Why Rick Santorum Can’t Beat Obama

I have respect for people who want a president who’s socially conservative. Many believe it’s important that the person who leads our country shares their same belief system of traditional family values. In the world of politics where disingenuous pledges and shameless pandering are second nature, voters are understandably skeptical of politicians and they thirst for candidates they can trust. For many, a commitment by a candidate to socially conservative principles goes a long way toward building that trust.

The problem in the context of the upcoming election is that if social issues become the focal point of the presidential debate, the Republican candidate will lose. That’s the cold hard truth.

Now, I’m not taking a swipe at the merits of social conservatism. I hold some socially conservative viewpoints myself and I believe many of those views resonate with a majority of the country.

The problem is that in today’s political landscape, there is no easier cultural battle for the liberal media to exploit, manipulate, and misrepresent than that of socially conservative stances. Unlike economic issues where numbers and equations are used to support arguments based on concise logic, positions on social issues are often emotionally charged and instinctive. If not articulated carefully and relayed honestly, they can be used to decimate the person defending them. The mere fact that contraception has been part of our national dialogue over the past few weeks is undeniable proof of this.

Just over a month ago, no one in this country was concerned with women losing their right to contraception. That’s why ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos took so much heat for trying to make it a political issue when he brought up the topic during a Republican presidential debate in January. At the time, Mitt Romney did a good job of squelching George’s attempt to create a false narrative for the Democratic party to later run on. However, the spoiled bologna only sat on the shelf another month before it was pulled out of the refrigerator again.

When the Catholic church recently objected to an Obamacare mandate forcing them to pay for and provide free contraception for women, the media and the Democratic party saw another opportunity to inject the manufactured concern of a contraception ban into the news cycle. This time it stuck. What was purely an issue of religious freedom was twisted into the narrative of an attack on women’s rights. During a House hearing on the Obamacare mandate, Democratic congresswomen Carolyn Mahoney and Eleanor Holmes received a huge amount of press for denouncing committee members for not inviting female witnesses to speak on the merits of access to contraception. The reality, of course, is that the Catholic church’s conflict with the Obamacare mandate had absolutely nothing to do with the right to contraception. It had to do with the church paying for and offering contraceptives, which is against their religious beliefs. But if you didn’t do your homework and scrutinize the story closely, you wouldn’t know that.

Naturally, the media has used the false narrative to pose provocative questions to the Republican presidential candidates. Rick Santorum has been their favorite target due to his outspoken, socially conservative stances including a personal opposition to contraception. While I admire Santorum’s eagerness to speak candidly about such topics, the problem with him defining his candidacy with his faith and conservative commentary is that it paints him into a corner. He allows himself to be pulled too deeply into discussions that are beyond the comfort level of most people. This invites the media-driven suspicion that, if elected, he’ll impose his personal religious beliefs on the American electorate. And if those beliefs are in conflict with those held by a significant portion of the country (which in some cases they are), they’ll hurt him dramatically in the general election.

Though George W. Bush’s detractors often tried to paint the former president as a religious nut, the criticism never really stuck in a way that was harmful to him because Bush was able to stay above the fray. He didn’t allow himself to be pulled down into the mud and entertain narratives that haven’t been on the political radar for decades. Yet, the base never questioned his conservative credentials. They trusted him to hold their best interests. Santorum doesn’t seem to have that same capacity to get his message across without appearing judgmental and uptight. It hurts him… not so much to primary voters but to the general electorate, and I don’t see it changing.

Sure, Santorum has made it clear in interviews that he makes a distinction between how he chooses to live his own life and how he would deal with social issues as president. Logically, his argument holds weight. After all, someone can choose not to own a gun but still be a strong supporter of the second amendment. Yet, it won’t take a heck of a lot of effort for Super PACs and media commentaries to sway voters away from accepting that distinction. There’s just too much Santorum material out there, from his speeches to Catholic groups to his opinions as a FOX News analyst. It’s not something he can downplay in the run-up to the general election.

Look at the position Santorum has been in for the past week for evidence of what I’m saying. He’s the front-runner in the GOP race but he hasn’t been able to effectively promote his ideas on the economy. Why not? He’s been busy clarifying his view that contraception harms society, explaining his 2008 speech about the threat of Satan in America, clarifying past comments about the legitimacy of specific Christian denominations, and more. And we’re just getting started. Sure, some of these criticisms are based on shifty premises that the media has introduced, but look how quickly and easily they have taken shape and have stolen the headlines.

Santorum often makes the valid point that if Mitt Romney becomes the Republican candidate, the powerful issue of Obamacare could be taken off the table. After all, the administration can point to the deployment of Romneycare in Massachusetts as a template for what they did in introducing the Affordable Care Act. It’s a compelling argument. Using that same logic, however, I would suggest that if Santorum is the Republican candidate, the issue of the economy could be taken off the table.

There’s nothing that the Democratic party and the national media wants more right now than to change the subject off of our economic problems. The one sure-fire way of doing this for the duration of the presidential campaign is to create a culture war over social issues. I’ve seen them do it here in Colorado, and I know their chomping at the bit to do it nationally.

The sure bet is that if Santorum wins the GOP nomination, he’ll be on the defense over his social stances (both real and perceived) all the way until November. And if the Republican candidate is constantly on the defense at a time when President Obama should be on the ropes for his horrific handling of our country’s economy, it spells certain defeat for the Republicans in November.

I believe Rick Santorum is a good man with several admirable qualities. Perhaps my strong belief that he’s also unelectable is more of a statement on our culture than it is on him. Still, I think we would be foolish to overlook that what helps make him a good man also serves as his Achilles heel.

As Santorum himself has said, the 2012 election can’t be about the Republican candidate. I believe he’s right.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • Anybody

    Santorum and the Democrats know this. That is why both are robo calling democrats to vote Santorum to defeat Romney. Santorum is just like Newt. If he can’t win than neither can anyone else. Michigan we are counting on you!

  • Barker

    If common sense prevails, any Republican would win in a landslide. If more bird brains believe Obama’s lies, then he’ll have 4 more years to spread the misery around.

  • ulyssesmsu

    It’s dishonest for a writer to use the word “disingenuous,” which means “dishonest.” If you mean “dishonest,” say “dishonest.” Grow a set and say what you mean.

    • post*tenebras*lux

      Exactly. I’m sick of the double speak also.

      • John Daly

        I had no idea that was such a divisive word. lol.

        • cmacrider

          Actually since “dishonest” and “disingenuous” have quite different connotations, it would seem you are fully entitled to employ the word “disingenuous” if you a meaning the speaker lacks frankness or candour. Since you probably do not know the speakers subjective beliefs, it may be prudent to suggest they are disingenuous rather than suggesting the intentionally speak falsehoods.

          • Michael

            I agree, and I don’t think John’s “set” is the issue. He’s quite capable of saying/writing what he means, even when he knows he’s going to catch Hades for doing so.

            Maybe he just has a broader vocabulary than some of his critics.

  • Sunnyr

    I don’t think Rick Santorum is up for the job. He gave a miserable performance at the last Debate and the next day was whiny and accusatory. Spare me!

    We need an adult professional at the wheel. Calm, steady,competent and self assured. That is Mitt Romney. Go Mitt!

  • Mike Bittner

    John Daly, no matter which Republican candidate wins the nomination, the liberal media will skewer him or her! Santorum is no worse than Romney or any other. Me? I think Santorum is light-years better than Romney or Paul, and just a bit better than Gingrich. Santorum is a man of principle and doesn’t say what he thinks is going to win him more votes from one minute to the next like Romney. So, saying Santorum is a loser is just plain nuts on your part. He stands for something! And because of that, he’ll get my vote over the rest of them any day!

  • Glen Stambaugh

    My favorites are long gone from this race and possibly for the better. Your logic is sound, but noone knows for sure what will be. Santorum may become a better candidate (I think he already has) and the Dems may have shot their wad too early. I agree that Mitt is our best shot to win in the general election.

    • John Daly

      Which bums me out since I’m not crazy about Mitt at all. :(

      • Sunnyr

        Mitt was not my first choice either, but the more I read about him the better I like him. I wanted to discount him by doing a little research, but it worked to Mitt’s advantage. He is now my first choice as our candidate to beat Comrade Obozo and pull this country out of the quagmire we have been stuck in for the past 3+ years.

        He is qualifed, experienced, competent and very ready to be President. Go Mitt!

  • Michael

    I think many Republican voters are still just hardheaded enough to vote on principle. Gosh darnit, we’ve always had that problem in America – people standing on principle.

    • John Daly

      For me, if it’s about sticking to my principles and voting for a guy who can’t win OR 4 more years of Obama, the answer is simple. Believe me, the candidate I prefer most likely can’t win either.

  • John Daly

    Obama had the firm backing of the mainstream media in his battle with Hillary. Santorum will not. And the only people making the second prediction were Democrats.

  • DOOM161

    That’s odd, because Obama couldn’t beat Hilary, either. And then there was no way republicans would hold a majority in either house of congress for another fifty years.

    • Mike Bittner

      ROFL! Yep! Santorum could never beat Obama /sarc

      • Nancye

        Mickey Mouse could beat Obama.

        • John Daly

          I wish.

        • post*tenebras*lux

          If it were Mickey Mouse alone, but take into consideration the minions.