In a partisan political climate, the best title that can be bestowed on a big fish is that of political survivor. Such individuals include Bill Clinton, to some extent George W. Bush and, quite possibly now, Rick Santorum. The man was so disliked, he lost his seat in the US Senate; a man who acted so incompetently, that people wrote his campaign for Presidency off the day after it took off. The same man may well be poised to stop former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney from winning his party’s nomination for President, in his own right, on the first ballot.It is no secret that conservative voters were never enthusiastic about Mitt. After all, with the exception of the almost incessant flip-flopping and paradoxical self-righteousness when it comes to the issues, Mitt might just be the most vanilla candidate since Calvin Coolidge (here’s a hint, people were just Cool for Coolidge).
Yet Santorum, thus far, has become the last man who represents the “real” conservative camp. This pork barrel voting, nation building loving, small government conservative has somehow been able to awaken the Republican Tea Party voters. Somehow, Rick has become one of the most popular conservatives in the country.
Normally, I would have something witty, sarcastic, or stupid to say as a response. Hell, I wish there was something funny to say to this. But there really isn’t. It is just plain depressing. The base of the Republican Party — the Party of Lincoln, Grant, Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan — is more excited by a guy who campaigns for the legal abolition of pornography than any other candidate in the field. Now that is just sad.
I can understand why someone like Newt Gingrich is not popular. His personal life — whether it is divorcing his wife while she was being treated for cancer, breaking House of Representatives ethics rules, forcing his first family onto food stamps because he refused to pay alimony, divorcing his second wife after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or just being a general scumbag — is a disaster.
I can even understand why Mitt Romney is unpopular. But if Republicans are enthusiastic about Rick Santorum because he just happens to be their only hope against the big bad moderate, then they need to do some serious re-evaluation.
The fact that Santorum supporters are enthused is no fault of the candidate. He has done everything within his power to make himself the most unelectable candidate since Rick Perry.
Whether it was through his equating of homosexual marriage to bestiality, the way he served as the Bush administration’s whipping boy for a good six years, his boring monotone, rambling speeches or what one finds when they Google his last name (seriously, do that) Santorum has just not been the candidate he or his supporters imagines he is. But, alas, he was, by Iowa, the last candidate to achieve the eminent title of flavor of the week.
Do not get me wrong. He did a good job in winning Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa. And he does have a solid chance of winning the Republican base’s heartland of the South and the Midwest (save Illinois, which he lost Tuesday by double digits). But otherwise, his support is dismal at best. His organization is nonexistent. His management of the campaign — a decent test of one’s ability to take over the most powerful executive position in the world — is abysmal.
By being the last guy on the ballot, the last person who can keep Mitt from being at the top of the ticket, he serves the interests of anti-Romney Republicans. As Gingrich recently stated in an interview, the main goal of conservative Republicans now should be keeping Mitt from winning the nomination.
The new Republican primary rules make delegate allocation more proportional to a candidate’s performance. This means that, even if Mitt Romney carried a plurality of the largest states and a majority of the Northeast, he would still not have enough delegates to win the nomination in his own right. That’s great for party elders, who can extract a good deal out of a desperate frontrunner on the second ballot. But it is not good for voters.
Rick Santorum is, in the words of Lenin, the useful idiot of Mitt Romney’s enemies. He is acting more as a political zombie — chewing away at his own Party — than a political survivor. That, for Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party, works well. How that works for Republican voters, as Illinois Republicans hinted on Tuesday, is another story.
Former Editorials Editor James Sunshine is a College junior from Boca Raton, Fla.