Evaluating the Non-Romneys: Rick Santorum

Here’s how I see the race for the GOP nomination in its present state: Romney is the frontrunner, and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are vying for the position of the conservative Romney alternative. After South Carolina, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are out. There is just no path forward for them, and the momentum isn’t there. I think that Ron Paul will stay in the race and continue to earn decent percentages, but his Libertarian views butt-heads with the Republican establishment and he’s not going to be able to get the majorities that he would need to win.

So the dilemma for conservative voters who just aren’t happy with Romney is whether to support Gingrich or Santorum. Romney’s best hope is that they both stay in the race and divide the conservative vote, because I think that as soon as either drops out, support will shift to the other and give Romney some significant competition. If they both stay in the race for a substantial amount of time, then there’s really no chance of stopping Romney. I think that Romney gets the nomination either way, but if conservatives want to take a stand against Romney, their best shot is to pick a single anti-Romney candidate.

I caught the second Huckabee Presidential Forum on Saturday night, and I’m going to be specifically evaluating one of the conservative non-Romney choices: Rick Santorum. Romney is still on top in South Carolina polling, with Gingrich trailing him by about five points. Right now Newt’s trying to paint himself as the Romney alternative, but I think that all his baggage would be a real issue in the general election. Santorum would have some battles too, and I think that his past remarks on gay people could really come back to hurt him. That’s part of the game when you’re the conservative candidate, and I know that a lot of conservative voters agree with him on the social issues.

The first question for Santorum was on winning over liberals and independents on his views of abortion. Santorum explained that he won four out of five races in a democratic area, and that he would explain his convictions. Santorum believes that the people will follow him as long as they know he’s genuine. I think that since the election will be largely focused on the economy, Santorum may get a pass on some of these social issues. The election will also be a referendum on Obama, and if the economy doesn’t pick up, Santorum would be smart to explain why he believes what he believes and not focus too heavily on the social issues.

The next few questions dealt with getting the economy going, and Santorum centered his answers on creating manufacturing jobs and making America more competitive with the rest of the world. He talked about how increasing manufacturing jobs would also add white collar jobs, and that repealing regulations and requiring Congress to approve new regulations would bring jobs back and make it easier to run businesses. Santorum did well stressing the importance of small businesses and disparaging the Obama administration for creating so many new regulations—standard Republican ideas which the other candidates didn’t focus on as much as Santorum did.

I think that Santorum handled himself well tonight. One thing I’m surprised that doesn’t really get discussed is the fact that he lost the race for his Senate seat, because Americans really don’t like losers. At the end of the day, given the general election polling, conservatives would be better off accepting Romney if they want to win in November.

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Comments

  • hartwe60  On January 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I agree with your analysis of Santorum. The person who will get the nomination will be the person that Republican believe can fix the economy. Also I feel that most social issues like gay marriage and abortion are battles being fought at a state level and so most candidates just have to state their view on something and that is good enough for the American people.

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