I know all the focus in the past couple of days has been on the Foster Friess aspirin joke and on Rick Santorum's past statements about sexual matters, but this strikes me as having the potential to do real harm to Santorum right now as well as in the future:
Kyle Mantyla of People for the American Way's indispensable Right Wing Watch has come up with an audiotape of a Rick Santorum address to the students of the conservative Catholic Ave Maria University in Florida, delivered in 2008. It's an altogether remarkable speech depicting Rick as a leader in a "spiritual war" against Satan for control of America. Much of its involves the usual right-wing stuff about the conquest of academia (outside bastions like Ave Maria) by the forces of moral relativism, but then there is this Santorum assessment of mainline Protestantism:
[O]nce the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you'd say, 'wait, the Catholic Church'? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.
If I were Mitt Romney, I would give up on trying to be the wingnut de tutti wingnutti and just get that quote in front of every mainline Protestant he possibly can. I'd use it in public appearances. I'd put it in mailers. I'd work it into ads:
we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.
I'd tell voters: "He has literally said that your church is under the influence of Satan. He thinks you're no longer Christian." I'd say this to upmarket suburbanites and to salt-of-the-earth types who bring tuna-and-noodle casseroles to church suppers.
The whole speech is nutty, but it's nutty in a way that barely penetrates anymore: the culture is sexually depraved, academia is under evil influence, etc., etc. This is the kind of thing that would lose Santorum all kinds of votes in the general election, but not now, and the people it alienates probably are probably already lost to him.
But there are still enough mainline Protestants in the GOP that Romney could hurt Santorum now with this. Maybe Santorum isn't getting many votes from people who belong to mainline Protestant churches -- but he can't afford to be seen as bigoted against what is still a Republican voter bloc.
Romney won't raise this -- probably because he's afraid to talk about religion for fear of reminding Republicans of his religion -- but he should.
(Watch Santorum's speech and read the transcript at the link embedded in the quote above.)