Matt McDaniel

4 minute read

The Road to 2016: Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum by Gage Skidmore 5.jpgQuick Facts:

Former two-term Senator from Pennsylvania

Former Republican Presidential candidate for 2012

Lost his re-election bid to Bob Casey by 18%, the largest margin of defeat for a sitting United States Senator since 1980.

Organized a 501(c)(4) non-profit aimed at electing like-minded candidates

Keys to the Party:

Vocal support among the most strident of the conservative wing of the Party

One of the most outspoken critics of gay marriage in the United States

Staunchly pro-life

By the end of the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign, he had won 11 states putting him solidly in a second-place finish

Polled very highly at the beginning of the race for President in 2012

Attacked the libertarian wing of the Party on the grounds that it did not want to legislate morality and did not believe in “American exceptionalism”

Keys to the Press:

Lost his re-election in a huge landslide defeat

Vigorously opposed to libertarianism and the libertarian streak in the Party

One of the most outspoken and visible opponents of gay marriage in America

 File:Pennsylvania Senatorial Election Results by County, 2006.svg

(State of PA, Election 2006)

Upside:

Rick Santorum is a popular figure among the strongly conservative, evangelical Republican base. Though Mr. Santorum is a practicing Roman Catholic, he is able to make overtures to the evangelical fringe of the Republican Party through his unabashed moral conservatism.

In Mr. Santorum, disaffected moral conservatives who feel that the nation needs a strong and forthright Christian message will find their champion. These issues-based voters are fine with leaving their criticisms of big government behind when it comes to ensuring public morality. In the mind of these voters, the public morality has a causal effect on increased or decreased prosperity.

Downside:

Mr. Santorum’s humiliating defeat in his reelection bid should be a cautionary flag for supporters about his ability to make inroads beyond believers in his own brand of moral conservatism. Likewise, Mr. Santorum’s utter dismissal and attack on the growing libertarian wing of the Republican Party alienates a segment of the electorate that is only growing in number.

Mr. Santorum’s opposition to gay marriage and to gay culture has found him on the receiving end of a consistent onslaught of vile (though also kind of funny) attacks. Public polling seems to indicate that the national sentiment regarding homosexuality has turned in favor of inclusion and tolerance. Many of Mr. Santorum’s ideas, especially in light of the likely Supreme Court affirmation of same-sex unions, will appear antiquated when the 2016 election cycle reaches high gear. Though his supporters will be more vocal than ever as they watch what they see as the moral decline of the United States.

Odds of Running:

8/10

There is really no reason for Mr. Santorum not to run for President. At the outset, he will have been able to retain much of his grassroots networks in early primaries. Likewise, though his message of moral conservatism does not reach far beyond the walls of American churches, Mr. Santorum has a devoted and loyal following which could buoy his position early in the race.

Odds of Winning the Nomination:

3/10

The success or failure of Rick Santorum’s campaign comes down to the number of establishment Republicans who are able to stay in the race. In the event the establishment vote is split for a long period of time, Mr. Santorum has a better chance of using his core group of moralist supporters to churn out consistent vote totals.

The problem with Mr. Santorum is that, even if the establishment vote were split, his support is going to be capped at the number of people who can keep up the outrage Mr. Santorum feels about moral conservative issues. Likewise, in the event of a brokered convention, Mr. Santorum will likely not be able to garner sufficient support to keep his delegates.

Odds of a Cabinet Position:

0/10

Mr. Santorum is politically toxic. His brand of moral conservatism would not add very much to an establishment ticket and would be unthinkable to the libertarian wing of the Party.

Mr. Santorum may be running to increase his brand among moralists in order to keep himself in book sales and donations to the social cause du jour.

Bottom Line:

Rick Santorum has a core group of supporters and would use the power of government to enforce a moral agenda to protect the American people and “American exceptionalism” from everything that he holds as evil. Unfortunately, what Mr. Santorum and the American mainstream consider evil are very different.

GovMatt’s Opinion: Rick Santorum is extremely dangerous to the Republican Party and the conservative brand. While Mr. Santorum’s devotion to his principles is laudable, the type of America that enforces religious morality through coercion is repugnant. While it is sensationalism to say that Mr. Santorum supports the Christian version of Sharia Law in the United States, his wild opposition to libertarianism and his warmongering foreign policy underscore the danger of electing an ideologue.