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Oft-times he gives the impression he’s interested in creating only one job — his own.
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It is understandable that Santorum would not try to compete against Mitt Romney on a message of job creation, especially following Romney’s revamped jobs and tax plan which economic conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page praised (though acknowledging that it, like the other candidates’ plans, is not without flaws). Romney has the strongest business credentials of any candidate in this election, perhaps of any candidate in any modern American election. No Republican (or Democrat) running in 2012 will out-business Romney.
So Santorum’s message is by necessity a different one, some might say a more principled one. Santorum mentioned “liberty” three times; none for Romney, and “rights” five times to none for Romney. He reminded us that “we are a great country because we believe that rights don’t come from the government.”
A message of liberty and limited government, as important and welcome as it is during these days of many Americans believing government should force religious institutions to pay for abortion pills, is probably not enough to win election in 2012. But if that’s your strategy, Rick, whether due to playing to your own strengths or avoiding your opponents’, then stick with it.
Instead of a messaging rifle, Santorum has a rhetorical shotgun, which is not nearly as likely to take down the political big game he is stalking.
AFTER HEARING SANTORUM on Tuesday, and in many prior speeches, it’s hard not to be a bit confused about his focus. Is he about the economy, or about contraception? Is he about liberty, or is he about family (8 mentions)? Is he about being an underdog, being outspent, being proud of coming in second a lot? Is he concerned about an overly intrusive federal government, the costs of Obamacare, and assaults on religious freedom? Does he think about individual opportunity, “energy… manufacturing… and financial services,” Romneycare, standing with our allies, being a fighter, the “greatest generation,” or not “so badly want(ing) to be the most powerful man in this country” — all of which he mentioned in a 20-minute speech?
Newt Gingrich is the only man in the race who can get away with having lots of ideas, because that’s what is expected of him. From any other candidate — and even from Newt to some degree — it just comes across as being undisciplined, as the political equivalent of a “jack of all trades and master of none.”
Between Rick Santorum’s lack of focus and his too frequently whiny, self-pitying tone, including bemoaning Newt Gingrich’s refusal to get out of the race, the Santorum campaign’s raison d’être is a blur. He appeals on a topic, then moves on to something else with an attention span shorter than my four-year old son in a candy store, searching furiously among all the containers for the one he thinks will taste best today — and then asking for three different things.
As far as calling for Gingrich’s departure, does Santorum forget that he refused a similar request from the former Speaker of the House in mid-January, describing Gingrich’s calls for him to get out of the race as “not cogent thoughts”?
Later that month, with Newt Gingrich coming off a South Carolina victory and looking strong in Florida, Bill McCollum, the former Speaker’s Florida campaign co-chair, complained that Santorum’s presence was diluting the conservative vote: “If he weren’t in it, we would clearly be beating Romney right now… I think a vote for Rick is simply… a vote that’s wasted at this point.”
Santorum responded: “You know I think one opponent calling for the other opponent to get out just shows the weakness that opponent feels — obviously feels in their own campaign. I’m not calling for anybody to get out. We’ll beat them straight up.”
So what does Santorum expect to happen when he and a Super PAC supporting him call for Newt to drop out, a message they are pressing aggressively in the hours since Super Tuesday? In his own Tuesday night comments, Gingrich’s belief in “what’s good for the goose” is evident:
[R]emember when it was Tim Pawlenty who was going to crowd me out? And remember then when it was Michele Bachmann? And then it was our good friend, Herman Cain the first time? And then, for a brief moment, it was Donald Trump almost. And then it was our good friend, Rick Perry, then it was Herman Cain the second time, and now it’s Santorum…. There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I am the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.
Instead of drifting from economics to birth control to the size of government to being a fighter, instead of complaining about being outspent, his own “sacrifices,” or the unfairness of having opponents who won’t do him the courtesy of dropping out (when he selfishly wouldn’t do the same for them), Rick Santorum needs to get a message — any message — and stick with it.
Until then, keeping in mind that Republicans’ goal in 2012 is to defeat Barack Obama — usually a model of messaging discipline — Rick Santorum’s lack of focus is as much an argument against his candidacy as is his lack of a central message. His self-pity is just icing on his opponents’ cake.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
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In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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