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Opinion

Opinion

Santorum may suit social conservatives

February 3, 2011

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In 1994, when Rick Santorum was a second-term Pennsylvania congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat, a columnist asked him how he was going to win. “Guns,” he replied serenely. Pennsylvania’s legions of deer hunters do not use assault weapons, which President Bill Clinton was trying to ban, but the hunters suspected that this, like Clinton’s wife’s health care plan, reflected a pattern of assaults on liberty.

Santorum, then 36, won by 87,210 votes — 87,210 hunters? — out of 3,384,172 cast, becoming the first conservative elected senator from Pennsylvania since 1952. “Never,” he says today, “underestimate the power of the social issues.”

He probably will test that power — and the theory, which he rejects, that economic anxieties have marginalized those issues — by seeking the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nomination.

Santorum had one of the Senate’s most conservative voting records and was floor manager of the most important legislation of the 1990s, the 1996 welfare reform, which Clinton vetoed twice before signing. In 2000, Santorum won a second term with 52 percent, and was elected third-ranking Republican leader in the Senate. In 2006, a miserable year for Republicans, he lost 59-41.

How can he, having lost his last election, run for president? Isn’t he a spent political force? Well, was Richard Nixon defunct after losing the California gubernatorial race in 1962?

Santorum has made nine trips to New Hampshire, where he has hired a chairman of his state political action committee and a state director, and is returning soon. He has been that many times to two other early delegate-selection states, Iowa and South Carolina, and has other trips to those states scheduled.

Seven reasons why he has not committed to running are his children, ranging in ages from 19 to 2. The Santorums take parenting very seriously: All but their youngest child have been partially home-schooled. The youngest, Bella, is severely disabled with Trisomy 18, a condition caused by a chromosomal defect that prevents more than 90 percent of its victims from reaching their first birthdays.

About his presidential run, he says, “My wife is sane, therefore she doesn’t want me to do this.” But both she and he are passionately right-to-life, and dedicated to trying to reform today’s abortion culture that is increasingly comfortable with treating inconvenient lives, including those like Bella’s, as disposable.

Santorum appears four to six times a week on the Fox News and Fox Business channels, which are watched — particularly the former — by much of the Republican nominating electorate. And for three hours every Friday he hosts William Bennett’s nationally syndicated radio program, which also has a mostly conservative audience.

Santorum does not ignore economic issues, but as a relentless ethicist, he recasts those as moral issues: “What is European socialism but modern-day monarchy that ‘takes care’ of the people?” He is, of course, correct that America’s debt crisis is, at bottom, symptomatic of a failure of self-control, a fundamental moral failing.

The first event of the nominating process, Iowa’s Republican caucuses, are, Santorum says, a bifurcated event. One part concerns born-again and evangelical Christians, who are 60 percent of caucus participants. The other part involves everyone else. This is why Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008, and why in 1988 Pat Robertson finished a strong second to Bob Dole and ahead of George H.W. Bush.

Three people who might have competed, or still might compete, with Santorum for voters intense about social issues include Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who has decided against running. And Huckabee, who is doing well as a Fox News contributor. And Sarah Palin, another Fox luminary, would have the most to lose financially from running. Santorum thinks “the left is trying to goad her into it,” hoping she would be weak among the independent voters who decide most elections.

Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, a state contiguous with Iowa, is running hard and has published a book with a strong religious theme, but Santorum doubts that Pawlenty has the passion requisite for connecting with “values voters.” That is a Santorum theory.

Here is another: If unemployment is still above 9 percent in 2012, almost any Republican can win, and if there is a convincing recovery the party had better nominate someone who can energize its base.

That is only a theory, but this is a fact: Social conservatives are much of that base, are feeling neglected and are looking for someone like Santorum.

Comments

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Santorum isn't electable. Neither is Palin, along with a host of others routinely named. The only thing that will prevent Republicans from taking back the White House from its ineffective present occupant will be making a bad choice for his opponent. We will most assuredly see a very interesting primary campaign, with the liberal media doing everything in its power to destroy any Republican who emerges as a legitimately electable candidate.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

"with the liberal media doing everything in its power to destroy any Republican who emerges as a legitimately electable candidate."

Why, yes, it must be the mainstream corporately owned (and we know how liberal corporations are) media that will be the problem, and it will have nothing to do with the vapid candidates with nothing to offer but demagoguery.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, tell me that Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric and now official Obama toadie (having previously been so unofficially) isn't a liberal.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

In your black-and-white, you're-with-us-or-agin-us world, I suppose you have to pigeonhole him somewhere, and since he's been spotted in proximity to the evil Obama, the taint of "libral" is unavoidable.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, if you knew anything about Immelt's views, you'd know that he's big-time liberal. You might also want to check out GE's slick, sweetheart-deal exemption from Obama's greenhouse gas rules (imposed by executive fiat rather than by Congress and, hopefully, to be struck down by the courts). Yep, just more Obama "transparency," right? Just like all of the Obamacare exemptions given to the unions and many of Obama's other political cronies, right? How's that gonna play when Obamacare is before the U.S. Supreme Court? The fraud and corruption practiced by the Obama administration already surpasses that of any of this recent predecessors, even Clinton, by a long shot.

voevoda 3 years, 10 months ago

Of course, the right-wing propaganda machine has worked overtime to impede the work of the legitimately-elected Democratic president. Look at the blatant falsehoods it has come up with: "Birthers" "Death panels" "Mosque at Ground Zero" "Job-killing health care bill" "Setting terrorists free" etc., etc.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

"Falsehoods," Voevoda? Whether these phrases are accurate or not depends entirely on one's point of view. The number of falsehoods that have emanated from the Obama administration in only two years is staggering.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

"Here is another: If unemployment is still above 9 percent in 2012, almost any Republican can win, and if there is a convincing recovery the party had better nominate someone who can energize its base."

And after that, in 2014, with unemployment having risen to 11 percent......

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Actually, Bozo, the unemployment rate will improve substantially by November of 2012 as the result of Obama's tax compromise in December, and will improve even further if he signs another bill reducing corporate tax rates. The Republicans will be pleased - but so will Obama as the election season approaches. Obama has clearly sold out his ideology in return for improving his re-election prospects, and he could accomplish just what he wants if the Republicans blow it by nominating an unelectable candidate.

voevoda 3 years, 10 months ago

Obama has never been an "ideologue," cato_the_elder. He is a pragmatic centrist.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

Tax breaks for the wealthy haven't increased employment yet (not in this county, anyway) and there's no reason to believe doing more of the same will give a different result.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

Should have been "not in this country, anyway." Although they haven't done much for employment in this county, either.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, if you read financial news sources regularly you would know that the tax compromise has already had a substantial positive effect on our economy and will continue to do so, especially if coupled with a meaningful reduction in corporate tax rates. Obama doesn't like using these tools at all because they don't punish successful people, but he knows that they will work and he needs the lift for his re-election bid.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

Publications written by and for the wealthy investing (speculating, actually) class find that tax breaks to them have a "positive effect." What a surprise.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Bozo, if you did read financial news sources regularly you would also know that they routinely discuss unemployment, housing, and all matters of interest on the macro level. Your comment demonstrates once more that you have no knowledge of financial markets or finance in general.

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