Mitt Romney took a big step towards securing the nomination with his 14-point victory over Newt Gingrich. The victory comes as the candidates head into a murky February in which a few caucuses here and there, and only one debate, will make for some difficult choices for the Gingrich campaign. Romney has the funds and organization to compete everywhere, but Gingrich does not. Additionally, Nevada is a state in which 25% of the electroate is Mormon and which Romney carried last time. Gingrich's challenge is the same that faced Hillary Clinton in 2008 the morning after Super Tuesday. Her campaign had planned on locking up the nomination on that day and, when they didn't, they had no plan for the many caucuses that followed and in which Barack Obama ran the table, building up a lead in delegates that carried him through to the end. Gingrich either needs to pick one February contest and try to win, or cede the month to Romney and focus on a strong showing on Super Tuesday in early March. The problem with the latter strategy is obvious: Romney's advantage in money and organization is designed to win on multi-state primary days.
On February 14, Catholic University will host a “Colloquium on Catholic HealthCare: Learning from the Past, Planning the Future.” As a visiting fellow at CUA’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, I have been involved in some of the planning discussions for the event. NCR’s health care correspondent Alice Popovici will be covering the event, which is great because I do not know a lot about healthcare and Alice does. But, in the planning meetings, I have realized that the Colloquium is not just about health care. The themes to be discussed, especially that of maintaining our Gospel mission in a modern, pluralistic society, touch on issues that face many ministries in the Church today from higher education to social service providers to the decisions individual Catholics must make about how to witness to their faith.
On Sunday, one of the priests at my parish showed me a printed copy of Cardinal Donald Wuerl's thoughtful, yet forceful, letter on the conscience exemption issue. As a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Matthew who, consequently, gets to hear Cardinal Wuerl preach with some frequency, I was unsurprised that his letter so clearly set out the issues involved, why they matter, and called for responsible political action on the part of the faithful.
Then, I received an emailed copy of the letter last night and was delightfully surprised to find that the electronic version includes links, including a link to my "J'Accuse" post the day after the HHS decision was announced. Getting linked to by one's ordinary is not exactly the same thing as an imprimatur, but I was delighted nonetheless.
One of Politico's better features is its "5 Things to Look For" posting the day of a primary, which sets some of the expectations' game. I am not sure I agree entirely that a 12 point victory for Romney would constitute a blowout. Gingrich has been outspent six-to-one in the Sunshine State and, besides, Gingrich's back-of-the-pack finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire did not harm him in South Carolina. But, overall, I think Politico has it right, especially about tracking the women's vote. Gingrich's numbers among women have been consistently lower than his numbers among men. These are GOP primaries, so many of those women are evangelical women, and they do not look kindly on Newt's marital history.
With the recent abysmal HHS decision on conscience exemptions, or the lack thereof, much of the focus on religious liberty has been domestic. But, Thursday, Feb. 2, CUA's law school is hosting an event on religious liberty in Iraqi Kurdistan. Featured presenters include His Excellency Rabban Al-Qas, Chaldean Bishop of Amadiyah and Zakho, Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations Kurdistan Regional Government.
The event will be at the CUA law school at 4 p.m. R.s.v.p. Constanta Dedoulis, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week I mentioned that CUA’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies and the Public Religion Research Institute were teaming up for an event at the National Press Club about the role of religion in the 2012 elections. The event was yesterday, and in one of the happiest signs that the mainstream media finally “gets it,” the room was packed with reporters.
Last week, the White House's Faith-Based Office held an event to mark Catholic Schools' Week, celebrating several "Champions of Change" from the Catholic school universe who have improved the lives of students through their tireless, underpaid, and under-noticed work at Catholic schools. Here is the video of the event:
Mark Silk, at his new blog site, looks at some of the recent polling data on the Florida primary which will be held tomorrow. Clearly, the glut of negative ads the Romney campaign has dumped on the Sunshine State is having its desired effect, but I think it is way too premature to count out Gingrich even if he does terribly in Florida. The key dynamic in this race for many months now has been this: The GOP electorate is not thrilled with any of their choices and as soon as someone looks close to winning, they spank the frontrunner at the next primary. This could go on for a very long time.
Silk also notes the persistence of the "Mormon Gap" among white evangelicals.
One of the moral, as opposed to legal and political, issues raised by the HHS decision not to expand conscience exemptions is whether or not providing insurance coverage for treatments the Church considers wrong is whether or not such provision of insurance would constitute cooperation with evil.
In a very smart essay, Dana Dillon, one of the young theologians I have come to truly admire, looks at this issue. Dillon not only carefully reflects on how our Catholic moral framework copes with that question, but she reminds us that this issue is not only about contraception. Among the treatments the new mandate requires are drugs like Ella which are abortifacients.
It must be somewhat unnerving, for the campaign staffs of both President Obama and his would-be opponents, to realize that the fate of November’s election may be determined largely by events over which they have no control. Corporations are recording record profits, but they are hesitant to invest in new plant and equipment and, most especially, in new employees, so the success of the business community is not “trickling down” to the millions of Americans who are out of work or under-employed. No one knows if the government of Greece will be able to negotiate new debt terms with its lenders. Will the economy of Italy respond to the “austerity” plans of the current government, even though austerity has never once worked before to stave off a foreign-debt crisis? What impact will the faltering economies of Greece, Italy and Spain have on the Eurozone and what will be their impact on the US economy?