Would Santorum Have Been the Better Candidate?

When Rick Santorum was doing well in the Repubican primaries, the common beef against him was that he could never be a viable candidate in the general election because he placed too much emphasis on “social issues.” His tenacious positions on gay marriage, abortion, family values, religion and the like would scare off independent voters. He would be written off as a wacko by everyone outside the GOP right wing.

No matter that he held exactly the correct positions on fiscal responsibility, tax policy, bureaucratic red tape and military preparedness. No matter that he was an articulate foe of Obamacare, while Mitt Romney was dogged by his embarrassing history with Romneycare back in Massachusetts. Romney was the safer candidate.

It is quite possible that a conservative candidate would have prevailed over Romney in the primaries if there hadn’t been so many of them. In several states that Romney captured during the early going, the combination of Santorum, Newt Gingrich and, for a brief time, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann, out-polled Mitt. Mitt had the advantage of being the unique figure in the race — moderate and, so it was argued, safe. His support was strong enough to earn him pluralities, but rarely majorities.

I don’t think Gingrich  was ever likely to win the nomination, because despite his brilliant mind his reputation preceded him. An election with Newt as the candidate would have been all about him and his morals.

But Santorum — had Gingrich dropped out of the race earlier — could have made it a horse race against Mitt.

Ah, but then there would be that problem of his wacky obsession with social issues.

That line of thinking has turned out to be nonsense. This election campaign has become very much about social issues. We can thank President Obama for that, starting from the moment that he made his public statement in support of gay marriage. Or perhaps we should go back farther, to when he decreed that Catholic institutions must pay to provide free birth control and abortion pills to their employees, in contradiction to their religious beliefs.

The citizens of 32 states have voted on gay marriage, and all of those states have voted in favor of propositions that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The 32 include hard-core GOP reliables, of course, but they also include such swing states as Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. They even include some states that are normally considered solidly blue and were easily won by Obama in 2008.

Obama may have miscalculated badly here — something he rarely did when he was running four years ago. I suspect that he may have doomed his candidacy by his new emphasis on social issues. When it comes to social issues, the majority of Americans don’t seem to be with him. This is not to argue that gay marriage, for example, is either good or bad. What matters in an election is whether the candidate’s positions are popular.

If Rick Santorum had won the GOP nomination, he might have been better able to exploit the social issues. Social issues are his thing, he has strong convictions, and what he says rings true and sincere. He would have lit some fires.

Mitt, by contrast, even when he says the right things, always seems a little squishy. And now and then, alas, one can point to times in the past when he said something different about the same issue.

Author Bio:

Arthur Louis spent more than forty years as a print journalist, with the Philadelphia Inquirer, McGraw-Hill, Fortune magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle, but he is not asking for sympathy. He is the author of two non-fiction books: The Tycoons, and Journalism and Other Atrocities, as well as a novel, The Little Champ. In retirement, he has decided unilaterally that he is a profound political pundit.
Author website: http://bernardgoldberg.com
  • jujubeebee

    His pick of Paul Ryan shows Romney cares about actually solving the problems.  Maybe it will elevate the campaign talking points beyond smear tactics and promises that won’t be fulfilled.  Contraceptives costing $8 for women who choose to work for religious employers shouldn’t be an issue while Obama is causing the dollar to be devalued with his overspending and QE1 & QE2.   Printing money is taking way more than $8 a month out of every middle class pocket!   The price of everything has gone up~ food, gas, clothing and women do shop!  It is time to elevate the campaign now and make it an adult conversation.   It is not always about taxes.   Obama policies are hitting the middle class in more ways than taxes.    The coal regulations will be making our electricity prices to skyrocket in Obama own words.    Your money is only as good as what it can purchase and Obama is taking it out of ever voter’s pocket!

    Who cares what is on someone tax form?   Voters care about what affects them personally. If Romney is smart enough to get his accountants to take advantage of every loophole then maybe that is who we need.   Certainly Obama has wasted too much of the taxpayer money already.   (stupid investments like Solyndra)

    • Artlouis

       Very well put, and would make a good stump speech.

  • jujubeebee

    I still hold out hope for Romney fighting hard back.   He is a businessman afterall and in business timing is the most important thing.   You don’t lay it all out there first……you wait and pounce when it matters.  Hopefully he is holding back and allowing Obama campaign to make fools of themselves over their idiotic campaign strategy.   This is what I am hoping is happening.  He sure fought hard against Newt when it mattered.  Maybe he is strategizing?  HOPE so!
    Obama wants to make this election about other things than the economy.  Romney will get the evangelicals without actually trying.  

  • Brian_Bayless

    Santorum would get crushed in an election against Obama. He would not have stood a chance. His stances alone would have turned off independent voters.

    • Artlouis

      Brian, At least Santorum would have run a campaign. He would have carried the fight to them. Romney gets hit with new personal attacks every day, they cause a huge stir, and nobody is listening to what he is saying. Can you cite a single memorable phrase from any of his speeches? Do you even remember any of his speeches? But I will bet that you remember that he is a tax cheat, a callous murderer of sick women, cruel to animals, a gay-basher, etc., etc. His is one of the weakest campaigns I can recall. It ranks with McCain 2008 and Dukakis 1988.

      • Brian_Bayless

        Romney’s campaign  reminds me of Kerry in 2004.

      • jujubeebee

        If Santorum was the candidate he would be hit even harder than Romney…and the religious personal attacks would be the main and center focus when it needs to be the economy.   We need more than a debate over religion freedom this year when our whole freedom is at stake.   Romney will get the religious vote and I have no doubts about that because the alternative is Obama who is taking away religious freedom.  Santorum would also get hit with gay bashing and women bashing, etc.   (even more so!)    This is how the Chicago politicians work.   They use the Saul Alinsky tactics and just go after the opponent with smears.   I have more faith in Romney to fight it off than Santorum because he was a successful business man.   Santorum couldn’t even win his own state.   This election should not be about soundbites that the media harps on because the media is picking and choosing which phrases to highlight.   “You didn’t build that” should be more out there in mainstream media, should it not?  
        Romney was the better candidate over Santorum.   This year we are fighting for freedom.   The debt crisis needs to be front and center and not Sandra Fluck, although certainly religious freedom is a large issue.    Hopefully Romney is using strategy to pounce when the timing is perfect…..not too early…..wait till after the Democratic convention…etc.    He has conserved finances and that was smart…..maybe he is conserving the fighting tactics for when it is smart too.  

        • Artlouis

           It used to be that there was scarcely any campaigning before the conventions. That was in the days when it wasn’t always clear who would be nominated. Even now, a lot of  people don’t start paying attention until Labor Day. There is still time to pull this thing out, but I  believe that the incumbent has the advantage for now.

  • rogers

    Romney’s campaign has definitely not been as effective as it can be.  It should be easy to tear apart Obama’s abysmal presidency (albeit Romney has a colossal disadvantage with the MSM being in the tank for Obama), but i see another McCain coming up in November if the campaign does not ratchet up it’s intensity and it’s focus on pro-Romney specifics.  

    Also, when I look at Romney – who is obviously intelligent and well-spoken – I dont see someone who explains himself in a very persuasive manner.  I think Reagan was able to do that very well….he could explain a position very convincingly and effectively.  

    I do think Romney has the foundation to make a very good president but I worry about his political skills.  Personally i dont care if my president is charismatic or attractive etc (however, unfortunately, that’s part of the game it seems)…i just want someone who will get the job done.

    If Romney can’t overcome this liability (again, that “liability” might just be in my head only) he better select a VP who is politically very persuasive and astute.  Because as soon as he picks a VP the MSM (nevermind the Obama campaign) will ratchet up their attacks and Romney cannot afford an additional drag on his ticket.

      

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/3dea6736-d5fe-11e1-9828-000bcdcb2996 emily

    The only person that really scared team Obama is Marco Rubio, they are terrified that Romney will name him VP. they keep trowing up different name to see people reactions but in every poll Rubio is still the favorite, that has Obama very scarred, even Bill Richardson say so.

    • Artlouis

      I know. Some time ago David Axelrod was interviewed on TV, and he claimed that nominating Rubio for veep would be “an insult to the Hispanic community.” Thanks for that great, unselfish advice, David. That duplicitous statement makes it clear how afraid they are.  Rubio has a lot going for him. Great talker, charismatic, bright, personable, Hispanic, conservative. On the assumption that the veep eventually gets to run for President, people who see him as a future president might want to vote for the Romney ticket if only for that reason.  However, it is starting to look as though Ryan will get the nod if Portman doesn’t. Ryan has a lot going for  him, but I am not sure he can draw as many votes as Rubio.

  • GlenFS

    I strongly disagree with your premise.  Obama would be getting much more traction on the social issues with Santorum.  Against Romney they fall somewhat flat because his past softer positions disarm him as a threatening ideologue.  

    As it is the Bain attacks have been successful in part due to the Romney team holding their fire.  It’s not fun to watch, but it is tactical and Obama’s attacks have failed to KO.

    • Artlouis

       Just today I heard that the Obama team is going around telling women that Romney wants to send them back to the fifties. All this bunk about the war against women is still alive. Romney is not getting any breaks just because he isn’t Santorum. 

      Santorum would have really let them have it after the Chick-fil-A statements by the mayors. The public was with him. It would have been electrifying. Romney doesn’t have room for it in his campaign. He is turning his back on all those people who stood in mile-long lines to buy chicken sandwiches, because he doesn’t want people to think he is Santorum. This is shaping up as a disaster.  Romney is a felon, tax cheat, murderer, dog abuser, and on and on, or so the Dems say.  But he refuses to put on the gloves.

      • Artlouis

         Maybe I should have said take off the gloves. Was thinking of boxing under the Queensbury rules.

      • GlenFS

        I agree Romney’s failure to get on the Chick-fil-A bandwagon was not a profile in political courage.  It appears he’s aiming for the middle now that he’s sewn up the GOP slot.  Time will tell if it was also good strategy.

  • Michael

    This seems like a conversation more appropriate for after the election, if Romney loses.  Romney was not my candidate, but he won the nomination, so let’s help push him over the line, and try not to mess up his hair while we’re doing it. ;)

    • Artlouis

       Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. I would agree with you if I were employed in some capacity by the Republican Party, but as someone who is merely on the sidelines, hoping the GOP will win but fearing not, I feel the need to vent.

      • Michael

        I’m not “employed in some capacity by the Republican Party,” but I am concerned about the fate of my country, and I think it’s important for Romney to beat Obama.  As an American voter, I don’t feel like I’m on the “sidelines.”  Beating Obama is more important to me than the need to ”vent.”  It’s all about focus and purpose.  I hope you find, or renew, yours. 

        • Artlouis

           I can’t think of anyplace, including this essay, where I have expressed a desire for Obama to win or Romney to lose.  However, I am a journalist by training — one of the old-fashioned kind, now almost extinct, who choose to report things as they are.  You seem to be telling me politely to shut up for the team. I doubt that what I have written here, even if read carefully by every American, would change any votes. I am not propagandizing, merely analyzing.