And it’s…Santorum! Wait…What?

Well, I should probably stop prognosticating on the GOP primary process, but I’m not going to.  Coming out of Florida, I figured that Romney was well on his way to the nomination, Gingrich was going to keep fighting for a lost cause all the way to the convention, Ron Paul would keep doing what he does, and Rick Santorum would fade from the stage.
One out of four isn’t bad, I suppose.  Paul is continuing to be Paul.  As for the others, Gingrich is fading into the background. Romney can’t seem to close the deal, and Santorum still has some life in him.
Let’s look at where we’ve been so far. 
Santorum won Iowa.
Romney won New Hampshire.
Gingrich won South Carolina.
Romney won Florida.
Romney won Nevada…we think.  Apparently something went wrong enough with the Nevada caucuses that the GOP chair for the state resigned.  So I’m not certain what the deal is there, but Paul supporters seem to be makeing the most noise about it.

Okay, so out of five contests, Romney has won three and Santorum and Gingrich have each won one early. So Romney’s inevitable, right?

This brings us to Tuesday, February 7.  This was a day that Romney should have been able to flex his muscle, as it was the first day featuring multiple contests. This is where Romney’s money and organization should have really spun up to dominate the field in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.  Colorado and Minnesota featured caucuses and Missouri featured a non-binding primary. 
Now, caucuses do tend to favor those candidates with the best organization and most fervent supporters.  In this case, Romney’s organization and Paul’s supporters should have tipped the scales. A true primary should favor Romney who can use his money to carpet bomb the air waves.

Naturally, all this means that Santorum sweeps all three contests.

Wait…what?

That’s right.  Santorum handily took Minnesota and Missouri and ultimately Colorado.  So let’s look at that score card now.  After 8 contests, Romney has won three (New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada).  Gingrich took South Carolina, and Santorum has won four (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.)
The notion of Romney’s inevitabilty is strained at best, so what’s really going on?
First, Romney could very well go on and win the nomination.  He still has huge advantages in money and organization over his rivals.  And yet, he can’t close the deal.  Between his reputation as a moderate, his past as a corporate raider and evangelical distrust of Mormons, Romney is not resonating with the conservative base of the Republican party. 
But I think there’s more going on.  I heard some commentary on the radio today suggesting that the GOP’s financial backers have realized that, between the good economic news and job numbers and an incredibly weak GOP field, Obama is going to win reelection. They are shifting focus from the Presidential race down the ballot to Congress, governors and state legislatures in hopes of minimizing Democratic gains. I think there may be something to this logic, and I think it is evidenced by Santorum’s success.
Santorum, as you may remember, has earned the blessing of a coalition of Evangelical leaders who want someone more conservative than Romney but without Gingrich’s history as a serial adulterer. Put another way, Santorum who is known for his strident opposition to abortion and his hatred of homosexuals, is the hero of social conservatives.
If you look around, you will notice social issues coming to the fore.  Whether it’s the Prop. 8 ruling in California, or Washington’s legalization of marriage equality or the Obama Administration’s regulations on contraceptive coverage, a lot of social issues are coming to prominence, and the GOP is quick to jump on them to try and mobilize the God, Guns and Gays crowd.  Look for a flurry of ballot initiatives dealing with same sex marriage and abortion,  The intent is to mobilize social conservatives in ways that would be impossible for anyone in this field of candidates.
The thing is, I don’t think it will work.  Same sex marriage is not as effective a lightening rod like it was in 2004, and most Americans support the new administration rules on contraception. A campaign to marginalize a segment of the population or to demonize contraception is just not going to hold up against a strong economic message during an upturn combined with a series of high risk high payoff foreign policy successes, all articulated by one of the greatest political messengers of our time.   Am I right?  Maybe, maybe not, but it seems like as good a bit of analysis as any other. 

 

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About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
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7 Responses to And it’s…Santorum! Wait…What?

  1. I think you are right about the turn to social issues.

    Romney seems to be losing steam because his “thing” is economy, economy, economy (and oh yeah, Obama is bad), but with the economy getting better, fewer hardcore Republicans are going to be willing to hold their noses and vote for someone so “liberal”.

    It seems the hardcore Republicans are willing to get themselves some Santorum.

    (Heh, I said “hardcore” and “Santorum” in the same sentence. I can’t help myself.)

    Gay marriage has been legalized several places and the world hasn’t, in fact, come to an end, and it is generally accepted that birth control is not equal to murder (despite Abstinence Only education which demonizes contrceptive use). These give me hope that you are indeed right that a lot of these social issues are running out of steam.

    But, as a great man once said, “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

  2. Art Marriott says:

    So, basically what you’re saying is that the Republican power brokers don’t believe they can win the White House, so they’re going to get Santorum nominated because he’s expendable (saving the stronger candidates for 2016)…and because he can stir up enough reactionary angst on “moral” issues to help propel more of the likes of Scott Walker into governors’ mantions, state legislatures and Congress. So, we’re possibly looking at Obama spending a second term locking horns with Congress while the shock troops continue to pillage America from the bottom up.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Art! It’s good to hear from you. The only disagreement I would have with your analysis is that I’m not sure it’s the power brokers I’m not sure Wall Street Republicans want Santorum any more than they wanted Huckabee. I think they want Romney because he’s one of them. I think the support for Santorum is more populist in nature and the money is following to try and contain the damage

  3. Pingback: Obama is going to win in 2012 « Greater Thoughts

  4. Really liked the article. Thought you might find this website funny.
    http://ricksantorumsayshorriblethings.tumblr.com/

  5. Kathi says:

    Your commentary shed light on the overall picture. Today I carry my pride for my Obama, and thank you.

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