Mr. Xi comes to
This week's Washington foreign-policy agenda was dominated
visit of Chinese Vice President Xi
Jinping, the country's presumptive next leader. Xi's meeting with U.S.
President Barack Obama was fairly
cordial, but it fell to his direct counterpart -- Vice President Joe Biden -- to register a few
complaints about China's trade practices and human rights record. "As
Americans, we welcome competition," Biden said. "But cooperation, as you and I
have spoken about, can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair."
Mitt Romney took aim at the administration's China policy in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week,
saying that the president had come into office as a "near supplicant to
Beijing" and had since "demurred from raising issues of human rights for fear
it would compromise agreement on the global economic crisis or even ‘the global
climate-change crisis.' Such weakness has only encouraged Chinese assertiveness
and made our allies question our staying power in East Asia." Romney promised
to label China a currency manipulator on "day one of my presidency."
Onetime candidate Jon
Huntsman, a former ambassador to China who now has endorsed Romney, addressed
the anti-China rhetoric that has appeared in both the presidential race and
congressional races throughout the country. "It's much easier to talk
about China in terms of the fear factor than the opportunity factor,"
Huntsman told MSNBC." When it comes to China, I think it's wrongheaded when you
talk about slapping a tariff on Day One. That pushes aside the reality, the
complexity of the relationship."
Motor City Mayhem
The next primaries will take place on Feb. 28 in Arizona and
Michigan. The Wolverine State is considered home turf for Romney -- he was born
in Detroit, his father was a popular governor, and Mitt won big over John
McCain there in 2008 -- but the Michigan native trails
Rick Santorum by 9 points in the current
RealClearPolitics poll average.
Romney has defended
his opposition to the Obama administration's auto industry bailouts -- a
somewhat controversial position during a week when General Motors reported
record profits. Romney has emphasized his deep
roots in the state and nostalgia for the days of U.S. auto dominance, telling
a crowd, "I love cars. I grew up totally in love with cars. It used to be,
in the '50s and '60s, if you showed me 1 square foot of almost any part of the
car, I could tell you what brand it was -- the model and so forth.... Now, with
all the Japanese cars, I'm not quite so good at it. But I still know American
cars pretty well." (Never mind that the candidate drives a Canadian-made
Chrysler in a new ad.)
Santorum, meanwhile, has promised
to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector by giving tax incentives to
companies that move production back from overseas and cutting away at Obama-era
Meanwhile, Romney still leads Santorum in Arizona, but the
narrowing, despite the fact that the former Pennsylvania senator has
virtually no ground organization in the state. The Arizona contest may push the
to the right on immigration, after some more conciliatory rhetoric in
Florida. Romney has been touting
the support of Kris Kobach, the
attorney and Kansas secretary of state who played a critical role in drafting
Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration law.
Arizona has gone Republican in every presidential election
but one since 1952, but Democrats may be hoping that the state will be in play
in the fall, thanks to a backlash from the state's growing Hispanic population.
Senior Obama campaign advisor David
Axelrod has visited the state in recent months and the Democratic National
Committee has begun running ads targeting Latino voters.
An Iranian attack on North Dakota?
Santorum's longtime fixation on the threat posed by Iran's
nuclear ambitions has been well-documented.
But the rhetoric reached a new level this week when the candidate warned
an audience in North Dakota that they might be a potential target for
Iranian-sponsored terrorism. "Folks, you've got energy here. They're going
to bother you. They'll bother you, because you are a very key and strategic
resource for this country," he said. "No one is safe. No one is safe
from asymmetric threats of terrorism.... That's what Iran will be all about
unless we stop them from getting that nuclear weapon."
As the National Review pointed out, Santorum's security concerns have dampened his enthusiasm for building a massive new oil pipeline through the state.
Adelson re-ups on Gingrich
Onetime frontrunner Newt
Gingrich is sitting out the current contests in Michigan and Arizona, focusing
on the ten March 6 "Super Tuesday" primaries, which include his home state
of Georgia. Gingrich spent the majority of this week fundraising
Gingrich's slumping campaign may get a significant shot in
the arm with news that billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson -- his principal financier -- will give an
additional $10 million to the Super PAC backing Gingrich. Adelson, known for his hawkish
views on Israel and opposition to a Palestinian state, has given $11
million so far to the "Winning the Future" Super PAC.
What to watch for
Last week's Maine caucus may
not actually be over yet. Romney was declared the winner -- by less than
200 votes over Ron Paul -- on Saturday,
Feb. 11. despite the fact that one county had delayed its caucus due to weather
and numerous irregularities were reported at other stations. The state GOP has
announced that it will release a new vote total in March -- after Super
Tuesday. Maine is a small state and its caucus is what's known as a "beauty
contest" (it doesn't actually award any delegates), but it won't do wonders for
the credibility of the early caucus system, if yet another victory -- remember
Iowa? -- is posthumously taken away from Romney.
Evidently, the candidates seem to have tired of debates. A
planned CNN debate scheduled for March 1 in Georgia has
been canceled after Romney and Paul declined to participate.
On the Election Channel
Uri Friedman looks
at a new poll that shows a majority of Americans support the use of force
to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Scott Clement says
despite the recent dust-up over contraceptive-covering insurance, religion may
not actually matter that much to voters.
Daniel Drezner says
Romney's China policy "reads like it was composed
by the Hulk."
Stephen Walt says
should vote for Obama.
Michael A. Cohen looks
at why, with Obama in office, liberals came to support the secret
war on terror.
Scott Olson/Getty Images