santorum or Gingrich comeback for the nomination. Because Romney was unable to secure a strong enough victory to begin wrapping up the nomination, one thing is certain, the primary process is likely to continue for quite some time. A longer nomination battle could also hurt Romney’s general election campaign should he emerge the nominee. As Dan Balz points out in his Washington Post piece, “as [Romney] advances toward victory in the primaries, he is losing ground in the general election.”

Ron Paul – While the Texas congressman is staying in the race, he did not win any of the 10 Super Tuesday races. Paul, whose delegate count is at 66, had hoped to secure wins in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. He lost those contests by respective margins of 9 points, 44 points and 12 points. Although Paul has admitted the probability of his winning the nomination is “slim,” he said he remains committed to his campaign.

Dennis Kucinich – The eight-term congressman and former Cleveland mayor lost in a Democratic primary to incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio’s 9th district. Kucinich’s district was abolished after redistricting. In his concession speech, Kucinich, who is considered one of Congress’ most liberal members, said Kaptur “ran a campaign lacking in integrity, filled with false truths.” Kaptur, the longest serving woman in Congress, will take on GOP nominee Samuel Wurzelbacher, known as “Joe the Plumber,” in the district’s general election.

super tuesday politics GOP rick santorum mitt romney newt gingrich

Today is Super Tuesday, in which Republican primary voters and caucusgoers choose 410 convention delegates (about 18% of the total, and more than one-third the amount needed to win).
Here’s what to watch for:
(To avoid a sea of links, all historical election data sourced from Wikipedia and the amazing website 270towin.com.)
Non-Competitive Races
Massachusetts (41 delegates), Idaho (32), Vermont (17)
Moderates, millionaires and Mormons will buoy Mitt Romney to easy wins in these three states, none of which will be at all close in the general election in November. Barack Obama won Vermont by 37 points and Massachusetts by 26 in 2008, and lost Idaho by 25. Mitt will bank some delegates, but there is no greater meaning to interpret in the results. If anyone makes a bold political prediction about the race going forward based on the results of the Vermont primary, please stop listening to that person.
Sidenote: While Romney will comfortably carry Idaho, he may not win in the northernmost precincts. The tip of the Idaho panhandle has historically been somewhat of a haven for white nationalist groups. Members of these groups and those that sympathize with them make up a tiny and regrettable rump portion of the national Ron Paul support base, but they are relatively active here and could propel him to a strong showing in northern Idaho. These are the type of people who are against the Federal Reserve not for economic reasons, but because they associate it with Jews.
Curiosities
North Dakota (28), Alaska (24)
Alaska is the only state that pays all its qualifying citizens (basically all Alaskans not involved in the criminal justice system) an annual dividend out of the state’s Permanent Fund, which is itself funded mostly by oil taxes and royalties. North Dakota is the only state with its own bank.  These two staunchly conservative states that will easily go for whoever opposes Obama in the general election still find room for a little taste of socialism.Both Alaska and North Dakota seem to be wide open as far as their Super Tuesday contests, but nobody has polled them because apparently, nobody cares.
I (sort of) care. I’m going to extrapolate Santorum’s successes in Iowa and Minnesota and apparent ability to connect with people of the Plains to predict a victory for him in North Dakota, and Alaska seems like a logistical nightmare of a caucus that Ron Paul and his strong organization is poised to win.
Real America
Georgia (76), Tennessee (58), Oklahoma (43)
Republicans in these states don’t particularly like Mitt Romney. Sure, he might pull out an upset victory in Tennessee with something like 35% of the vote if Newt Gingrich manages to win an unexpectedly large slice of Rick Santorum’s support, but he doesn’t have the type of street cred in these here parts that Newt or Rick do.
This has been and will be an ongoing problem for Mitt, and could indeed come back to haunt him in swing states like Virginia and Colorado. While a worse than expected performance in these three races would add to the chorus of doubt, Mitt shouldn’t overreact and try to get to the right of Oklahoma Republicans. Not only is that impossible, it would damage him in the swing state suburbs in November.
As with Alaska and North Dakota, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma will be safely in the Republican column come November. They would be safely GOP if Trig Palin was the nominee. Oklahoma Republican primary voters may not like Mitt Romney nearly as much as they do Rick Santorum, but in a state that actually passed a bill banning sharia law (since overturned), and not as a joke, the fact that his name is not Willard Hussein Romney is going to be all that matters in the fall.
Santorum should take Oklahoma (easily) and Tennessee (in a close one, as Gingrich will perform strongly in the traditional South), and Newt should roll to a big victory in his home state of Georgia, which borders his South Carolina stronghold.
The Sleeper
Virginia (49)
Two points on Virginia:
1. I realize that 10,000 signatures is not an unrealistic request to appear on the primary ballot, and Mitt Romney and Ron Paul handled their business, but it seems wrong on some level that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, national candidates with multi-million dollar budgets who somehow got on just about every other ballot, could not qualify for a place on the ballot of a large and important state like Virginia. I understand wanting to put in place some sort of gating mechanism to prevent a chaotic mess of a ballot, but if the gates are set too high, the electoral process becomes less democratic. Making the ballot cleaner and more efficient is commendable, but only up to the point where it infringes on the spirit of our democracy, in which the ability to represent the people is open to the people.
2. It is a shame that Virginia cannot have a Republican presidential primary with the full national field on the ballot, because it has moved far from safe Republican (Clinton lost Virginia twice) to where it looks to be firmly in the handful of swing states that seem to end up deciding every election. Obama won Virginia by 6 in an election where he won the national vote by 7.
If Obama wins the Kerry states in addition to Iowa (Obama +10 in 2008, Al Gore won here in 2000), New Mexico (Obama +15, another Gore state) and Virginia, he can lose both “bellwether” states of Florida and Ohio, plus Nevada and Colorado (where he won by 12 and 9, respectively, in 2008), and still get to 270 electoral votes and a victory. The Republican path to victory that excludes Virginia is a much Rockier road that asks a lot of the party’s ability to win increasingly Latino parts of America.
With neither of the plausible religious right non-Romney candidates available for selection in Virginia, we won’t get any real insights into how Virginians feel about Willard, friend of NASCAR owners, and that is a shame. Romney would appear to be strong in the moneyed DC suburbs, but with the rightward drift of the Republican party, and particularly Virginia Republicans (transvaginal ultrasounds), a lot of these college and post-graduate educated lawyers and consultants might be more firmly in the Democratic column going forward than even they realize.
Elections tend to be battled out in suburbs like these, but a winning candidate has to stockpile votes in his strongholds as well. Without Santorum and Gingrich on the ballot, no one knows how strong Romney’s support is in the deepest red parts of Virginia, and if those voters will come out for Romney if he is the general election candidate anywhere near as enthusiastically as they would for the two extreme social conservatives in the race.
As the only other candidate on the ballot, the Ron Paul vote could be relatively high with the addition of some anyone-but-Romney protest votes, but Virginia also has a large military population that should also give him some extra support he did not have in other states. Mitt Romney will roll to an easy win in a contest that will tell us absolutely nothing about what to expect in what will be a crucial swing state in November.
The Prize
Ohio (66)
Ohio is the race to watch. It has voted for every winning presidential candidate since JFK in 1960, but only went for Obama by a 4.5% margin in 2008, less than previously solid Republican states like Virginia and Colorado did.
Western Pennsylvania native Rick Santorum feels right at home in many parts of Ohio and has performed strongly in polling, although Mitt Romney has made up some ground as of late. It should be a very close race, and there will be substantial Gingrich support, but I expect Santorum to eke out a 2-5 point victory.
While Santorum should be fairly successful in the voting booths on Tuesday, his campaign made some technical errors and failed to provide a full slate of three delegates for all congressional districts; in fact, in three of them, they did not provide a single one, which basically means he could end up forfeiting valuable pledged delegates in areas in which he might win or otherwise do well at the polls. One of these three delegate-less districts is Ohio’s 6th, bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which includes the type of socially conservative, lower-income, white voters that Santorum should clean up with. Santorum could theoretically win the 6th in the polls by 20-30 points and get none of the three delegates at the Republican convention later this year.
The talking heads on TV will go on ad nauseam about Ohio being a bellwether state and must-win territory for any prospective presidential candidate, but this might well be the last election cycle where this is truly the case. Ohio definitely matters in 2012, but probably less so in 2016, and so on from there.
Even as Ohio continues to get older and somewhat more socially conservative, and proceeds down its likely path to becoming more favorable GOP territory in spite of overall national demographic trends, the state’s electoral significance as a fortress for any victorious Democratic presidential candidate looks to wane over the long run. As a result of the 2010 census, Ohio now has only 18 electoral votes, down two from 2008, and its lowest amount since 1828, when it elected Tea Party favorite Andrew Jackson.
If Obama and future Democrats can further entrench the growing and increasingly Latino battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico (none won by Kerry, all won big by Obama), those 20 combined votes exceed Ohio. Given demographic trends, we can expect Ohio’s share of the national electoral college to further decline as the population of the 2008 Obama states of the intermountain west grows.
The importance of winning Ohio to a Democratic presidential candidate in our current two-party system, while still high, is at its lowest in decades and should continue to ebb. The fact that a retrograde candidate like Santorum has been so strong in the decades-long bellwether of Ohio, which based on that premise, should be much more favorable to a Massachusetts moderate than a guy who appears to be running for Pope, captures this.
The angry white male vote is not a “growth” vote in the way the Latino or Muslim-American vote is. The Republican party could not do a better job alienating the latter two as an integral part of its strategy in catering to the former, and while it might help them perform better in the short term in areas like Ohio and central Pennsylvania that are getting older, whiter and increasingly uncomfortable with a multicultural America, it’s a losing long-term strategy in areas where Republicans need to develop future generations of voters who are perfectly comfortable with a multiracial America that accepts evolution as fact.
Pundits like to claim that Ohio is so important because it is representative of America as a whole. I think this used to be the case a lot more than it currently is the case. Americans are leaving places like Ohio and moving to places like Colorado and Virginia, and establishing the industries of the future there.
The takeaway is this: if Santorum somehow has a win in Ohio that propels him to the Republican nomination based on his perceived strength in such an important historical swing state, it is a strength that equips him to win an election less and less as time goes on. The Republican party choosing the message of Santorum to win Ohio in 2012 might damage them tremendously in Virginia and Colorado for the next 20 years. 
Happy watching; enjoy the show.
(image via DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

Today is Super Tuesday, in which Republican primary voters and caucusgoers choose 410 convention delegates (about 18% of the total, and more than one-third the amount needed to win).

Here’s what to watch for:

(To avoid a sea of links, all historical election data sourced from Wikipedia and the amazing website 270towin.com.)

Non-Competitive Races

Massachusetts (41 delegates), Idaho (32), Vermont (17)

Moderates, millionaires and Mormons will buoy Mitt Romney to easy wins in these three states, none of which will be at all close in the general election in November. Barack Obama won Vermont by 37 points and Massachusetts by 26 in 2008, and lost Idaho by 25. Mitt will bank some delegates, but there is no greater meaning to interpret in the results. If anyone makes a bold political prediction about the race going forward based on the results of the Vermont primary, please stop listening to that person.

Sidenote: While Romney will comfortably carry Idaho, he may not win in the northernmost precincts. The tip of the Idaho panhandle has historically been somewhat of a haven for white nationalist groups. Members of these groups and those that sympathize with them make up a tiny and regrettable rump portion of the national Ron Paul support base, but they are relatively active here and could propel him to a strong showing in northern Idaho. These are the type of people who are against the Federal Reserve not for economic reasons, but because they associate it with Jews.

Curiosities

North Dakota (28), Alaska (24)

Alaska is the only state that pays all its qualifying citizens (basically all Alaskans not involved in the criminal justice system) an annual dividend out of the state’s Permanent Fund, which is itself funded mostly by oil taxes and royalties. North Dakota is the only state with its own bank.  These two staunchly conservative states that will easily go for whoever opposes Obama in the general election still find room for a little taste of socialism.
Both Alaska and North Dakota seem to be wide open as far as their Super Tuesday contests, but nobody has polled them because apparently, nobody cares.

I (sort of) care. I’m going to extrapolate Santorum’s successes in Iowa and Minnesota and apparent ability to connect with people of the Plains to predict a victory for him in North Dakota, and Alaska seems like a logistical nightmare of a caucus that Ron Paul and his strong organization is poised to win.

Real America

Georgia (76), Tennessee (58), Oklahoma (43)

Republicans in these states don’t particularly like Mitt Romney. Sure, he might pull out an upset victory in Tennessee with something like 35% of the vote if Newt Gingrich manages to win an unexpectedly large slice of Rick Santorum’s support, but he doesn’t have the type of street cred in these here parts that Newt or Rick do.

This has been and will be an ongoing problem for Mitt, and could indeed come back to haunt him in swing states like Virginia and Colorado. While a worse than expected performance in these three races would add to the chorus of doubt, Mitt shouldn’t overreact and try to get to the right of Oklahoma Republicans. Not only is that impossible, it would damage him in the swing state suburbs in November.

As with Alaska and North Dakota, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma will be safely in the Republican column come November. They would be safely GOP if Trig Palin was the nominee. Oklahoma Republican primary voters may not like Mitt Romney nearly as much as they do Rick Santorum, but in a state that actually passed a bill banning sharia law (since overturned), and not as a joke, the fact that his name is not Willard Hussein Romney is going to be all that matters in the fall.

Santorum should take Oklahoma (easily) and Tennessee (in a close one, as Gingrich will perform strongly in the traditional South), and Newt should roll to a big victory in his home state of Georgia, which borders his South Carolina stronghold.

The Sleeper

Virginia (49)

Two points on Virginia:

1. I realize that 10,000 signatures is not an unrealistic request to appear on the primary ballot, and Mitt Romney and Ron Paul handled their business, but it seems wrong on some level that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, national candidates with multi-million dollar budgets who somehow got on just about every other ballot, could not qualify for a place on the ballot of a large and important state like Virginia. I understand wanting to put in place some sort of gating mechanism to prevent a chaotic mess of a ballot, but if the gates are set too high, the electoral process becomes less democratic. Making the ballot cleaner and more efficient is commendable, but only up to the point where it infringes on the spirit of our democracy, in which the ability to represent the people is open to the people.

2. It is a shame that Virginia cannot have a Republican presidential primary with the full national field on the ballot, because it has moved far from safe Republican (Clinton lost Virginia twice) to where it looks to be firmly in the handful of swing states that seem to end up deciding every election. Obama won Virginia by 6 in an election where he won the national vote by 7.

If Obama wins the Kerry states in addition to Iowa (Obama +10 in 2008, Al Gore won here in 2000), New Mexico (Obama +15, another Gore state) and Virginia, he can lose both “bellwether” states of Florida and Ohio, plus Nevada and Colorado (where he won by 12 and 9, respectively, in 2008), and still get to 270 electoral votes and a victory. The Republican path to victory that excludes Virginia is a much Rockier road that asks a lot of the party’s ability to win increasingly Latino parts of America.

With neither of the plausible religious right non-Romney candidates available for selection in Virginia, we won’t get any real insights into how Virginians feel about Willard, friend of NASCAR owners, and that is a shame. Romney would appear to be strong in the moneyed DC suburbs, but with the rightward drift of the Republican party, and particularly Virginia Republicans (transvaginal ultrasounds), a lot of these college and post-graduate educated lawyers and consultants might be more firmly in the Democratic column going forward than even they realize.

Elections tend to be battled out in suburbs like these, but a winning candidate has to stockpile votes in his strongholds as well. Without Santorum and Gingrich on the ballot, no one knows how strong Romney’s support is in the deepest red parts of Virginia, and if those voters will come out for Romney if he is the general election candidate anywhere near as enthusiastically as they would for the two extreme social conservatives in the race.

As the only other candidate on the ballot, the Ron Paul vote could be relatively high with the addition of some anyone-but-Romney protest votes, but Virginia also has a large military population that should also give him some extra support he did not have in other states. Mitt Romney will roll to an easy win in a contest that will tell us absolutely nothing about what to expect in what will be a crucial swing state in November.

The Prize

Ohio (66)

Ohio is the race to watch. It has voted for every winning presidential candidate since JFK in 1960, but only went for Obama by a 4.5% margin in 2008, less than previously solid Republican states like Virginia and Colorado did.

Western Pennsylvania native Rick Santorum feels right at home in many parts of Ohio and has performed strongly in polling, although Mitt Romney has made up some ground as of late. It should be a very close race, and there will be substantial Gingrich support, but I expect Santorum to eke out a 2-5 point victory.

While Santorum should be fairly successful in the voting booths on Tuesday, his campaign made some technical errors and failed to provide a full slate of three delegates for all congressional districts; in fact, in three of them, they did not provide a single one, which basically means he could end up forfeiting valuable pledged delegates in areas in which he might win or otherwise do well at the polls. One of these three delegate-less districts is Ohio’s 6th, bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which includes the type of socially conservative, lower-income, white voters that Santorum should clean up with. Santorum could theoretically win the 6th in the polls by 20-30 points and get none of the three delegates at the Republican convention later this year.

The talking heads on TV will go on ad nauseam about Ohio being a bellwether state and must-win territory for any prospective presidential candidate, but this might well be the last election cycle where this is truly the case. Ohio definitely matters in 2012, but probably less so in 2016, and so on from there.

Even as Ohio continues to get older and somewhat more socially conservative, and proceeds down its likely path to becoming more favorable GOP territory in spite of overall national demographic trends, the state’s electoral significance as a fortress for any victorious Democratic presidential candidate looks to wane over the long run. As a result of the 2010 census, Ohio now has only 18 electoral votes, down two from 2008, and its lowest amount since 1828, when it elected Tea Party favorite Andrew Jackson.

If Obama and future Democrats can further entrench the growing and increasingly Latino battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico (none won by Kerry, all won big by Obama), those 20 combined votes exceed Ohio. Given demographic trends, we can expect Ohio’s share of the national electoral college to further decline as the population of the 2008 Obama states of the intermountain west grows.

The importance of winning Ohio to a Democratic presidential candidate in our current two-party system, while still high, is at its lowest in decades and should continue to ebb. The fact that a retrograde candidate like Santorum has been so strong in the decades-long bellwether of Ohio, which based on that premise, should be much more favorable to a Massachusetts moderate than a guy who appears to be running for Pope, captures this.

The angry white male vote is not a “growth” vote in the way the Latino or Muslim-American vote is. The Republican party could not do a better job alienating the latter two as an integral part of its strategy in catering to the former, and while it might help them perform better in the short term in areas like Ohio and central Pennsylvania that are getting older, whiter and increasingly uncomfortable with a multicultural America, it’s a losing long-term strategy in areas where Republicans need to develop future generations of voters who are perfectly comfortable with a multiracial America that accepts evolution as fact.

Pundits like to claim that Ohio is so important because it is representative of America as a whole. I think this used to be the case a lot more than it currently is the case. Americans are leaving places like Ohio and moving to places like Colorado and Virginia, and establishing the industries of the future there.

The takeaway is this: if Santorum somehow has a win in Ohio that propels him to the Republican nomination based on his perceived strength in such an important historical swing state, it is a strength that equips him to win an election less and less as time goes on. The Republican party choosing the message of Santorum to win Ohio in 2012 might damage them tremendously in Virginia and Colorado for the next 20 years. 

Happy watching; enjoy the show.

(image via DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

super tuesday GOP election

Reproductive Rights Come Under Microscope In GOP Race
The Republican Party’s escalating opposition to birth control has  brought women’s reproductive rights onto the political center stage. But the GOP’s focus on birth control in addition to abortion may be  the wrong political move for the upcoming November presidential election  for several reasons.
According to Dr. Malcolm Potts, who wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed urging the Catholic Church to recognize the health benefits of contraception, women will be “very angry” at the polls.
“It represents the widespread male behavior and men’s patriarchal  streak to control women’s bodies,” Potts said. “Maybe unconsciously, but  universally, women want to escape that control over their bodies and  want to control when they have children.”
The year has already seen a number of controversies surrounding sex  and sexuality—most notably, the national uproar over the Susan G. Komen  Foundation cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood and the recent  ruling on California’s Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage as  unconstitutional. These are both signs that strict conservative views on  social issues are at odds with those of the rest of the country.
Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have  spoken out against the Obama Administration’s recent decision that  requires religiously affiliated institutions to provide free birth  control to their employees. Santorum has benefited the most from his  consistent stance on social issues, surging ahead in the GOP primaries  up until this week’s challenges in Arizona and Michigan.
Both Democratic and Republican parties will have to frame the subject  of reproductive rights in certain ways to make the platform work to  their advantage, according to Dr. Caroline Heldman, a political  commentator and professor of politics at Occidental College.
“For Democrats, they need to use the framing of limiting women’s  choice, which has been a successful frame,” Heldman said. “Republicans  are framing it as a religious rights and freedom issue which appeals to  Republican voters quite well.”

Some question how women will react to the GOP’s assault on their reproductive rights in this November’s ballot.
“These kinds of issues are very private issues,” said Raquel Beltran,  the executive director of the League of Women Voters Los Angeles. “What  women say in public may be different than what they say in the privacy  and security of the voting booth.
But while the Republican Party’s new focus on birth control may  backfire on them in the long run, it may have some short-term benefits.
“Injecting morality into politics through abortion, gay marriage and  reproductive rights brings new voters into the electorate. It gets  voters excited,” said Heldman.
However, opposition to contraception could be a shortsighted political move, according to Potts.
“I think Republicans are playing to extremists in order to do well in  the primaries,” said Potts. “Women will say, ‘I want to be a woman of  the 20th century and not go back to the stone age.’”

Reproductive Rights Come Under Microscope In GOP Race

The Republican Party’s escalating opposition to birth control has brought women’s reproductive rights onto the political center stage. But the GOP’s focus on birth control in addition to abortion may be the wrong political move for the upcoming November presidential election for several reasons.

According to Dr. Malcolm Potts, who wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed urging the Catholic Church to recognize the health benefits of contraception, women will be “very angry” at the polls.

“It represents the widespread male behavior and men’s patriarchal streak to control women’s bodies,” Potts said. “Maybe unconsciously, but universally, women want to escape that control over their bodies and want to control when they have children.”

The year has already seen a number of controversies surrounding sex and sexuality—most notably, the national uproar over the Susan G. Komen Foundation cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood and the recent ruling on California’s Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. These are both signs that strict conservative views on social issues are at odds with those of the rest of the country.

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have spoken out against the Obama Administration’s recent decision that requires religiously affiliated institutions to provide free birth control to their employees. Santorum has benefited the most from his consistent stance on social issues, surging ahead in the GOP primaries up until this week’s challenges in Arizona and Michigan.

Both Democratic and Republican parties will have to frame the subject of reproductive rights in certain ways to make the platform work to their advantage, according to Dr. Caroline Heldman, a political commentator and professor of politics at Occidental College.

“For Democrats, they need to use the framing of limiting women’s choice, which has been a successful frame,” Heldman said. “Republicans are framing it as a religious rights and freedom issue which appeals to Republican voters quite well.”

Some question how women will react to the GOP’s assault on their reproductive rights in this November’s ballot.

“These kinds of issues are very private issues,” said Raquel Beltran, the executive director of the League of Women Voters Los Angeles. “What women say in public may be different than what they say in the privacy and security of the voting booth.

But while the Republican Party’s new focus on birth control may backfire on them in the long run, it may have some short-term benefits.

“Injecting morality into politics through abortion, gay marriage and reproductive rights brings new voters into the electorate. It gets voters excited,” said Heldman.

However, opposition to contraception could be a shortsighted political move, according to Potts.

“I think Republicans are playing to extremists in order to do well in the primaries,” said Potts. “Women will say, ‘I want to be a woman of the 20th century and not go back to the stone age.’”

birth control GOP reproductive rights abortion

Top 10: Santorum’s Most Controversial Quotes

Despite making a number of controversial comments lately, Rick Santorum continues to surge in the polls leading into tonight’s GOP debate in Arizona. With the growing momentum, more and more of his words are under closer scrutiny, including takes on homosexuality, contraception and women’s rights. But, to those who have followed Santorum before the GOP race, polarizing statements are nothing new from the former Pennsylvania senator.

Here’s a look at 10 of his more outlandish statements:

10. “Santorum’s Satan Warning”

On Tuesday, the Drudge Report dug up quotes from one of Santorum’s 2008 speeches at Ave Maria University in Florida. 

Referring to America’s fight against Satan as “a spiritual war,” Santorum espoused on good and evil, and how “the Father of Lies” has his sights set on America. 

Santorum defended himself on Tuesday, pledging to “tell you the truth about what’s going on in this country.”

Here are some of the comments from that 4-year-old speech:

"Satan has his sights on the United States of America!" 

"Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition."

9. Obama and his “phony theology”

At an Ohio Christian Alliance event over the weekend, Santorum called into question Obama’s Christian faith. 

On Obama’s agenda, he said it’s “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life.  It’s not about your jobs.  It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology.  Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”

He continued:
"The Catholic church has a theology that says this is wrong, and he’s saying no I’ve got a different, I’ve got a different – you may want to call it a theology, you may want to call it secular values, whatever you want to call it, it’s a different moral values. And the president of the United States is exercising his values and trumping the values of the church."

8. Santorum on women in combat

Santorum has also stirred up debate with some statements he’s made concerning the role of women in society, including his belief they should not serve at the front line of combat in the military. 

In an interview with CNN’s John King, referring to women in combat, Santorum said: “I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

7. Children born from rape: “A gift in a very broken way”

In early 2012, CNN’s Piers Morgan really put Santorum on the hotseat regarding his belief that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, including rape and incest. 

Morgan posed a hypothetical to Santorum: What would he do if one of his two daughters came to him after getting raped, and was pregnant? What if she wanted to get an abortion? “Would you really be able to look her in the eye and say, no, as her father?” Morgan asked. 

Here’s a portion of Santorum’s answer:
"Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice, I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you."

6. Obama and Hitler

"The World War II metaphor is one I’ve used 100 times in my career."

That was Santorum’s response to reporters as to whether he was comparing Obama to Hitler.

Judge for yourself. Speaking to a megachurch, Santorum said Sunday:
“Your country needs you. It’s not as clear a challenge. Obviously, World War II was pretty obvious. At some point, they knew. But remember, the Greatest Generation, for a year and a half, sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness, where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled, while Japan was spreading its cancer all throughout Southeast Asia. America sat from 1940, when France fell, to December of ’41, and did almost nothing.

Why? Because we’re a hopeful people. We think, ‘Well, you know, he’ll get better. You know, he’s a nice guy. I mean, it won’t be near as bad as what we think. This’ll be okay.’ Oh yeah, maybe he’s not the best guy, and after a while, you found out things about this guy over in Europe, and he’s not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? Why do we need to be involved? We’ll just take care of our own problems. Just get our families off to work and our kids off to school, and we’ll be okay.

It’s sort of the optimistic spirit of America but sometimes, sometimes it’s not okay. It’s going to be harder for this generation to figure this out. There’s no cataclysmic event. It’s going to be hard.”

5. Abortion and slavery

In what has become a common occurrence, Santorum might have made things worse when trying to put prior comments into context. 

Invoking Obama’s race, Santorum linked abortion to slavery in an interview with CNSNews

"The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer—is that human life a person under the Constitution and Barack Obama says no," Santorum said on a conservative talk show. "Well if that human life is not a person then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’" 

4. Bible proves climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research”

Mixing his faith with government yet again, Santorum took on climate change in early February. 

Santorum cited the Bible as evidence that “the science-accepting crowd has it all wrong,” according to Talking Points Memo.

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” Santorum told a Colorado crowd.

He went on to call climate change “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”

3. Santorum on homosexuality

Speaking on homosexuality, Santorum argued during a 2003 interview that he has “absolutely nothing against anyone who’s homosexual,” only “the person’s actions.”

The Associated Press then countered with “So if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?”

Santorum’s response:

"Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality."

2. Obama “may go to Indonesia and bow to more Muslims”

While appearing on Greta Van Susteren’s show in March 2010, Santorum again connected Obama to the Muslim faith, saying:

 “I think the Democrats are actually worried he [Obama] may go to Indonesia and bow to more Muslims.”

1. “There is no ‘Palestinian’”

Reminiscent of remarks Newt Gingrich made during a recent debate, Santorum talked about the Israeli control of the West Bank:

 “If they want to negotiate with Israelis, and all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.”

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Santorum Shocks Romney With Three GOP Primary Victories

Rick Santorum was expected to have a good day in the primary, but few could have predicted that he would sweep Tuesday’s presidential nominating contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. That’s exactly what he did, however, as CNN has projected that Santorum won all three races.

Santorum took Colorado with 38 percent, followed by Romney at 36 percent, according to CNN.  Gingrich secured 13 percent and Paul pulled in 12 percent, with 95 percent reporting.

"Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota," the former Pennsylvania senator said during a victory speech in St. Charles, Missouri, adding, “I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Immediately after Santorum swept Minnesota and Missouri, Romney spoke about his opponent’s wins from his Denver headquarters.

"This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Sen. Santorum, but I expect to become the nominee with your help," Romney told a crowd of supporters. “I look forward to the contests to come. We’re going to take our message of liberty and prosperity to every corner of this country.”

Romney’s loss sent shock waves through the campaign trail, as the GOP candidate campaigned more aggressively in the state over the past few days. Romney previously had a strong showing in Colorado, winning the caucus back in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote, according to the Washington Post.

Tuesday’s election could potentially be a real game changer in the Republican race, particularly since Romney had racked up two consecutive victories in Florida and Nevada. With his three victories, Santorum appears to have emerged over fellow Republican challenger Newt Gingrich as the conservative alternative of the “anyone but Romney” faction of the GOP.

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