Santorum was Bush’s biggest cheerleader in the Senate. He never met a big government conservative faith-based program he didn’t like. The fact that he has now morphed into THE conservative candidate is a credit to his campaigning skills, which, as it turns out, are considerable. The trouble is that he is a moral conservative, not the proper kind. He is saying he wants to cut the size of government now, but then so is Mitt Romney, and I don’t believe either of them have fully bought the concept that government is the enemy, not the tool, and elections aren’t just about the Right’s ability to manage public money better than the Left.
The reason Santorum is in the lead right now is not necessarily due to circumstances beyond his control. When he started the race, he was terrible. He was trying to outflank everybody on the Right of the field, and mark himself out as the social issues candidate in an election where people only cared about the economy. But then he changed up a gear. He suddenly (for whatever reason) realised what he was doing wrong, and got very disciplined on his message. He remained principled on moral issues, but didn’t focus on them, and came up with the right lines to bat away questions. His line in one of the debates responding to a question about what if his son told him he was gay, “I’d love him just as much as I did before he’d said it”, was disciplined and put him back in the mainstream. He’s been very adept at contextualizing some of his nuttier comments of years past. And more importantly, he’s managed to articulate conservatism in a way that Mitt could not, and display his principles and family values in a way that Newt is unable to do. That, ultimately, is what has propelled him into front-runner status. He has had some help from the distractions caused by other candidacies, but it’s no accident that he is in pole position. He has run the best campaign so far, while Mitt’s has faltered (and the less said about Newt’s the better).
Romney has been trying to attack Santorum, but he is doing it all wrong. He’s going after Santorum’s predilection for earmarks, but it’s impossible to make that stick, since every Senator in the history of the United States has sent pork back to their home state. The trouble with attacking Santorum on his real faults is that Romney can’t do it without hurting himself. He can’t call Santorum a moralizing moral majority relic, because he’s a Mormon who is desperately trying to convince evangelicals that Mormons are just as moral as they are. He can’t criticize Rick for flip-flopping, because that’s Mitt’s picture in the dictionary next to the term. And being the standard bearer for now derided “compassionate conservatism”? You can’t run that line with Romneycare on your record. So he is stuck with the line that he is now the only “outsider” in the race, which is also not going to help him, since everybody knows that GOP “insiders” are supporting him 10 to 1.
All this leads me to believe that Romney is in deep trouble. He is not going to be able to beat Santorum all on his own. The great irony is that he is going to need a Newt comeback. Having not just conquered Newt in Florida, but raped, pillaged and destroyed his campaign, Romney is now going to have to hope Newt beats Santorum in the South so that he can pick up enough delegates in the Northeast and the West Coast to get him over the line. If Santorum starts winning Southern states as well, then Gingrich is finished and there will be no stopping him.
Personally I do not want Santorum to be President. I do not think it would be in the Right’s interests for him to beat Obama. I don’t really think a Romney presidency would be good for us either. Both would be a repeat of George HW Bush, where a moderate guy spent his term paying lip service to the conservative movement, but prevaricated and dithered on conservative values. And in Santorum’s case, that would be coupled with moralizing of the worst kind. It would be like Bush AND Dan Quayle rolled up into the same person.
I reiterate that Gingrich would be the best candidate. I expect him to win Georgia, and maybe a couple of other states and if he is lucky, he will carry my home state of Texas as well, giving him a large number of delegates, and hopefully some momentum. But he is yet to change up a gear. He is still whining and carrying on like a little bitch. Arrogantly, he thinks he can do this himself without a campaign consultant or proper manager to give him some message discipline. As long as he thinks that, he will lose, and we will be deprived of a great President.
The reality is of course, that none of these candidates are ideal. Gingrich would be best, but even he just doesn’t have enough of the right temperament or discipline to avoid making himself, and not Obama, the issue of the 2012 campaign. The best we can hope for is that he, and Mitt, and Rick, and Ron, all get enough delegates to stop each other from winning, and we have a brokered convention with a compromise candidate being selected. That would be the most ideal outcome.
Who would that candidate be? Anybody who has not been through an actual presidential campaign before is a non-starter, and you want someone who would sufficiently unify everyone. You don’t want a noob. So that leaves out Jeb Bush. Really, if we are going to have a compromise candidate, it is going to be one of the following:
- Dick Cheney
- Sarah Palin
- Mike Huckabee
Those three are the only ones who have had their feet held to the fire and know what is required to get the job done. (There is also the aforementioned Dan Quayle and George HW Bush, but we are trying to find someone who can win) My preference is for Palin, but I think Cheney could do the job equally well, and be an excellent President also. Both would be acceptable to conservatives and the Tea Party. Cheney would also be acceptable to the “establishment”, with only the question of his age and health a hindrance (he is 71 and his blood pumps by virtue of an electronic device – he literally has no pulse!). Probably Huckabee would be the most acceptable to everyone – while his record as Arkansas Governor is more moderate than one would like, he would still have Tea Party support. I suspect if a compromise was thrashed out, his name would be the one that emerged.
But of course, I still want Palin. Who should have run in the first place.
How possible is a brokered convention? Never discount the possibility that, if Gingrich fails on Super Tuesday or later, that he runs a “kamikaze” campaign, ie. he stays in the race, but declares that he wants a brokered convention and people should vote for him if they want someone other than Romney or Santorum. It’s so crazy that it might work…