- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alas, “Operation Hilarity” was not so hilarious. The expensive, expansive effort to persuade Democrats to vote for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum in the Michigan primary included everyone from Michael Moore and MoveOn.org to the Michigan Democratic Party. To their chagrin, Mitt Romney won anyway. His nimble campaign already has made choice observations about Democratic frustration. But they also expect the shenanigans to continue.

“Now that Mitt Romney has won in Michigan and Arizona, the Obama campaign will bring its ‘Kill Romney’ strategy to the next level,” predicts Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.

There’s some strong sentiment out there.

“This GOP circus isn’t over yet, but you can bet on this: The nominee will be an extremist and out of touch,” says Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, in a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraising message. “He will oppose birth control. He will give tax breaks to multibillionaires. … These right-wing Republicans need to lose, and lose badly.”

“A victory in Michigan for Rick Santorum would have emboldened many Democrats. And if their strategy didn’t work this time, there efforts will likely be diminished. But there’s always some of them left who will still try the same tactics,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean tells Inside the Beltway.

BLUNT TALK

Wars over President Obama’s birth control mandate intensify Thursday when the Senate votes on a motion to table Sen. Roy Blunt’s “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.” The Missouri Republican’s legislation would exempt religiously affiliated employers from offering health insurance plans that include birth control. Things will be particularly complicated in the wake of conflicting press rumors that Mitt Romney does not support Mr. Blunt’s bill. The answer: He does support it.

Meanwhile, Democrats frame the legislation as a prime example of the “Republican attack on women.” Republicans counter that Mr. Obama’s mandate is an attack on First Amendment rights. A battalion of conservatives, meanwhile, are ready to rumble, and now say they “will not rest until the mandate is rescinded.”

Among the many ready for battle: Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America; Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org; Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network; former Reagan administration heavyweight Edwin Meese III, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“We are here to advocate for basic religious freedom. I dont give a rip what gender is speaking about religious freedom, as long as somebody is talking about it,” says Maggie Karner, director of health ministries for the Lutheran Church of Missouri.

“This debate is not about contraception. Nobody is advocating for denial of access. Nobody is threatening womens health. Nobody is outlawing anything for the general population,” she continues. “This debate is simply about us being forced to pay for products and services contrary to our religious beliefs. We cannot be expected to check our faith at the door.”

THE MEDIA ROLE

Wonder how the White House birth control mandate mutated into an opportunity to bash those “archaic” conservatives? Blame broadcasters, says Media Research Center research director Rich Noyes.

“Instead of a story about the overreach of big government and violation of religious freedom, the networks are now spinning the birth control story as one about out-of-control conservatives,” he says.

See Mr. Noyes’ complete report — “How network news has twisted Obama’s war on religion into a conservative war against women” — here: www.mrc.org

COLD SHOULDER

“We offer a heartfelt apology if anyone was offended by our handmade Linsanity flavor.”

(Ben & Jerry’s, in a public apology to consumers who were insulted that the flavor honoring New York Knicks basketball ace and Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin included vanilla frozen yogurt, lychee honey swirls and fortune cookie pieces. The company has since removed the cookie bits).

TEETH-BARING TIME

Assorted politicians constantly call for civility across the 2012 campaign landscape. Now they may need a net. A new study from Ohio State University reveals that winners act very aggressively against the people they beat.

“It seems that people have a tendency to stomp down on those they have defeated, to really rub it in,” says communications professor and co-author Brad Bushman. “Losers, on the other hand, don’t really act any more aggressively than normal against those who defeated them.”

Feeling powerful is the motivator here, the researchers found, not anger or some other dramatic feelings. The real message goes out to the also-rans.

“Losers need to watch out,” Mr. Bushman observes.

POLL DU JOUR

• 47 percent of Arizona Republican primary voters support Mitt Romney.

• 93 percent of those voters who are Mormon, 52 percent who are Protestants, 44 percent who are Catholic, 35 percent of evangelicals and 54 percent of “all others” also support Mr. Romney.

• 27 percent of all Arizona primary voters support Rick Santorum.

• 2 percent of those voters who are Mormon, 26 percent who are Protestants, 34 percent who are Catholic, 37 percent of evangelicals and 20 percent of “all others” also support Mr. Santorum.

• 41 percent of Michigan Republican primary voters support Mr. Romney.

• 40 percent of those voters who are Protestants, 44 percent who are Catholic, 35 percent of evangelicals and 45 percent of “all others” also support Mr. Romney.

• 38 percent of all Michigan primary voters support Mr. Santorum.

• 42 percent of those voters who are Protestants, 37 percent who are Catholic, 51 percent of evangelicals and 30 percent of “all others” also support Mr. Santorum.

Source: A Pew Research Center analysis of Arizona exit polls (2,535 Republicans) and MIchigan (2,200 respondents) reported by CNN on Tuesday).

Indignation, happy daydreams, press releases to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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