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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

The Spotlight is now on Santorum

February 18, 2012

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is struggling to regain his footing in the Republican presidential primary, and trying to keep the focus on the economy and President Barack Obama.

He is having a hard time doing that.

The Governor has the makings of a good national campaign. He has a top-flight organization, lots of money, and  influential political backing. Yet, some Republicans remain unconvinced in his ability as a candidate, and his continued public gaffes haven’t helped his cause one bit.

Many argue he is the best choice for the GOP, and a far more palatable alternative to President Obama for Independent voters in the general election.

In the wings, are former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Much has been written about former Speaker Gingrich. His political and personal career is somewhat checkered, and there are doubts about his ability to lead the country emotionally, spiritually, or effectively.

Congressman Paul has a large and unique following, and there is much in his platform that voters find appealing. However the country isn’t ready for his brand of Republicanism, and although I have no doubt that one day, sooner not later, a Libertarian will be elected President, 2012 is not the year.

It is former Senator Santorum who is now making a serious run against the frontrunner Romney, and primary voters are looking at him to determine if they like what they see.

Santorum has yet to be fully vetted, and some of his statements do provide the Obama campaign with material they will exploit to their advantage in a general election.

But first, Santorum will have to withstand the negative attacks that will surely come his way from other Republican candidates, including the Romney campaign.

It was a well-known secret in Pennsylvania that Santorum would one day run for President. Some say it’s been a life-long hunger of his to be President, which is an admirable personal ambition, but not the best quality for what ails the country right now.

The voters of Pennsylvania got to know Santorum, and they voted him out of office by a wide margin in 2006. While Santorum has explained his defeat (59%-41% to Bob Casey) by saying he got swept under in a bad Republican year, the facts don’t necessarily support that assertion.

The margin of his defeat is troublesome, after all, he was a 12-year Senate incumbent, and prior to that served two terms in the House of Representatives.

That same year, in neighboring U.S. Senate contests, Republicans Thomas Kean in New Jersey; Jim Talent in Missouri; and Michael Steele in Maryland all lost their election bids too, but those candidates lost by much smaller and respectable margins.

Clearly, there was something about Santorum in 2006 that voters didn’t like. He’ll need to brace himself because whatever it was will be unearthed and resurrected in both the primary and general elections, should he make it that far.

There’s nothing wrong with believing that someone can be soundly defeated for re-election in their home state, and still be elected President of all the states.

But that belief is going to be challenged along the way.