Santorum’s Rapid Rise

It’s turning into a tidal wave, particularly in the Midwest. What am I talking about? The rapid rise of Rick Santorum in the polls. All you have to do is watch the faces and hear the incredulity in the voices of cable news hosts to know that something is happening that was more than a little unexpected.

A series of new polls coming out of Michigan show Santorum leading Romney anywhere from four points to fifteen. Not a single one favors Romney at this time. Then there is the shocker out of Ohio, a Rasmussen poll showing Santorum with a 42-24 advantage. Even Arizona, where the Santorum forces decided not to waste money because it is a winner-take-all primary like Florida’s, and polls showed Romney with a big lead, now sits at Romney 38%, Santorum 31%. It appears GOP voters continue to have a hard time coming to grips with a Romney candidacy.

Commentators have begun searching for weaknesses in Santorum. They think they’ve found them on social issues. They believe voters will eventually be turned off by his lack of support for contraception and his opposition to gay marriage. First, if we’ve come to the point where opposition to homosexuals demanding marriage is a losing proposition, we’re beyond the pale as a country anyway. I appreciate Santorum standing firm on that one. If that’s a losing position, it’s also a principled and honorable one. Second, Santorum has no plans to make Americans accept his views on contraception. Even those of us who don’t agree with his stance completely on that one know what his aim is—to reduce sexual immorality and enhance the status of marriage and family. As long as he frames these positions carefully and positively, he can win with them.

The biggest problem remaining for Santorum appears to be Newt Gingrich. He hasn’t yet come to the realization that his opportunity has passed him by. He’s even less desirable for Republican voters than Romney.

He used to lecture Santorum to drop out of the race so as not to split the conservative vote. It’s time for Newt to take his own advice.

Cartoon Day

I’ve got a cold and don’t want to try to think too much. Is it okay if I just inundate you with cartoons today? I have a lot of new ones. Here’s one dealing with one of my “favorite” organizations:

And of course there’s the continuing healthcare controversy over forcing religious organizations to offer all methods of birth control, even those that could be considered abortifacients:

Then there’s the Republican race, where Rick Santorum is finally making a splash. How do we know? He’s showing up in the political cartoons:

He’s going to have to watch out, though; he’s now a target:

I sincerely hope he’s ready for what he will have to face from those who don’t bother with moral scruples.

A Rising Tide?

The latest poll of Republican voters shows that Rick Santorum is now tied with Mitt Romney with 30% each. It’s a stunning shift as Santorum has risen thirteen points very rapidly while Romney has dropped a couple. Newt Gingrich appears to be fading. The big question is whether Santorum can sustain this momentum.

Critics say that this is no different than what we’ve seen throughout this primary season. Rick Perry rocketed into first place when he entered the race. His fall was followed by Herman Cain’s meteoric rise, and then when he ran into his troubles, Gingrich was the beneficiary. So, in all, this makes Santorum the fourth candidate to equal or surpass Romney at one point or another.

My response is that while this also could be transitory, Santorum would only fall back due to some major misstep. Unlike Perry, he has come across as knowledgeable in the debates, with many believing he was the outright winner of the second one in Florida. Unlike Cain, he is more tested and has political leadership experience. And unlike Gingrich, he has no real personal baggage or history of constantly changing positions. He is who he is, and he’s been pretty consistent over the years.

I wasn’t at CPAC, but all the accounts of his appearance there indicate there is a rising tide. So many showed up for his speech that not everyone could get into the room. The accounts I’ve read say he got a standing ovation for his comments. Earlier in the week, when he showed up at Oral Roberts University, they had to change the location to the large arena because they expected perhaps 2000 would be attending. Instead, 3500 came to hear him.

Romney, meanwhile, in his speech at CPAC, seemed determined to convince the audience that he was a true conservative. He used the term “conservative” or its derivations twenty-six times in a speech with the same number of minutes. He even called himself the “severely” conservative governor of Massachusetts. Severely? How does that adjective fit? It’s oddly out of place to use that word in that context. It’s as if he is almost desperate to showcase his conservatism. But when you are that desperate, you have to understand why some might question your authenticity.

The real test of the trajectory of this race this month will come down to Michigan and Arizona on the 28th. Maybe those contests will clear the air. If not, March’s Super Tuesday will be the one to watch.

Obama Off the Back Burner

The political focus naturally has been on the Republican race, and as I noted yesterday, the “Santorum Surprise” has become the top story. It also has highlighted the clear Romney weakness in a Republican electorate:

All of this attention to the Republican primaries and caucuses should be putting Barack Obama on the back burner for now, but he has contrived to make himself the news as well, albeit not in a positive way. The octopus-like arms of Obamacare are revealing themselves more than ever now that his administration is trying to force religious organizations to provide birth control methods they disagree with. This has become a vital debate over religious liberty, and rightly so. Obamacare is a threat to genuine religious liberty. Obama is a threat to genuine religious liberty.

He’s attempted to play up the numbers on unemployment now that the “official” word is that it’s down to 8.3%. What he doesn’t want anyone to know is that the labor force itself has dropped precipitously. Fewer people are even looking for work because they’ve given up, and the real problem for those who want to know the truth is that the Obama Labor Department is always going to put things in the best possible light.

Yet the president himself conducts an interview before the Super Bowl in which he declares he deserves a second term.

I thought I would add that cartoon just in case anyone has forgotten that we’re now over $15 trillion in debt. Is that going to be his argument for a second term? I hope so.

The Game Truly Is On Now

“Game on” was how Rick Santorum described the status of the Republican presidential primary race the night he won Iowa [even though he didn’t know he had won it for another week]. Well, if that win was a signal that the game was on, last night served as an indication this is a serious game for sure. Polls had hinted he might take Missouri, eke out a slight win in Minnesota, and could be encouraged by a strong second-place finish in Colorado. After the votes were counted, he had swamped Romney in Missouri, scored a solid victory in Minnesota, and stunned all pundits by taking Colorado by five points.

Santorum had a perfect three-for-three evening.

Despite the expected caveats—Missouri was just a “beauty contest,” none of those states actually awarded delegates at this point, turnout wasn’t that high—the results have changed the trajectory of this “game.”

What are we witnessing? First, Romney has never nailed down the conservative vote, and it showed in a big way. Second, Gingrich may have already peaked and is now beginning a fade because conservative voters are switching allegiances; when they compare Gingrich with Santorum, they are liking Santorum better. Third, this obviously is no longer a two-man race. Fourth, lots of money and organization may not trump issues after all. And how about this possibility: should Gingrich now leave the race so he won’t drain support from Santorum? How’s that for turnabout?

I’ve always despised the mantra that whoever wins early is the presumptive nominee. I recall another primary battle back in 1976, when an upstart challenger named Ronald Reagan took on the incumbent president Gerald Ford. Reagan lost one primary after another, and the experts were saying he should pull out. Then the tides shifted, and he began winning them all. The race was so close it wasn’t finally settled until the Republican convention that year. Yes, Reagan fell short, but I doubt that anyone today seriously thinks anymore that Ford was the better candidate. So I say, let the race continue.

Santorum is correct when he says that Romney cannot be the Republican spokesman to critique Obamacare, given his background and ongoing defense of Romneycare. Santorum also is someone who can put those midwestern states in the Republican column in November. I’m also convinced he will be the best person to tackle the looming Iranian threat.

Romney last night in his speech said, “This is a time for real change in Washington—fundamental, bold, dramatic change.” I couldn’t agree more. But when has Romney ever been the candidate espousing fundamental, bold, or dramatic change? He’s the mushy middle who will superintend the status quo. I can’t imagine him doing anything bold. He’s always been the “go along to get along” guy. Santorum, on the other hand, has been rock solid on issues dear to my vote—sanctity of life, significance of family, and Biblical morality as the cornerstone of policy.

Santorum has passed one test. Now, can he do the same in Arizona and Michigan at the end of this month? Michigan is another of Romney’s “home” states—he seems to have a number of those. Yet Santorum’s message of reviving manufacturing could play well there. Arizona is quite conservative, and the ongoing battle that state has with Obama over illegal immigration may also be fertile ground for him.

I think he was correct to say “game on” in Iowa. That terminology is even more appropriate now.

Santorum: Big-Government Guy?

Romney won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. It was another blow to Gingrich’s hopes. Paul’s libertarian message played fairly well there, which is to be expected in a state where even prostitution is legal. That’s also the reason why Santorum didn’t do well. His solid Christian message apparently is out of sync with Nevadans’ worldview. He’s going into friendlier territory now, though. Polls show he currently leads the field in Missouri, Minnesota, and Ohio, which are all coming up very soon.

One of the attacks on Santorum from those with whom I normally agree is that he is a big-government conservative. It is true he has voted, on occasion, for some things I wouldn’t have, such as No Child Left Behind. To his credit, he now says that vote was wrong, and he wouldn’t do so today. At least he can admit when he voted wrongly. Are you listening, Mr. Romneycare?

What exactly is Santorum’s view of the role of the federal government? He answers specifically in his book It Takes a Family:

Conservatives see “the village” as, well, the village: the local community, with the family at the center of it. We believe that only strong families can improve the lives of individuals, especially children, and make for healthy communities. In our view, the real village elders are the parents, the ministers, the Girl or Boy Scout leaders, the grandmothers who sit on their porch watching the neighborhood kids at play, the youth baseball coaches. It is these village leaders who are really generating social capital, first in the family, and then in the community. The liberals have it exactly the wrong way around.

The villages elders [of the liberal stripe] believe in top-down because they believe in the supposed goodness of the central government and the Bigs—and, I think, because they distrust families and local communities. They think the federal government is fairer, more just, more trustworthy, even more moral, than families and local community groups with their “parochial” and “provincial” concerns. I believe in bottom-up, however, because I believe in the power of the natural family and the mediating organizations that support it.

He then explains the concept of subsidiarity, a word more common in Catholic circles than Protestant, but one that should be more widely known and understood:

Only when a “lower”—i.e., smaller—level of society is manifestly incapable of handling a problem may a “higher” level legitimately intervene. And even then, the “higher” level may only intervene to supplement, not displace, the function of a lower level. When you want the Bigs, led by the federal bureaucracy, to run the village—as liberals do—you have completely inverted the principle of subsidiarity.

The Constitution established subsidiarity; it’s called federalism. His overall philosophy of governing is consistent with both the Constitution and the Biblical basis for how a society should operate. The only ones who could conceivably be upset over it are liberals and libertarians, albeit for different reasons. Since I am neither, I am comfortable with Santorum’s position.

It’s a Long Way to the Convention

I voted in the Florida primary yesterday. My candidate, Rick Santorum, came in third. He knew he wasn’t going to win the state, and has been out working in other states that have caucuses coming up. He’s wise in using his funds appropriately. I voted my conscience, and am glad I did. Even with the victory last night, Romney has only about eighty delegates; the winner is going to have to get more than one thousand. It’s not over until it’s over.

This primary season has divided conservatives. Some have opted to support Romney simply because they think he is the only one who can beat Obama. It’s possible they may be right. Others have chosen to back Gingrich because they believe he’s the one to make the necessary changes, that he’s not afraid of anyone and will do what has to be done. Again, I can understand their rationale.

But I am far from convinced by their arguments.

So does that mean I delete them as friends on Facebook? Do I never speak to them again because I think their reasoning is faulty? Should I resort to name-calling or some other childish gesture? Hardly.

Yet that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to voice my concerns. Romney may win the nomination. He may beat Obama in the general election. So far, so good. But what follows after that? Will he be true to his promises? Will he really dismantle Obamacare? How many of his erstwhile supporters will suffer buyer’s remorse when they see him back away from his former stands?

That’s exactly what I fear he will do. Republicans may win in the short term and lose ultimately. A Romney presidency may fundamentally alter the direction of the party and its cornerstone beliefs. At best, he may be a good manager of a continued downward slide as a nation. Is that what we really want?

If he is to be the next president, no one would be happier than I to be proven wrong with regard to my concerns. But we’re not at that point yet. There are forty-six states remaining; most of them will award delegates proportionally; all four of the remaining candidates have pledged to take their campaigns all the way to the national convention. It remains to be seen if Romney actually can accumulate enough delegates by then. If he can’t, we’re in for a very interesting convention.