It’s not the social conservatism
- Last Updated: 6:00 PM, February 21, 2012
- Posted: 10:27 PM, February 20, 2012
Can Rick Santorum win the Republican nomination? Sure. He’s leading in the polls nationally and in important states — and he’s doing so without so much as a campaign headquarters. Imagine what might happen if Santorum pulls off a few more stunning upsets. It’s likely a significant part of the GOP donor base will shift its allegiances to him and flood his campaign with money just when he needs it.
There seems to be a notion in political circles that Mitt Romney can just stay the course and go all the way to the convention in Tampa, but staying the course likely won’t be good enough. Romney is going to have to figure out a way to win this nomination, not just survive the process, and he clearly hasn’t done so yet.
The question is: Can Santorum win the presidency?
He’s making hay with the famous “electability” argument against Romney, suggesting that the results in the GOP campaign thus far don’t suggest the former Massachusetts governor would have an easier time beating President Obama than he would.
Republican voters would be eminently mistaken to believe that. As things stand right now, Rick Santorum can’t win the presidency — and Mitt Romney can.
The chief problem with Santorum isn’t his views on contraception or homosexuality or what he might have said about Obama’s religion.
The presumption that Santorum’s social conservatism will hurt him with voters is a media fantasy; the president before Barack Obama won 62 million votes in 2004 running as just such a conservative, and the country hasn’t transformed itself in the years since.
Moreover, the hysterical and wildly distorted mass onslaught against Santorum over the past few days — which must be understood as an example of the nearly overt way the mainstream media have declared war on the Republican Party in the run-up to the election — is certain to provoke a backlash among voters who’ll know they’re being fed Democratic campaign propaganda.
No, Santorum’s problem is — forgive the technical graduate-school political-science terminology here — that he’s a sourpuss, and sourpusses don’t get elected president.
The former Pennsylvania senator looks like he swallowed a lemon — and he acts like America is the lemon he swallowed.
The most telling quote of his presidential run was this one last week in South Dakota: “I don't think God will continue to bless America if we continue to kill 1.2 million children every year.”
These are not lightly chosen words and Santorum doesn’t take them lightly, and that is to his credit. He believes abortion is murder, and therefore that mass murder is taking place in the United States — and that a country whose legal code condones mass murder will be judged for its sin the way Abraham Lincoln suggested in his second inaugural address that the Civil War was God’s judgment on America for the sin of slavery.
All this suggests that Santorum is animated and motivated by an unpleasantly bleak outlook on the morals and manners of the country he now says he wishes to lead.
Like many culture warriors, he is disappointed by America and its failings, which — as his controversial views on the morality of birth control demonstrate — he believes stem from an excess of self-indulgence and the elevation of sexual appetite over self-restraint.
There is no way that a man who expresses such a dark view of the American national character can win the presidency.
Remember: This entire process is a job interview in which the candidates are trying to get hired by the electorate. Insulting the electorate and accusing it of spiritual weakness and sinfulness are not the ways to get yourself the job of president.
Whatever Romney’s failings, he certainly doesn’t suggest that the United States is teetering on the brink of a moral cesspool. He is running as an unapologetic believer in America as a “shining city upon a hill,” in the words of the 17th century Puritan John Winthrop, words much loved by John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
America may be in a dour condition, but it is not going to elect a dour president. The question is whether Santorum’s dourness is deeply ingrained in him — or whether it’s something he can overcome in time for a general election campaign.Follow @NYPostOpinion