Santorum Is Crazy (Like A Fox) & A Dream Candidate (For Obama)


There is no doubt that Rick Santorum is crazy, but to the distress of Mitt Romney and Karl Rove and other Republican Party elders, he is crazy like a fox.

I have yet to read a plausible scenario through which this right-wing upstart can beat President Obama. He wouldn’t even be able to win Pennsylvania, where as an incumbent U.S. Senator he got throttled by 16 percentage points in 2006, the largest losing margin for a Senate incumbent in history. But grabbing the Republican nomination no longer seems like it is outside the realm of possibilities for the simple reason that Romney has proven to be a terrible candidate whose serial attempts to reinvent himself further reveal him to be an empty suit.

Unlike Romney, Santorum has no advance team and does no polling. But he is beginning to attract serious money while Romney, who has relied exclusively on wealthy donors, risks tapping out his campaign fund, which would mean he would have to reach into his own deep pockets. How bad are things for Romney? One pundit has taken to calling his campaign the Death Star.

The best hope for Romney, who trails Santorum badly in his native Michigan and not quite so badly in some national polls, is that Santorum loses his inhibitions and reveals himself more fully to be a demagogue and an extremist as he soars in the polls, and there are indications that is happening.

Speaking at a rally this week in Boise, Idaho, Santorum brought the crowd to its feet. They booed Senator John McCain, called Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg a traitor and reminded Santorum that American revolutionaries had more than muskets. Santorum in turn applauded them, declaring that “I believe that if we are unsuccessful in this election that we will have failed in that duty and it will have horrendous consequences. . . . It will be the end of the great experiment in the order of liberty and freedom.”

This is exactly the kind of stuff that the Obama campaign loves to hear.

Combined with Santorum’s more nuttier positions like opposing contraception and believing that a child conceived through a rape is a “gift from God,” it would take little effort for the Obama machine to eviscerate him in the fall, while Santorum is forcing Romney to tack even further to the right, which would have dire consequences for him in the fall.

Nate Silver of The New York Times parses all of this in his inimitable way.

He cites a recent CNN national poll in which 55 percent of Republican voters said that Romney was the most likely candidate to defeat Obama, while just 18 percent said the same for Mr. Santorum. This was despite the fact that Mr. Santorum actually led Mr. Romney by 2 points in the poll over all.

Silver asks:

“Isn’t that a favorable factor for Mr. Romney? Actually, it may not be. The reason is that this electability edge is presumably priced into Mr. Romney’s stock — and is some of the reason that he is keeping things close. Were the issue to become more debatable in the eyes of Republican voters, he might begin to trail Mr. Santorum by a fairly large margin. And the issue is likely to be more hotly debated if Mr. Romney loses states like Michigan and Ohio, which are crucial in both the primary and general election.”


Photograph by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

         

11 Comments

  1. The main problem with this line of thinking is the “be careful what you wish for” phenomenon: anyone who looks at history knows that anyone who wins the Republican or Democratic nomination can win the Presidency, and anyone who’s been watching long enough knows that most Democrats and Republicans who win the nomination do the same thing: the Republicans usually tack hard to the right, and the Democrats usually tack hard to the left, in order to win the primary. Then they run straight back to the middle and even a little past it to the other side in order to win the election.

    Santorum can easily do this on some of the more controversial things he’s said; for example, it’s very easy to say “I never said we should outlaw birth control, I said it was a moral issue we should think about but I don’t want it outlawed” and, well, history already shows that taking a staunch anti-abortion stance has never stopped a President from being elected (we have elected more than one pro-lifer since the 1970s), especially since Presidents can’t outlaw abortion anyway.

    I don’t like Santorum one little bit, but it would be foolish for anyone who hates what he stands for to hope he wins the nomination. How many Football games have you seen where the team everybody thought just had to lose nevertheless managed to win anyway? The same has been true of Presidential politics; one big example of that is Ronald Reagan, who was viewed as stupid, wildly extreme, and ran consistently behind Jimmy Carter all the way up until about 2 weeks before election day, when he came roaring out of nowhere to win. Whether you think Reagan was a good President or not is immaterial, the point is, he is a strong lesson that you should never, ever hope to see a candidate you truly hate win the opposing party’s nomination.

    As an independent voter myself, I will nevertheless be voting in the Michigan Republican primary–I’m grateful that Michigan allows this. Even though I plan to vote for Obama in November, I also plan to vote in the Republican primary in large part just to prevent a guy like Santorum from winning. Since Michigan’s primary is open, I would urge all my fellow Michiganders to take advantage of that and do the same; even if you don’t like ANY of these Republicans, you’re best to go in there and pick the one you find least objectionable, because whoever wins that nomination may just be our next President whether we like it or not.

  2. One wonders WHY he lost by 16 points?

  3. Dean:

    Your cautions would be well taken in most instances but Santorum is easily the most extremist candidate with a shot at a presidential nomination since Goldwater.

    Santorum can get all mushy mouthed about contraception and other issues where he has staked out a claim on the far right, but he cannot bury his past — let alone the yummy demagogic soundbites that his present speechifying gifts the Obama campaign.

    There is no scenario by which Santorum can win the election. His base is his base and he will attract too few Democrats and indies to make a difference. Even the Supreme Court won’t be able to help him.

    And thank you, sir, for voting against him in the Michigan primary.

  4. dduck:

    Because he was too much of a whack job for Pennsylvanians and continued to vociferously support the war in Iraq. He was beaten by Bob Casey Jr., who is probably the most conservative Democrat on social issues.

  5. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  6. The American electorate can be fickle and dull-witted (GWB twice) but they aren’t yet a completely lost cause, so I’m not worried about that “be careful what you wish for” scenario. Maybe just for fun Obama should start wearing a sweater vest. So… President Santorum . . . Scary enough for ya?

  7. dd

    From a preivous thread.

    Rick Santorum did indeed, in 2006, vote for contraception and was targeted by his party in consequence. He lost his Senate seat that year.

    [...Santorum says he has supported Title X, which funds family planning services for low-income women and is now targeted by his party's crusade to "defund Planned Parenthood." He says that he's supported Title X because contraception is "not the taking of a human life."]

    http://www.religiondispatches......omen/print

    He probably had other problems, but his party’s defection probably explains the 16 percent.

  8. I suspect that a Santorum vs Obama race would be (appropriately) a defeat of biblical proportions for Santorum. Watching Santorum on the Sunday AM shows he came across as pretty reasonable and a fairly good speaker, so maybe he’d have a snowball’s chance. Without a huge October surprise he wouldn’t have much hope.

  9. DG, Obama has morphed, from Pied Piper to Merlin The Magician. He is pulling rabbits out of his hat faster than we can count.

    Kill the bad guys, tax the rich, free contraception for all, blast obstructionist Reps (well that one may be justified), save the environment (Keystone pipeline), save the country from Super PACs by creating the counter PAC (one hand behind back, not good), create an agency (CFPB)not dependent on Congress for funding (hello Fed. Res., we need more money for convention expenses; FNMA sent 64 people to the banker’s Conv., we can beat that),etc. You get the idea, brilliant gamesmanship.

  10. DD, this is basically what I have been saying. Whether I agree with it all or not, it is brilliant politicking. It reminds me of sports. I enjoy playing sports but I hate watching them. Every great once in awhile though while sitting at a friends house a player will stand out so much and be so beautiful to watch that I cant help but cheer at their ability to move the ball or thwart their opponents. I cant say if Obama was a member of the GOP that I would still be cheering but I would at minimum be standing on my roof screaming “NO DONT FALL FOR IT THE TRAP IS OBVIOUSLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU WILEY COYOTE”!!!

  11. I don’t play but enjoy watching, especially my NJ Giants in the SB.

    Yes Obama is Merlin but in an Acme, Co., Road Runner costume. Wiley, meantime is the Rep party trying to defy gravity for a while.
    Splat.

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