Santorum’s Quest Ends

Rick Santorum ended his run for the presidency yesterday. This is not breaking news for those who follow politics closely. But his decision brings down the curtain on the Republican primary season. It’s all over now except the official coronation of Mitt Romney as the nominee. More on that in a minute.

Santorum was the last best hope for those of us who sought a solid conservative nominee. Yet he was more than just the “anti-Romney” for me. He was a genuine Christian who had a foundational understanding of the Biblical principles upon which the nation needs to be grounded. He’s a good man who deserved better. We, as a nation, would have been better with him at the helm.

No one predicted Santorum would be a serious contender, let alone win ten states. His presence and successes underscored the weaknesses in Romney’s candidacy. One can only wonder where we would be now if Santorum could have pulled out Michigan and Ohio, states he lost by small margins. Those were crucial, and served as the turning point in his fortunes. He finally had to face the improbable odds of overtaking Romney’s lead in delegates.

Another factor in the decision—and not a small one—was the hospitalization over Easter of his three-year-old daughter Bella. Her rare condition is a constant source of concern for him and his family. Santorum says the decision to end his quest was a family decision, made jointly with his wife and children. For him, family came first, reminiscent of the title of his book It Takes a Family.

So while I am personally disappointed in this outcome, I respect his decision and honor him for making the attempt to lead this country, a country in dire need of principled leadership.

Where does this leave us? Mitt Romney will be the nominee without doubt. But my doubts about him remain the same. I’ve explained them before in previous posts and don’t have to do so again. I’m concerned that the Republicans are now heading into the general election with someone who doesn’t inspire, doesn’t create enthusiasm. Yet I will vote for him and do whatever is necessary to save the country from another Obama term. Yes, it’s sad when one’s vote is primarily a vote to remove someone else, but the extension of the Obama regime for another four years may spell the end of America as it should be.

May God help us even when we don’t deserve His help. That’s called mercy, and we need it badly.

Republicans Doing It Again?

The Illinois primary is now in the books as a Romney win. This was a significant state; if Santorum had won it, he would have made a major stride toward his goal of reversing the delegate math. As it is, Santorum’s path to the nomination has become virtually . . . well, I was going to say “impossible,” but I don’t want to go quite that far. Nevertheless, the odds are now more against it than a week ago, even if he pulls out Louisiana later this week.

The media, aided by the Romney campaign, played up a comment by Santorum that made it appear he didn’t care about the unemployment rate. We all know how easy it is to pull a phrase out of an entire explanation and twist the intent. That’s what the Romney team did in this case. Santorum’s full statement was “My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. It’s something more foundational that’s going on.”

Romney should know how a statement can be taken out of context. Remember when he said he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, and the firestorm that created for a while? Well, I knew he meant that the very poor were already being taken care of by current policies, and that he wanted to help everyone. I didn’t criticize him for that. Neither should he and his team have taken a cheap shot at Santorum for his unemployment rate comment. It’s typical campaign dishonesty.

What did Santorum mean? His concern is more broad-based. He sees the overall trend in American society—the destruction of the traditional family, the loss of Judeo-Christian morality, the war for religious liberty, the over-extension of government power, etc.—and realizes these are the root causes of our economic woes. He also has made it clear that if Republicans hang their election hopes on bad economic numbers only, that they will be vulnerable if those numbers change for the better. It’s the difference between being principle-oriented vs. doing whatever is expedient to win a single election cycle.

I will always side with those who understand and promote the basic principles that serve as salt and light for a nation.

What Republicans are now poised to do, by choosing Romney, is to reenact the debacle of former nominees such as Bob Dole and John McCain. I’m also hearing the same refrain as I heard in 2008 when Huckabee continued the race against McCain when it seemed as if he couldn’t win. We were told he needed to withdraw so the party could coalesce around the inevitable nominee. Forgive me, but I still believe Huckabee would have been the better candidate. McCain’s campaign was dreadful; the only spark he ever got was when he added Palin to the ticket.

If Romney does pull this off, the only way he’ll gain any conservative enthusiasm for his campaign is if he makes a very solid and wise choice for his vice president. If he opts for another middle-of-the-roader, he will find it difficult to get the grassroots support he will need. There will still be a lot of us who will vote for him, but only because another Obama term is unthinkable. But that’s not the same as heartfelt support for the nominee.

I do believe Romney can defeat Obama, but then I worry that we will have Obama-light. Sometimes when you win in the short term, you lose overall. Will he really overturn Obamacare? Will he make good choices for the Supreme Court? I could go on. These remain large questions in my mind.

It Will Be Over Only When It’s Over

I’ve let a day pass since the primary elections on Tuesday. It provided time to reflect on the results. Listening to the talking political heads on TV, there are certain themes that have emerged, some I agree with, some I don’t. In no particular order, they are:

  • Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi took almost everyone by surprise. Only one Alabama poll had him leading, and that was only by a single point. No Mississippi polls showed him ahead. Yet I followed the returns minute by minute, and except for the very early returns, Santorum led throughout the night. Some attribute this to the high evangelical turnout in those states. That certainly was helpful. But only a few voices keyed in on one of Santorum’s clear strengths: his likeability when one meets him in person and the genuineness of his character. He doesn’t come across as a phony politician saying what he thinks you want to hear. Those who characterize him as strident miss the essence of the man.
  • Gingrich lost big time. His only real shot—and it was a true longshot—was to capture both of those states in an area, the South, where he should have been strongest. Almost everyone thinks he has no chance of getting the nomination after these losses, and they believe he should exit the race as gracefully as possible. I couldn’t agree more. He is finished. The only thing his continued candidacy will accomplish is to divide the conservative vote with Santorum, who is the clear consensus choice of the conservative electorate. If he really doesn’t want Romney to get the nomination, he should bow out now. He has declared, though, that he’s going all the way to the convention in Tampa. Will he be forced to rethink that position? When funding dries up, he may have to face the inevitable. It’s a shame he won’t do so now.
  • Strange as it seems, Romney came out ahead with new delegates despite his third-place finish in Alabama and Mississippi. He won Hawaii and American Samoa [with all of 70 votes being cast there]. With the proportional division of delegates, that put him 5 0r 6 delegates ahead of Santorum for the evening. For the Romney campaign, it’s all about the math. They continue to say his nomination is a done deal.
  • My view: his nomination is no way a done deal. Yes, he still has the inside track, but there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the Republican electorate for someone who has to try to convince people he really is a conservative. Santorum, meanwhile, is picking up that lost enthusiasm. I’m fully aware that enthusiasm by itself doesn’t equal victory, but it is an essential ingredient for anyone who eventually gets the win. The last thing the Republican party needs is a nominee who doesn’t generate any real excitement.
  • There’s also a lot of talk about the final choice of a candidate not being made until the convention. While I would like to see this settled before the convention, I’m not as dismayed as many seem to be by that prospect. I also question the belief that a prolonged primary season is bad for the Republicans. A thorough vetting of the two candidates who are left is very important. We shouldn’t just jump on a bandwagon of inevitability and then face buyer’s remorse later. A vibrant convention that actually chooses the party’s nominee might inspire enthusiasm when all is said and done. Who knows? Political analysts and professional campaign staff have been wrong innumerable times before.

Sometimes, it takes time for a candidate to grab the attention of the voters. And once he gets that attention, it takes time to fund a complete campaign staff. That’s what is happening with Santorum, and it would be a travesty to allow the early primary and caucus states to determine the nominee before a good number of the other states get their say. Illinois and Louisiana are next on the docket. Romney currently leads in Illinois, but there’s no telling how Santorum’s latest victories may change that. Louisiana polling shows Santorum on top at present. If he takes both of those, can anyone justifiably say this race is over?

It will be over only when it’s over.

Of Politics & Ivory Towers

You know, I really can’t stand politics. That may be surprising, considering how much I comment on the latest political happenings. What really interests me is a proper understanding of government, Biblically and philosophically. I like to explore the original intent of government as revealed in Scripture, and how it is meant to work. I prefer to focus on character as much as possible, and I seek to find those who display the type of character that is necessary for the government to function the way God intended. Some will say I’m too devoted to theory, and perhaps live in that oft-described “ivory tower” that academics tend to inhabit.

Actually, I don’t think those ivory towers exist; no one can escape the day-to-day realities. Nor should they. I fully realize the practice of politics rarely achieves those Biblical goals. We are inundated with winning strategies, false accusations against political foes, and all the seamy aspects of life that we would like to ignore, if possible. But we can’t. I get tired of it all, as I’m sure many of you do as well.

Yet because we live in this world, and because our lives are affected deeply by what transpires in the political realm, we have to stay vigilant. A Christian, rather than living in a dream world, grasps the truth of man’s sinfulness in a way that others cannot. A real Christian knows firsthand the consequences of sin; he or she has been pulled out of the pit. Gratitude for a second chance in life should be a constant inspiration.

Christians also know that government is not the solution to all of life’s problems. In fact, all too often, government has become the problem. I borrowed that from Ronald Reagan. He knew what he was talking about. Government is not an idol, and it needs to be taken down from its pedestal. Yet it is significant, and God expects us to labor for the best government possible. That’s why I have to continue to comment on the latest developments.

Today there will be three more primaries: Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii. Will they determine the future of the Republican party, or will the battles go on after today? One of the candidates, Newt Gingrich, is in a must-win situation, even if he denies it. If he fails to win any of these states, he should hang it up. Another one, Rick Santorum, is seeking to turn this into a two-man race once and for all. To do so, he’s going to have to win at least one of these states, preferably two. The third, Mitt Romney, has already declared that campaigning in a southern state is like being in an “away game.” He has to connect somehow with people who don’t form part of his circle. Can he do it?

May God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Pervasive Hypocrisy

As I noted earlier this week, progressives have a way of framing a debate to favor their views. They’re really quite adept at changing the entire focus of the debate, shifting it away from the real issues to something phony. In the process, the Constitution, and the religious liberty it protects, are forgotten:

They are aided in their attempt to redirect the discussion by a more-than-willing media. Sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish any difference between the leftist ideologues and the media itself:

Those who stand for the Constitution and for traditional Judeo-Christian morality, meanwhile, are characterized as extremists. How dare they introduce their religious beliefs into the debate!

The hypocrisy is pervasive.

The Most Important Insight from Super Tuesday

Let’s start with a summary of what happened in the Super Tuesday contests, then move on to some specifics. Romney won six states, Santorum three, and Gingrich one. The only one that was close was Ohio, which took until the wee hours to be called for Romney. Santorum had been leading there most of the evening. The [almost] final tally is 38%-37%.

Key thoughts: except for Ohio, Romney’s wins were easy. One was his real home state of Massachusetts, as opposed to his other quasi-home states of New Hampshire and Michigan. I’ve never seen a candidate with so many home states. Another of those wins was Virginia, where only he and Paul were on the ballot. That was a simple task for him, not having to face Santorum in a state where Santorum could have done well if not for having the toughest rules for getting on the ballot. Virginia may be changing those rules after this experience where its voters didn’t have a real choice.

Santorum’s win in Oklahoma was expected. In Tennessee, the polls seemed to indicate Romney was coming on strong. They were wrong. No one knew what to expect from the North Dakota caucuses; Santorum’s easy win there was somewhat surprising to the pundits. If he had captured Ohio, the story might be different this morning.

That leads me to the most important insight from the night: Newt Gingrich is the ultimate spoiler; he’s the Ross Perot of the Republican campaign. He won his home state of Georgia and claimed that was significant enough to carry on his quest. Never mind that he didn’t come in second anywhere else. Sometimes, he was woefully behind Paul as an unimpressive fourth-place finisher. The only thing keeping him going, I suspect, is ego.

As I’ve noted before, polls show that when Gingrich supporters are asked for their second choice in the race, most pick Santorum. Without Gingrich, Santorum probably would have won Ohio comfortably. The problem is, he never gets to take on Romney one-on-one. Gingrich keeps muddying the waters. It’s past time for him to go, but he doesn’t get the message.

Commentators, even after last night, continue to speak of Romney as one of the weakest frontrunners imaginable. If Gingrich were to face the inevitable, Romney wouldn’t be inevitable. If indeed Romney captures this nomination, he enters the race against Obama as a weak candidate. The mantra is that this drawn-out campaign is what is weakening him. I disagree. His weakness comes from within. His baggage will go with him.

Framing the Debate: Religious Liberty, Not Contraceptives

It all began with George Stephanopoulos—of Clinton White House infamy—asking a question at one of the Republican debates. He wanted to know if states had the authority to ban contraception. The question baffled the candidates, particularly since no one had ever brought up the issue. Perhaps it was intended to stem the rising candidacy of Rick Santorum, who was becoming more prominent at that time. Yet Santorum, despite his personal views on the subject, had never indicated any interest in banning contraception; in fact, he had stated the exact opposite.

Why did Stephanopoulos broach this non-issue? No one could quite figure it out, except as a way of stopping Santorum.

Then, not long after, the Obama administration came up with its mandate that religious organizations had to offer contraceptives and abortifacients in their hospitals and healthcare plans. Was Stephanopoulos’s question the preliminary to the mandate, getting the public used to it ahead of time? Was he in collusion with the White House? Those queries remain unanswered, but the timing was unusually fortuitous for the administration.

Those plans went awry when the religious community cried foul and cited First Amendment protections for religious liberty. That seemed to throw the Obama team off-balance for a while, but then they attempted a new tactic—change the issue from religious liberty to the right of women to have contraceptives. Convince the public that conservatives are anti-women and are bent on setting up a theocracy. In other words, scare the public by constructing a straw man, a technique used by progressives ad nauseum.

When Darrell Issa, the congressman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, held hearings on the religious liberty issue and its violation in the HHS mandate, the Democrats were able to offer their own witnesses at the hearing. At the last minute, they wanted to change one of their witnesses so that Georgetown student Sandra Fluke could testify. Fluke, a feminist birth control advocate whose goal is to change the Catholic university’s policy on not providing contraceptives, was not an expert on the First Amendment or religious liberty, and was denied a spot at the hearing for that reason, as well as for the late notice.

So what did the Democrats do? They arranged their own “hearing,” which was not official but primarily a publicity stunt, so that Fluke could “testify” to the hardships students face by not having contraceptives provided for them via the taxpayers. She made it sound like contraceptives were somehow scarce and extremely expensive; they are neither. In effect, she wanted a subsidy for herself and other students.

We have become a society so seared in our consciences when it comes to sex that dissent over a policy that promotes promiscuity is liable to get one in trouble.

That’s where Rush Limbaugh came in. He saw how ludicrous the entire proceeding had been, and commented on the blatant hypocrisy of the progressives, turning a religious liberty concern into a “threat” to women’s “rights” for political purposes. As he ridiculed the idea that taxpayers should pay for a woman’s sexual activities, he used a couple of words to describe Fluke that got the media in an uproar. First of all, never mind that the Left says far worse things daily—one need only replay the constant derogatory and disgusting comments about the Palin family. Yet the progressive Left demanded that advertisers drop Limbaugh’s program.

Over the weekend, Limbaugh issued an apology for the use of words he regretted uttering. I listened to his explanation yesterday. He said his apology was heartfelt; he had lowered himself to the level of his accusers and had played into their hands. Some say he apologized only because he was losing sponsors, but I believe he meant what he said. The apology was appropriate; we should never mirror the traits of those who dishonor themselves by their despicable words and actions. By the way, I expect him to weather the storm; the attempt to shut him down won’t succeed.

But what has happened? The real issue—religious liberty—has been overwhelmed by a non-issue—contraception—and the Left has successfully framed the debate. This is what they always attempt to do. We have to stand against such tactics and respond in ways that show we have a different character.

The debate needs to be reframed in a proper way. There is much at stake as Obama tries to run roughshod over the Constitution and religious liberty. He must not be allowed to win this debate. We must walk in wisdom. May God grant us His mind and heart as we proceed.