From The Hill‘s A. B. Stoddard, “Santorum’s lost message,” on what might have been:
“Somewhere, buried in Rick Santorum’s fatally flawed campaign messaging, were winning words. Had he committed to them, the former senator could have derailed Mitt Romney’s path to the GOP nomination. Despite Romney’s overpowering resources and organization, Santorum’s potent argument — the party could not throw the issue of health care away by nominating someone who had supported mandates — was his key to victory, but he threw it away.
“It [his victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7] was the pivotal moment in the race…and Santorum blew it. He veered off course, and out of this millennium, enthusiastically bemoaning birth-control pills, free prenatal testing and college education. He insulted Obama, calling him a snob, and President Kennedy.
“On the night he lost the Michigan primary to Romney by 3 points, the exit polls told the story. He could have easily made up the votes to win from some of the women Romney won, the Catholics Romney won, the older voters Romney won, the voters earning more than $100,000 whom Romney won, and those voters with college degrees Romney won. That night Santorum seemed to acknowledge he had let it slip away — he brought out his mom and paid tribute to her education and years as a working mother, as well as his daughter and his wife.
“But he strayed, and lost Ohio by 1 percentage point. Then he strayed again, decrying the dangers of porn…. So this week he lost Illinois by more than 11 points. He won’t recover.”
I think Stoddard over-states the case for Santorum. He certainly has been his own worst enemy. But even if he’d been more circumspect in this campaign, a guy who lost his reelection to the Senate by 18 points wasn’t going to get the nomination without a lot of scrutiny of what he said back then to cause such an enormous loss. To the extent he backed away from his extreme positions, he would have been just another flip-flopper, less well-funded and well-organized than Mitt. So he doubled down.
The GOP and the country have dodged a bullet. Although he appeals better to average working people than Mitt, I don’t believe an obvious extremist like Santorum could win a general. And if somehow he did win, he would be a dangerous preacher/president with his fanatical views.
It’s interesting. We still don’t know what Mitt really believes about anything (other than that he should be president). We know way too much about Santorum.