What Santorum Means
With Rick Santorum’s Tuesday sweep in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, the number of non-Romney “surges” in the GOP presidential contest now threatens to eclipse the number of debates. Pundits respond every time in competing choruses: the “It’s Not Over Yet!” song of jubilation, and the “Sorry, Mitt Is Still Inevitable” retort. It can be as tiresome as hearing Romney recite snatches of “America the Beautiful”—and it presents the campaign as a largely substance-free succession of stats and fundraising numbers and demographics. But the candidate who surprised everyone in the non-binding contests on Tuesday has, unlike the front-running Romney, based his campaign on big ideas—a bold plan to bring back manufacturing jobs and an ardent desire to rekindle the culture wars. As he showed again last night in Missouri, where he delivered one of the angriest and least-celebratory victory speeches in memory, Santorum is not competing on the basis of charisma and charm; his best moment was inspiring his fans to repeatedly shout “No!” And he’s not doing better than expected because he has a competitive money machine or organization. Instead, in a time of high unemployment, and in a moment when battles over gay marriage and reproductive-rights have returned to the headlines, Santorum’s working-class message and unyielding religious-right proclamations make him the only GOP candidate speaking to the party’s base in anything but empty platitudes. Even if Santorum can’t work the miracle it would take to win the nomination, the emphatic messages he is preaching will reverberate into the convention and the fall campaign—and in ongoing debates over the soul of the Republican Party.
So They Say
Daily Meme: Piling on Mitt
- Paul Begala: "There’s a technical term in political consulting for a performance like that: it’s called sucking."
- John Dickerson: "Mitt Romney is a sickly front-runner."
- Ross Douthat: "Mitt Romney is a strikingly weak frontrunner"
- Robert Reilly: “Romney’s businessman pitch won’t work.”
- Jonathan Chait: "Romney will probably quickly resume his proven strategy of burying opponents under gigantic piles of money."
- John Cassidy: Santorum’s “portrayal of President Obama as an out-of-touch elitist ... tickles the erogenous zones of right-wing Republicans in a way that Romney can’t hope to mimic."
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie argues that Santorum’s Tuesday sweep doesn’t give him what he needs: Big mo’.
- Clare Malone explains what’s so “super” about super PACs.
What We're Reading
- CNN's Caucus Cam: "What would happen if iCarly covered politics."
- Is this a Republican campaign, or a dodgeball match?
- The Romney campaign gears up for a big-money takedown of Santorum.
- Forget Sparta and Athens: The 2012 general election is shaping up as a battle between Sparta and Sparta.
- Give us more debates!
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