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Posted at 07:39 AM ET, 02/15/2012

GOP showdown in Michigan

The Romney-Santorum battle in Michigan is all the talk among GOP activists. The Romney folks say it is going to be similar to their battle in Florida against Newt Gingrich, while the Santorum team says it is more like the one-on-one race in Missouri.

The Romney campaign tends to romanticize its Florida victory as the turning point when it fought back from behind. Others see it as a classic mauling, where Gingrich was buried by vicious negative ads. Rick Santorum says he sees that punch coming and won’t be caught flat-footed like Gingrich was. Santorum is betting on the idea that Mitt Romney can’t get 50 percent in a two-man race, and that if he can’t get it in Michigan, his home state, then he is too weak to be our nominee. The idea that a loss for Romney in Michigan would be fatal is growing. Others say it would just start a war of attrition that Romney would ultimately win.

All this is unpredictable and uncharted. It is all very un-Republican. We haven’t had a primary contest be competitive this long since 1976, when President Ford beat Reagan. No one knows how this will end. Republicans hate that.

Changing subjects, watch a developing issue that won’t go away quietly and that will enter the 2012 campaign debate. The idea that China would deny our ambassador for religious freedom entry into China before the Washington visit of China’s next president is alarming.

The idea that the Chinese could get away with it by having the White House instruct our own diplomats to keep quiet about the insult is frightening. The cover-up is worse than the crime. The Chinese rightly see it as a sign of weakness that we would meekly take “no” for an answer and ensure the Chinese vice president would have an easier, more pleasant trip here, unchallenged by our concerns about their oppression of religion. I don’t know who handled this worse, the Chinese or President Obama. It fits into the political narrative against Obama in so many ways — we will be hearing more about this from Republicans running for president or just about any other office.

By  |  07:39 AM ET, 02/15/2012

 
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