Ed Kilgore

The conventional wisdom as polls opened in Alabama and Mississippi was that Santorum would likely be the big loser by failing to beat Romney or snuff Gingrich. That scenario made sense: Santorum was not only flagging in the polls, but had a decided financial disadvantage in these two states. (His super PAC trailed Team Romney in media buys by a seven-to-one ratio in Alabama and a five-to-one margin in Mississippi; it also had fewer ads than Gingrich ‘s super PAC). But now Gingrich is toast, whether he immediately accepts it or not, and Romney has failed to seal the deal.

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After just barely pulling out a win in Ohio, Mitt Romney has “won Super Tuesday” by most media accounts. But even with his successes (wins in Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Idaho, and a decent shot in Alaska), you’ll likely hear some people echo a recent claim by Newt Gingrich: that Romney can’t be confident of the nomination if he can’t win anywhere in the South. This concern didn’t suddenly present itself: Mitt’s first real stumble in the race, of course, was in South Carolina, where he got righteously stomped by Newt.

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Mitt Romney—and, for the moment at least, the Republican Party—dodged a bullet tonight as he narrowly won his native state. Of course, it shouldn’t be an afterthought that he also won Arizona by a landslide, capturing all the 29 delegates it’s rewarding this year. The last few days, though, were filled with growing talk in Republican insider-dom that a Romney loss in Michigan would provoke a serious search for a late-entry candidate.

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There was, last week, a brief but thrilling moment in the GOP presidential contest: It seemed like, for the first time, a candidate would be attacked for being, not too liberal, but too far right. Back in the day, that wouldn’t have been too unusual, as when George H.W.

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When the Obama administration announced last month that religiously-affiliated institutions would be required to provide health plans covering contraception, there was widespread talk that a wedge issue was emerging. Several prominent Catholic liberals were quick to point out that Obama would lose the Catholic vote and seriously damage his re-election prospects.

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For all those waiting for the Republican primary to end, you’ll have to wait a bit longer: On Saturday Rick Santorum became the 11th Republican politician to lead a national presidential nomination poll during the 2012 cycle. And not just by a little—the Public Policy Polling survey showed Santorum with a 15-point (38-23) lead over Mitt Romney.

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Another week, another set of primaries—and soon enough, undoubtedly, another cascade of speculations about the prospect of a brokered convention. Predictions of an unpredictable fight-to-the-finish have become an unfortunate refrain—not to say, cliché—of our presidential election campaigns. Enough!

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After last night’s bitter defeat, Newt Gingrich is vowing to stay in the presidential race for a long, long time (“six to eight months” he said in Florida yesterday). Of course, that’s what candidates usually say just before and immediately after bitter defeats (see Jon Huntsman’s “Ticket to Ride” sound bite after finishing a poor third in New Hampshire), even if they have every intention of cutting a deal with a better-positioned candidate and getting off the campaign trail.

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Just when hardcore conservatives had seemed prepared to settle for Mitt Romney to avoid further exposure of intraparty divisions, Newt Gingrich’s unlikely recovery  has brought those divisions sharply and publicly into view. As Politico reported yesterday, conservative elites ranging from Tom Delay to Bob Dole have gone to the media en masse to warn voters of the perils of Newt. The Republican Party has rarely seemed more divided, and at the heart of those divisions is a disconnect between Republican elites and the voting base over the crucial issue of electability.

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After Newt Gingrich’s smashing victory in South Carolina yesterday, here’s my wagering advice: You can still put your money on Mitt, but don’t bet the farm. Not this year. The results for Mitt Romney weren’t pretty.

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