(Providence, Rhode Island) – Here is my latest view on the week in politics.
“Mixed Results” – Mitt Romney won the Illinois Primary this week, and Rick Santorum won in Louisiana. But you can hardly characterize it as a standoff. Romney still has twice as many delegates, and is going to be hard to catch. The win, though, will keep Santorum in the headlines. There are a few primaries on April 3, but it’s a whole month before the next big day for Santorum, when his home state of Pennsylvania votes. His other problem is that New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut vote the same day as Pennsylvania, and Romney is heavily favored in those three. The math is clearly on Romney’s side.
“Illogical Logic” – Santorum’s win in Louisiana, combined with wins last week in Mississippi and Alabama, has his campaign raising an interesting question: Can Mitt Romney win the South? The fact that Newt Gingrich won South Carolina and Georgia makes the question even more important. But it would be hard to imagine these solidly conservative states backing President Obama in November, so Santorum’s logic may be off. The bigger question for Romney in the South is whether he can win the more moderate North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, all of which went for Obama in 2008.
“Unforeseen Issues” – The economy will be the number one issue this year, as it almost always is. National security is likely to be number two. But it’s the unforeseen issues that can come from out of the blue and drive a wedge in what might be a close election. No one saw the birth-control-versus-religious-freedom issue coming. And certainly the controversial shooting death of a Florida teen and how it is handled could be a factor. My point is that candidates can rehearse all sorts of canned lines for the obvious issues, but the real test of leadership often comes during the unexpected events.
“Supreme Care” – Speaking of wedge issues that could suddenly rise to the top of the political agenda, President Obama’s controversial health care reform law will be before the U.S. Supreme Court this week for three days of hearings. The outcome won’t be known for a few months; and it’s possible we could see some split decisions, with certain provisions being ruled Constitutional, while others are not. The heat from this issue could propel it above national security as an issue in the fall campaign.
“French Assault” – The solo terrorist attack in France this week is raising a lot of concerns around the world. In fact, there was an Associated Press alert on Friday that indicated more such attacks could be coming. Much of the worldwide concern has been on another large-scale attack similar to 9-11; but smaller attacks by Al-Qaeda sympathizers acting independently are more problematic, because it’s harder to gather intelligence on someone who may act alone and not communicate or plot with anyone else. Again, this is one of those unforeseen issues that can move to the forefront of politics if it happens again.
“He’s All Heart” – Whether you like former Vice President Dick Cheney or not, I think you have to admire his very public discussion about his many years of heart disease. Cheney is recovering from a heart transplant on Saturday. For nearly two years Cheney has been carrying around a briefcase-like device that has kept his heart pumping through a left-ventricular assist device that was surgically implanted in his heart. He has appeared on numerous television shows where he did a “show and tell” with the device. Such candid disclosure by a public figure helps the public better understand modern medicine. It reminds me of Betty Ford dealing with breast cancer and substance abuse; Ronald Reagan, with colon cancer; and, more recently, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, with her traumatic brain injury. Politicians often lead best by example.
“Etch-A-Campaign” – Tongues wagged in the political world this week when Romney campaign strategist Eric Fehrnstrom suggested that the Romney campaign could reset itself whenever things went awry, much as we could turn over the Etch-A-Sketch toy when we were kids, shake it up, and start a new picture all over again! Aside from the political fallout, Ohio Art – the maker of Etch-A-Sketch – reported its stock suddenly went up and it had to bring on new workers to handle the sudden spike in demand for the classic toy (pictured above). I guess Romney does really know how to stimulate the economy and create jobs after all!
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