- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2012

It’s 18 days until the next Republican presidential primary, leaving political junkies wondering what to do with themselves until April 24, when voters in Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and much-scrutinized Pennsylvania stroll to the polls. A panacea? Surveys and nice wonkish takes on the old horse race ought to help.

Two polls already suggest that former Sen. Rick Santorum faces a mighty struggle with rival Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, the home state that now is key to the former senator’s success. Now New York appears to be Romney-centric as well. Quinnipiac University has released its first findings on New York voters to conclude that Mr. Romney “thumps” Mr. Santorum with 54 percent to 21 percent of the support among likely GOP primary voters in the Empire State. Newt Gingrich garners 9 percent, Rep. Ron Paul has 8 percent.

While the pollster also finds that 8 percent of those voters are still undecided and 39 percent might change their minds, there’s still more buoyant news for Mr. Romney, who tops Mr. Santorum by huge percentages among both men and women, and also enjoys a handsome lead among conservatives and tea partyers.

“Assuming the numbers hold until April 24, Mitt Romney sweeps the statewide Republican vote — good for 34 delegates to the party convention. The question is whether Santorum can pick off one of the 29 districts, each good for two delegates,” observes Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

There is not much to track this Easter weekend. All four Republican hopefuls have retreated from the relentless campaign trail for the weekend, and well beyond. Rep. Ron Paul, at this juncture, does not have another event scheduled until May 1, when he ventures to swanky Bel Air, Calif., for a private fundraiser with best-selling author and economist Nassim Taleb.

Mitt Romney’s next big appearance is April 16, when he attends a Boston Red Sox baseball game with two of his fans who won their seats in a lottery. Newt Gingrich appears on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, then his schedule is a complete question mark. Rick Santorum is already at his home in Virginia, but he promises he’ll reveal a revamped schedule Monday.

And naturally, this could all change overnight. The four campaigns are mercurial in nature. If there’s money in the war chest, and the candidates and their nimble handlers sniff out a wooing opportunity, an instant event is in the works, with the press baying and tweeting in hot pursuit.

DRONING ON

Code Pink and drones, of the military rather than bee variety. Now, there’s an interesting combination. The outspoken feminist group is, along with Occupy Wall Street and 14 anti-war organizations, challenging the remotely piloted crafts and lawmakers who champion them. On the calendar: the “Know Drones Tour,” a public education campaign focusing on “legal, ethical and civil liberties concerns raised by the surge in drone warfare and drone surveillance.”

Armed with large-scale replicas of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, the groups assemble in Brooklyn on Thursday on the first stop in a 17-city tour. Brooklyn, incidentally, is the home of Rep. Edolphus Towns, a Democrat and a member of the bipartisan Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, and Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat.

The lawmakers say their mission is to underscore the “overwhelming value of these systems to the defense, intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement, and the scientific communities.” Visit them here: unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon. house.gov.

The protesters counter that the caucus was organized to “lobby Congress on behalf of the drone industry,” and will demonstrate in the home districts of 17 of the 55 members of the caucus in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Ohio and California. Visit the anti-droners here: knowdrones.com.

SHIRLEY’S MOMENT

It’s reassuring news that a conservative Reagan historian has been named a finalist in the history category for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, with the winners to be announced in June at the American Library Association conference. That historian is Craig Shirley; the book is “December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World,” published by Thomas Nelson on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks last year.

The refreshing book, which meticulously reveals the can-do, patriotic spirit of the American home front, plus oft-overlooked cultural influences during World War II, was a New York Times best-seller and received wide praise from Mr. Shirley’s fellow historians.

“I’m thrilled,” the author says.

THE SCREEN DOOR

Weary of Hollywood fare? California-based independent filmmaker Charlie Minn has succeeded in placing two documentary films exposing Mexican drug crime in significant national venues. “8 Murders a Day” — covering the travails of Juarez, city of 10,000 murders in the past four years — opens Friday at Regal and AMC theaters in the Virginia suburbs of the District. Detail here: 8murdersaday.com.

“I feel it is the greatest human-rights disaster,” Mr. Minn says. “The total is 40 percent greater than both of our wars in the Middle East put together.”

He has also directed “Murder Capital of the World,” documenting more recent tolls in Juarez, which opens at theaters in New York City, Los Angeles and other cities later this month. Details here: murdercapitalfilm.com.

POLARIZING INFLUENCE

Well, so much for the polar bear crisis. We should keep this news from Al Gore, fans of his film “An Inconvenient Truth,” and other global-warming alarmist fare that has often featured pathetic images of polar bears languishing on dwindling ice flows. Now comes a new aerial survey of the polar bear population conducted by the Canadian provincial government of Nunavut over the western shore of Hudson Bay — considered one of the most threatened habitats — which reveals there are at least 1,013 bears.

That number is 66 percent higher than previous estimates.

“The bear population is not in crisis as people believed. There is no doom and gloom,” says Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management in the Nunavut region, who wants to base bear-management practices on current information and “not predictions about what might happen.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 82 percent of Americans celebrate Easter.

• $16.8 billion: the total amount Americans will spend on Easter food, decorations and apparel in 2012.

• 11 percent: the increase in total Easter spending from 2011.

• $5.1 million: the amount Americans will spend on their Easter meal.

• $3 billion: the amount Americans will spend on new clothes and accessories for Easter.

• $2 billion: the amount Americans will spend on chocolate eggs and jelly beans.

• $145.28: The total amount the average individual will spend on Easter. Each will spend $26.11 on apparel, $20.35 on candy, $44.34 on the meal, $20.57 for Easter gifts, $10.50 on flowers, $9.07 for decorations, $7.04 for cards, and the rest for other items.

Source: A National Retail Federation poll of 9,242 U.S. adults conducted March 6 to 13.

Happy Passover and happy Easter, and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.