Santorum as the Anti-Romney and Anti-Paul

So the Iowa outcome, with some perversity, made it more likely than ever that Romney would be the Republican nominee.  That’s true although most Republicans have made it clear they would prefer someone else.  Romney’s victory in the caucus with a quarter of the vote was possible only because his opposition was divided.  Santorum would have whipped him easy with Perry and Bachmann out of the race.


Well, Bachmann is out of the race.  And Perry quit and then returned, and that ain’t going to work for him.  The latest poll has him at 5% in South Carolina, and there’s no reason to believe that plummeting number is going to get any better. 

Gingrich is still in the race, but he disgraced himself with his whiny speech in Iowa.  And so he’s washed up in almost every mind but his own.

One result:  Romney now has a narrow lead over Santorum in South Carolina.  But it’s between possible and likely that it will disappear as Gingrich and Perry fade into oblivion.  Gingrich went from first to third rapidly, and his remaining 18% will probably flow much more to Santorum than Romney. It's possible that Santorum will win in South Carolina as the one real alternative to Romney.  And then it's on to Florida...

What about Ron Paul?  He was deprived of his night to shine as a serious contender by winning in Iowa.  He was on the cusp, but the late deciders dramatically broke against him.  He’s not going to do nearly as well anywhere else.  The turnouts in the other states won’t be so low, and most states don’t allow Democrats and independents to vote in the Republican “process.”

Paul may still finish second in New Hampshire, but the momentum doesn’t seem to be with him.  What’s most likely at this point is that Santorum gets the honor of being the distant second there.

Ron, though, has every incentive to destroy Santorum to be restored to the dignified position of being the highly improbable alternative to Romney. 

Santorum, after all, is the anti-Paul.  He’s as unlibertarian as a Republican can be.  So he’s somewhat friendly to the safety net of the welfare state as indispensable for American workers.  He voted, for example, for the prescription drug benefit.  From that view, “progressives” should like him more than Paul.

Santorum also has a kind of aggressive solicitude for the rights of people everywhere, and so he remains a supporter (quite unfashionably) of the interventionism of the Bush freedom agenda.  No one, of course, is more noninterventionist than Paul.

Consider also that Santorum and Paul are equally opposed to same-sex marriage, but in different ways.  Santorum wants a constitutional amendment that would definitively outlaw it.  Paul wants government to get out of the marriage business altogether.  And that would mean, of course, no benefits for same-sex couples or any couples at all.

Let me conclude with one way Santorum is the anti-Romney in a way that highlights one of Mitt’s undeniable weaknesses.  Romney comes off, as Huckabee said with some effectiveness, as a boss who lays people off (as, in fact, he was).  He seems like the guy who’s mainly for tax cuts for the rich because productivity is so important. 

Santorum, by contrast, is presenting himself as the ethnic, Catholic defender of the way of life of the ordinary working guy.  He talks about the dignity of work and the worker, based on the dignity of every human being.  So he’s for tax cuts for American industry or manufacturing, and he’s all about the real issue of the cultural and economic degradation of the way of life of our blue-collar lower middle class. He’s being branded, for that reason,  as another “compassionate conservative.”

It could be, of course, that Santorum will collapse in just a few days over some startling revelation that emerges through the vetting process that has just begun.  If that’s the case, Romney will have won by default, by the implosion of all the others.

It also could be, some Republicans hope, that Santorum does well enough against Romney to discredit Mitt's claims for electability.  That might create the ghost of a chance that another candidate could emerge at a brokered convention.  But who believes in ghosts?

UPDATE:  Here's a thoughtful Paul supporter who also can't help but like Santorum.  Ron and Rick who are the two anti-Romneys;  they both say what they really believe.

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