Rick Santorum: 2016 Republican Nominee?
With a bit more self-control, Rick Santorum has a legitimate shot at the 2016 GOP nomination
Father Flanagan Rears His Head
The races of the past week show us nothing new. Mitt Romney is on track to win the presidential nomination for the Republican Party, but his support is weak in the nation’s strongest GOP bastion – the Deep South. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are wasting everybody’s time with their continued march to oblivion. And Rick Santorum is shaping up to be the presumptive front-runner in 2016.
Santorum looks at times like the Real Deal. He has the unerring sense of placement – a bowling alley, a gun range, a batting cage – that eludes his rivals. While Santorum is at a shooting range, bolstering his cred for the gun fetishists who own the GOP, Newt Gingrich is pontificating at Tulane University (take that West Georgia College!) And Santorum looks good doing what he does. When he takes cuts in the batting cage, he frankly looks just about as slick as Barack Obama did some four years ago knocking down that three-point shot in front of the troops.
Santorum has run a shoestring campaign, amassing a legitimate number of candidates even though he’s being outspent by Croesus at a rate of some (depending on estimates) 6- or 10-1. His core economic message resonates with the GOP base – rip the whole effing planet to shreds so y’all can buy a bigger pick-up truck, and worry about the future when it gets here (addendum: by then we’ll all be in Heaven – us good folk, anyway. Anybody got a problem with that?) When he stuck to the economics, and what the pundits call the “personal story” – Grandpa was a coal miner – he crawled into the lead in national polls and seemed poised to take the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy – I mean, the GOP nomination – from Romney’s groomed and grasping fingers. But then, invariably, Santorum the amateur reared his head.
When he turns into Father Flanagan, Rick Santorum can’t get elected to anything, not even the Sheriff of an Arizona county. Even among the most Puritanical and sexually conflicted group of our time – the base of the Republican Party – it doesn’t play to castigate folks for using birth control. And frankly, the Gay Marriage Wedge Issue just ain’t gonna fly no more. The Repubs might as well try to revive miscegenation laws, for all the good that one’s going to do them – we’ve moved beyond it, people. When Rick turns into a dick, his numbers collapse. The presidency might be a bully pulpit, but we really don’t want a bully in there who thinks it’s an actual pulpit – we don’t need to be lectured to by a guy who really thinks his church is the Universal Church. It’s not, and most of the rest of us – left, right, center, gay and straight – don’t need to be told that we’re bad people because we use a condom.
Rick Santorum will not win the nomination this time around. Romney is way ahead in delegates and in popular vote. The super-delegates haven’t even weighed in yet, and they will go to the Romney camp almost without exception. But in November, Romney will lose. He can barely put away Father Flanagan, even with a 10-1 dollar advantage. Against President Obama, with the money being roughly equal, Romney will show how mediocre a candidate he really is and we will have four more years of Obama/Biden.
In 2016, though, Rick Santorum will be able to make the compelling case that the GOP should have chosen him – a Real Conservative – back in 2012. Presumably he will be better funded and will run a more legitimate campaign (by that we mean the little things: get on the ballot in Virginia, for instance). He will be the front-runner right out of the chute, and will remain so until he shows the base that he has not matured as a candidate, that he would rather indulge himself in sharing his personal catechism with the world. Is he capable of maturation? Those possessed of absolute truth seldom are. But if he really wants it all in four years, he had better do some serious soul-searching, and figure out how to keep Father Flanagan under wraps.