By Phil Perkins
The pundits are all over the map on the current state of the Republican presidential campaign. Some say that Mitt Romney is mathematically unbeatable at this point, while others say that if he cannot “pull away” soon, he may not attain the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention. One thing is sure at this point, however—Romney’s main stumbling block to the nomination is Rick Santorum.
Santorum had another couple of rather impressive wins last week, in Alabama and Mississippi. This was supposed to be Gingrich territory, but Santorum managed to beat both Newt and Romney, albeit not by much. And ahead, there are about 1,300 delegates yet to select via the primary process. Since a significant number of the remaining primaries are “winner-take-all,” it would seem that Santorum might have some flickering possibility of reaching the magic number or at least preventing Romney from reaching it, although he’d almost have to run the table to do it.
The problem is that Santorum at times still seems like a guy who’s interviewing for a job that he doesn’t really expect to get. In other words, like many other Republicans over the years (Gingrich a notable exception), he’s at least tacitly and perhaps unwittingly buying some of the narrative about him in the “mainstream” press. This doesn’t mean that he’s noticeably equivocating on his positions. But there’s a subtle defensiveness about his demeanor recently that suggests he’s nervous about what’s being said about him. And that has got to change if he’s actually to sustain the staying power needed to be the nominee. For what he’s experiencing now at the hands of Mitt Romney is Little League compared to the big leagues of the Obama smear machine.
Santorum also needs to do a better job of educating voters about his positions that at first blush sound “extreme.” For example, there’s plenty of factual evidence out there to back up what he claims about man-made “global warming” being a hoax. The smoking gun e-mails; the actual climate trends over the last 15 years in most locations; and the historical evidence that carbon dioxide levels do not impact climate changes in any significant way. Simply tossing off a snarky remark like “Ask a plant how harmful carbon dioxide is” won’t win voters over any more than Obama’s even more snarky remarks about setting up oil drilling rigs in the Washington Mall. If Santorum wants to sprinkle some humor into his argument, he could use a quote from a Yahoo fluff piece on dating stereotypes that, ironically enough, refutes the global warming “settled science” Algore-speak nonsense: “Until we test out what we ‘know’ is true, then we are just perpetuating stereotypes. Scientists need to re-do studies, because almost always, there are methodological problems in previous studies.” Amen to that!
Santorum also needs to clearly explain his true position on contraception, then shut up about it and go to work on getting out his economic plan. Romney is hitting him as an economic “lightweight” and Santorum needs to disabuse this claim in a hurry, in an election year where like it or not economic issues dominate.