Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Candidate Profile Twenty-One: Rick Santorum

Is Rick Santorum a genuine 2008 hopeful? Or is he a useful lightning rod for the right? Or perhaps, a strawman set up by the left? You can't disregard questions of this sort when Santorum is the subject, nor can you avoid them. Here's the scoop...

Richard John Santorum - official bio

His Wikipedia page, hilariously one-sided and as inflammatory as possible

Resume - United States Senator for Pennsylvania since 1995; former U.S. House Representative; Penn State, B. A.; University of Pittsburgh, M.B.A.; Dickinson School of Law, J.D.

The first and most obvious thing about Santorum is that he is in a real scrape to keep his seat in 2006; Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., is going to take him to the wall, by all indications, so 2008 is the least of his worries at the moment. Then, of course, there is the Senator factor; it's a notoriously difficult proposition for a Senator to take the Oval Office, in part because a trail of votes are brought to the campaign.

The conventional wisdom is that social conservatives are nuts about Santorum. That may or may not be the case. What we do know for sure, though, is that Santorum would bring a lot of baggage, and for this reason, I don't even like his chances as a Vice-Presidential candidate. I don't intend here to dissect his statements regarding homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or his recent Hitler reference. Nor is it my intent to comment on the rightness or wrongness of his positions (though I think all regular readers know my stance on Hitler comparisons).

The point of bringing these matters up is simply this; the Democrats and the press will bring them up at every possible opportunity in the event of a Santorum candidacy. Do Republicans want a presidential or vice-presidential candidate who, like Howard Dean, constantly distracts from the campaign message with intemperate remarks? Do we want Campaign 2008 to be one long debate on what he said, or meant to say, or might be thinking of saying in the future? I don't think Santorum is ready for the big leagues, and I'll tell you why.

Santorum hasn't learned the lesson George W. Bush and John McCain, among others, could have taught him if he were a smarter politician: you play the good cop, and let your subordinates or spokesman or peers play the bad cop. When Bush or McCain face a loaded question from the press, the vast majority of the time, they deflect the question with a moderate response. Whether they believe the answer or not is not the point; what I'm saying is, if they're out to hang you, don't give 'em the rope to do it with.

I don't think Santorum is the answer for the Republican Party, nor do I believe that talk of his possible candidacy will get very far. Unless I am very, very wrong, this is a long shot indeed.


UPDATE 07/24/2005 10:56 p.m.:

see here...

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