Romney pulls away
Mitt Romney decisively
won Florida's primacy on Tuesday with 46 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich came in second with a
disappointing 32 percent. Trailing far behind were Rick Santorum with 13 percent and Ron Paul with 7 percent. But Gingrich in a concession speech that
often felt more like a victory speech, vowed to continue fighting in what he
described as a "two-person race" between himself and the "Massachusetts
moderate." Santorum and Paul are also staying in the hunt.
Several of the foreign-policy issues that had been billed as
potential game changers this season appeared not to be major factors in
Florida. Candidates have been highly vocal on Israel in hopes of peeling Jewish
votes away from President Barack Obama, who
has publicly clashed with the Israeli government on several occasions. But if a
significant number of Jews are changing their voter registration to Republican,
they've been quiet so far. Poll analyst Nate Silver of the New York Times noted that only
1 percent of the voters in this year's Florida primary identified as Jewish, down
from 3 percent in 2008.
Despite the heavy emphasis on immigration reform in campaign
few Florida voters called undocumented immigrants their top concern. Romney,
who has been somewhat more hawkish than other candidates on the topic of
immigration, took a majority of the Latino vote -- as well as nearly six of ten
But things haven't been going quite so well for Romney since
his sweeping victory in Florida. He has been heavily
criticized for remarks on Wednesday morning that he is "not concerned about
the very poor" in a CNN interview. The candidate says he misspoke, but a highly publicized
endorsement from Donald Trump on Thursday may not have been the best way to
combat the perception that he's out of touch with economically struggling
Politics of the
Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta surprised many by saying that the United States hopes
to end its combat mission in Afghanistan by mid-2013, up to 18 months
sooner than expected. The Romney campaign was quick
to pounce, with the candidate calling the administration's plans "naïve"
"Why in the world do you go to the people that you're
fighting with and tell them the date you're pulling out your troops?" Romney
said at a campaign stop in Las Vegas. "It makes absolutely no sense." Perhaps
banking on low public support for continuing the war, Obama's press secretary Jay Carney countered Romney's
criticism, saying troops "will not stay in Afghanistan any longer than is
necessary to accomplish that mission."
The GOP front-runner has consistently criticized the
administration's withdrawal plans, though earlier this year Romney himself announced his
intention to "bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can."
The Iran factor
This week saw another
round of speculation in Washington over whether Israel
will attack Iran's nuclear facilities. According to the Washington Post's David Ignatius, Panetta
believes there is a strong likelihood Israel will attack Iran this spring or
summer, before Iran enters a "zone of immunity" to commence building a nuclear
Iran is likely to continue to dominate the campaign agenda
with Gingrich warning
recently that "If Iranians get nuclear weapons, they don't have to
fire a missile. They can just drive a boat into Jacksonville. Drive a boat into
New York harbor." Gingrich has
said he would launch a U.S. strike on Iran "only as a last recourse,
and only as a step towards replacing the regime."
Romney has also argued
that "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if
you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon."
Gates says to tone it
Robert Gates, who
served as secretary of defense to both George
W. Bush and Obama, addressed the GOP field in an interview
with CNN on Thursday, warning against overheated campaign rhetoric calling
Obama weak-willed on Iran. "You know
sometimes things get pretty heated in campaigns, but I think the reality is
there is an acknowledgment on people's part around the world that this
president is willing to use military force when our needs require it," he
Gates addressed both sides of the debate over Iran, saying,
"Those who say we shouldn't attack, I think, underestimate the
consequences of Iran having a nuclear weapon.... And those who say we should, underestimate the
consequences of going to war."
What to watch for
Nevada voters will caucus on Saturday with Romney heavily
favored to win. Maine will hold its caucuses throughout the week starting
on Saturday. Colorado and Minnesota will both hold caucuses on Tuesday. The
caucus format could
provide an opening for Paul and Santorum, who both tend to inspire more
enthusiasm in their (admittedly smaller) base of supporters than the two
frontrunners. Paul has been campaigning
heavily in Maine since last week.
The latest from FP
Scott Clement looks
at why Obama shouldn't
expect voters to flock to the polls to reward him for killing Osama bin
Michael Cohen says
the decision to leave Afghanistan early will prove
to be smart politics for the president.
Michael Shifter lays
out the Latin America debate the candidates should
have had in Florida, instead of just bashing Fidel Castro.
Robert Satloff channels
his inner William Safire and explains why presidents should stop
describing U.S. support for Israel as "ironclad."
Joseph Sarkisian asks
whether a vote for Romney is a vote for war
Peter Feaver argues
that it's time for the GOP candidates to stop
attacking each other and offer a sharp critique of Obama's foreign policy.
Josh Rogin reports
on Romney's pledge to defend
Joshua Keating wonders
whether Gingrich's campaign rhetoric will inspire
a new generation to read the works of Saul
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