THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT AND THE OTHER GOP ESTABLISHMENT
So Rick Santorum swept the contests yesterday, winning the Minnesota primary and the Missouri and Colorado caucuses. I suppose I should have seen that the fix was in a couple of days ago, when right-wing pollster/propagandist Scott Rasmussen made the startling "discovery" that Rick Santorum is the GOP's strongest general-election candidate:
In Rasmussen's latest general election poll, Mr. Santorum is the only GOP candidate who leads President Obama. The former Pennsylvania senator edges out Mr. Obama by a point, while Mr. Romney trails the president by four and Mr. Gingrich trails him by eight. Just a week ago, Mr. Santorum lagged by eight. The key to Mr. Santorum's bounce appears to be his 10 point lead among independents.
Rasmussen's poll result was, to put it mildly, an outlier -- the last six non-Rasmussen polls have found that Obama beats Santorum by anywhere from 8 to 15 points. Are Rasmussen's numbers phony, or is the firm just wildly oversampling right-wingers? And if the numbers are phony, why would the GOP's house pollster want to push Santorum? Alternately, if the numbers come from oversampling of wingnuts, why are wingnuts drifting to Santorum?
Well, the right-wing noise machine has been in "war on Christianity" mode in the past few days, hammering away at the Obama administration's contraceptive-coverage ruling (lead stories at Fox Nation over the past couple of days included "Fear of Civil Disobedience: Army Chaplains Asked Not to Read Disapproval of Contraception Mandate" and "Catholic Church Ups Ante Against Obama...Threatens Fighting in the Streets"). Never mind the fact that a solid majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Catholics, favor the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll -- the right wing considers Job #1 to be dividing the country in the hopes of conquering it, and that takes precedence even over rallying around the party's presidential front-runner. (It takes precedence over everything, at all times.) So this issue, which seems on paper to offer a golden opportunity to generate anti-Obama among swing-state Catholics, is being pushed relentlessly (more, it seems, than even the Prop 8 or Susan Komen stories).
So the message going out via the tribal drum to the GOP voter base is a Santorum-friendly message -- it plays to his key issues. Thus, I guess it's no surprise that Rick did so well. Part of the GOP establishment wants to close ranks around Romney, but part of it has other priorities -- or maybe you could say that the same people have conflicting priorities.
I suspect Santorum isn't going to get traction, but if he does, it's going to be interesting watching Mitt Romney's people try to launch a character-assassination campaign against him. Attacking Gingrich that way seems sort of appropriate, and suited to his angry-baby personality. Santorum? He's the whiny wounded warrior who was felled by evil Pennsylvania liberals in 2006 for Taking A Stand. To wingnuts, he's a Boy Scout. If Romney attacks him, are they going to see it as cruel? Or is it that they find him as unlikable as we do (an unlikable Boy Scout), but they're voting for him now because they're sick of Gingrich and don't see any other not-Mitt choice?
AND: Headline of the day, from Gawker:
Shocker: Rick Santorum Goes Three For Three In Tuesday’s Elections Despite Being Rick Santorum
UPDATE: Second link fixed.