Romney to Santorum: You're a Loser

Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office.

But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no mention of any issue of substance; it just tells people that Santorum is a losing loser who lost like the loser he is:

Obviously, it would be difficult at this point for Romney to discuss the reasons for Santorum's loss—that Santorum had become, to use the phrase Romney used to describe himself, so severely conservative. Maybe I'm wrong, and Pennsylvania Republicans will find this extremely persuasive. But don't forget—they're not the ones who threw Santorum out of office. It was Democrats and independents who did that.

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