Following Rick Santorum's graceful exit from the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, pundits were speaking as much about what the former Pennsylvania senator did not say as what he did say.
In particular, Santorum described wanting to help Republicans beat Barack Obama, keep the House and take back the Senate, but he made no mention of the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Nerves are raw, with Santorum, under the additional pressure of having a very sick daughter, feeling unjustly swamped by the Romney campaign's money and aggressiveness -- much as Newt Gingrich apparently still does. It's not just business; it's personal, at least for now.
And it is not just Rick Santorum who feels injured; plenty of his supporters do as well. Some are saying (such as in comments on these pages) that following Santorum's exit, they will not vote in November, or only vote in House or Senate races, or even give up their Republican Party registration.
But if I may offer an overused expression: Really? Really?
Santorum's supporters are, if they are anything, passionate about ending the Obama administration's intentional shredding of the American fabric, whether in the social, economic, or political arenas. We all should be so passionate.
Barack Obama is, with his every law and his every regulation, trying to do just what he promised us he would: fundamentally transform the nation, namely the nation that his wife had never been proud of until he was nominated and about which his minister of 20-years said "G_d damn America."
As promised, with Obamacare, he is orchestrating a de facto nationalization of the health insurance industry, which is to say transforming the way Americans deal with the most personal and most critical decisions we face.
He promised us that he wanted to bankrupt coal companies. With recent EPA regulations, he is well on his way toward that transformation, a first big step toward another energy-related promise: to make electricity prices "necessarily skyrocket."
He promised us that "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold." With his sweet nothings whispered to Russian President Dmitry "Vlad's sock puppet" Medvedev about future "flexibility," Obama made clear his intention to further weaken the United States' position as the world's only military superpower.
Those are the promises he keeps.
A promise he has not kept -- not that anyone who understood the man believed it was anything but a sop to gullible independent voters -- was that he would "cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office." Under Obama's budget proposals, we have trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, with the national debt increasing by more than 80 percent in the next ten years, from $10 trillion to just under $19 trillion, a level of debt that would make Greek politicians giggle at their own relative fiscal conscientiousness.
Are many Santorum supporters -- some of the nation's most ardent believers in the promise of America -- really going to take their marbles and go home rather than support Mitt Romney's efforts to unseat a president who is arguably the most destructive (of the American exceptionalism that he disdains) in our nation's history?
If that is really what they think, then perhaps the nation is better off without them. More likely, only a single digit percentage of Santorum's supporters (or Newt Gingrich's, though perhaps not Ron Paul's) will be willing to sacrifice their country in November. More will, like Quin Hillyer, disavow responsibility for Romney's eventual results while pledging to do what they can to help him beat the current occupant of the White House.
Conservatives and libertarians alike have valid concerns about Mitt Romney. It remains depressingly difficult to tell just what the man actually believes. It remains a black mark on his résumé that he is the father of Romneycare. It remains troubling that one can imagine the John Kerry windsurfing ad with Romney filling in, given his changed positions on everything from minimum wage to mandates to climate change. I could go on.
Nevertheless, I take Romney at his word that lessons from politics, business, and daily life have caused him to become more conservative over time. And religious voters should take comfort -- regardless of their opinions of Mormonism -- in Mitt Romney's obviously sincere and long-held commitment to his faith. Most importantly, there are precisely zero important policy areas in which Mitt Romney is in agreement with Barack Obama.
So, for the sake of this nation -- dare I say "for the children" -- can't we all just get along?
Mitt Romney needs to raise his game in order to beat Barack Obama. He needs to show more commitment to conservative principles, particularly in terms of economics, and he needs to show at least a little ability to connect with the ordinary American whose wife does not have two Cadillacs. His speech following winning the Wisconsin Republican primary shows that he is doing those things, better late than never. Romney's new tagline of Obama's "government-centered society" is a good one, and his delivery has improved along with his rhetoric.
Not just because he hails from Massachusetts, but Romney reminds me of the New England Patriots: He is almost annoyingly successful, and opponents know that when they go up against that team they are likely not just to be outplayed but also to be outcoached (the NY Giants being a notable exception in recent years). You might love to hate the Patriots but some part of you admires their consistent success.
Imagine that you must bet ten percent of your net worth (perhaps the minimum that another Obama term would cost you) on a football game, but you can choose the team that will play for you. Wouldn't the Patriots be in the top few teams you'd consider, no matter what your visceral reaction is to them, no matter how much you want your team to beat them during the regular season? Romney is that guy. His campaign tactics have been aggressive, some might say ruthless, and have, with 98 percent betting odds, gotten him the Republican nomination.
Don't you want an aggressive, successful guy being the one going up against the most aggressive, ruthless political machine the nation has seen in at least a generation?
Romney is not perfect, but of the Republicans who actually decided to run for president in 2012, he was and remains our best chance at defeating a far more imperfect politician. The Rasmussen polling organization reported on Tuesday that "In a hypothetical Election 2012 matchup, President Obama and Mitt Romney are tied at 45%." Not bad considering where the GOP has been for the past few months. We can do this -- together -- if we keep our eyes on the prize, even if you view that prize not as a Romney victory but as an Obama defeat.
Leaving football, one of my favorite moments in sports -- and one of the classiest -- comes at the end of a National Hockey League playoff series when the two teams line up after a week or more of gladiator-like battle to shake hands, to say thanks and congratulations and good luck, before the victors move on to the next series in pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup.
It's time for Republicans of good will, still sore and perhaps even bleeding from the recent bruising contest, to line up and shake hands and support the victor's upcoming fight to win the big prize. While our friends to the north may disagree, what is at stake here is more important than the Stanley Cup.