If Santorum Reached the GOP Debate Main Stage He'd Target Ted Cruz, Not Trump UPDATE - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
If Santorum Reached the GOP Debate Main Stage He’d Target Ted Cruz, Not Trump UPDATE
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It’s always good to see our old friend Quin on the pages of the AmSpec.

Quin is a long time advocate for Rick Santorum so I am not surprised that he saw fit to sing his praises. It is Quin’s belief that if Santorum were given the opportunity to join the GOP debate stage that he would “eviscerate Trump in a direct encounter.”

While I share Quin’s derision for Donald Trump, I don’t think Santorum would eviscerate Trump in a direct encounter and I say this as someone who voted for Santorum in the 2012 Massachusetts GOP Primary.

If Santorum is such a compelling debater then how come he hasn’t been able to reach the GOP main stage already? Carly Fiorina’s debate performance at the GOP undercard debate in August elevated her to the main stage. When Chris Christie was demoted to the undercard in November, he made the most of his opportunity during and returned to the main stage. This is how I assessed Santorum’s performance during that same debate:

When the former Pennsylvania GOP Senator wasn’t partying like it was 1995, he was shouting in the microphone likely causing permanent hearing damage to some poor tech guy.

Honestly, Santorum wasn’t all that impressive during the 2011-2012 GOP debates either. In the early debates, Santorum complained about not getting any speaking time and did it in such a way that he did not win people over. Even after his win in the 2012 Iowa Caucus, his debate performances didn’t get much better as was the case at the CNN GOP debate in South Carolina in January 2012:  

He went on the offensive against both Romney and Newt on health care, illegal immigration and abortion. But both Romney and Newt answered his criticisms effectively which only seemed to exasperate Santorum. His agitation reached his peak towards the end of the debate when he ripped into Ron Paul’s record on abortion after he thought Paul was talking about him. The only problem was that Paul said, “I wasn’t even thinking of you,” which seemed to take the wind out of Santorum’s sails.

Santorum doesn’t do acerbic and angry well. The problem is that he is acerbic and angry far too often.

If Santorum does manage to get invited to the GOP main stage, it is far more likely he would hurt himself than hurt Trump. Even if Santorum did manage to land a punch or even a combo, I don’t think it would do any lasting damage. Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul have both made Trump look foolish during the debates and it has done them a fat lot of good.

All things considered, I believe Santorum would target Ted Cruz if he reached the GOP debate main stage. Social conservatives are Santorum’s bread and butter and if he wants his meal ticket back that means going after Cruz. If one reads Tim Alberta’s recent NRO profile of Santorum’s campaign in Iowa, their focus has been exclusively against Cruz, not Trump. In fact, Trump isn’t even mentioned in the article. It might very well be the only online piece pertaining to the 2016 GOP campaign that omits The Donald. It’s a slight exxageration, but not by much.

With all that said, Santorum does have dogged determination going for him. He doesn’t give up easily and this is surely an admirable trait in a presidential candidate. But it’s still a crowded field and Santorum hasn’t said or done anything to make himself stand apart, much less above it. So I very much doubt an appearance on the GOP debate main stage would do much to change his fortunes, much less those of Donald Trump.

UPDATE: In an interview yesterday with Steve Malzberg of Newsmax, Santorum said of Cruz, “It’s basically that he’s not the social conservative that he’s portraying himself to be and is the answer is he’s not.”

This reinforces the argument that if Rick Santorum is on a debate stage with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, he’s going after Cruz.

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