mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Rick Santorum: The GOP’s Unelectable Soul Mate

Could GOP primary voters have finally found their soul mate? In the person of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, they may have stumbled upon a presidential candidate who can speak their language with a forceful authenticity that simply can’t be programmed into Mitt Romney.

And as if by divine providence, the rise of Santorum coincides with the return of culture war issues—gay marriage, abortion, and, especially, contraception—upon which he has earned his reputation and loyal following among conservatives.

But Santorum’s turn as the not-Romney of the moment and the sudden political shift from jobs to social issues illustrate the perilous political position into which the GOP is charging headlong. It’s a confluence of candidate and issues that can lay bare the cultural gap that has grown between the Republican base and the mainstream of American politics.

Take the birth control flap. When the administration rolled out a new rule requiring, for example, Catholic-related organizations like schools and hospitals to include contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health insurance, it was denounced as a disaster even by regular allies of President Obama. The president “utterly botched” the policy, liberal columnist E.J. Dionne said. The rule put the country on the brink of a “religious war” and was a “dissing, in common parlance, of Catholics,” pundit Mark Shields opined. Moderate Democrats like former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine quickly repudiated the mandate.

Republicans sensed an opportunity, and even after the president unveiled a compromise whereby the contraceptives would be paid for by insurance companies rather than the offended institutions, they doubled down. They denounced Obama’s accommodation and pushed legislation allowing employers or insurers to dispense with any health insurance item that pricked their conscience. In this they had the enthusiastic partnership of the bishops of the Catholic Church, who were equally unmoved by the deal.

What they did not have, however, was the support of either the broad electorate or the bishops’ flock, a fact illustrated by the preponderance of recent polling data on the issue. A survey released by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, for example, showed that 56 percent of voters support the birth control benefit, and 53 percent of Catholics do. The same firm later polled the Obama compromise and found that 57 percent of Catholics, including 59 percent of Catholic women, support it. With the compromise, 56 percent of Catholic independents favor the contraception mandate.

These figures are not outliers. Another survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute, found that the pre-compromise rule had the support of 62 percent of women, 58 percent of Catholics, and 51 percent of independents (and 55 percent of Americans overall). The only group in the survey that opposed the rule was white evangelical Protestants, with 38 percent in favor and 56 percent against, raising the question of whether the Catholic bishops are stewarding the right church. A New York Times/CBS News poll last week found that 65 percent of voters support the compromise, including a majority of Catholic voters.

One of the few recent surveys that produced a markedly different result, from Pew, showed that among those who have heard of the rule, opinion is closely divided—hardly the stuff to power the initial pronouncements of Obama’s doom with Catholic voters or to support the GOP going all in on the issue. All these figures help explain why, in the face of fretting that the contraceptive rule was a political blunder, Gallup announced last week that the president’s approval rating among Catholics was statistically unchanged.

But those same polls show Republican voters are, for the most part, strongly opposed to the mandate and to the compromise, which helps explain why the party continues to battle the policy on the Hill and in the campaign, which brings us back to Rick Santorum.

No candidate is better positioned to capitalize on the resurgence of culture war issues (not only birth control, but also California’s ban on gay marriage being struck down, and the Planned Parenthood-Susan G. Komen spat) than Santorum, who made his name in culture skirmishes, most famously comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

He’s been almost as outspoken on birth control. “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea,” he told the conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts last October. “Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Here’s a candidate, in other words, who is ready to turn the power of the bully pulpit against … contraception.

He has on other occasions said that he doesn’t think contraception works, that “it’s harmful to women” and “harmful to our society.” More generally, he has denounced the “whole idea of personal autonomy,” and the notion that “government should keep our taxes down and keep regulations low, [but] shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom … shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues.”

That kind of cultural conservative hawkishness might play in a GOP primary, but it’s why so many political observers view Santorum as completely unelectable. Which leaves Romney in a tough position: How does the self-described “severe conservative” attack his rival for being too severely conservative?

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 22, 2012

February 24, 2012 - Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] Rick Santorum: The GOP’s Unelectable Soul Mate (mykeystrokes.com) […]

    Like

    Pingback by Rick Santorum… Still Living In The Dark Ages | The League of Aggressive Progressives | February 28, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] Rick Santorum: The GOP’s Unelectable Soul Mate (mykeystrokes.com) […]

    Like

    Pingback by Rick Santorum Journeys to a Fortified Refuge of the 1% - Pilant's Business Ethics | Pilant's Business Ethics | February 27, 2012 | Reply


Share your comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: