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On our radar this morning: The battle for control in Libya and the 2012 presidential prospects.
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After weeks of internal debate on how to respond to uprisings in the Arab world, the Obama administration is settling on a Middle East strategy: help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their newly emboldened citizens might have to wait.
The revolts also mean that the United States and its Western allies must take on a far greater share of the counterterrorism operations that they previously conducted with the help of Arab regimes. The days of Mubarak, Saleh, Gaddafi and Ben Ali doing the dirty work for American, European and Israeli counterterrorism efforts are over. Soon it will be U.S. and Western special forces and intelligence services that will be ordered to capture or kill militants in Muslim lands – individuals that our tyrannical friends used to dispose of for us.
The Obama team has decided it will not give Republicans a free pass to criticize the president as they fight over their nomination. The president's reelection committee plans to put its own organizations into the early primary and caucus states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
"We can't cede the playing field," one adviser said. "We can't just play general election. So we're going to have to organize on the ground in early states."
So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.
So far Mr. Romney has offered few specific details beyond general Republican philosophies, saying only that the country needs “to believe in free enterprise, capitalism, limited government, federalism.”
On paper, Romney should be the front-runner for next year's GOP nomination: He has experience, name recognition, broad popularity and plenty of money. But Republican strategists warn that because of "Romneycare" and other early flings with moderation, Romney lacks one important factor: fervent support from the strongly conservative voters who dominate the primary electorate in most states.
"I don't see any way he can become the nominee," said Eddie Mahe Jr., a former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee.
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