Robo Romney is the big winner this week. His GOP opponents fizzled one by one, the most formidable being Rick Santorum who this week surrendered at Gettysburg in the state of Pennsylvania, appropriate for a Republican primary season that seemed to be re-fighting the Civil War, though on the wrong side.
The presumptive nominee then was given a further boost by a Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen who appeared, as if on cue, to make a stupid statement about Ann Romney, saying the wealthy housewife never worked a day in her life, which, as anyone who had owned two Cadillacs and thoroughbred horses and whose sport of choice is the poor girl's pastime of dressage knows, is simply not true. Still, it fueled cable TV outrage and allowed Romney to surround himself with an army of homemakers and lead them as reinforcements into the "War on Women." How bad was it? Bad enough that the vice president, an expert on making the outrageous statement himself, tried to distance the administration from the remarks by call them "outrageous."
The reason it matters is that Romney needs a boost to win the women's vote, in which he trails by some 19 percent (he leads among men by about half that). Which goes to show that the 2012 presidential campaign is now about voters from Mars, Venus, and if you include the still-hasn't-dropped-out Newt Gingrich, the Moon.
President Obama countered by surrounding himself with millionaires and their secretaries — and garnering the avid support of Washington state's mom in tennis shoes, Sen. Patty Murray, to back the so-called Buffet rule, which would seek to make millionaires pay the same tax rate as the help. Some say the proposal is purely symbolic political pandering, but it resonates at income tax time (you have until April 17). If you're going to have to write a big check to the IRS this year, it helps to know that someone else is having to write a bigger one.
It's a good issue for the Democrats, but on balance the president is a loser this week because the best thing for his approval ratings besides a slowly improving economy? The GOP primary campaign and Santorum's yanking the debate to the far, far right. Romney's already shaking his Etch-a-Sketch.
Locally, the big winners are Washingtonians, whose legislature finally brokered a budget deal that wasn't too hideous. Democrats kept education and the social safety net from being slashed further, and a public works project was passed. The GOP got to get its fingerprints on the budget for once, leveraging some longer-term reforms (like reducing payments to future state employees who retire early). Fans of roll-your-own tobacco will pay more tax, so will out-of-state banks.
On the downside, the borrowing for public capital projects generates jobs, but also debt; it's hard to see how the voter-approved increases in education spending, now repealed, will ever come to pass; and not enough tax-breaks for special interests were repealed. Still, the citizen legislature has gone home having made an argument for itself: Would full-time legislators ever have had an incentive to pass a budget?
Others winners and losers of the week:
Winner: The people win because a charge has finally been filed in the Trayvon Martin murder case. George Zimmerman is in custody, the rhetoric and hype is ramping down (for now), and the wheels of justice, one hopes, are turning.
Retro Politics of the Week Award: GOP Congressman Allen West who channeled Sen. Joseph McCarthy when he claimed that about 80 members of the House were card-carrying members of the Communist Party. Former P-I political cartoonist Dave Horsey immediately weighed in with his critique, writing that West "went on to identify them as the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group within the Democratic caucus that wants to end corporate welfare for oil, gas and coal companies, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, expedite an end to the war in Afghanistan and eliminate tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans while extending tax relief for the middle class. Now, that may not sound like communism to you, but to West, such scary ideas apparently reek of Bolshevism. (Note to Rep. West: solid majorities of voters tell pollsters they support every one of those proposals -- the commies have already won!)"
Retro runner up: The Seattle Times for this headline on a Bruce Ramsey column: "The red envelope: capitalistic health care in Red China." Red China? Must have been a Cold War baby that wrote that one.
Loser: GOP Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley for calling the president "stupid" in a Tweet that reads like it was written by a Hooked on Phonics dropout: "Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law."
Winner: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina for reminding everyone that "Mitt" rhymes with "hypocrite" when Harvard grad Romney criticizes Obama as being a member of the Harvard elite.
Winner: Amazon, which was apparently the victim of a plot to be "screwed" by someone other than The Seattle Times' Dave Boardman. In this case, it's Amazon's competitors who apparently spent vast amounts of time in pricey restaurants complaining about Amazon's pricing policies for e-books, and now stand accused in a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit of price-fixing. If the government wins the suit, it's is bad news for backrooms in pricey restaurants everywhere.
Winner: Northwest novelist Jim Lynch who has received positive reviews for his new book out this week, Truth Like the Sun, which looks at (and imagines) the Seattle politics of 1962 and 2001, and asks whether or not our 21st century dreams were built on bribes. It's a rare time when Seattle politics is the stuff of a review in The New York Times.