State House of Representatives
It pains me to say it, but the Santorum Sweep places the conservative Republican presidential candidate in the winner's column. I had all but written him off, but Rick Santorum's victories in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri — victories over Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul as much as Mitt Romney — suggested that the anti-Mitt forces are startling to coalesce around one true conservative candidate.
There are worries, of course. Santorum will now be targeted by the Romney machine that has pounded Gingrich. And his own record more deeply scrutinized. Still, many conservatives don't know or care what Google says. Santorum is the not-Mitt of the moment.
The GOP pundits spin this as not so much about Santorum-love as Mitt-dislike. In the Daily Beast, former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "These results are a serious blow to Romney that crystallized the conservative questions about his bona fides and punctured it. If your campaign is built on inevitability, a puncture can take you down." Inevitability is a shaky foundation at best. The gist of the Mitt dumping: It's not us Mitt, it's you.
Romney had a tiny win late in the cycle by winning the non-binding Maine caucuses by less than 200 votes over Ron Paul. He also came out atop a straw poll at CPAC, the conference of conservative activists. Lack of conservative confidence is forcing Romney to run farther to the right. At CPAC, he announced that he had been a "severely" conservative governor of Massachusetts, apparently in an attempt to place himself to the right of such liberal Massachusetts wussies as Gov. John Winthrop. (Bring back the stocks! The dunking pool! The witch trials! Death for adultery!). The consensus is, Mitt lost the week because of defeats and preposterous revisionist claims, the thin balm of Maine aside.
Speaking of John Winthrop, it was he who spoke of the "city on the hill," which Ronald Reagan later enshrined in the 20th century rhetorical pantheon. Not sure if he, like Reagan, had the guts to add a "11th commandment," a bit of Reaganism that seems forgotten by this year's candidates who are only eager to speak ill of their fellow Republicans.
Instead of a "city on the hill," Reaganesque optimism has been replaced by Santorum's and others' desire to channel the religious persecution the Puritans felt. The modern version: Obama's Socialist Guillotine-Weidling Death Panels Are Giving Free Birth Control to Our Daughters and Wives to Prevent Us from Breeding a New Generation of Paranoid Free-Market Christians. The "city on the hill" is now an asylum.
President Barack Obama had a tough time this past week picking his way through the jesuitical minefield of How Many Birth Control Pills Fit on Head of a Pin and Who Pays for Them? He found the compromise, but the whole dust-up reminded us how nasty politics gets when your try to institute the separation of Church and Sex.
Obama also has other re-election worries, including the economy in key swing states. A good time to remember that elections aren't entirely national: Obama not only needs to get unemployment down, but in states with getable electoral votes. Meaning, how's he doin' in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin?
A special award for Meaningless Straw Poll Winner of the Week: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, running for the Libertarian Party nomination, who got 42 of 60 votes in a Libertarian straw poll in Florida. That qualifies as Mitt-mentum!
In Seattle, there seems to be something going on at City Hall, where Mayor Mike McGinn is like the groundhog who came out and saw a hint of a change in the seasons, from political deep freeze to a slight, spring-like warming. Crosscut's Roger Valdez and Dave Meinert at Publicola voiced what others are whispering: that McGinn support just might be starting to bloom again, fed by hopes that the mayor has learned a few things, and that he's taking the initiative on some potential crowd-pleasers, such as getting NBA basketball back in Seattle.
The revelation that McGinn has been working behind the scenes to make that happen and get an arena built show him as Mayor Can Do instead of Mayor No. Is it a win? Not yet, but it could be. Still, some favorable buzz among supporters is likely welcome. Better to be interviewed on KJR than mired in Tunnel Talk. The mayor does love a pick-up game and has admitted he's willing to throw some elbows to establish himself on the court. As Art Thiel points out, could be that he mainly winds up helping save basketball for Sacramento.
The big winner of the week in Washington state is Gay Marriage, to be signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire. There are many heroes in that effort, but the one of the moment is Republican State Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla, one of the few House Republicans to support gay marriage.
Walsh gave a personal, compassionate speech on the House floor that was deeply moving (it went viral; see it here). She began by saying she was 51, widowed, and was having trouble finding a boyfriend, and that what she missed most from her marriage wasn't the sex, but the deep connection and companionship with her husband. She wants the same for her lesbian daughter, and spoke to the power of formal recognition for these deep, personal commitments. Her honesty, humor, and humility, qualities too rarely in evidence in state politics, were an example of the power of a citizen legislator wearing her heart and humanity on her sleeve. Bravo.
It was a timely good reminder, too, of what Valentine's Day is all about.
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