As has been noted by Jim Antle, it appears that Rick Santorum will be allotted just under half the Michigan delegation as a result of his second place finish in the Wolverine State last night.
While one could argue that Michigan wasn’t a total loss for Santorum, I would argue that he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory there. I would also add that Arizona should have been much closer. The problem is that Santorum has been sending mixed messages.
Mixed Message #1 – Conservative Leader or Republican Team Player?
One of Santorum’s selling points is that he is a principled conservative and an outsider willing to stand up for his beliefs regardless of the consequences. But in last week’s GOP debate in Phoenix, Santorum explained his votes in the Senate as a product of being a team player. It doesn’t get more Washington insider than that.
Mixed Message #2 – Son of an Immigrant Who Made Good or College is for Snobs?
Santorum is at his best when he speaks about his family. When he speaks of his immigrant father and coal miner grandfather, you sense a man who is proud of his history. By telling that story, he also tells the ongoing story of America and how it is possible for a person of humble origins to rise to the top by hard work, determination and the ability to learn.
But that message got lost when he called President Obama a snob for wanting America’s youth to go to college. Now I am well aware that Santorum is arguing that college isn’t the only path to success in America while also critiquing their left-wing bias. As Andrew Cline pointed out in a TAS feature article this morning, “Sure, colleges are hothouses of liberalism. They have been for generations. And yet Americans of all political persuasions continue to send their children there en masse.”
Some people are prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get into college. Later this year, the Supremes will hear the case of Abigail Fisher, who is arguing she was denied admission to the University of Texas based on her skin color. This is a story not unfamiliar to the people of Michigan. Nearly a decade ago, Barbara Grutter also argued that she was denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School based on the color of her skin but ultimately did not prevail at the Supreme Court.
Whatever the shortcomings of our post-secondary institutions, college is very, very important to a lot of families in this country and Santorum’s remarks sent mixed messages given how he benefitted from a college education to the tune of three degrees. Voters were right to give Santorum the third degree here.
Mixed Message #3 – President or Pope?
There is no question that Rick Santorum is a man of faith. But he has to decide if he wants to be President Santorum or Pope Richard.
While Santorum might have a personal and philosophical objection to prenatal screenings, it isn’t for him to deny insurance coverage to women who want them because he believes they will lead to more abortions. While religious beliefs can help shape a politician’s values they ought not influence government policy in a such way that will result in greater harm to the general public. Women have the right to know if they are going to bring healthy babies into this world. Santorum is in no position to decide which women get prenatal screenings and which don’t.
One of conservatism’s central tenets is limited government. Yet with Santorum there remains a suspicion that government will become more involved in private, personal matters.
So which Rick Santorum will we see between now and Super Tuesday?