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The return of the culture wars.

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Remember when the Republicans’ plan was to pound Barack Obama on the economy? Well, that was all fine until somebody started waving a big raw chunk of moralizing meat, and like Pavlov’s dog, Rick SantoRum was powerless to resist. So forget all that economy talk, the Great American Culture Wars are back!

And in a twist for 2012, they’re going farther back than ever beyond pro-life, Santorum is staking out a bold position against birth control. Will it play in November if he becomes the nominee? The evidence says, “Are you crazy?” A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 65 percent of voters agreed with the Obama plan to require almost all health insurance plans to cover birth control; 57 of Catholic voters felt the same way.

It gets worse, as Santorum now finds himself on a slippery slope that is turning his culture war into a war on women. It’s not helping that when Republicans in Congress hold hearings on the contraception flap, as they did last week, they call men to lecture the nation and prevent women from speaking. CNN’s Piers Morgan summed up the corner Santorum’s painted himself into last week when he asked the former Pennsylvania senator: “Does Rick Santorum like women?”

The Dole Effect

Mitt Romney’s supporters like to say that a rough-and-tumble primary will only make their candidate stronger, as was the case with Barack Obama in 2008. But as pointed out by Salon.com’s Steve Kornacki, there’s another election worth remembering as Romney’s brand takes a beating. In 1996, Bill Clinton was sucking wind after an epic mid-term collapse sound familiar? Bob Dole seemed like a shoo-in, but after losing in New Hampshire and finally righting his ship, he fell behind Clinton and never caught up.

Bailing Out of Bailout Bashing

Conventional wisdom has it that Michigan is a make-or-break state for Mitt Romney. If he loses, the path to the nomination gets a lot harder. But at least he’ll know why bailouts. As he was proving his conservative bona fides a few years ago, the self-described “son of Detroit” kind of stuck a knife in the back of his home state. After all, in November 2008 he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Instead, Obama tried one of those socialist bailouts (which started under George W. Bush, actually) but it worked, saving tens of thousands of jobs. As Ricky would say, Mitt’s got some ’splainin’ to do.

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