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Posted at 07:19 AM ET, 02/22/2012

Romney gains in Mich.; religious freedom loses countrywide

Two things: There’s something happening in Michigan, and it isn’t exactly clear; and the contraception controversy takes another turn.

Michigan: Mitt Romney must win, and he is starting to move. We are in the fog of the war stage of this primary, where it is often impossible to tell what is going on, let alone why. But the polling averages show the race closing. This is perhaps a result of Romney’s huge spending advantage. But, according to some polling, the determinant of the race tightening is Romney’s rise, not Rick Santorum’s fall. So maybe I was wrong, and the hometown message is working for Romney after all.

All this is quite speculative. As noted before, primary polling is very difficult, since small fluctuations in turnout of different voting blocs can make an outsized difference in a candidate’s fortunes. What will the evangelical vote be? Some models have it in the low 20s; others considerably higher.

Contraception: Garry Wills, a great writer — his books, “Nixon Agonistes” and “Gettysburg Address: The Words that Changed America,” are two of the best on American history I have ever read — a great thinker and Catholic — has a scathing rip on the church’s contraception position and the Republicans’ drafting behind it.

I was going to post on it, but thought it kind of speaks for itself, until I read yesterday’s NY Times article, which not only confirms Wills’s interpretation but also advances it. One of Wills’s good points is that far from being about religious freedom, the position of the Catholic hospitals is actually one of imposing their religious beliefs on others who don’t share them.

Now we have new support for this conclusion. The Times story points out that as Catholic health systems expand, they are now forbidding their newly acquired health partners from offering contraception. And given the shaky finances that plague some of these smaller health systems, they presumably have no choice but to accept those terms.

Does this approach stand religious freedom on its head? Is the pope Catholic?

By  |  07:19 AM ET, 02/22/2012

 
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