Week In News: Romney Wins Energize Campaign

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Mitt Romney walked away with two wins this week in Arizona and Michigan. A win in Ohio on Super Tuesday could finally give the former Massachusetts governor the status as the clear front-runner for the Republican party. Yet some senior conservatives are concerned all of their candidates could be in trouble with the controversial statements made by Rush Limbaugh this week. Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page about these and other news stories from the week.




RUSH LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essential says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? That makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute.

LYDEN: Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh caused national outrage this week with several comments he made about Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified in favor of mandatory employer health coverage of contraception. The comments caused such a furor that President Obama personally reached out to Fluke yesterday. And just this evening, Limbaugh issued an apology, saying, my choice of words was not the best. And in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

I spoke earlier with Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, who said the controversy has put Republicans in an uncomfortable position.

CLARENCE PAGE: There's new pressure now, and it trivializes a very serious issue to many folks out there, women's health, as well as the religious freedom issue, et cetera. It has now become the kind of an issue that the Republican candidates are being asked about and the - what John Boehner, Speaker of the House - 75 Democrats has signed a letter calling on him to condemn Limbaugh.

And as one commentator said, there's - now, the new test of political correctness on the Republican side is how hard can you come out against Rush Limbaugh.

LYDEN: Let's turn to the upcoming primary, Super Tuesday. This week, we watched the Republican primaries in both Michigan and Arizona. Romney, of course, won both with just a slight edge in Michigan, his home state. Now, Clarence, Romney has a significant lead in the delegate count. Why is he still not seen as the clear front-runner?

PAGE: Because he doesn't have that clear lead as far as the votes are concerned. He's had a difficult time trying to consolidate enough votes out there to clinch the nomination or even to win a majority in the individual states that he has won.

LYDEN: Clarence, you write and talk about Ohio, of course, tomorrow, when we look ahead Super Tuesday on the show. But the state is so key it might as well be called Super Ohio Tuesday.

PAGE: Right.

LYDEN: Why is Ohio so much in the forefront?

PAGE: Well, first of all, as they say, every Republican map to Washington goes through Ohio. That's one of those states that's a real must-win. It's also very similar to Michigan, which we just saw last week. It's a real good debate platform for how do you bring (unintelligible) back to the old Rust Belt. And Ohio once had a quite upset the way their economy has been going. They have gone back and forth between the Republicans and Democrats in the recent elections.

And right now, President Obama's auto bailout, as it's called, has helped northern Ohio because a lot have got - those Detroit industries. They're cars, tires, et cetera, come out of northern Ohio. So to some degree, President Obama is looking better in Ohio than the Republican leaders are.

LYDEN: I want to turn to the White House and foreign policy. President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, and he has warned Israelis that they'll only make a bad situation worse if they move preemptively against Iran. He's also taken a hard-line stance against Iran, saying, the U.S. will use military force, if need be, to prevent Iran from developing a bomb. He's not bluffing. Clarence, what message is the president trying to send here?

PAGE: That last one you mentioned that he's not bluffing, that really moves football down the field considerably as far as toughening up his stance, moving him closer to what Benjamin Netanyahu would like to see and what many other supporters of Israel would like to see. At the same time, he's trying to be evenhanded here. He's putting a pressure on both Iran and on Israel. And this plays into the election campaign this year, too, because he's gotten a lot of pressure from supporters of Israel as to why he hasn't been to Israel, why he hasn't done more.

LYDEN: That's Clarence Page. He's a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Clarence, thanks for coming in.

PAGE: Thank you.

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