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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

E.J. Dionne wonders whether the extremist tone of the Republican primaries is weakening the party in his column, “A GOP Circular Firing Squad?”

It isn’t every day that political candidates are asked whether the 10th Amendment allows states to nullify federal laws, but that was precisely the question Rick Santorum faced at a forum here a few days ago organized by a libertarian-leaning group.

To his credit, Santorum did not pander to the nullifier. “We had a Civil War about nullification,” Santorum said with a smile. “I’m not sure I want to go there.”

But Santorum’s experience raises a larger question about this year’s Republican primary contest: Rather than strengthening the party for the coming battle against President Obama, will it instead leave it more marginalized from the views of swing voters? Have the party’s candidates, particularly Mitt Romney, had to spend too much time and energy wooing voters far to the right of the mainstream?

And something else happened during Sunday morning’s debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Front-runner Romney came under the first sustained attack from his opponents on his character, especially his core claim to be a citizen-businessman rather than a politician. The assaults were especially fierce from Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

A Rubicon was crossed when Gingrich looked at Romney at one point and commented acidly: “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?” Both Santorum and Gingrich argued that Romney has been in and out of campaigns since 1994 and has fabricated a misleading public persona that tried to hide just how much of a politician he really is.

It was a telling charge that Obama would certainly highlight if Romney won the GOP nomination. Sunday’s raucous encounter suggested that unless Romney closes the nomination struggle quickly, he could suffer further damage.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Viktor Orban

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Nobody should still pretend to be shocked that the Conservative Political Action Conference, an entity no longer "conservative" in any meaningful sense, would feature an appearance by an authoritarian leader like Viktor Orban. The Hungarian autocrat is the idol of the international far Right. He has repeatedly enjoyed the bootlicking attentions of Tucker Carlson on Fox News and indeed, CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp led his gang to celebrate Orban in Budapest earlier this year.

What makes Orban so alluring to the American far rightists is his example as an illiberal politician who, unlike their idol former President Donald Trump, has managed to corrupt Hungarian democracy so thoroughly as to guarantee his own continuing rule.

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