The Rick Santorum Show (Splat and Burn)

Plant workers in Cabot, Pennsylvania watch former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum declare his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

As gifts go, I’ll take a Wire show, but I really won’t complain about the Frothy Clown akwardly probing for his seat in the 2016 GOP Clown Car. Trip Gabriel drew the short straw over at the New York Times:

Rick Santorum, the runner-up in the Republican nomination race four years ago, announced his second presidential bid on Wednesday, pledging to restore a middle class “hollowed out” by government policies.

A former United States senator from rural western Pennsylvania, he appealed primarily to social conservatives four years ago. But he has donned a new mantle of economic populism, one he calls “blue-collar conservatism.”

“Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money,” he said, criticizing Hillary Rodham Clinton and “big business” for pro-immigration policies he said had undercut American workers.

Mr. Santorum, 57, was the surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses in 2012, thanks to evangelical Christian voters, and he went on to win 10 other states, dragging out Mitt Romney’s quest for the nomination.

Still, he has struggled to catch on this time around. He is in danger of not making the 10-candidate cutoff for the first Republican debate on Aug. 6, which will be determined by standings in national polls.

Quin Hillyer offers what is most likely intended as sincere, but reads to those of us not normally inclined to … er … ah … believe the everyday fare from National Review as one of the more refreshingly hilarious assessments of the Clown Car. Still, he has a point:

It will look not only bad but awful if the RNC is seen as endorsing a debate that excludes any of the following: 1) the man who won as many states, just four years ago, as any non-nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1976, and who was the third-ranking Republican in the whole Senate, and who won two statewide elections in a large leaning-blue state (Rick Santorum); 2) the only woman in the race, a former CEO of one of the nation’s top 20 companies (Carly Fiorina); 3) the son of Indian immigrants with, at age 43, an incredibly lengthy government résumé capped by two terms as a state governor (Bobby Jindal); 4) the three-term governor of the fourth-largest state in the union (George Pataki); 5) the former governor of another large swing state, Virginia, who also served as chairman of the RNC and as chairman of a key commission on terrorism that pretty much warned us that something like 9/11 was imminent (Jim Gilmore); 6) the current, two-term governor of what often is the key swing state in the union, Ohio — a man who, when serving as the Budget Committee chairman, helped craft the only balanced budgets in the past 50 years (John Kasich); and 7) the nearly four-term governor of the nation’s second-largest state (Rick Perry).

And Hillyer is just getting started. It is almost impossible to grasp, after all else, his complaint about how Santorum―a man whose very name has been transformed into profane infamy―has “been slandered so deeply and misrepresented so often that he now has a public-perception problem that he didn’t face when he was first introducing himself to primary voters four years ago”. Note the epistemic closure; the absolute hellbashing he has taken from gleeful liberals enjoying the hell out of having a piece of Senator Man On Dog apparently has no place in Mr. Hillyer’s analysis.

Rick Santorum's Google mess.  Image by Zina Saunders, 2010, via Mother Jones.Nonetheless, the pundits who discount him should instead discount their own judgment, based on their own sorry track record of analyzing his candidacy and those of other serious contenders in the past.

This part, at least, can be taken seriously. Well, you know, as long as we set aside the petulant tone. But it is true that Mr. Santorum really is a curiosity; his anal sex infamy really does warrant mention, even if one wishes to postulate that he placed so well last time because is so reviled by LGBTQ+ community. It makes for a contrast in slanders; to the one, there is his role as the Frothy Clown; to the other, there is whatever Hillyer is on about.

And if that is not enough, we get a special treat from the one and only Jennifer Rubin about why Mr. Santorum should be disqualified:

So we should be thankful he’s not advocating lawlessness, but his obsession with an issue that has clearly been lost in the court of public opinion — banning gay marriage — is nevertheless disturbing and raises a question as to whether he understands the country he wants to lead. Where would the votes for a constitutional amendment come from? Where is the consensus to turn back the clock? Unlike abortion, on which the pro-life community has made strides in highlighting the humanity of the unborn child, the anti-gay marriage crowd has been spectacularly unsuccessful in convincing people younger than 30 (and a great many older than 30) that we should prohibit (or undo) gay marriage. It perhaps is only because Huckabee’s view is so much more extreme that Santorum looks reasonable by comparison. But here, too, being “not as bad” as a really unacceptable figure does not commend one to the presidency.

We might treat Ms. Rubin as something of a joke, though I think a more proper analysis would simply suggest that she is far too dedicated to some idea of the “Republican brand”. In this case, it is one of those happy coincidences in which that outlook coincides with what is essentially good advice.

But the functional question of the Republican brand really does come down to this; Ms. Rubin sees what pretty much anyone else can see, and for most candidates the risk is pandering too hard because overcommitment to untenable policies for the sake of winning a primary makes it that much harder to pivot for the general, but in Mr. Santorum’s case the only real question is why he would pivot.

Meanwhile, like the deceptive television titles about somebody having talent, the Rick Santorum 2016 bid will likely prove to be one of the more entertaining―or, if one is a Republican supporter harboring dreams of actually winning the White House, excruciating―tragic farces to tumble into the Clown Car.

____________________

Image note: Top ― Plant workers in Cabot, Pennsylvania watch former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum declare his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press) Right ― Rick Santorum’s Google mess. Image by Zina Saunders, 2010, via Mother Jones.

Gabriel, Trip. “Rick Santorum Announces New Presidential Bid, and New Focus on Middle Class”. The New York Times. 27 May 2015.

Hillyer, Quin. ” Why I’m Already Grumpy about 2016″. National Review. 1 June 2015.

Luddy, Tim J. “The Santorum Variations”. Mother Jones. September 2010.

Mencimer, Stephanie. “Rick Santorum’s Anal Sex Problem”. Mother Jones. Septemer/October 2010.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Rand Paul and others disqualify themselves from the presidency”. The Washington Post. 1 June 2015.

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