Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

An open-ish primary in Ohio, too?

So now it’s off to Super Tuesday, where Ohio is looking like the big prize. Santorum’s leading in the polls there, but the trees are much like Michigan’s, so Romney may do well.

The blog Daily Kos, which launched Operation Hilarity to encourage Democrats to vote in Michigan’s Republican primary, said Wednesday that it was shifting its focus to North Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont for Super Tuesday.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.



It didn’t include the Buckeye State — maybe because the Republican National Committee put out a list that says the Ohio primary is “closed.” And we haven’t heard of any crossover effort there so far.

But we called the Ohio Republican Party and were told it was “semi-open,” which sounds a lot like the Michigan rules. “You can ask for a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot,” a worker at the party headquarters in Columbus said. The Ohio Democrats called it “semi-closed,” which sounds to us like pretty much the same thing.


Meanwhile, the pundits and pollsters are still sifting through the Michigan rubble. One thing seems clear: The big winner looks to be President Obama.

Back in November, a Detroit Free Press poll showed native son Mitt Romney leading Obama by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent. A poll in late January by Epic-MRA of Lansing showed Obama had moved ahead by eight points, 48 to 40.

Last week, as Romney and Rick Santorum pummeled each other, an NBC-Marist poll had Obama ahead in the supposedly battleground state by 18 points, 51 percent to 33 percent, leading NBC political director Chuck Todd to declare that “Michigan is done” and “not in the battleground” and “let’s stop pretending that it is.” Well, November’s a long ways off.

Meanwhile, the Democratic crossover vote in Michigan, while a healthy 9 or 10 percent of the total GOP primary vote, apparently was not as organized or robust as it was in 2000.

Still, it may have helped pad Rick Santorum’s total by as much as three points — converting what would have been a healthy five- or six-point win by Romney into a much less brag-worthy three-point event at 41 percent to 38 percent.

(It’s unclear whether the crossovers affected the delegate count, which appeared to be evenly split until the state GOP tipped the scales in Romney’s favor, 16 to 14.)

Michigan pollster Steve Mitchell points out that, were it not for Romney’s five-point lead among absentee voters, the former Massachusetts governor would have lost. Romney’s edge in absentee ballots, Mitchell said, many from older voters who remembered the Romney brand from years ago, “overcame Santorum’s win among those who actually went to the polls on Tuesday.”

The Romney taste test

As we dissect every aspect of Romney’s past, one chapter of his life has gone relatively unexamined: his culinary background.

That is, until the Loop’s rigorous Romney-family recipe test.

Background: Loop Fan Jen Cox was recently thumbing through an old cookbook belonging to her grandmother in search of a favorite frosting recipe when she made a pretty sweet discovery. The collection of recipes, published as a fundraiser by the Riverside Lutheran Church of Detroit sometime, Cox guesses, in the mid-1960s, included a contribution from one “Mrs. George Romney.”

The book is one of those spiral-bound volumes found on most every cook’s shelf, printed by junior leagues or PTAs — the ones whose recipes call for enough cans of condensed soup to fill a kiddie pool.

Lenore Romney , mother of Mitt, was then Michigan’s first lady, and the recipe was identified as heralding from the “Executive Residence,” the governor’s mansion in Lansing. Even though the Romneys were Mormon, not Lutheran, it’s likely that as part of her duties as first lady, she contributed to many such cookbooks from organizations across the state.

Cox sent us the page, which gave instructions for concocting a hearty-sounding “Hamburger Stroganoff,” a dish that, although it doesn’t contain a can of soup, is very much of its era.

But this wasn’t the first ground-meat recipe from a Romney woman we’ve seen recently. It was big news when Mitt’s wife, Ann Romney, recently joined Pinterest, something of a digital version of those old-fashioned community cookbooks. Ann Romney pinned a recipe for turkey burgers to her page.

And so we decided to conduct a taste test pitting the Romney recipes against each other in culinary battle royal across the generations. Lenore and Ann, mano a mano. Or, in this case burger vs. burger.

We invited our colleague Tom Sietsema , The Post’s food critic, to analyze the dishes and pick a winner.

The Loop whipped up a version of each entree and placed them before the judge, who analyzed each before declaring a champion.

On the stroganoff: “It tastes like something Donna Reed would have served.”

The turkey burger didn’t fare any better:

“Juiceless,” he said.

And here’s a kiss of death: “It tastes like it’s good for you, which is not a compliment.”

Neither recipe was a huge hit, but when pressed, Sietsema said that if he had to take a second helping of either dish, he’d opt for another serving of Lenore’s stroganoff. And Loop readers agreed — in an online poll, Lenore’s dish won out.

It seems that in matters culinary (like everything else), mother does know best.

Greenhouses and stones

Sen. James Inhofe has never been afraid of going against the grain, but here’s one way he’s attempting to be like the other kids in the Senate: This week, he debuted a book.

It seems having a literary title or two under one’s belt is practically de rigueur in the upper chamber. Inhofe’s contribution to the Senate library shelf, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” is pretty much what you’d expect, given its bombastic name. In it, the Oklahoma Republican goes after his favorite targets, including the United Nations, former vice president Al Gore and the mainstream media.

He also offers the riveting story behind his family’s construction of a snow igloo during the snowstorm that shut down Washington in the winter of 2010. To much media fanfare, his visiting grandkids built the snow fort, then added signs reading “Al Gore’s New Home” and “Honk if You Love Global Warming.” Truly heady stuff.

More substantively, Inhofe also offers a full-throated defense of earmarks — a line not often heard lately from his conservative brethren — arguing that they are Congress’s way of directing spending. Banning them “simply sends the money to the Executive Branch,” he argues.

Book fever is apparently catching — Inhofe’s fellow Oklahoma Republican senator, Tom Coburn, has a second book slated for next month. Its just-as-subtle title? “The Debt Bomb.”

Into the pool

Ever wondered whatever became of Franklin Raines, the former head of Fannie Mae, who left the mortgage giant as the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company for allegedly overstating earnings?

Say what you will about that sorry episode, Raines is certainly performing his civic responsibilities these days. Raines was spotted at jury duty at the D.C. Superior Court Wednesday morning. The Office of Management and Budget director from Bill Clinton’s administration was seen, clad in a blazer and slacks, waiting to be called up and reading — what else? — The Washington Post.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoop.

Read what others are saying