February 17, 2012

It's Santorum Time!

Rick Santorum is joined by his family at the CPAC  
Washington, D.C., February 10, 2012

Looks like things are changing fast in the Republican race for the presidential nomination. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has emerged as a new star for the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Some three months ago, Santorum barely registered with voters, the Gallup poll had him under 5 percent nationally and the idea of his winning the Republican nomination seemed like a joke. Now, for the first time, it’s a real possibility: not only does he appear to be overtaking Newt Gingrich as the principal challenger to Mitt Romney, having won more contests and delegates than Gingrich, but in the Gallup national poll he has jumped to 31 percent of Republicans’ support, while Romney has dipped to 33 percent, and in a New York Times-CBS News (national) poll he earned 30 percent while Romney got less: 27 percent. Furthermore, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, in the battleground state of Ohio, which has its primary Super Tuesday, he leads Romney 36 percent to 29 percent.

As it was not enough, after demonstrating an ability to rally social conservatives, he is now trying to broaden his coalition in Michigan—that is in Mitt Romney’s boyhood backyard—by attracting blue-collar fiscal conservatives. Of course, a victory in Michigan’s February 28 primary would be a stunning upset for him, and would signal his ability to do well in Rust Belt states where the manufacturing industry has been suffering in the economic downturn.

Is it Santorum turn? Yes, according to the National Review Online, which writes,

Santorum has been conducting himself rather impressively in his moments of triumph and avoiding characteristic temptations. He is doing his best to keep the press from dismissing him as merely a “social-issues candidate.” His recent remark that losing his Senate seat in 2006 taught him the importance of humility suggests an appealing self-awareness. And he has rightly identified the declining stability of middle-class families as a threat to the American experiment, even if his proposed solutions are poorly designed. But sensible policies, important as they are, are not the immediate challenge for his candidacy. Proving he can run a national campaign is.


Romney remains the undramatic figure at the center of the primaries’ drama. Lack of enthusiasm for him has set it all in motion. Romney is trying to win the nomination by pulverizing his rivals. His hope is that enthusiasm will follow when he takes on Obama in the summer and fall. But his attacks on Santorum have been lame, perhaps because they are patently insincere.

Lack of enthusiasm for him: that is one of Romney’s main problems, along with two damaging perceptions: a) that he is always either shading the truth or outright lying, as described by so many of his fellow countrymen, and b) “that he is part of the elite—the ‘one per cent’ that lives by different rules from ordinary Americans and therefore cannot understand the pains of the ordinary working man or woman,” as Peter Foster wrote on a Telegraph blog. Just the opposite of what Rick Santorum represents, one could argue.

But the former Pennsylvania senator has his own problems, the most pressing of which is that he is a Catholic who “finds it almost dishonorable to parry a question about core values,” as Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller puts it. Here’s an excerpt from an October 2011 interview:

One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”
It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.
Again, I know most Presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society

And here is how Matt Lewis comments on this:

Santorum is entitled to his beliefs. And certainly, one can admire his willingness to boldly stand up for them. But while this might be a profile in courage, it most certainly is also a profile in bad politics.
His position on contraception is, of course, a minority position — even within the conservative movement.
This doesn’t mean Santorum should have lied or hidden his personal beliefs. If asked, he might have simply said: “The use of contraception is inconsistent with my Catholic faith, but many other fine faith traditions disagree, and I respect their position” — and then moved on.
But Santorum doesn’t really believe that. He was more interested in winning the argument than winning the election.
This was not a mistake or a gaffe. Santorum was fully conscious of the dangers of discussing this issue, even noting during the interview that he’s not “running for preacher,” and confessing: “I know most Presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things …”
He was right — people really don’t want their president talking about contraceptives.[Italics mine]

Well, if you ask me what I think about this, I cannot but wholeheartedly agree with Matthew Archbold:

Lewis may be right in that it may not be smart politics but I think part of the reason Santorum is surging is that he is who he says he is. Santorum is not the talking points and teleprompter kind of candidate. He’s the anti-Obama.

But Rick Santorum’s is the anti-Obama in several other senses as well. As my friend Steven at The Metaphysical Peregrine sums it up in a sentence, “He talks about founding principles, conservative principles.”

In his speech at CPAC 2012 last Friday (see the video below), Santorum said,

“We know there’s a lot of excitement here because this election is about big, big things. We know it’s about big things; it’s about foundational principles. Every speech I’ve given from the 381 townhall meetings I did in Iowa, I talked about founding principles. This campaign is gonna be about a vision, about who we are as Americans.”

That vision? No more and no less than the one outlined by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence.

“Are we going to believe, as our Founders did, that our rights don’t come from the government, that they come from a much higher authority? There are those in the Oval Office who believe that’s not the case, that rights do, in fact, come from the government, and they have gone around convincing the American people that they can give you rights. We see what happens when government gives you rights. When government gives you rights, government can take away those rights. When government gives you rights, they can coerce you in doing things in exercising the rights that they gave you.”

And here is how he closed his speech:

“Why would an undecided voter vote for a candidate the party is not excited about? We need conservatives now to rally for a conservative to go into November, to excite the conservative base, to pull with that excitement moderate voters and to defeat Barack Obama in the fall. … Please walk out of this gathering and choose the candidate that you believe is the right person to lead this country, so you can say, ‘I have done my duty. I have kept my honor.’”

Impressive. Yes, I think this is the right word.