Ari Fletcher was quick to sing accolades for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich after last nights debate. He obviously knows more than I. Still, I disagree with him. Rick Santorum didn't "miss a chance." In fact, Santorum overcame some difficult assertions; from both Romney and Ron Paul.
The subject of "earmarks" has surfaced in the Republican primary. But everyone has participated! Paul explained his rationale clearly. Governor Romney has spent millions casting Senator Santorum as the "earmark king." This is slightly hypocritical.
We must never forget that the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic funding was courtesy of the same "earmarks." Perhaps the former Massachusetts Governor figured that it was okay; due to the importance of the project!
Did I hear Governor Romney remind millions that he "had balanced the Massachusetts budgets four times?" It's true! And Santorum added in cagy fashion that it was "required by the Massachusetts constitution" and that "Michael Dukakis had balanced that budget ten times." In other words, Governor Romney can "teach a blind man how to talk."
It took "courage" to support Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey. Specter chaired the Senate judiciary committee. The GOP held a 51-49 advantage and there were critical Supreme Court appointments on tap. Santorum insured Specter's support of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. This was the right decision. Specter was the consummate R.I.N.O., something that he proved when he switched parties one year later! Without Santorum's support, he may have joined liberal Democrats and blocked those appointments. It was a tough, courageous call. Leadership does require such from time to time!
True, Santorum supported Romney in 2008. He did reference the Massachusetts Governor as a "conservative." No doubt, he was comparing him to John McCain. McCain's opposition to drilling at ANWAR(the Arctic National Wildlife reserve) was a decision that Americans are seeing every time they fill up at the gasoline pump. McCain joined Democrats and voted to block drilling. The measure failed by one vote. Romney did favor drilling in ANWAR at that time. Santorum has always favored domestic energy exploration and development. In his view, McCain had turned on his party in favor of the environmentalists.
Gingrich? David Gergen suggested that Newt had "wrapped up Georgia and Tennessee" with his debate performance. Newt appeared relaxed. There was almost a mischievous look on his face, as if he relishes the thought of a brokered convention.
Ron Paul made some good points, especially about his own electability. His appeal to "millinials" is solid. These "under thirty" voters could impact the election. Paul's hope is to "back into" the nomination. His supporters continue to stress his strength in a face off with Barack Obama.
Santorum's closing argument centered around his appeal in the industrial midwest swing states. This is real. Unlike Romney, Santorum connects with "blue collar" Democrats. In a general election, his message could easily expand to "anti-outsourcing and protectionism." He has many anti-right-to-work votes to his credit. In their zeal over Santorum's social issue liabilities, Democrats may be overlooking this. Union votes cannot be taken for granted! Ask Jimmy Carter!
Naturally "blueblood Republican" aren't impressed! That's why they have enbraced Mitt Romney. But what about working people in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan? Odds are Republicans only need to win one of these states to retake the White House.
Interestingly enough, Santorum wasn't bashed as much as expected on social issues. Maybe it's because the rest of the field, especially Romney feel that it's risky to oppose him. Evangelicals recognize Santorum as the true social conservative. For them, the rest are suspect.
Social issues will be a general election issue. So will education. But as everyone agrees, the economy and jobs will be first in line. If, by convention time, Santorum is able to position Romney as a "pro-outsourcing globalist, in bed with the big banks and Wall Street," he wins. At the very least, he could kill Mitt Romney's chances for the nomination.