2016 Republicans, History, Requiem for a Candidate, Uncategorized

Requiem for a Candidate: Rick Santorum

February 12, 2016

Rick Santorum is a canary.  Once upon a time, people sent them into coal mines to test the air.  If the canary survived, safe to send the miners.  If the canary died….well, maybe not so safe.

Rick Santorum is consistent.  This makes him less interesting than other politicians.  Over time, most of them evolve quite a bit.  Young Congressman Richard Nixon wasn’t the same as Vice President Dick Nixon or President Richard M. Nixon.

Our 37th President ran as a stalwart anti-communist in his youth, acted as Ike’s attack dog as VP, and played statesman as president.  Once considered more conservative than the average Republican, as president, he created the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded Social Security benefits, instituted wage and price controls and removed the U.S. dollar’s fixed value against gold.

Beyond the interest in trying to solve his personal character, the political evolution of Nixon gave pundits and historians plenty to work with.  That’s not Santorum.  He’s pretty much the same guy who won election to the House from a suburban/exurban Pittsburgh district in 1990.

Since that time, he’s had notable electoral successes and failures.  In 1994, the two-term congressman defeated the heavily favored Harris Wofford to win election to the Senate.  He quickly became an influential member of the Republican caucus and was the third-ranking GOP senator when he lost his 2006 re-election by almost 20 points.

In 2012 he was the last social conservative standing in Iowa and won a huge upset.  Despite being underfunded, Santorum stuck around for months and finished second to Mitt Romney for the nomination.  Back in Iowa for 2016, he finished 11th.

This is what makes Santorum a canary.  He’s consistent, but his results are anything but.  His upset Senate win came in the Contract With America year.  His almost 20 point defeat was in 2006, the Democrats best midterm year in a couple generations.

Getting elected in a Republican wave and ejected in a Democratic wave completely sums up Santorum’s career.  He was elected to congress in his early 30s, but seemed mature well beyond his years.  Now he’s pushing 60 and looks relatively youthful.

In 2012, the other social conservatives self-destructed.  He won Iowa.  Santorum also won several caucus states.  While Mitt Romney wrapped up the nomination relatively easily, a close result in Michigan was the turning point.

Home to many of the current or former manufacturing workers Santorum’s message of economic populism is targeted to, he got ever so close to beating Michigan native Romney on his own turf, the place his father governed for much of the 1960s.

Economic populism is definitely in style for 2016.  With gay marriage off the table for now, abortion is the social issue GOP voters are the most fired up about.  Santorum is passionate about many social issues, but protecting life is top of the list.  It’s the thing he speaks with the most sincerity and conviction about.

But this is the most pro-life field in GOP history.  Not only was every candidate except the barely noticed George Pataki firmly pro-life, but few have changed their position during their public life.  Donald Trump is a notable exception, but most candidates started their careers against Roe v. Wade.

Marco Rubio, considered one of the more moderate sounding, electable choices in the field is against a rape and incest exception.  He’s not shy about explaining why.  This isn’t 2012, where Mitt Romney was a convert and Newt Gingrich preferred avoiding social issues.

Four years ago, Santorum was the only candidate actively talking about rebuilding the manufacturing base.  Romney followed modern conservative internationalist orthodoxy.  Gingrich wanted to put FedEx in charge of tracking visa overstays (not a bad idea.)

Now, while Santorum suggested reforming the tax code to promote manufacturing and capital investment, Trump talks about taking jobs back from China, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam.  He says he’s going to tell Ford to forget about building a new factory in Mexico.

Santorum’s approach is more targeted, but Trump’s is easier to run with.  If you believe The Donald has the ability to send Carl Icahn and his band of sharks to negotiate a new set of agreements, that sounds more likely to make a difference than hoping companies take advantage of Santorum’s new tax code.

Running against Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, Santorum soared.  Running against Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump he plummeted.  If you compare Perry’s result this time to last time, it shows how much tougher the field  is this time.

If you need to test the environment, just send in Rick Santorum.  His result will tell you what you want to know.

One final example.  When Lindsey Graham quit the race, I had his Requiem post up within 24 hours.  With Santorum, it took me a week and a half.  Why?  Several more campaigns suspended operations this time.  By the time I got through most of the first batch, Carly and Christie were done.

It’s not Santorum, it’s just crowded.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s