Lucky is from mixed cow-dog stock. She appears to be mostly Australian shepherd. Her coat is a mixture of dark gun-metal grey over a lighter grey. Then there are a few white streaks that mark her years. Lucky is about 13; she came to us as a puppy. A married couple who manage ranches for a living gave her to my eldest daughter when she was 10.
That eldest daughter and her husband have recently made me a grandfather. Lucky has quite a history with us.
Our older kids are starting to leave the nest. They leave their dogs behind, and that’s not a problem. An older dog that was not raised in an apartment or a starter home with a small yard may not adjust well to change. We have a few acres, and the dogs know where their home is; I think they have a good life here. I suspect the canines might agree. They also have each other.
We were an eight-child, four-dog household before our kids started to leave the nest. That is an excessive number of pooches, but to hold the child to dog ratio at 2:1 isn’t too bad. Right now, the child to exotic lizard category is only 8:1. If you don’t have children, you might not understand the math.
Lucky is probably deaf, and I suspect her eyesight is slipping. She’s not totally blind yet, because she reads lips and understands some hand signals. She has some arthritis in her hip and back. She appreciates a back rub now and then. Don’t we all.
When Lucky was about 2 years old, I noticed a few pieces of pizza missing from a pie that was laying on the kitchen counter. After polling the household, it was determined that Lucky was the culprit. I scolded and disciplined her. A few weeks later, I noticed that a slice of pizza was hanging partially off the same counter. This time, only the toppings were missing. I temporarily called her Misdemeanor for a while after that.
When Lucky was about 3, we lived in the Red Oak area, in a relatively new home. After we converted the garage into a bedroom for my two oldest daughters, I had a propane heater installed in order to supplement our central heating unit.
I bought that heater from a local firm that had reconditioned it, and I had it installed by a licensed plumber. We never ran the heater all night, and we only used it on exceptionally cold nights before the girls went to bed. We also had gas sensors and smoke detectors for added safety.
One cold night, I started that heater before the girls went to bed. We were in the living room. I don’t remember if we were watching TV or playing board games, but I heard barking and growling. Lucky typically didn’t bark without a reason.
I walked back to the girls’ room, and the entire heater almost to the wall cut-off valve was engulfed in flames. There was furniture near. The flames were too hot to get to the cut-off valve. I grabbed an oven mitt from the kitchen, reached briefly through the flames and shut the gas off.
Everything was OK.
I remember Lucky sitting on my daughter’s top bunk bed barking and growling encouragement. No doubt she prevented a disaster. A few minutes more and the ceiling and/or the attic might have been involved in the fire. Lucky has earned every meal since.
Her best friend is Ranger, an aging half-Ridgeback, half-Catahoula, but still 90 pounds of brute. He was my oldest son’s dog at one time. Ranger is about Lucky’s age but enjoys pretty good health.
I office at home most of the time. One morning this past week, I coaxed Lucky outside. As she crept through the door to the great outdoors, Ranger touched her muzzle to muzzle and gently pushed her up against my Buick. I watched as Ranger checked both to his left and right and then gazed out into the pasture. Then he let Lucky proceed into our yard. All the while, Ranger stood guard.
Was it respect, concern or fondness? Too often we attribute human-type thinking to animals. Maybe it’s just that Ranger picks up on the fact that I think Lucky made her place with us on a winter night years ago.
This article was first published in the Waxahachie Daily Light
Devastating wildfires across Texas in recent weeks have been the most visible evidence of a yearlong drought that Texas officials have declared to be the worst on record. Behind the highly visible carnage caused by the fires, the drought also has inflicted a toll on the Texas economy that will have long-term ramifications across the state.
The dry, hot conditions have placed severe strains on the ranching and farming industry, as well as threatening our recreational hunting and fishing sector.
Experts with the Texas AgriLife Extension at Texas A&M University estimate that the drought has cost Texas $5.2 billion in crops and livestock. In fact, many Texas ranchers may be forced to go out of business as a result of the devastating weather conditions.
The drought has killed much of the grass used for grazing, and ranchers are faced with a choice: They sell off their starving cattle before they've fully matured, pay unusually high prices for hay to keep their herd alive or move their herd out of state where conditions are better.
Almost all the hay for Texas ranchers is coming from out of state, and officials with the Texas Farm Bureau say that the cost to transport a bale of hay is now more expensive than the bale itself. Meanwhile, some out-of-state hay producers are using the shortage to charge exorbitant prices.
Understandably, many Texas ranchers have opted to sell their cattle under these circumstances. One survey by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association found that ranchers have sold off 40 percent of their cattle this year compared to an annual average of 5 percent to 10 percent.
Officials with the Texas Farm Bureau believe that percentage has gone up even higher in the last month. The Farm Bureau also reports that they are hearing from many ranchers who plan to leave the business for good after they sell off their herd. TSCRA's survey confirms that one in 10 ranchers have left the industry this year.
Farmers also have suffered. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples reports that cotton farmers have lost $1.8 billion because of the lack of rain; lost revenue from hay is $750 million; and corn losses are $327 million.
Officials with the Lower Colorado River Authority recently announced that they may be requesting permission to cut off water to farmers downstream of Austin because water reserves are so depleted. If that happens, rice farmers in Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties could see losses of $75 million and the elimination of 1,000 farm labor jobs, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.
Even hunting and fishing, one of Texas' most beloved pastimes, could take a hit. Wild turkeys and deer are struggling to find water to drink and moist foliage to eat, according to Kirby Brown of the Texas Wildlife Association, who reports that fawn production will likely be down. Before discounting this as just an inconvenience, consider that hunting and fishing is a nearly $9 billion industry in Texas according to a 2006 study.
The economically harmful effects of the drought are compounded by the fact that it is taking place as we face the most serious recession since the Great Depression. The stagnant national economy is driving up unemployment across the country, including Texas.
Making matters even worse is that some of the regions of Texas with the highest unemployment — the South Texas counties near the Rio Grande — are regions where farming and ranching play a large role in the local economy.
The economic damage done by this drought will be long-lasting even if rain comes soon. Ranchers forced to sell off cattle before reaching their peak value can never recover that loss and replenishing their lost inventory will take major capital investments. The farmers and hunting-related businesses who lose income can't make it back when the rain returns.
The $5.2 billion of losses in crops and livestock that the drought is said to have cost is a conservative estimate. It doesn't include fruits, vegetables or peanuts. Nor does it include the indirect impact of the drought that has been especially pronounced in regions where agriculture is the largest sector of the economy. Businesses that sell feed, fertilizer, seed, heavy machinery and other agricultural supplies are adversely affected by these negative conditions.
Texas has fared better than any other state during the current economic challenges and has led the way in private sector job creation over the past decade. That is due in part to our strong agriculture sector, which has always played a vital role in our state. One out of every seven jobs in Texas is tied to that sector.
But this devastating drought has imparted serious and real damage. Texans must be prepared to deal with the long-term economic and human costs of this drought for years to come.
Tom Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home.
In the 17th century, the leading empires of Europe went about carving up the New World. Their motives were varied, some despicable and some quite lofty. If we reduce most of them into categories called God, Gold and Glory, you begin to see what I mean. While Spain most clearly evinced the latter two, and everyone knows the English sought religious freedom, those are gross oversimplifications. Spanish missions served a dual purpose of fortification and care/conversion of the Indian. The Spanish ultimately established legal protection for Indians within its system too, whereas the English kept Indians outside domestic legal protections by establishing frontiers of exclusion. The English did go about establishing New Israel in New England, but they also desired and acquired land and established commerce for profit as much as piety. Moreover, the Puritan dream was sullied some, by Salem’s famous panic over witches in 1691-3.
Still it would be hard to find a more beautiful vision, than that which launched New England—and America. Governor John Winthrop captured it in a sermon he delivered aboard his ship Arbella. Before his followers could even touch shore, they were thoroughly instructed in “A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630). The model was covenantal, devoted to constructing a community at Massachusetts Bay Colony based upon the word of God:
Now the only way to . . . provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel
of Micah, ‘to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.’ For
this end, we must be knit together . . . as one man. We must entertain each
other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our
superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar
commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We
must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together;
mourn together; labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our
commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So
shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. . . .
Indeed, Winthrop not only had a way with words—he lived what he preached. He knew what it was to mourn together: his small son Henry drowned in a river within a few days of their arrival. When Winthrop’s wife Margaret arrived the following spring, she brought news that two more of their children had died, including the newborn baby daughter he never saw. Winthrop also knew what it was to sacrifice: he paid out his fortune for the colony’s provision and re-supply, and he devoted the remainder of his life to the colony’s success.
John Winthrop remained confident that God would see them through. As he wrote in his shipboard sermon:
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people,
and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways . . . . We shall find that
the God of Israel is among us, . . . when He shall make us a praise and glory that
men shall say of succeeding plantations, ‘the Lord make it like that of New England!’
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people
are upon us.
And so they were, and so they have remained. Ronald Reagan was the last president to explicitly reference this ‘Shining City upon a Hill’—a reference that originally comes from Matthew 5:14, which has come to mean everything good America hopes to be or strives to become.
Americans managed to carry forth the Puritan banner into the 18th century and beyond: the sense of special mission, as well as the work ethic and self-discipline that goes with it. American experience would prove to be exceptional in this regard. Today Europe and England—indeed the rest of the world—look upon us for leadership and example. In large measure, this is because the Puritan vision embraced that role. The Puritan institutions of church, family, and community also evolved along lines that are uniquely American. The Puritan Fathers deserve a place of honor in our history, for their idealism and struggle—even if results did not always live up, in their time or ours.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC). This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at and from fine bookstores everywhere. Email: .
Virginia Tice seems like your average, sweet little 65 year-old lady in Bonneau, South Carolina—hardly the sort of person who would spark a First Amendment controversy.But that’s exactly what’s happened after she pulled her pickup truck into a gas station on July 5, 2011 and got a $445 ticket from a local policeman.You see, Ms. Tice’s truck is decorated with a novelty item called “Bulls Balls,” a set of big, red fake testicles hanging from the truck’s trailer hitch.Like a similar product called “Truck Nutz,” they’re sold online as an expression of the truck’s (and by extension, the driver’s) machismo.They’re not popular with everyone; state legislatures in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida have proposed banning the fake testicles, and even the Dallas Morning News’ “Problem Solver” editor has fielded questions from north Texas drivers about the novelty items.
The ticket issued to Ms. Tice is for allegedly violating South Carolina’s obscene bumper sticker law, which provides that “A sticker, decal, emblem, or device is indecent when taken as a whole, it describes, in a patently offensive way, as determined by contemporary community standards, sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body.”Bonneau’s police chief, Franco Fuda, is eager for a jury trial to determine the issue and stands by his department’s ticket-writing policies.Ms. Tice doesn’t want to pay the hefty fine (no jail time is involved), and her lawyer Scott Bischoff states “We’ll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior.I don’t want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it’s really comical.”
I tend to agree.I’m no fan of big government telling someone how they can and can’t decorate their vehicle.If there’s no safety issue involved, I could care less if you have a bumper sticker, flag, or emblem professing allegiance to a school or sports team, expressing your political or religious views, or depicting a cartoon character urinating on the logo of a rival car maker.South Carolina’s law has been successfully challenged before on free speech grounds, and I expect this outcome to be no different.It takes (pardon the expression) real cojones to go up against the First Amendment; besides, the law as it is written shouldn’t even apply.It outlaws obscene depictions of human body parts, and Ms. Tice’s clearly pays homage to something belonging on a bull.
Lately, everybody seems to think their case is more important and earth-shattering than it really is.Sometimes, it’s up to judges to remind them that it’s not.For example, in July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handed down an opinion in an intellectual property dispute between Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products (makers of Quilted Northern toilet paper) and Kimberly-Clark Corporation (makers of the competing Cottonelle brand of toilet paper).At issue was whether Kimberly-Clark’s brands of tissue infringed on Georgia-Pacific’s quilted design.In his ruling, Justice Evans voiced some surprise at the extent of the legal combat over a product that is such a mundane part of life:
We are told that during the “expedited” discovery period leading up to the district court decision we are called upon to review, some 675,000 pages of documents were produced and more than a dozen witnesses were deposed.That’s quite a record considering, again, that this case is about toilet paper.
ustice Evans went on to have some more fun with the subject matter of the lawsuit, noting that although the trial court judge had “dutifully plied her opinion,” the appellate court must “now wipe the slate clean and address Georgia-Pacific’s claim.”Nicely done, Justice Evans—you were on a roll, and no doubt the winning paper company was flush with success.I’m sad to report that shortly after this opinion was published, the venerable and witty jurist passed away).
In the same month, our own Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unloaded with a “benchslap” against a would-be cheerleader, her mother, and their attorneys who had taken a situation out of the movie “Mean Girls” and made a federal case out of it.In Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D., the justices expressed little interest with the teen soap opera taking place at CreekviewHigh School:
Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad.It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.We find no error and affirm.
The court also had some choice words for Sanches’ attorneys, calling their brief “unprofessional,” “so poorly written that it is difficult to decipher what the attorneys mean,” and filled with typos and “miscues [that] are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them.”Ouch!
And then there are those lawsuits that just make no sense to me, and which give the legal profession a bad name.For example, recently a product liability lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas (Texarkana Division).The parents of a Texas high school cheerleader are suing because their daughter was seriously burned while attending a campfire with some high school friends.A boy attempted to reignite the campfire by pouring gasoline.Did they sue the boy?No.They sued Blitz U.S.A., the manufacturer of the gas can, saying that there must be a safer alternative design that could have prevented such an incident, and that Blitz should have warned about the possibility of a fire like this occurring.Seriously?Some idiot pours gasoline on a fire, causing out of control flames, and it’s the fault of how the gasoline can was made?You’ve got to be kidding me.It’s gasoline, for crying out loud.Unless you’re appearing in a “Jackass” movie, you shouldn’t be pouring it on a fire.Why not sue singer David Bowie?After all, he once did a song called “Putting Out Fire With Gasoline;” maybe he’s to blame.
If that isn’t enough proof that the concept of personal responsibility is lost on some people, then consider this lawsuit recently filed in New York.Diane Schuler killed herself and 7 other people in a wrong-way collision on the Taconic State Parkway when she crashed her minivan into an SUV occupied by 3 men; toxicology reports indicated that Diane Schuler was drunk and high when the accident happened.Among the occupants in her car who were killed were three of her young nieces, ages 5, 7, and 8 respectively.So who would you expect to be sued?Shockingly enough, Diane Schuler’s husband Daniel decided to sue, saying the accident couldn’t have been the fault of an inebriated, stoned wife driving the wrong way—that would be too easy an explanation.Instead, he’s sued the state of New York itself, claiming that the highway was poorly designed and that it lacked proper signs (not counting all those “Wrong Way” signs, of course).He also filed a separate lawsuit against , the grieving father of the three little girls who were killed.I’ve heard of “the best defense is a good offense,” but suing your brother-in-law after your own wife kills all 3 of his kids seems like a monumentally stupid, offensive idea to me.
And you wonder why the legal profession gets a bad name?
This column is about hypocrisy. As a libertarian, I support marriage equality for gays and abortion rights although I admit I have struggled mightily with the latter and my views have changed after the birth of my grandchildren. I have always been and remain a Second Amendment man.
Mitt Romney once agreed with me. When running for the US Senate in 1994, Romney supported abortion on demand, gay marriage and gun control. That same year he attacked President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush saying "I don't want to take us back to that, to Reagan-Bush."
Now suddenly Mitt Romney wants us to believe he is not only a fiscal conservative but a social conservative who "has always been pro-life" and now opposes same sex marriage. Can you say chameleon?
Romney's boast that he spent 24 years in the private sector creating jobs is a joke. Massachusetts ran third from the bottom of all the states in job creation during his governorship and his main vocation at Bain Capital was consolidating companies and firing workers who didn't fit into his downsizing plans.
Much like his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, Willard Mitt Romney disdains conservatives privately but knows how to sound like one when the occasion requires it. His mother, Lenore Romney, ran for the US Senate a a pro-abortion supporter of the ERA. Romney reminds me of George H.W. Bush who, after being elected President, took the National Review magazine off the coffee table and threw it in the trash replacing it with the Yale Alumni magazine saying "We don't need this shit anymore."
Here then is Mitt Romney's record. Governor Romney says he's "only been in politics the four years he was governor." He'd like us to forget his 1994 race for the US Senate when he ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy (as if there is any room there without falling off the left side of the earth.)
Here then is the real record of Willard Mitt Romney:
1994: Romney backed federal funding of abortion and the codification of Roe v. Wade. "Romney supports a federal health care plan option that includes abortion services, would vote for a law codifying the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion and backs federal funding for abortions as long as states can decide if they want the money, [a spokesman] said." (Ed Hayward, "Anti-Abortion Group Endorses Romney Bid," Boston Herald, 9/8/94)
1999: Romney said, "When I am asked if am I pro-choice or pro-life, I say I refuse to accept either label." (Glen Warchol, "This Is The Place, But Politics May Lead Romneys Elsewhere," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2/14/99)
2002: Running for Massachusetts Governor, Romney said he was "devoted" to the pro-choice position. "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard. I will not change any provisions of Massachusetts' pro-choice laws." (2002 Romney-O'Brien Gubernatorial Debate, Suffolk University, Boston, MA, 10/29/02)
2005: Romney Considered Abortion-Rights Supporter By Pro-Life Groups - Aide Claimed His Position Had Not Changed. "[Massachusetts Citizens for Life] considers Romney to be an abortion-rights supporter, as do national antiabortion groups such as the Family Research Council. ... [Romney aide Eric] Fehrnstrom said the governor's position has not changed on either sex education or abortion." (Scott S. Greenberger, "Roe V. Wade Omitted From Proclamation," The Boston Globe, 3/25/05)
2006: Romneycare provides taxpayer-funded abortions. Abortions are covered in the Commonwealth Care program that Romney created as Governor. Under the program, abortions are available for a copay of $50. (Menu of Health Care Services: )
2006: Romneycare guarantees Planned Parenthood a seat at the table. Romney's legislation created an advisory board and guarantees, by law, that Planned Parenthood has a seat at the table. Romney's plan established a MassHealth payment policy advisory board, and one member of the Board must be from Planned Parenthood. No pro-life organization is represented. (Chapter 58 Section 3 (q) Section 16M (a), )
Romney used his line-item veto authority to strike eight sections of the bill that he found objectionable, including the expansion of dental benefits to Medicaid recipients. Yet, he did not strike Planned Parenthood's guaranteed Board representation and he did nothing to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions as part of his plan. ("Romney's Health Care Vetoes," Associated Press, 4/12/06)
2007: Romney now claims he has always been pro-life. "I am firmly pro-life ... I was always for life." (Jim Davenport, "Romney Affirms Abortion Opposition During Stop In SC," The Associated Press, 2/8/07) policy advisory board."
2011: Romney refuses to sign the pro-life Susan B. Anthony Pledge. Romney has drawn criticism for being one of only three Republican presidential candidates to have refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's Pro-Life Leadership Presidential Pledge. (dailycaller.com/2011/06/18/romney-draws-fire-for-not-signing-pro-life-pledge/)
Mitt Romney also has a record of supporting gun control and has supported anti-second amendment initiatives:
1994: Romney supported the Brady Bill and Assault Weapons Ban, bragging his stance was "not going to make me the hero of the NRA." "[Romney] said he will take stands that put him at odds with some traditional ultra-conservative groups, and cited his support for the assault rifle ban and the Brady gun control law. 'That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA,' he said. 'I don't line up with a lot of special interest groups.'" (Andrew Miga, "Mitt Rejects Right-Wing Aid," Boston Herald, 9/23/94)
2002: Romney praised Massachusetts' tough gun laws, vowed not to "chip away at them" as Governor. "[A]s the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Romney lauded the state's strong laws during a debate against Democrat Shannon O'Brien. 'We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them,' he said. 'I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.'" (Scott Helman, "Romney Retreats On Gun Control," The Boston Globe, 1/14/07)
2006: Romney explains he signed up for lifetime NRA membership in August 2006 because "I'm after the NRA's endorsement. ... If I'm going to ask for their endorsement, they're going to ask for mine." "Expressing familiarity with and support for gun rights is key among Republican presidential contenders ... It helps explain why Romney joined the NRA last August, signing up not just as a supporter but a designated 'Lifetime' member ... Romney told a Derry, N.H., audience, 'I'm after the NRA's endorsement. I'm not sure they'll give it to me. I hope they will. I also joined because if I'm going to ask for their endorsement, they're going to ask for mine.'" (Glen Johnson, "Romney Calls Himself A Longtime Hunter," The Associated Press, 4/5/07)
Mitt Romney once supported marriage equality. As a libertarian I wish he still did. His overnight switch is opportunistic and transparent. Mitt Romney believes in nothing but getting elected:
1994: Romney told the Massachusetts Log Cabin Club he would be better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy. In a letter to the group, Romney wrote, "As we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent." An Oct. 13, 1994 : "For some voters it might be enough for me to simply match my opponent's record in this area. But I believe we can and must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will."
2002: Romney called 2002 amendment banning gay marriage and benefits in Massachusetts too extreme and did not support it. "Mitt Romney's wife, son, and daughter-in-law signed a petition in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban both gay marriage and domestic-partner benefits in Massachusetts - an amendment that Romney himself condemned as too extreme after being told of his family's support for it." (Rick Klein, "Romney Kin Signed Petition To Ban Same-Sex Marriage," The Boston Globe, 3/22/02)
2002: A Romney aide said he felt the amendment was "unnecessary." "Romney's family members signed the petition to put it on the ballot 'without reading the fine print,' [Romney aide Eric] Fehrnstrom said, but he has no reason to believe they do not support it. 'Mitt did not know they signed it, and Mitt does not support it,' he said. 'As far as Mitt is concerned, it goes farther than current law, and therefore it's unnecessary.'" (Rick Klein, "Romney Kin Signed Petition To Ban Same-Sex Marriage," The Boston Globe, 3/22/02)
2006: Romney backed efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Massachusetts. "Just two weeks before lawmakers resume a Constitutional Convention to vote on a proposed ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, Gov. Mitt Romney will stand with the supporters of the measure to call on the Legislature to back it. Romney will join petition backers in a State House press event today to urge the Legislature to pass the Protection of Marriage Amendment when the Constitutional Convention reconvenes July 12, authorizing a 2008 ballot question asking voters to define marriage as between one man and one woman." (Kimberly Atkins and Kate Gibson, "Mitt Joining Supporters Of Anti-Gay Wed Initiative," Boston Herald, 6/28/06)
Mitt Romney fails the test of three key conservative issues - abortion, gun rights and same-sex marriage. Conservatives who support Mitt Romney also underestimate his weakness in the South, where the Church of Latter Day Saints is viewed with suspicion by evangelical Christians. In my view, these very real problems will haunt him - and spook conservatives - in the months ahead.