Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mitt Nicks Rick In Mich Mish-Mosh: Four Head to O-HI-O!

Mitt May Win Right To Lose Michigan in the Fall!
Democrats, Pro-Vomit Vote Not Enough For Santorum!
Arizona Goes Romney! Border Remains Calm!

Mitt Romney did almost enough to dispel any lingering doubts that he will be the Republican Party's nominee for president by defeating Rick Santorum in the all-important Michigan primary yesterday.  Romney crossed the 40% threshold but failed to defeat his chief rival by more than 10%, which would have ended any debate about Romney's being the GOP standard-bearer. Still, a win is a win, and now the field moves on to Super Tuesday where there is now even a doubt that Newt can win his home state of Georgia.

How did I do with my predictions? Let's check.

For Arizona:
                     Prediction                Actual
Romney          43%                         47.3%
Santorum        30%                         26.6%
Gingrich          18%                         16.2%
Paul                  8%                           8.4%

For Michigan:

Romney          39%                          41.1%                   
Santorum        37%                          37.9%
Paul                12%                          11.6%  
Gingrich          10%                           6.5%

All told, not too bad.

So now it's on to Tuesday Grande, where the big prize will be Ohio and the attack ads will come fast and furious. It's difficult to fathom what else Mitt and Rick could say that could be any more outrageous than their embarrassing forays into trees, bodily functions, automobile choices, anti-intellectual diatribes and invocations of Satan/Obama (really, have you ever seen them in the same room together?) Interesting.

For more, please visit and Twitter @rigrundfest  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Polling Report: Special Michigan and Arizona Edition

This week's report begins with a question:

What would you call a candidate who LOST the following primaries: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, California, Florida and Michigan?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Teachers, Taxes, Tying the Knot: Christie Throws the 2016 Dice

What's the modern governor to do? You're a star on the national media circuit, you're doing your best attack dog act for Mitt Romney, and you want to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016 (because deep down you know that Romney's a loser). You've outwitted those pesky Democrats, especially Steve Sweeney (as New Jersey's own Cliff Barnes) and you need some winning issues.

Eureka! Marriage equality, tax cuts, and the New Jersey Education Association.

The veto of the marriage equality bill was nothing more than a sop to the right wing for 2016. Even Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein acknowledged that, after Christie's action, when he said:

That doesn't obviate the pain of the Governor's veto.  Because I do know him, I also know he is not some anti-LGBT nut. He is no Rick Santorum. Frankly, I don't think Chris Christie has an anti-gay bone in his body, however much I cannot say the same about his impending veto. His veto will be a brutally anti-gay act, pure and simple.

So if he's not anti-gay, why else would he veto a bill that has the support of the people through their representatives (because we do live in a republic, you know)? And why else would he call for a referendum, even though the people have spoken through their representatives (there's that pesky republic thing again. You'd think a Republican would acknowledge that)? As for his promise to appoint an ombudsman to make sure that gay couples who've had a civil union get equal protection, why would a small government conservative want to add another layer of bureaucracy? And if hospitals and government officials won't recognize civil unions, would they tremble at the thought of an ombudsman (ombudsperson)? I think not.

Likewise, the 10% tax cut that the governor proposed in his budget is also chum for the right wing sharks. I'm sure Christie saw what happened when Rick Santorum admitted voting for the No Child Left Behind Act in Wednesday's GOP debate and the continued flaying of Mitt Romney, whose health care plan had the audacity to cover uninsured people in Massachusetts who, get this!, wanted to see doctors and get healthy (snort. Sorry).

Desperate to avoid those catastrophes, the governor wants to bestow between $80.50 ($50,000 income) and $275 ($100,000 income) dollars after three years on New Jersey's beleaguered taxpayers as a reward for voting for him. Never mind that most New Jerseyans want a cut in their property taxes. That would be too expensive. But the governor does have an ally in ignorance, as most of those polled expected their tax cut to be around $746. By the time they figure out the ruse, Christie will be in Iowa.

When all else fails, though, the governor can always cart out the NJEA, accuse it of some heinous misdeed and convince a few people that the suburban school they send their child to would be much better if teachers had their pay and benefits cut and their job security determined by whether their child had eaten a good breakfast so they perform well on the standardized test.

The diversion this time was Christie's response to the remark made by NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano and the aftermath, which included GOP-backed operatives staking out NJEA headquarters with cameras, hoping to find Giordano making some rich person-type gaffe.

The real issue, which will bubble to the top this spring, is how to evaluate teachers. Christie refuses to involve educators in this discussion and says that he wants merit pay, an end to negotiated sick day rules and expanded power for principals to determine which teachers keep their jobs and which do not.

Never mind that expanded standardized testing will destroy the collegial, creative character of public schools.

Never mind that testing will overwhelm the curriculum and be an end unto itself as technology makes it easier to administer these exams.

Never mind that merit pay as both a motivator and evaluation outcome can be summed up in three distinct words: It doesn't work.

Never mind that giving principals the power to hire and fire with little oversight, even from superintendents, is one of the worst ideas to come sauntering down the pike since Wall Street developed securities based on unsustainable mortgages.

Ask any 10 teachers if this is a good idea. They'll only answer you under two conditions: they already have tenure AND they're 100% sure that this proposal will go nowhere. Otherwise, don't be offended by their silence or the tight smile and the "doesn't matter to me" lie they'll tell you.

What can we gather from Christie's actions over the past few months? That the road to 2016 does indeed run through Trenton, and the reason he's started so early is that there's always traffic or an accident or potholes to slow down even the most determined driver. This governor, though, will not be deterred. He's laid out an agenda sure to please enough conservatives that he's safe to nominate four years from now.

Meanwhile, New Jersey's citizens will continue to have high property taxes, its teachers will be guinea pigs in an experiment based on faulty data and the whims of administrators, and an entire class of people will be denied equality and civil rights.

The payout is between $80 and $275 dollars. The cost is enormous.

For more, please visit and Twitter @rigrundfest

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love Is Natural, Hatred Is Learned

Two alcoholic heterosexuals get married. They produce a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. This marriage has the blessings of both state and church. Two men or two women who want to marry each other, who are upstanding members of their communities and have adopted and raised productive children, are prohibited in most states and allowed civil unions, which are inferior to marriage in fact and in law, in a few.

This is equality under the law?

Marriage equality will be the law of the land sometime in the future but, for most gays and lesbians, justice delayed is justice denied. How can this be? How can a country that promises freedom and civil rights for all of its citizens continue to deny basic rights to a sizable group?

Opponents say that being gay is unnatural and that there's something inherently wrong with loving someone of the same gender. That's exactly wrong. Love is one of the most natural processes humans have. You don't even have to think about it. It just happens from the time we're born and lasts throughout our life.

Hatred and discrimination, on the other hand, are unnatural. We need to remember that people are not born anti-gay. Discrimination and hatred are learned behaviors and most children learn them from the very adults who claim to be fair, just and responsible. And why are these adults anti-gay? Some are frightened or threatened or jealous or ignorant or all of the above. Some use a rigid cultural definition of what constitutes a family. Some are offended by how other people show their love. Some use a deity as a weapon to threaten and marginalize.

The religious argument strikes me as utter hypocrisy. How can we love the sinner but hate the sin? Isn't that attitude responsible for sanctioned discrimination and actions against homosexuals? The same goes for the social argument that the right wing peddles. How can the party that lives on freedom and keeping the government out of our lives continue to preach that government should deny marriage equality? Both groups have made the claim that allowing gays to marry would damage heterosexual marriage. In fact, the opposite is true. Marriage has been shown to make families more stable and productive, strengthens commitments to social values, and provides for economic expansion as people make purchases for different stages of life. Gender preference has nothing to do with how we love our family members or how firmly we commit to them.

The more compelling democratic argument is that every adult should be able to marry the person they love, adopt children and be protected by all laws and rights that all other adults have, including economic rights and privileges.  A federal court decision on Wednesday used an employment benefits case to determine that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White was unambiguous in its defense of liberty and equality:

"The imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority upon a minority cannot provide a justification for the legislation. The obligation of the Court is 'to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code,'" White wrote. "Tradition alone, however, cannot form an adequate justification for a law....The 'ancient lineage” of a classification does not render it legitimate....Instead, the government must have an interest separate and apart from the fact of tradition itself."

 On February 7th, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that:

“Proposition 8 (which denied homosexuals the right to marry) served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California."

These courts have it exactly right. Denying citizens their full rights because of who they love is utter nonsense. The history of the United States shows us to be a country of inclusive rights. To have candidates for the highest office in the land proudly proclaim their preference for discrimination, hatred and disdain is obnoxious, offensive and backwards. Marriage equality is on its way. Let's make it sooner rather than later.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Get The Hell Off The Beach: The GOP Tsunami Heads Towards Shore

Last week I wrote that the conservative movement would crash this year because of internal disagreements and the inability of one candidate to unify the Republican Party's fractious components.

Then I waited to see what the next few days would bring. They were uglier than I could have imagined.

Mitt Romney came out against the rescue of GM, even though the auto giant reported record profits and a sustained increase in hiring. Not to be outdone, Rick Santorum expressed the same sentiments, which makes Romney's stance even more vexing because Mitt's supposed to be the business savvy candidate with a keen eye for profits and efficiency. That they both agree with each other shows just how out of touch the GOP is. What sense does it make to oppose a policy that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, revived the tax base of scores of towns, and forestalled what might have been an even worse mortgage and foreclosure crisis in Michigan and Ohio, among other states? Being anti-Obama is one thing. Being pro-ignorant of consequences is quite another.

On the contraception front, both men made sure that they offended a wide swath of the electorate, starting with Santorum backer Foster Friess's comments about gals using aspirin between their knees as a reliable form of birth control. We also found out that Santorum views contraception as harmful to women. The uproar was so great over this issue that Mitt Romney was forced to veer away from his economic message and attack President Obama as waging a war on religion. As it turns out, the Republicans are waging a war on reason as poll after poll showed that most Americans and most Catholics supported the president's policy.

I understand the religious objection and think that the Obama administration could have managed the issue more delicately than they did, but in catering to the most base of their base with appeals to hatred, war, and sexism, Romney and Santorum showed that the far right demands absolute fealty to their cause. Discussion and debate is not an option.

Marriage equality was also in the news this week and the GOP was on the wrong end of that debate as well. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie vetoed a legislature-backed bill to grant equality under the law to all citizens and called for a referendum on a constitutional right. His veto will be overturned by the deadline in 2014. Bank on it. In Maryland, the marriage equality bill will be signed by the Governor, but will probably be on the ballot this November. Opposition by African-American churches make passage difficult to gauge. Washington State also saw a bill pass, but opponents have vowed to delay or stop it.

The short term prospects for these bills might be cloudy, but the sun will shine on marriage equality simply because it's the right thing to do and the demographics support eventual passage of these laws in a number of states. Younger people support marriage equality (even Republicans) in far greater numbers than their older counterparts, a trend that began last year. Since death of the older generation is inevitable, so is marriage equality.

And there's more. Santorum also questioned the President's religious beliefs and Romney has had to protect his right flank against accusations that he's not conservative enough. With the economy beginning to grow the GOP has to bank on things getting worse. Their new line of attack is high gas prices. Wasn't that George Bush's fault in 2008? No? Then how can it be Obama's in 2012? Anybody hear of supply and demand? Anybody?

It seems as though the Republican candidates we have this year will be the ones remembered for the "Fall of Rome" for their party. They are too extreme, too conservative and on the wrong side of the generational issues. They talk about progress while making sure that we regress into a less tolerant past that they've convinced themselves was rosy. It's one that blamed women who were sexually active and slammed the closet door on gays and lesbians. It was intolerant of those who decided they didn't want to be religious. We're not going back to that time.

We're moving forward.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Conservative Wave Is Cresting: Next Comes the Crash

If you listen carefully, you can hear it gathering momentum, foam, vitriol, recrimination and self-serving hypocrisy. It's the conservative wave roaring towards the beach, cresting and ready to crash. The 2012 election will be the beginning of the end for the far-right conservatives and, like the liberals who didn't see their wave tumble in 1984, will likely lead to an even uglier aftermath. Republicans are angry now: Imagine what will happen if they lose another presidential election this year (and they will), especially if they're able to hold on to the House and take back the Senate. So close, yet so far.

The conservative Republican era that began in 1980 and tilted the country to the right had a good run if you supported the cause, but it was never able to achieve its stated goals of severely scaling back government, ending the New Deal and Great Society programs, overturning Roe v. Wade, and ending the progressive tax structure (though they've come pretty close with this one). They built up the military and got a Democratic president to end welfare, passed a too-expensive Medicare prescription plan and raised taxes enough to begin to pay off the deficit, though that cost George H. W. Bush his reelection.

The era lasted because Ronald Reagan and both Bushes were able to tame the party's conflicting passions. Reagan galvanized the economic old guard GOP while paying lip service to the religious conservatives led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Reagan was never a religious person but he talked the talk well enough to keep the support of Christian conservatives, and really, where else were they going to go? That he was able to raise taxes, reform Social Security and work with liberal Democrats speaks to his political skills. The Bushes had a mixed record with the party's disparate groups. George H.W. inherited Reagan's mantle, but he was considered suspect on abortion. W. was more conservative, but still did not fight all that hard for the religious agenda.

Of course, the damage that all three presidents did with their hostility to government, marginalization of gays and women, and their Supreme Court choices will endure for many years.

The more recent history of the movement shows most conclusively that it is indeed on its wheezing last breath. The public still sees the Republican Party as the architect of the economic disaster of 2008, and as the economy improves President Obama will get the lion's share of the rewards. More people support marriage equality than oppose it and the recent flap over contraception shows that the GOP is out of touch with the way that most Americans, especially women, view both the birth control and religious issues.

That brings us to why this is the beginning of the end.

The far right wing of the Republican Party is driving the party's agenda and there's not one candidate who's shown they can corral the competing factions. Conservative reaction to Mitt Romney ranges from suspect to hostile and none of the other candidates can claim the right's support. Yet. That might change as Rick Santorum showed in winning three non-binding primaries this week.

If anything, the nomination battle has proven that the movement has splintered along economic, social and religious lines. Many of the proposals we've heard are meant to appeal to the far fringe Tea Party wing of the party (Ron Paul) or to the religious conservatives (Santorum and Gingrich). Romney's attempts to appeal to the center while throwing the right some scraps on abortion and taxes have so far fallen short of gaining wide acceptance. None of the candidates would take the deal that offered $10 in budget cuts for $1 in tax increases. Some in the party still question President Obama's citizenship and religion, and the candidates accuse him of the most outlandish things: anti-religion, creating a communist state, forsaking Israel, and wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

It's an extreme agenda to say the least, and it will lead to the GOP's crash. History shows that when you lose the middle of your constituency, you lose your mandate to govern. The Republican Party is on that path.

My sense is that this will all be exposed during the general election campaign and, combined with an improving economy, will result in Obama's reelection. The 2010 Congressional elections resulted in redistricting that solidified the Republican's majorities in the House, though Tea Party seats are certainly up for grabs in many districts, and the Democrats have to defend too many Senate seats to count on continued control of that chamber. Conservatives will still hold sway on many issues, but the wave is over. The United States won't become more liberal, but it will become less conservative and less extreme. Most Republicans probably don't see this trend coming, and it's already too late to stop it.

For more, go to and Twitter @rigrundfest

Thursday, February 9, 2012


As a politician, we always assumed that Chris Christie had to have some hypocrisy in his blood. After all, he promised not to touch teacher's pensions when he was running for Governor and we know how that promise turned out. He also said that he would use his prosecutorial skills to ferret out corruption in New Jersey, but that seems to be off the table as well.

Now comes word that the Governor is four-square behind a referendum on marriage equality in the state, but dead set against citizens voting on whether they want charter schools in their districts. Bob Braun's article this week highlights Christie's double vision, and an equal dose of doublespeak on the legislature's part, with a sharp razor's edge:

The contradiction — hypocrisy? — was set up nicely the other day when Assembly committees acted on the two issues. The Assembly Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, released a gay marriage bill; the Assembly Education Committee, also on a party-line vote, approved a bill allowing local voters to decide whether they want to pay for charter schools in their communities.

In the Judiciary Committee, the Republicans were for referendum and the Democrats were not. In the Education Committee, the opposite was true.

While the panels were meeting, Christie was at a town hall meeting and he repeated his insistence that same-sex marriage go to a referendum. "The fact is, they don’t trust the people of New Jersey to decide," he said.

He made the comment at a charter school — and the governor has repeatedly said he would veto any bill allowing referendums on charter schools. 

Nicely done, Bob.

But it doesn't stop there. Christie the unalloyed conservative is now trying to recast himself as something of a moderate, figuring, correctly in my view, that the conservative movement will see a massive flame-out this year and recede from the Republican Party leading up to the 2016 election (assuming that Mitt Romney loses in November. Which he will.). This piece by Charles Stile has all the details. By calling for a referendum on marriage equality, Christie doesn't have to veto a bill that would alienate gays. By signing a 10% income tax cut, he can play to the economic conservatives without bankrupting the state. And he can blame the Democratic majority if the plan is shelved.

How is this working out? Not bad according to this poll, but there are problems. Almost half of the respondents think Christie is concerning himself too much with his own political future, so he'll have to run softer and maybe give up the dream of becoming Vice-President under Romney.

And just yesterday, the good guv'nor picked another fight with the New Jersey Education Association over comments NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano made over the effects of school vouchers on urban public schools. Said Christie:

"As Vince drives out of the palace on State Street in his big luxury car and his $500,000 salary, I'm sure life's really fair for him and if Vince's kids were in a failing school district he could afford to send them to any school in New Jersey that could help them succeed."

Never mind that NJEA headquarters is hardly a palace or what Giordano's salary is. Christie and his family are plenty wealthy, live in a fairly exclusive suburb, and the Governor sends his children to one of the priciest private schools in the state. There's something seriously wrong with calling out someone whose work supports the very teachers that Christie has been vilifying for his entire, um, tenure, in office.

As for the real issue, the evidence shows that both vouchers and charters are not the panacea he claims, but both do take public money out of the school systems that Christie blames for not meeting students' and parents' needs. He's robbing the system, then blaming it for being ineffective.

That's Hypochristie

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Campfire After Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri: Santorum Sweeps! Mitt to be Nominee!

And the headlines will be breathless. Rick Santorum hit the trifecta last night winning all three states and setting himself up as the chief conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. Which is like being the first raccoon to cross the Interstate before the semi barrels by going 80 mph, good buddy.

Never mind that no delegates were at stake in any of the states. It's all symbolic for the conservatives as they attempt to pull Romney so far to the right that he'll have to lean just to stand up straight.

In the end, it won't matter. Mitt will be the nominee, but he'll be damaged and forced to say even more things that he doesn't believe in order to mollify the conservatives. The Democrats are trying hard to give him an issue over religious groups forced to cover birth control. I would say this was a winning issue, but somehow, Mitch McConnell lecturing the country about religion and the pill is probably the best thing to happen to reproductive rights in a long time.

That sound you just heard? It's just Tim Pawlenty baying at the moon. Move along citizens.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Polling Report: Special Mitt-Will-Be-the-Nominee-Edition

Since I didn't post a Polling Report for Nevada, my public wanted to know if there was a problem, or if I was indeed in good health. All is well. I've just been saying for a while that Mitt will be the nominee in posts both recent and past, and there aren't too many other ways to say it. Well, I did say it in December, but that's the last time I'm going to remind anyone. The upshot is that I will continue to write feverishly about the campaign, but not on a primary-by-primary basis. Unless Mitt gets upset. Which he won't.

So for Nevada, I'm going to invoke the possibly unconstitutional religious-but-maybe-I-don't-have-to-be-religious excuse. Romney won the caucus. 'Nuff said.

As for Tuesday's contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, the tune hasn't changed. I expect that Romney will win two out of three solidly, with a possible loss in Minnesota to Santorum, who is ahead in the latest polls  and might be seeing his last bump as the conservative alternative to Gingrich.  I'll even go out on a limb and say that Romney will sweep them all. And he'll keep on winning, but maybe not in Georgia because that's Newt's home state, and he'll be the Republican nominee.

Then Barack Obama will beat him like a linty rug in November.

You might not have heard that here first, but I'm sure you've heard the linty rug thing here first.

For more clever metaphors, go to and Twitter @rigrundfest

Monday, February 6, 2012

Presidential Polling Report: February 6, 2012

After a month of Republican primaries, the presidential race has come into sharper focus as Mitt Romney seems to have locked down the Republican nomination, and the economy seems to be improving, which is helping President Obama in most public opinion polls. There are nine months to go before the election and probably over a billion dollars in advertisements to be spent by deep-pocketed corporations and wealthy donors. The football season ended last night with a great Giants' win.

Are you ready for the campaign?

Obama Job Approval

The latest RealClearPolitics Index of Obama's approval numbers is here. His approval numbers have dropped slightly from 47.2% to 46.6% but his disapproval numbers also went down from 47.8% to 47.6%. The story, though, is that in every major poll in the index, the President's approval numbers since January 17 are all 46% and above. This is a marked contrast to two and three months ago when his numbers were around 44%.

For those of you who want to delve into the numbers, here's the breakdown for the USA Today/Gallup Poll, and a day-by-day of the Gallup tracking poll. Both links are from

Head-To-Head Match-ups

We could pretend that since Romney doesn't have the number of delegates to actually claim the GOP nomination, that the nomination is still up for grabs, but really, what's the point? The key polls from this point forward will be between Mitt and Obama. The latest polls are here, and they show Obama with a 2 point overall lead. There's only one poll in the index taken since Romney's quip about not caring about the very poor, and none since the improved jobs numbers were released this past Friday, so I expect Obama to have improved numbers as we move further into February. Romney will also benefit as more Republicans coalesce around his presumed candidacy and Donald Trump keeps his mouth shut.

The Ballots

There have been some changes to the Electoral College map, taking into account new state polling.  Iowa and Nevada were subtracted from Obama's column, and New Hampshire was added, then taken away from the GOP's. The new result is that Obama is now leading in states with 217 electoral votes and the Republican is favored in states with 191. Of course, Florida and Ohio are the big prizes. The latest polling in the Buckeye State shows Obama with a 7 point lead. In a bit of surprising good news for Obama, he's tied with Romney in Missouri. Republicans must win this state if they are to have any chance in November. Then again, Obama will need to overcome some steep obstacles on his road to another term.

The Congressional Ballot also shows an improvement for the Democrats, as they lead it by 2.5%.
Whether this means they can take the House in November is a different story. That Republicans have added 10 members to their protection list is cause for Democratic optimism.

If the economy continues to improve, it will be more difficult for Mitt Romney to make the case that the country needs new leadership. Many independent voters who backed Obama in 2008 will never come back to him, and he'll need to lean on smaller margins in the swing states in order to win in November.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sunshine State Recap: Mitt Wins and Loses

At least it was quick and fairly painless. Not for Newt, but for the rest of us who need to move on to something important like Friday's jobs numbers or the Super Bowl. The bad news was the negative tone of both the debates and the ads that Romney and Gingrich ran.

How'd I do? Again, not bad.

               Prediction       Actual
Romney    43%              46.4%
Gingrich    31%              31.9%
Santorum  14%              13.4%
Paul          11%                7.0%

I thought Paul would do better, but at this point we're beyond the possible phase of the race and have entered the Nomination Zone. Boutique candidates need not apply.

The other issue is this continued talk of the motivated Republican voter. Florida GOP officials had said that they were looking for north of 2 million primary voters, and it looks a s though they fell a bit short. So much for the enthusiasm gap. Democrats are becoming more energized and could match Republican participation in the fall.

Newt says he's staying in the race. We'll see. Will conservatives flock to Santorum as the conservative du jour? I'm thinking not. Mitt is in a commanding position and will be the nominee. The rest of the campaign will measure how much he's been damaged by the infighting and how much that will affect his chances against Obama.

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