The Santorum surge

Support is soaring for the father of seven who offers the rhetorical red meat Romney can’t

The santorum surge

Eric Miller/Reuters

With his sweater vests and earnestness, Rick Santorum has been called the Mister Rogers of the Republican presidential race. He’s also the new consensus conservative and, all of a sudden, the new front-runner—the last man standing amidst the once-crowded field of candidates not named Mitt Romney. In the remarkably fluid primary contest, where candidates have leapt to the lead only to fall back within weeks, Santorum’s surge could not be better timed. He’s catching fire just as the nominating contest heads toward the March 6 “Super Tuesday” bonanza, in which 10 states will vote.

Support for the former Pennsylvania senator has surged since his triple victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado earlier this month. Now 30 per cent of Republican primary voters nationally say they support Santorum, compared with 27 per cent for presumed front-runner Romney, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Feb. 14. Other polls suggest his national lead may be even larger. And Santorum has the potential to keep building his momentum this month with the Michigan primary on Feb. 28. Michigan was considered home turf for Romney: he grew up there and his father, George, was governor of the state. But Santorum now leads Romney there 39 to 24 per cent among likely primary voters, according to a Public Policy Polling survey. A Santorum win could deal an embarrassing blow to Romney ahead of Super Tuesday.

In a year when many Republican voters say they are looking for the conservative alternative to Romney, Santorum has now displaced Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the favourite among the party’s conservative base of right-wing voters, evangelicals, and Tea Party supporters. “It used to be that Gingrich was leading with all these groups and Romney was staying competitive enough with them to hold the overall lead. No more—a consensus conservative candidate finally seems to be emerging and it’s Santorum,” said a report from Public Policy Polling on Monday.

Part of the story is the mutually destructive television ad war waged in January by Romney and Gingrich (and their allied political action committees). Thanks in part to the harsh attack ads, Romney’s favourability rating crashed by 23 points since December to 43 per cent, according to Public Policy Polling, while Gingrich’s fell by 32 points also to 43 per cent, the poll suggested. Meanwhile, Santorum emerged unscathed with 64 per cent seeing him favourably, while only 22 per cent hold a negative impression.

Santorum’s supporters point to his unwavering views on social issues such as opposition to gay marriage and abortion, as well as his small-government policies. “I want a candidate who can express conservative principles primarily because he really believes in them,” says Russ Day, a Washington attorney and Santorum supporter who came to hear the candidate speak at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of activists from around the U.S. in Washington. “There is a concern that Romney believes whatever is politically expedient to believe.” Day says Santorum’s recent string of victories changes the entire race because of the enthusiasm and money that has been pouring into his campaign as a result.

Santorum’s strategists say the father of seven has a unique appeal to working-class voters that both President Barack Obama and Romney have trouble connecting with. He is touted as having an edge on Romney in blue-collar rust-belt swing states like Ohio. The Wall Street Journal has dubbed him the “supply-sider for the working man.” Santorum would offer tax cuts for the manufacturing industry—the kind of picking-winners-and-losers that fiscal conservatives viscerally dislike, but which Santorum defends as necessary to protect a sector of the economy walloped by global competition.

His appeal to hard-core conservatives is not perfect. While he touts his fiscal conservative credentials, he has been a frequent user of “earmarks”—congressional funding for pet projects in his state. Millions of dollars flowed to Pennsylvania—and to companies whose lobbyists often donated to Santorum’s re-election campaign. It was the kind of Washington-insider behaviour decried by the Tea Party movement. But his supporters dismiss such concerns. “Santorum was playing the game by the rules that had been laid,” says Day. “If everyone else is bringing home the bacon, then he shouldn’t let Pennsylvania languish.”

Still, like Obama when he won the White House, the former attorney and long-time politician has no executive experience. Santorum has not been a governor or a business executive like Romney, nor a congressional leader like Gingrich. He is little-known nationally. For some voters, that is a deal-breaker. “Look at Romney’s experience in the private sector and with the Olympics [Romney was brought in to be CEO of the troubled Salt Lake City Games and turned them into a financial success]. I don’t think Santorum has anything like that in his resumé,” says Joe Burns, a 32-year-old government worker from Syracuse, N.Y., at CPAC.

But that’s a selling point for supporters like Foster Freiss, a wealthy investor and contributor to conservative causes who has been the single largest donor to the super PAC supporting Santorum. “We cannot continue to support these wonderful experienced warhorses,” he told the CPAC audience, referring to Gingrich and Romney as well as former candidates Bob Dole and John McCain. He said Democrats have won the White House by bringing out fresh faces. “They brought Clinton and Carter from nowhere. They brought Barack Obama from beyond nowhere,” he said to laughter and applause.

Yet the perils of Santorum’s hardline conservatism were on display in the loss of his Senate seat in 2006—a race he lost by 18 points, the largest margin of defeat by a Republican senator in his state’s history. “You just have to look at his most recent race in Pennsylvania—he lost big,” said Burns, the Romney supporter.

Santorum also has a history of controversial remarks that could turn off independent voters and women, and could become fodder for attack ads. For example, he seemed to equate homosexual relationships with bestiality and pedophilia. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever, to my knowledge, included homosexuality,” Santorum said in a 2003 interview with the Associated Press. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

Last week, after the Pentagon announced that it would begin allowing women soldiers to serve in more positions close to front-line combat, Santorum criticized the decision. “I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved,” he said, drawing rebukes from some Republicans, including the governor of Virginia, whose daughter is an Iraq war veteran.

Santorum defended himself by saying that he was not suggesting women are too “emotional” for combat but that male troops would lose focus on the mission out of “a natural instinct to protect someone who’s a female.” He has also been on the defensive about his views on working women. In a 2005 book, It Takes a Family (a riposte to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village), Santorum wrote: “The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.” He has since said decisions to either work or stay home should be respected.

But for now, he offers the kind of rhetorical red meat that energizes Republican primary voters who don’t trust Romney. Santorum urges them not to compromise but to nominate the candidate who excites the base. “Why would undecided voters vote for a candidate whose party is not excited about [him]?”

But Romney supporters dismiss the challenge from Santorum as just the latest twist in a long campaign that Romney is capable of enduring. “I think Romney has the organization and money to see this thing through,” says Thomas Dadey, chairman of the Republican party in Onandaga County in upstate New York, who came to hear the candidates speak at CPAC. While some Republicans fret that the primary is playing out too slowly and that the eventual nominee will limp into the general election with a bloodied image and a divided party, Dadey is not worried. “Hillary and Obama beat the snot out of each other right until June,” he said. “And it’s only February.”

The Santorum surge

  1. If there is something the Republicans can learn from Harper (rather than the reverse) it’s that splitting the right side of the base is a bad idea if you want to get anywhere with the country as a whole.

    So… Go Rick!

  2. The amount of coverage these clowns get amazes me.  To be a true Republican you apparantly must:

    1)  Hate gay people
    2)  Be open misogynists
    and
    3)  Refuse a modern education (or at least claim to ‘not believe’ simple Grade 10 Science)

    This list doesn’t include the individual defects with each candidate (Romney’s patronizing Uncle Scroogeisms and career of legalized capital theft at Bain, Perry’s brain tissue having been replaced with hamburger meat, Gingrich’s cheating ways and overall cloud of anti-charisma, Santorum’s Google problem, Bachman’s Stepford-level psychosis).  Does the Republican Party really think that any one of the candidates they are considering can win?

    • Yes, you’re right.  Conservatives all hate gay people, women, and science.  Even gay conservatives, female conservatives, and conservative scientists.

      Sometimes I wonder whether even you leftists believe the absurdities you write.

      • You’ll note that I’m referring to the current crop of Republican candidates, of which all of my statements are demonstrably true.  Sometimes I wonder if Conservative ideologues shouldn’t back up a bit and consider who they reflexively defend.

    • David Frum’s blood pressure must be through the roof. 

      • Meh, in his eyes he threw the Republican Party under the bus after his speechwriting gaffe (and not the other way around).

  3. If the Republicans actually have Santorum has their candidate, they owe everyone who fought religious fanatics in the War on Terror a SERIOUS apology.

    • Yes, because someone who stands opposed to gay marriage and abortion is totally identical to someone who blows up buildings full of people.

      • Yes, they’re called the Talibornagain.

        They shoot gays, they shoot doctors and they flatten buildings full of innocent people all over the world.

        • Are you seriously suggesting that Rick Santorum is a born-again Christian who advocates shooting gays and doctors and blowing up buildings full of innocent people?

          • He doesn’t believe in women’s rights. We are fighting against this abroad.  It’s the same thing, it doesn’t matter what religion it is.

          • He certainly does believe in women’s rights. What he doesn’t believe in is the notion that it’s ok to deliberately kill children (or any other innocent individuals), which is also what we are fighting against abroad.

            Equating the pro-life cause with the 911 hijackers is a pretty wild smear. Equating child-murder with women’s rights is an even worse distortion.

          • @Gaunilon:disqus 
            Santorum doesn’t believe a woman should get an abortion even to save her life.  He believes birth control is bad for women, whatever the hell that means.  He does not believe in women’s rights.

          • Yes.

            He also advocates killing scientists and closing colleges.

            However, he isn’t the only Talibornagain, so stop trying to change the subject.

          • As far as advocating for “killing scientists” and “closing colleges” I’ll call BS on that.  He has said it would be ok to take out Iranian scientists who are developing Iran’s nuclear weapons capability……which would be an attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons capability rather than attack on science, as you’re trying to portray it.

            Also, Santorum is not a born-again Christian.  He’s Roman Catholic. 

            Also also, I will try to stop changing the subject from Santorum to Santorum. I get distracted so easily you know. But thankfully you are here to remind us all that it’s not about Santorum, it’s about the evil Talibornagains who are using their mind-rays to make us all start spasmodically dismembering anyone with a college degree.

          • @Gaunilon:disqus 

            The US is not fighting wars overseas about abortion, or forced-pregnancy.

            Be serious.

          • @Gaunilon:disqus 

            Well here’s Santorum in his own words

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8yCeXSZLv8&feature=player_embedded

            And I said he was a ‘Talibornagain’….the same fundie crap spouted by all the religious loons of any religion.

            Santorum would have the Vatican running the US if he could. You might want that, but nobody else does.

          • @Gaunilon:disqus 

            I said Santorum is a ‘Talibornagain’.  A fundie. All religions have fundies.

            And here he is in his own words.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8yCeXSZLv8&feature=player_embedded

            PS….and now you’re claiming it’s okay to kill scientists as long as they’re Iranian nuclear scientists….which we ‘don’t like’

            How long until it’s okay to kill climate scientists, because we don’t like the message?

            Or evolution scientists?

            Or stem cell scientists?

            Talk about a slippery slope!

          • Ah yes, I see your point. If we advocate killing any scientist anywhere, we’re actually advocating killing all scientists everywhere. Now I see what you mean – Santorum isn’t just advocating a war on Iran’s nuclear program…he’s really about killing all scientists!

            … nods sagely …

            Holy smokes! I guess more generally if we advocate killing humans anywhere we’re also advocating killing humans everywhere. No wait….if we’re ok with killing anything anywhere, we’re actually trying to kill all living organisms! Those fundie Talibornagain Catholics sure are a bloodthirsty bunch!

            I sure am glad you’re here to set me straight on all this stuff. These fundies are a dangerously persuasive set of imbecilic, diabolically clever nutjobs.

          • @Gaunilon:disqus 

            Of course you see the connection. You are just surprised others do.

            As to killing humans everywhere….yup, christian SOP…bomb, invade, hack to bits….anybody, anywhere.

            Jesus would approve, I’m sure.

            Yes, you’re a nutjob…just not clever.

        • OriginalEmily1 you are killing me. I have never seen such self absorbed, psychotically soaked drivel in all my years. Further down you ask someone to “be serious” and claim they are “not smart enough”….yet your own posts show you have either had your full measure of the communist Kool Aid or you have stopped thinking for yourself and are positioned as an announcer for the cause. I suggest you “be serious” and that you are either “not smart enough or you have abrogated your deal with democratic society to read, think, listen, analyse and consider. You talk about the slippery slope (a debating strategy) but casually ignore your devotion to the reductio ad absurdum ploy (another debating tactic that immediately discredits the user when applied as showing lack of intellectual firepower and  creativity, much as the neener, neener retort…)

          • Santorum is religiously insane, and he counts on fools like you to support him.

          • Have you been paying attention to what Santorum has been saying lately?  Someone has politely called him ‘too Catholic’.  More like Catholic fanatic – with him it’s church as state.

  4. He didn’t “seem to” equate homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia, he simply did.

    It’s infuriating that we have to face, daily, this kind of equivocation from the media, even from the better sources of news such as Macleans. And I’m not picking on one outlet or one reporter — everyone in the industry “seems to” have agreed that this facade of phony objectivity is normal and ethical. It’s a black mark on journalism.

    (And no, I didn’t just write “black mark”, I wrote “bleagh mark”. No matter what you think you might have read. Trust me, not the evidence of your senses or the context of my statement.)

    We’re at a point where the confrontation of anyone politically or economically significant by the major media — those twice-a-year moments when a reporter or interviewer slips up and actually challenges their subject about the lie they’ve just told or the inflammatory statement they’ve just made — is such an amazing spectacle that when it happens it’s all anyone can talk about the next day. The challenge becomes the story, with the inevitable subtext “did the media go too far?”

    (By the way, if anyone intends to challenge me on any of this, don’t bother. I’ll just take the Arizona Republican oath — “this was not intended to be a factual statement” — and imply that you’re the fool, not me. And then wait for tomorrow’s barrage of news data to wash away my crimes.)

  5. I think Ms. Savage covers all the main points but one:  Obama’s recent misstep with a mandate that nearly all institutions be forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees, regardless of their conscientious objections to doing so.

    Santorum’s rise began with that.  I think a lot of people saw what was happening and realized that social issues like freedom of religion were going to hit a lot closer to home than they thought.  Someone like Romney is not the man you want defending you from assaults on basic freedoms; he doesn’t know enough or care enough to address them unless his electability depends on it.  Santorum cares enough – whether he knows enough and can defend his principles using reasoned arguments from first principles remains to be seen.

  6. Are you dim? Or just obtuse? Really! Santorum? You have got to be kidding me. He has as much chance to be the GOP presidential candidate as I do,  actually I have more. 
    Why do you write this crap? Is it some kind of OCD compulsion? or your editor forced you to with a gun pointed at your head? Whatever your motivation, you have lost whatever credibility you had as a journalist (come on, you work for the NP) and as a human being. 
    I really wish there was a GOD to judge retards like yourself. Unfortunately, the real world is not that kind to us. 

  7. This election was supposed to be about the economy….especially jobs.

    Remember that?  Even the teaparty was gung-ho about it.

    But since the Repubs haven’t been able to come up with anything since their last electoral ‘victory’ 2 years ago….and since the economy is showing signs of recovery…..and a Repub president couldn’t do any better……they’ve had to switch to Plan B.

    Suddenly it’s all about ‘birth control’

    And winding up the lunatic base about ‘morality’ in general.

    And the lunatic base falls for it yet again. LOL

    Diversion successful.

    Of course Americans as a whole aren’t ever going to vote for Santorum…but then Repubs aren’t running a serious race to begin with. All the candidates have rightly been called the ‘clown car’.

    And when one more drops out, they’ll finally have the right number of stooges.

  8. So, if you oppose abortion and gay marriage then you are a hater!  Wow, you leftist”intellectuals” can really debate your positions. Most of you probably oppose the death penalty but no one on the right goes around calling you guys pro-murderer. However, I could say that your support of killing unborn children on demand could be a sign of heartlessness(darn kids show up at an inconvenient time so ignore their humanity and just wipe those undesirables. Wow, who else in history also called for wiping out undesirables?). I am always amazed how you leftist think that you are such a pack of geniuses. Maybe you should have gold statues of yourselves made to bow in front of. You just continue to prove the point that empty barrels make the most noise. The contraception debate was started by Obama. Any educated Catholic knows where the church stands on the issue. The church is not calling for banning the stuff in society. It simply wants to have its wishes adhered to in institutions that it runs. The Democrats can’t use abortion anymore to fire up women voters anymore(because recent polling shows that Americans lean pro-life. Polls have shown between 55-63% of the American public supporting abortion only in case of life, rape, and incest.) The gun control movement(which used to be heavily female) has collapsed in the U.S. So, Democrats are desperate to find a social issue to rally women voters. Anyone who opposes the Catholic Church teachings is free to leave. If you have a problem with their guidelines, you are free to work elsewhere. The church doesn’t force you at gunpoint to work for them. I would never work for a company or institution that promotes leftist ideologies.
    This is really about the 2012 election. Polling shows that the Republicans will probably gain control of the U.S. Senate and hold the House. Furthermore, the Republicans are expected to make a net gain of between 4-5 governorships(New Hampshire, Montana, North Carolina, Washington state, and maybe West Virginia) giving the Republicans 33 or 34 governorships. Also, they are expected to still control a significantly larger number of state legislatures. The Democrats have to try to fire up their base to limit these losses. In 2014, their election map will continue to look bad because the Democrats will have 23 senate seats(including 4 in the South, and one in Alaska) versus only 10 Republican seats. If Obama does get reelected, he will probably fall victim to the 2nd midterm effect that has hit every other president. So, Obama has to hold on in 2012 and try have the Democrats remain competitive at the state and local levels in 2014(which is already not occurring in much of the South).

    • People like you are what’s killing religion…..keep it up.

    • So, tell us why you hate the gays.

      •  You never addressed the abortion issue. I have no problem with homosexuals. I just don’t believe that an institution that has existed for thousands of years has to accommodate them. When you just paint everyone who opposes gay marriage as a hater then you are not really engaging in a discussion. It is just the same as people down here who call anyone who opposes affirmative action as racist. It resolves nothing and turns people off to their argument. Which is probably why affirmative action is slowly dying on the vine down here by successive judicial court decisions.

        • I didn’t address the abortion issue because it wasn’t what stood out to me when I glanced at the verbal diarrhea posted by Baro.  I try not to get into nuanced arguments when said arguments are actually a smokescreen for intolerance. 

  9. Like many others, this writer has problems with English tenses required by certain time references.

    >>Part of the story is the mutually destructive television ad war waged in
    January by Romney and Gingrich (and their allied political action
    committees). Thanks in part to the harsh attack ads, Romney’s
    favourability rating crashed by 23 points SINCE December to 43 per cent,
    according to Public Policy Polling, while Gingrich’s fell by 32 points
    also to 43 per cent, the poll suggested. Meanwhile, Santorum emerged
    unscathed with 64 per cent seeing him favourably, while only 22 per cent
    hold a negative impression.<<

    The adverb "since" refers to a period starting in the past and continuing to the present or to a particular point in the past.

    If she means from December to NOW, as the absence of any other time reference and the present-tense "hold" in the last clause both suggest, she should use the present perfect tense earlier in the sentence: "Romney's rating HAS crashed 23 points since December" and "Santorum HAS emerged unscathed."

    If she is referring to Romney's favourable rating at some past point after December but before now (say January 20), a time reference is needed and the sentence should read something like, "AFTER a week of such ads, Romney's rating HAD crashed by 23 points since December…and Santorum HAD emerged unscathed." Those verbs are in the past perfect tense.

    Precision in describing past events matters.

    • The ad war she is describing also makes no sense as an explanation for the Santorum surge. The Gingrich-Romney ad fight was mostly concentrated in South Carolina and Florida. Santorum’s surge came in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. Additionally, Gingrich was being outspent like 5-1. 

  10. Why is everybody talking about Michigan? On the same day as the Michigan primary there will be another primary in Arizona, which will be far more influential in determining the GOP nominee. Why? Arizona is winner take all, while Michigan is winner-take-all by congressional district. 

    The latest polls have Santorum leading in Michigan by 6.5 points, while Romney leads in Arizona by 8. If that pans out, Santorum will probably win 60% of the [30] Michigan delegates* and 0 Arizona delegates. Romney will win 40% of the Michigan delegates and 29 Arizona delegates.
    Santorum: 18
    Romney: 41If there was anything to be learned from the Obama-Clinton slugfest in 2008, it is that in a long primary, the rules matter. Obama won in a large part because he targeted caucus states, where his passionate supporters could win. The Clinton campaign stupidly targeted big states, because Mark Penn thought it was a winner-take-all race. If there is anything else to take from that race it is that divisions during primary season do not translate into divisions in the general election (and rarely have). 

    *Because congressional districts are apportioned based on national population, Romney leaning districts in liberal parts of the state are effectively more heavily weighted in the gop primary. For instance, in Michigan’s 1st district (the upper peninsula plus the top part of Michigan’s mitt) back in 2008, 57,485 people voted in the primary. In Michigan’s 13th district (Detroit area) 17,484 people voted. Both were worth the same number of delegates. 

  11. Take pity on OriginalEmily! She has been the same since the collapse of her beloved Soviet Union. Da, Comrade Emily!

  12. Such intellectually dishonest nonsense. “I try not to get into nuanced arguments (whatever that means, is that the same as an argument that consists of fine details which you wish to overlook because they don’t suit your position, “nuanced” is a derived term, not a real word so it provides you little protection from the facts you fear) when….
    Then you go on to determine that you (the grand arbiter of all things) have marked such arguments as a smokescreen so you don’t need to address them. More like you don’t have the facts to address them so you will just ignore them. Note also the tossing in of the ad hominem attack against Baro. after all, he is not on your side and so must be deserving of whatever vitriol you wish to spout, regardless of the fact that your referring to Baro’s comments as “verbal diarrhea” does not refute them, it simply makes them more powerful and thoughtful by comparison.

  13. Again and true to form. I am a fool. By your decree. Do you notice I don’t call you silly names that attack you personally? That is because I am intelligent and intellectually honest. I know that because you live in the forest it does not mean you don’t have something to contribute, it simply means you live in the forest. But back to the real world. Mr. Santorum does not count on me at all. I have his personal word on that. Perhaps it is because he is “religiously insane” whatever that means.
    I suggest you would be much more convincing, though not compelling, if you used fewer meaningless phrases, ceased personal attacks and tried as hard as you could to speak intelligently and convincingly of you position. 
    I know I ask the impossible but my forgiving nature (learned from those dastardly Christians) forces me to try.

  14. Disagree with the left and you are a hater! Wow, that is very deep of my leftist friends. They claim to have open minds but are really blinded by ideology. The western left reminds me of the leaders that I grew up with in Communist Poland. You either walk their line or you get ostracized. This ostracism leads to you eventually getting jailed, unemployed, or killed. OriginalEmily is particular has the character flaws that existed in many party commissars.

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