Outside editorial: It's Romney and the un-Romney

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

In the seemingly interminable campaign for the 2012 Republican nomination, one result after another has been called “definitive” or a “breakthrough,” only for those superlatives to be dusted off again after the next round of voting. But the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi does seem to mark a milestone: the beginning of a two-candidate race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

True, Newt Gingrich, who finished second to Santorum in both states, says he isn’t going anywhere and even attempted to portray himself and Santorum as an anti-Romney tag team. That doesn’t alter the fact that, based not only on Tuesday’s results but also on his earlier showings, Santorum has established himself as the “un-Romney” to whom the front-runner must pay special attention. The result could be an edifying sharpening of the debate as Romney is forced to engage a single opponent on the issues, in the process defining himself more clearly not just for Republicans but for the general electorate.

We say “could” because Romney might choose to continue his present strategy of agreeing with Santorum on many issues while subjecting the former senator to contrived personal attacks, all the while counting on his financial and organizational advantages to increase his delegate lead as the primaries continue. Such a play-it-safe approach might work, even if Gingrich changed his mind and withdrew. Romney still seems to be on what Los Angeles Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak called “a slow, steady march to the party’s nomination,” one that in the next several weeks will pass through states more hospitable to Romney than Alabama and Mississippi were. Why change course?

One reason is that defining his differences with Santorum might redound to Romney’s advantage in more moderate states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania. Another is that the line between primary and general election campaigns is beginning to blur. A failure to distinguish himself from Santorum in the coming weeks could hurt Romney with voters in the fall. Some differences between the two — on tax and budget policy and Medicare — are on the record. But there may be others: Does Romney share Santorum’s aversion to any government role in education? Would he be as eager as Santorum to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, or more willing to allow sanctions to work?

With no disrespect to Gingrich or Ron Paul, the Republican race is down to two serious contenders: a doctrinaire conservative and an erstwhile moderate whose repositionings have created confusion about his core convictions. Republicans aren’t the only ones who deserve to know, and in detail, how they differ.

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Outside Editorial: A more presidential Donald Trump is unlikely, but necessary

The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Letter: The Homeless Ordinance

As I understand it, on Monday the assembly will be voting on an ordinance to permit the police to evict people camping in the downtown and make them move to a camping area in the Thane avalanche zone. I think that’s mistaken public policy. I’ve just hand delivered a 5 page letter to the CBJ in opposition. But what’s really needed isn’t my opinion. It’s a newspaper’s reporting of the facts. That said, if someone’s camped out in a doorway, it couldn’t be a more clear cry for help. And underneath that gruff scary homeless person is so often someone suffering the terrible diseases of mental illness and addiction.

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Win Gruening: Homeless Not Helpless

When Mayor Ken Koelsch recently proposed a city ordinance prohibiting camping in downtown Juneau to help resolve on-going issues with our homeless population, there was significant public reaction.

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My Turn: A Good Time for Kindness

Some time ago, the snow was mounded everywhere, deep and wet. As I gazed from my window, contemplating shoveling, I saw a neighbor plowing out the nextdoor driveway and mailbox — and then chug over to our mailbox, and plow it out as well. Such a welcome and unrequested act of thoughtfulness, of kindness: it lifted my spirits!

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