Saturday, February 11, 2012


Last night, BooMan reassessed the Republican race:

For the first time, I am beginning to think that Romney might actually lose the nomination and that Santorum might win it.

And, even worse, I am beginning to think that Santorum is a much stronger candidate against Obama than Romney. I think Gingrich is a stronger candidate than Romney. I just can't exaggerate how bad I think Romney is as a politician and as an alternative to the president.

I'm also beginning to think again that Romney might lose -- Public Policy Polling now tells us that Santorum has a massive lead over Romney, 38% to 23%, among Republicans nationwide. (And possibly, as Tom says, the Obama contraception decision pushes social issues to the top of the GOP agenda, which helps Santorum as a Republican candidate, and hurts Romney.)

And then there's BooMan's other assertion: would the non-Romneys really be stronger candidates against Obama?

I have to disagree on Gingrich -- he's too much of a hypocrite/blowhard/egomaniac/know-it-all; he appealed briefly to GOP voters when they saw him attacking debate moderators and thought he could out-debate Obama, but, really, that's all he had. In the general population, his unfavorable ratings are off the charts. I'm crushed that he's fading in the polls, and that he can't possibly come back unless a new debate moderator tosses him one that he can hit out of the park (which I think all future moderators will avoid doing).

But Ricky?

I think enough liberals and moderates know, or could easily see, how extreme his agenda is. I think his sanctimony and extremism shine through. But there's an aw-shucks, sad-sack quality to him that may make him harder to hate than Gingrich or Romney.

That's also the reason I think Romney might have a hard time crushing Romney the way he crushed Gingrich -- non-Republicans may ultimately be turned off by Santorum, but Republicans seem to have positive feelings toward him. And, well, there's this:

But his digs at the president are not what people talk about as they crowd around him to shake his hand. It is his 3-year-old daughter, Isabella, or Bella, as she is known, who has a fatal chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18. Bella's struggle is the emotional undercurrent of his campaign and, for his supporters, has become inseparable from Mr. Santorum's appeal as a Christian conservative who opposes abortion.

"When she got pneumonia, he stopped his campaign," said Stephanie Broardt, an Oklahoma City stay-at-home mother who stood on a chair to watch his speech. "He strikes me as a good father. That's another reason why I love him, because he's a family man. Other candidates cannot say that."

It's Sarah and Trig Palin, minus Sarah's diva act. Could general-election voters be swayed by this, if he beat Romney for the nomination? Especially if mainstream pundits started saying Santorum is really kind of a good guy? (Beyond the obvious -- David Brooks, Joe Klein -- my money's on Niall Ferguson as a spreader of that meme; see Ferguson's recent love letter to Charles Murray in Newsweek. I could imagine him writing the Newsweek cover story on how Santorum could lead an American moral regeneration.)

But would Santorum really be a tougher opponent against Obama? A recent Rasmussen poll says he would, but Rasmussen is an unreliable wingnut propagandist; by contrast, the latest Fox News poll has Obama beating Romney by 5 and Santorum by 12 -- and Gingrich by 13, for what it's worth. (Yeah, it's Fox, but the Fox polling operation has always had a surprising tendency to play it straight, even if the results contradict Fox propaganda; this survey, for instance, shows 61% approval for the Obama birth control policy, even before yesterday's policy adjustment.)

My worry would be that the Obama reelection team has concentrated all its efforts on planning for a race against Romney, with, it seems, no Plan B; an Obama aide recently reaffirmed this to The New York Times:

"When you guys were all out there writing your Herman Cain stories, we were not following you into that sideshow," one Obama aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "We are keeping our eyes on the prize."

Four years ago, Team Obama had no plan when Sarah Palin was put on the GOP ticket. The Democratic National Committee had launched a Web site called, with negative information about everyone the Dems thought could be on the short list -- and Palin wasn't included. And you'll recall that McCain/Palin briefly surged to the lead after Palin's convention speech.

I think the Obama team was woefully unprepared for Palin, and lucked out when she turned out to be an idiot and an albatross. Would the Obama team be equally unprepared for Santorum? And is he unappealing enough for that not to matter? I think he is, and I hope I'm right, but I'm not sure.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)


Michael Gee said...

I'm sure there's a thick file or PDF somewhere at headquarters titled "Pennsylvania Senate race 2006."
I also believe, except for the usual Republican hacks, that the Villagers will turn on Ricky tout suite should he be the nominee. Mess with THEIR sex lives? Make sure THEIR daughters provide grandchildren spawned by their unsuitable high school boyfriends? No way.

Steve M. said...

I'm not sure. I think elite pundits see religious right sex talk as irrelevant to themselves -- they'll always be able to jet off somewhere if they need an abortion, or if a family member or friend does.

Scott Peterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danp said...

Santorum is a problem for Romney. Earmarks and lobbying are issues that Republicans are consistently hypocritical about. Beyond that the rhetoric about policy isn't that different. But Obama doesn't need a different strategy. He was never going to portray Romney as some hyperbolic scrooge. Santorum's uncaring for the unwealthy is just as cold as Romney's. Bush disguised his hatred as conservative compassion. Santorum will never care about your baby, and he'll never pretend to.

Ten Bears said...

Rick Santorum: "This is simply someone trying to impose their values on somebody else, with the arm of the government doing so. That should offend everybody, people of faith and no faith that the government could get on a roll that is that aggressive.” 

Yes, Rick, it offends me you would impose your theocratic fascist, your antediluvian, values on me, with the arm of the government doing so.

c u n d gulag said...

Yes, Icky Sticky Ricky's message will resonate with voters:

"Let's get the government our of our health care, and into or bedrooms where it belongs!"

That'll be an easy sell! You bet!!!

Most people I know are turned off by sanctimonious moral scolds.
Even the ones who are sanctimonious moral scolds themselves.

And who likes a buttinsky who buttinskies into everyone's business - especially the other buttinskies?

Especially one whose name, "santorum," is now descriptive of what comes out when you have your butt in the sky for too long.

I'm sorry about his sick daughter, and his child. But I don't think he's the 2nd coming of Palin because of them.

And I think the Obama people will be ready for if, or when, the 'santorum' hits the fan.

It's one thing to have a moral scold on the pulpit at your church, or place of worship. That's what people seem to want from religion nowadays.

But I don't think the people will want him to have 'the bully' one.

Tom Hilton said...

I think Santorum would a) be a weaker candidate than Romney, and b) mobilize Democrats in a way that Romney might not.

The danger of Romney was always his ability to appear moderate. That hurts us, potentially, two ways: Romney has more potential to get independent votes, and doesn't really fire up the liberal base (especially with ratfuckers like Greenwald misquoting Soros as saying there's no real difference between Obama and Romney). (I think the Romney danger is less now that his negatives have been driven way up.)

Santorum doesn't have that advantage--he's said way too much crazy shit over the course of his career, and he doesn't seem inclined not to say crazy shit just because he's running for president.

Cereal said...

In the long run it would be better for the US if Santorum wins and uses two terms to pass the most extreme culture-war wingnut policies possible. That might cause enough Americans to finally figure out what modern conservatism is all about and reject it for a generation.


: smintheus :: said...

Santorum is an idiot. He also believes crazy things, and is more than happy to expound on them at length. And though he is a liar, he is not as smooth a liar as Romney. Santorum is corrupt as well; for example, he tried to rip off a PA school district by asking them to pay him for home schooling his kids, even though they lived in Virginia...the stories of his corruption ended his chances of re-election in PA.

He's a very easy candidate for Obama to take on. But I can't see him winning the nomination. He says too many stupid things too frequently.