If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that, among the present field of Republican presidential candidates, Rick Santorum is my man. I predicted some time ago that if the race could ever be framed as a two-person race between Santorum and Mitt Romney, that Santorum would run away with it. Now that we are approaching that framing, we may get the chance to see if I was right.
One mistake the Romney defenders are making is thinking that he is the most electable in this field. Not so. At best, he is a distant second. His stance against the majority on key issues like the individual mandate in health care, the Wall Street bailouts, and cap and trade, make him vulnerable. Additionally, he does not articulate conservative principles well. His willingness, for example, to frame economic issues as a matter of supporting either the poor, the middle class, or the rich, shows a fundamental flaw in his mindset. He does not handle attacks well. He fails to excite the base, and so his campaign strategy has descended into mudslinging. And it is too easy to portray his as a detached “rich guy” who doesn’t connect with real people.
Rick Santorum, on the other hand, is with the majority on all those issues mentioned, and knows how to articulate his position persuasively. But perhaps the strongest barometer of his electability is his likability, as illustrated by his response to an interview question last night by Fox News Special Report host Bret Baier.
Bret: “You said something this week on the stump that raised some eyebrows. You said if Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich won the nomination, Republicans will lose the general election. Do you stand by that?”
Rick: “Well (smiling and looking a little sheepish) I probably, I probably got a little wound up there on the stump. I just think that we have a much higher probability of losing. So I’ll backtrack on that.” (Check the interview for yourself at ElectAd. The question begins at the 4-minute mark.)
You know that either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney would have gotten defensive answering a question like that. But Santorum shows, in this answer, not only character but likability and the ability to play the big game and win.