Thursday, March 1, 2012

Catch of the Day

There was quite a bit of chatter about how Rick Santorum lost the Catholic vote in Michigan by knocking JFK. Well, guess what? Ed Kilgore shows that Santorum has never done particularly well with Catholics, going all the back to Iowa:
His voting base has always been conservative evangelical Protestants, who also make up a high percentage of the voters fixated on making abortion illegal, a particularly strong Santorum demographic.
Yup. I didn't watch a whole lot of the TV coverage last night, but there was quite a bit (and I think I was mostly on CNN) about how Santorum had supposedly lost it by talking too much about social issues. Well, I suppose that there's always some way to get the emphasis slightly better, but look: that's his campaign. That, politically, is who he is. He's been campaigning from the start on social issues and a hawkish foreign policy; the economic stuff is really just an occasional attitude, as far as I can tell.

I guess the other part of this is that while the pundits and reporters who pay close attention to all of this know exactly who Rick Santorum is and what he stands for, it's important to remember that many rank-and-file Republican voters really don't. Not until the campaign comes to their state. So Santorum's choices aren't as easy as some make them out to be; soft peddle his strengths too much (in order to please the national audience, for example), and voters just tuning in may not realize why they should support him over Romney in the first place. After all, it's not as if Romney will allow any actual, current policy differences to appear. And I think a lot of Santorum's appeal, presumably, is that he's actually willing to come out and make strong claims. It's not just all dog whistles and cute references with him. Of course, if he was  more skilled candidate...but of course he isn't, is he?

At any rate: good catch!


  1. But you can't simply reinvent yourself whole cloth, either, particularly if you don't have money to define yourself on TV, and you're going to rely of media to carry your message.

    Santorum didn't have the luxury of running as an economic conservative but social moderate, because his history is SO strident. He has always been a culture warrior.

    I don't think Santorum lost it by choosing to focus on social issues. I think Santorum lost it because he never had a chance. He was just the last plausible also-ran. In fact, I would say that Santorum had a bunch of easy choices....but none of his options would have plausibly led to victory through his own doing. The only way Santorum was going to be your 2012 nominee was if Romney got caught with a live boy or dead girl.

  2. Santorum's failing is that he doesn't have the skill to do both at once -- wage the culture war while also coming off like someone who cares about the economy and jobs. The point he was (I think) trying to make, both on the contraception issue and on "Snobgate," is that Obama represents a political philosophy devoted to directing people's lives, to having the government tell them what kinds of people to be (i.e. effect, college-educated, Pill-popping liberals). But he comes off sounding, himself, like the person who wants to order people around -- because he is, but that's neither here nor there. In terms of political messaging, the way to spin your (moral) message as economic AND avoid seeming like a scold is to say, "Why is Barack Obama sticking his nose in the lives of families, churches, religious organizations and their insurers, instead of spending his time GETTING US JOBS so we can get on with living our lives the way WE decide to, according to our own values?" Or something like that. Is it really so hard for a longtime professional politician, even if underfunded and lacking high-priced consultants, to figure this kind of thing out? I guess apparently it is.

  3. Make that "EFFETE" college-educated liberals.


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