The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Romney pulls away
Super Tuesday shakeout Mitt Romney solidified his front-runner status in the all-important Super Tuesday contests this week, narrowly eking out a crucial win in Ohio, as well as Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, his home state of Massachusetts, and Virginia — where Ron Paul was the only other candidate on the ballot. Rick Santorum took North Dakota, ...
Super Tuesday shakeout
Mitt Romney solidified his front-runner status in the all-important Super Tuesday contests this week, narrowly eking out a crucial win in Ohio, as well as Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, his home state of Massachusetts, and Virginia — where Ron Paul was the only other candidate on the ballot. Rick Santorum took North Dakota, Idaho, and Tennessee, while Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia. Despite a near-tie in Ohio, Romney will take nearly all of the state’s delegates because of the Santorum campaign’s failure to meet the state’s eligibility requirements months ago. Despite the lack of a clear referendum backing Romney, there now appears to be little chance of any other candidate closing the delegate gap.
The GOP candidates took the opportunity at this week’s meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to again attack President Barack Obama‘s stance on Israel. "The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause. It has emboldened the Palestinians…. As president, I will treat our allies and friends like friends and allies," Romney said.
"As I’ve sat and watched this play out on the world stage, I have seen a president who has been reticent," said Santorum. "He says he has Israel’s back; from everything I’ve seen from the conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of Israel,"
Santorum was referring to Obama’s earlier speech to AIPAC on Sunday, during which he said, "There should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back." Speaking shortly before a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said, "When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say."
Gingrich, for his part, seemed a bit unprepared for his speech. Video released by ABC News showed him nodding off slightly before he was due to deliver his remarks by satellite. He also seemed to be under the impression he was participating in a panel discussion rather than giving a speech.
As usual, Iran was the major foreign-policy topic of discussion on the campaign trail this week. In a Washington Post op-ed published on Monday, Romney compared Obama’s handling of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program to Jimmy Carter‘s failure to secure the release of U.S. hostages in 1979. Romney pledged to "take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom."
At a White House press conference the following day, Obama rebuked his critics in the GOP field and in Congress for their hawkish rhetoric on Iran. "This is not a game," he added. "And there’s nothing casual about it…. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so, and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be."
A Sarkozy endorsement?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently locked in his own tough election battle, seemed to endorse Obama’s reelection effort during a speech on Mideast policy this week. "President Obama, who is a very great president, won’t take the initiative [on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations] before he’s re-elected — and I hope he will be — but there’s a place for France and a place for Europe," Sarkozy said.
World leaders generally refrain from publicly taking sides in other countries’ elections, though the practice has recently become more common in Europe.
What to watch for:
The week ahead could be a tough one for the Romney campaign with contests in Kansas on Saturday, and Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, all of which are friendly territory for Santorum. While victories for the former Pennsylvania senator wouldn’t change the delegate math much, they would add to concerns about Romney’s ability to rally southern and socially conservative voters.
Leaving nothing to chance, Romney has even dispatched his son Matt to visit the Pacific territories of Guam and Northern Mariana, which also hold primaries this weekend.
The latest from FP:
Ruy Teixeira says the real winner of Super Tuesday was Obama.
Uri Friedman finds six international newspaper columnists who actually like Romney.
Michael Cohen argues that the GOP candidates are mischaracterizing Ronald Reagan‘s foreign policy.
Tom Ricks thinks Romney has effectively endorsed Obama’s Iran policy.
Josh Rogin reports on Sen. John Kerry’s response to Romney’s Iran op-ed.
Joshua Keating looks at presidential "first trip" etiquette.
Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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