All Eyes Are Now On Florida

January 23, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Both the House and Senate are in session this week.  Later this week, the Senate is expected to block a resolution disapproving of the President’s request to increase the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion.  Over the weekend, Newt Gingrich handily won the South Carolina primary, giving each of the first three GOP contests a different winner.  All eyes are now on Florida with two debates this week—one tonight in Tampa and one Thursday in Jacksonville.

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Florida up for grabs in GOP Presidential Race (Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times)

Three states. Three winners. A divided delegate count. If there is one clarity in the unpredictable, captivating turns of the Republican presidential race, it is this: Anything can happen and Florida, which is next to vote, is wide open.  Newt Gingrich will drop into Tampa for a rally this afternoon flush with energy from his overwhelming win in South Carolina. Tonight, also in Tampa, he’ll appear in another nationally televised debate, a forum he masterfully used to win over Palmetto State voters.  In the eight days before the Jan. 31 primary, Gingrich’s momentum will have to reckon with Mitt Romney’s organizational strength on a playing field that is bigger, more diverse and more expensive than the first three primary states combined.

Smart Power

Turkey’s government is the new normal in the Middle East (Jackson Diehl, Washington Post)

Some Islamic movements may turn out like Hamas and Hezbollah — implacably hostile. But others, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, are likely to weave through an ambiguous middle ground, trying to balance the need for Western investment and the secular aspirations of their populations with their religious ideology. The right way to respond to them is to be nimble: tolerate some turbulence, roll with some punches, push back against others and keep pressing leaders to stick to democratic principles.  Administration officials say they see a convergence of U.S. and Turkish policies in the past year — on Libya, Syria, Iran and the Arab Spring more generally. While Erdogan’s drift toward domestic autocracy remains a major concern, some officials believe a new constitution his party is drafting will lead to better checks and balances, and fewer journalists in prison.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Syria Reportedly Rejects Arab League Peace Plan (Kareem Fahim, New York Times)

Faced with the failure of its observer mission to curb the violence here as the stark features of a civil war emerge, the Arab League on Sunday unexpectedly floated an ambitious peace proposal that would require President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to a deputy and start negotiations with his opponents within two weeks.  News reports on Monday, quoting Syria’s state-run news SANA agency, said Damascus, as expected, rejected the plan. SANA quoted an unnamed official as saying Syria considers the plan “a violation of its sovereignty and flagrant interference in its internal affairs.”

A new generation of political Islamists steps forward (Olivier Roy, Washington Post)

The issue is institutionalizing democracy, not promoting liberal policies. Democracy could take hold only if it is based in well-established values. Liberalism does not precede democracy; America’s Founding Fathers were not liberal. But once democracy is rooted in institutions and political culture, then the debate on freedom, censorship, social norms and individual rights could be managed through freedom of expression and changes of majorities in parliament. However, there will be no institutionalization of democracy without the Muslim Brothers.

Putin Rival Barred from Ballot (William Mauldin, Wall Street Journal)

Russian election officials on Monday moved to exclude a prominent opposition candidate from getting on the presidential ballot with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in March.  The country’s election commission found that Grigory Yavlinsky, co-founder of the Yabloko party that was widely represented at December opposition protests, gathered too many invalid signatures to join the presidential race, Russian newswires reported.  The apparent barring of Mr. Yavlinsky is a victory for Mr. Putin, who with one fewer opponent may have a higher chance of winning the presidential vote in the first round.