Why Rick Santorum Should Be Ignored

With controversy circling Herman Cain all week, pundits have begun searching for the next conservative bubble. With Mitt Romney unable to top 25 percent in the polls, some candidate must step in to fill the conservative void, or so the thinking goes. Perhaps Newt Gingrich will get his moment in the sun. Or maybe Rick Santorum will steal away Cain's supporters in Iowa polls.

At first glance, the latter wouldn't seem too surprising. A former senator from a swing state, Santorum has never strayed far from conservative doctrine and wouldn’t face the problems that might sink Rick Perry's candidacy. While other presidential candidates have been slow to invest in the early states, Santorum has been a constant presence in Iowa, earlier this week becoming the first candidate of the cycle to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties.

But there will likely be no Rick Santorum boom. Even as the Republican Party drifts further and further right with each passing month, that shift is largely contained to issues of economic justice or disparaging undocumented immigrants. Santorum's sole selling point is his appeal to the most intolerant sensibilities of the social conservative movement, putting him to the extreme of the current crop of candidates. It would be a completely alienating style for the general election. Just look at the policies he will layout today in an Iowa speech to kick of his "Moral, Cultural Policies for a Santorum White House" tour:

The congressional directives he’s going to include in the speech are calling on Congress to abolish the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, advocating for a personhood amendment, and calling on Congress to reinstitute Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

The executive orders he’s going to mention are wanting to reinstitute the Mexico City Policy to “stop tax-payer funding or promotion of abortion overseas.” He’s also planning on repealing Title X family planning regulations and will direct Health and Human Services “to restore the separation of Title X family planning from abortion practices and restore a ban on referrals for abortion.” He’s going to include an issue he aggressively advocated for while in the Senate: trying to revive the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal amendment that would legally make marriage between a man and a woman despite state laws that allow for same sex marriage.

Those views fly in the face of polls on public sentiments. Before "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed last December, almost 80 percent of Americans believed gays and lesbians should be free to openly serve in the military. A new survey from Pew released this week also showed that the country is increasingly open to extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Santorum's views on abortion are just as out of touch from the mainstream. As the Prospect's Pema Levy explains in our upcoming issue, personhood is viewed as extreme among the pro-life movement. A national personhood amendment wouldn't just ban abortions, it would also outlaw many common forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization.

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