Joe Gandelman, 2/21/2012 [Archive]

Santorum: A (Risky) Choice Not an Echo

Santorum:A (Risky) Choice, Not an Echo

Independent's Eye by Joe Gandelman

With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, you know that what you see is what you're going to get. And that's going to be the problem for Republicans if the most popular anti-Romney yet is nominated.

Santorum is surging.A new Gallup Poll now finds that even though a majority of Republicans consider former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney more likely to beat President Barack Obama, Santorum leads him 36 to 26 percent nationally.

Santorum heading the GOP ticket would be to Democratic strategists what candy from a shattered pinata is to sugar-loving kids at a birthday party.And reports indicate top GOPers know it. One unnamed Senator told ABC News that if Santorum got the nomination the GOP would lose 35 states. Predictions like that won't halt his ascent, since he talks the talk from his heart and connects with conservatives.

But Santorum is scaring off women and independent voters. Every day his spin mavens scramble to defend or partially walk back controversial quotes. In the past two weeks he questioned Barack Obama's "theology" (later insisting he meant environmental theology) and came out against contraception, pre-natal care, women in combat and public education.He should do well in upcoming primaries due to his views, moderate Republicans' exit from the GOP, talk radio's positive reinforcement, approving tweets from News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch, and his contrast with the sincerity-challenged Romney.

While some pundits insist Romney will still be nominated, former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer reportedly thinks Santorum could win it. If so, Santorum will face problems on several fronts.

He'll be easy to define. Remember Democrat Michael Dukakis defined by Republicans in 1988 as Snoopy in a military tank? Or Democrat Sen. John Kerry defined by GOPers in 2004 as a flip flopping wind surfer? Or Barry Goldwater defined by Democrats in 1964 as a right wing extremist who could unleash a mushroom cloud? Just imagine the imagery fun Democrats will have with Santorum.

Also: his controversial comments will be vetted and highly publicized by the news media, Internet websites and social media now in the controversy-loving, mega-instant news cycle mode.A quote becomes a day long narrative that can obscure a planned political theme.He'll be defended by GOPers but can't move to the center without looking like a flip flopper.

And perceptions increasingly count.Pat Buchanan was axed by MSNBC after an outcry over his latest book, which was actually not much different than what he has said before.Some conservatives are upset at Fox News for becoming too moderate after network boss Roger Aisles nudged it to be a mite more fair and balanced.

If Santorum gets the nomination can he beat Barack Obama?He has blue collar appeal, knows how to motivate the base with social issues and is an experienced campaigner and debater. But many agree with Rep. Ron Paul, who when asked about Santorum being elected said: "I don't see how that can be possible."

That's the conventional wisdom as well. But the conventional wisdom also that suggested Texas Gov. Rick Perry would zoom to the top to get the nomination and wrote off Newt Gingrich several times. It once suggested we could see Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson as Republican nominees and that the Clinton political machine would be unstoppable in the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries.

Many 21st century conservatives, Tea Partiers and conservative talk show hosts insist the Republican Party could win the White House and control of Congress if the Republican Party only offered a real, hard-right choice, not an echo.

Wasn't "A choice not an echo" used by 20th century conservatives when Barry Goldwater ran in 1964?

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Copyright 2012 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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