January 13, 2012 | by Sean Cotter
Why Democrats love Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, shocked observers and beltway media personalities with his rise from a third-tier candidate for the GOP presidential nomination to taking on a surge of momentum in the days right before the Iowa caucuses.

The media cycle on the day after his virtual tie with frontrunner Mitt Romney was filled with stories about how the White House would capitalize on these results, as polls have long showed a match-up against Romney as being the only significant threat to a second Obama term. Several outlets – from the Chicago Tribune to the Huffington Post to Reuters – eagerly declared President Obama to be the true winner of the GOP caucus.

This kind of optimism from the Obama team is not unwarranted. If Santorum wins the nomination, Democrats can make the entire election campaign about Santorum’s wacky analogies comparing gay marriage to animals and inanimate objects, and Dan Savage’s campaign to redefine “santorum,” rather than having to face a real debate on economic policy issues against a candidate like Mitt Romney, whose appeal comes from his past achievements in the private sector. What has changed from previous presidential elections is that it is now clear that a battle against a culture warrior is one Democrats can easily win.

This is not to say that Romney has not taken on extreme social positions to try to pander to his party’s conservative base in the primaries. Romney signed the National Organization for Marriage’s extreme marriage pledge and told Mike Huckabee several months ago that he would “absolutely” sign an amendment defining personhood as beginning at the point of conception. But the difference between Romney’s gestures on these social issues and Santorum’s stances is that most people on either end of the ideological spectrum have believed that Romney was lying when he said those things.

This is the reason that, as reported by the Blade’s Chris Johnson, a gay, right-wing group like GOProud can put out statements congratulating Mitt Romney, along with Ron Paul, for his performance in the Iowa caucus, but withhold such support from Santorum – they likely believe that no one takes Romney’s stated anti-gay views seriously enough for them to take any heat, while Santorum’s media image is too toxic.

Each day that Santorum spends on the campaign trail comparing gay marriage to polygamy is a day that President Obama can spin the Republican Party as being out of ideas for fixing the economy and helping working people.

Some Republican politicians have acknowledged, in the context of the 2012 race, that they shouldn’t be using the traditional threats of LGBT people being given civil rights as a way to gain supporters. In a recent appearance on MSNBC, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) said that Rick Santorum was “really getting off message” by going to her state and speaking against same-sex marriage, when economic issues and getting people to work are voters’ top concerns.

Culture war veterans like Santorum are used to winning support by throwing around ideas about faith and morality, using gay people and women as a scapegoat for the country’s problems. But what they fail to realize is that in the minds of most Americans, our nation’s financial crisis and stalled recovery are truly the most important moral issues of the day.

The American electorate is becoming either more supportive or more apathetic when it comes to LGBT issues. Most Americans have more important things to worry about than whether or not gay couples are getting married. The days when a candidate can swing a national presidential election on the issue of a federal marriage amendment are over (assuming that was even the reason John Kerry lost in 2004).

But the views of the Republican Party’s conservative base do not reflect this. Rick Santorum is a man who appeals to that ideological minority group, and to them alone. Obama’s team can delight in either of two likely possibilities: that Santorum will accumulate the votes of all of the anti-Romney voters and go on to win the nomination, or that his temporary rise in popularity among GOP primary voters will pull Romney so far to the right as to make his positions indefensible in the general election, and make him even easier to caricature as a political opportunist more concerned with appealing to the right’s fringe on social issues than finding real solutions to America’s continuing economic crises.

4 Comments
  • Absolutely true Santorum is out of touch with centrast views.

  • The candidate who fails to discuss America’s families, fails to understand what’s best for America. Santorum currently has the lead for understanding the link between the health of the American family and the health of America.

  • Comparing Gay marriage to polygamy. Dream on. Americans are 100 times more willing to accept polygamy than gay marriage. This delusion is one of manu indications that the pseudo-Left moves ever more deeply into its own fantasy world.

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