Santorum the Rising Star

Who would have thunk it? Rick Santorum?

The former US senator from Pennsylvania, who lost his bid for a third term by 18 percentage points in 2006, has now returned looking for a big promotion–as president of the United States.

For months he languished in the polls as conservative Republican voters flitted from one to another self-destructing candidate until there were none left. Then he made his big move to the top of the heap in the Iowa caucuses.

Just weeks before he had been on the verge of elimination. Then he snagged the endorsement of two influential Iowa pastors–just as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s candidacy was imploding. His timing, or luck, was impeccable. Evangelical Christian voters flocked to him as the last conservative standing. And by getting to the top of the heap, he became the ultimate foil to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum. Photo: Gage Skidmore

But Santorum has some real weaknesses. His driving passion is  social issues, which endears him to the fundamentalist “values voters,” but will leave many Americans whose central concern is jobs scratching their heads.

Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic, believes almost every kind of abortion should be illegal. His view of homosexuality is downright bizarre: He compared it with bestiality. That’s way out of step with the majority of Americans who have increasingly accepted gays over the past decade.

Santorum’s seven children have been home-schooled, which endeared him to the many home schoolers in Iowa. He also got an endorsement from Jim Bob Duggar, the lunatic-fringe reality TV star whose family now has 19 children.

Santorum’s other views are just as extreme, especially on foreign policy, where he has said he would bomb Iran to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons. (So has Romney.) Didn’t these people learn anything from Iraq?

He has some interesting ideas on economics, including cutting the corporate tax on US manufacturers to zero. I’ll give him credit for creative thinking on that one, but wouldn’t that be “picking winners and losers,” the very thing Republicans criticize Democrats for?

We’ve seen this movie before. One flawed conservative candidate after another rises quickly and then falls hard. Santorum has appeal to a certain segment of the GOP, but he’d be way out of his depth in a general election campaign.

He also has no money and can’t tap the same corporate fat cats Romney can. So, he may put up decent numbers in New Hampshire and especially South Carolina. But Florida, with its ten media markets, may prove to be his Waterloo. I heard someone say it costs $2 million a week to run media campaigns there. Romney has the cash to do it, and none of the others do.

Romney has his problems–he can’t seem to break through 25% of the Republican vote. But his campaign is built for the long haul. When the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa in August, he’ll be the last man standing, and Santorum will be remembered as just another flash in the pan.

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  1. Santorum Draws Big Crowds in New Hampshire | The Independent Agenda - January 8, 2012

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