The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Sayonara Santo

Santorum drops out

Rick Santorum, the last credible rival for the GOP nomination, dropped out of the race on Wednesday leaving a clear path for front-runner and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. "This game is a long, long, long way from over," Santorum told supporters. "We are going to continue to go out there and fight to make sure that we defeat President Barack Obama." Notably, Santorum did not mention Romney in his concession.

With 651 delegates, Romney may have the contest all wrapped up, but nobody appears to have told Newt Gingrich, who still vows to stay in the race until Romney collects the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. "I want to do what I do best, which is talk about big solutions and big approaches," Gingrich told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I want to keep campaigning." But $4.5 million in debt, Gingrich's campaign suffered a further indignity this week when its $500 check for the filing fee to appear on the Utah primary ballot bounced.

North Korea

On Thursday night (EDT), North Korea attempted -- but failed -- in an attempt to launch a satellite into orbit. Though the botched launch of the long-range missile, which broke apart before entering orbit, was a humiliation for North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un, it also essentially scuttled a year of diplomatic outreach by the Obama administration, which culminated in a now-nullified deal on Feb. 29 under which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program in exchange for food aid.

The Romney campaign was quick to respond with a statement saying that the launch demonstrated the "incompetence" and weakness of the Obama administration's foreign policy. "Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived," he said.

A cold shoulder to Brazil

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was in Washington on Monday for a White House meeting with Barack Obama. But in contrast to her fellow BRICS leaders Hu Jintao and Manmohan Singh, arguably the second most powerful leader in the Western hemisphere got only a 2-hour meeting with the president on a day dominated by the White House lawn Easter Egg roll. The Brazilian government has repeatedly criticized Washington for monetary and interest rate policies that they say unfairly advantage U.S. exports and for visa requirements for Brazilian travelers that take up to 35 days to process.

The two leaders will meet again this weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Afghan war

Public support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low according to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, with only 30 percent of respondents saying it has been worth the effort and expenditure. For the first time, a majority of Republicans do not approve of the war. As to the president's leadership, 48 percent of those polled approve of Obama's handling of the war, while 43 percent disapprove. In a sign of an accelerated effort to transfer responsibility to Afghan forces, the United States agreed this week to hand over control of the controversial nighttime raids that were once seen as critical to winning the war.    

Numbers game

Romney may have a steep hill to climb if he aims to win the foreign-policy fight in the campaign. New polling shows that voters trust Obama over the GOP frontrunner by a 15 percent margin. Writing for Foreign Policy, Washington Post polling analyst Scott Clement notes that "Romney's weakness on foreign policy doesn't appear to result from Obama's strengths. Americans give Obama middling ratings on international affairs overall: 47 percent approve while 44 percent disapprove."

After the bruising primary, Romney appears to have sketched out a decidedly hawkish platform on foreign policy. Moving into the general election, with Americans increasingly skeptical of military action abroad, it remains to be seen whether the candidate will moderate his views to appear to undecided voters.

What to watch for:

Latin American summits are typically a good showcase for some outlandish behavior. Obama's opponents will likely be on the lookout to see how the president interacts with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. He was criticized for embracing the leftist leader in 2009.

The latest from Foreign Policy:

Aaron David Miller says the notion that presidents have more "flexibility" to act in their second terms is a myth.

Will Imboden gives six reasons we should hope Obama's not more flexible.

Daniel Drezner questions Romney's seriousness on foreign policy.

Michael A. Cohen looks at who's leading on the big international issues that will define the contest between Romney and Obama.

Joshua E. Keating looks back at the highlights of the Santorum campaign.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images


Kim Jong Un tries to launch his rocket

North Korea, the world's poorest, most maddeningly opaque nuclear power, has just launched a long-range rocket. Or at least it was supposed to be a long-range rocket.

Both the Pentagon and the South Korean defense ministry have confirmed that the rocket was launched at 7:39am Seoul time, or 6:49pm Washington, D.C. time; a spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry said that a few minutes after the launch the rocket had broken up and crashed into the sea.  North Korea hasn't commented yet, either through official channels or the usually feisty (and congratulatory) Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK.

North Korea announced the plan for the satellite launch, which it claimed was for peaceful purposes, on March 16, less than three weeks after it had signed a deal with the United States in which it promised to stop nuclear and long-range missile tests. Even U.S. officials and long-term North Korea watchers used to dealing with a mercurial Pyongyang were surprised by the speed at which the country reneged on the agreement.

The fear is that, were Pyongyang successful in actually launching a long-range missile, North Korea could eventually load a nuclear warhead on a rocket and send it as far as Alaska or Hawaii. Seoul, the South Korean capital of over ten million people which is only dozens of miles from the DMZ, has been well within striking range of North Korea's artillery for decades.