NOT THE BANE OF HIS EXISTENCEBY ROSS DOUTHATNEW YORK TIMESTrue, the Bain controversy may hurt Romney in the general election, at which point Gingrich will be able to claim some measure of vindication. But for now, all he seems to have created is a rally-round-the-frontrunner effect that might otherwise have taken weeks or months for Romney to achieve on his own. ... If he wins the election, Romney owes him an ambassadorship, at the very least. And conservatives wondering how a man they so mistrust could be breezing to the nomination should know exactly whom to blame.
HUNTING? DEAR SIR, DELIGHTED!BY MAUREEN DOWDNEW YORK TIMESWorried that a platform of mere civic duty would not suffice to stir the emotions of voters, Poppy and Mitt waved the flag and demonized opponents with ethnic names as less American. ... Just as the Ivy League Poppy mocked Michael Dukakis for being a member of the “Harvard boutique,” so Harvard grad Romney makes fun of President Obama as an elitist from “the Harvard faculty lounge.” It’s like watching little boys in Topsiders act all gangsta. ... Many conservatives here don’t trust Romney to stay conservative if he becomes president. What if he began to think it’s his civic duty to cut the deficit by raising taxes, like Poppy? What if he flips back from his flops? Who are these guys at their core?A HAND ON IRAN'S SPIGOTBY DAVID IGNATIUSWASHINGTON POSTThe squeeze is already beginning on Iran’s oil exports — and guess which nation quietly reduced its purchases from Tehran this month. Why, that would be China, Iran’s supposed protector. The Chinese cut their imports from Iran roughly in half for January, trimming 285,000 barrels per day from their average last year of about 550,000 barrels per day, according to Nat Kern, the publisher of Foreign Reports, a respected industry newsletter. Iran’s reduced sales to its biggest oil customer resulted from a dispute over payment terms, Kern explains. But it’s an early sign of what may be significant reductions in Iranian exports to Europe and Asia, as buyers there hedge against the likelihood of tighter sanctions... Almost any way you look at it, Iran is likely to have an oil problem in 2012.MITT ROMNEY'S 15%EDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALWhen he recently visited the Journal, Mr. Romney all but said he didn't think he could propose a tax reform with lower rates because he'd be attacked as a rich guy. Well, Governor, you are a rich guy, and with the 15% news, you're going to be attacked anyway. What matters is how you respond. Newt Gingrich jumped on the news yesterday and called it "Mitt Romney's flat tax," in mock homage to the former speaker's proposal for a 15% voluntary flat tax. Team Obama won't be so witty or kind, and it will spend $1 billion assailing the Republican as a morally obtuse fat cat who doesn't understand the problems of average Americans. If Mr. Romney doesn't want to spend the campaign defending his 15% tax rate, he'll get out front and propose a serious tax reform.WHAT WAS THE HUNTSMAN CAMPAIGN'S PROBLEM?BY JAMES RICHARDSONTHE ATLANTICEven as Huntsman rose to double digits in opinion surveys, slogging through the endless coffee klatches of the Granite State, his sober diplomacy proved savorless to red meat-hungry GOPers. All the deeply conservative policy prescriptions Huntsman floated throughout the campaign were camouflaged by his ubiquitous pledges for pragmatism. His unqualified embrace of the Ryan budget, still unmatched today, drew as much attention from primary voters as his jobs proposal, which earned so much praise from legacy conservative outlets. Huntsman's exit from the nominating contest leaves me without a job, but more pressing it leaves Republicans without a statesman earnestly and pragmatically consumed with fixing what ails America.WHAT THE REPUBLICAN 'ESTABLISHMENT' REALLY MEANSBY DAN MCLAUGHLINRED STATEThe term “Establishment” is used and abused, ... but invariably describes only a division of passing significance. The real battle between the Establishment and the Outsiders is between those who urge significant changes in our spending patterns as a necessity to preserve the America we have known, and those who are unwilling to take that step. It is, in short, between those who are, and those who are not, willing to take action in the belief that the currently established structure of how public money is spent is unsustainable and must be fixed while it still can if we are not to lose by encroachments the all the other things Republicans and conservatives stand for.