Debate Club

Rick Santorum Appeals to Only a Minority of Voters

By SHARE

Rick Santorum may have Romney's campaign team scrambling to run a zone blitz in Michigan and Arizona, but he is not electable. Santorum wins points for capitalizing on President Obama's contraception enchufla, but he can't compete in the long term. His ideology is far too right and his campaign organization far too weak to win the presidency.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum]

Electability has taken on a nebulous meaning in this year's race. Conventional wisdom continues to hinge success on which candidate is ahead in the horse race: Santorum's current 10-point national lead over Romney has fueled the perception that Romney's campaign has imploded to a near surety of a brokered GOP convention this summer. But vote choice goes much deeper than poll-based front-runner status. It's about substance. Voters will make a strategic decision based on what differentiates Santorum from Obama.

[See pictures of Rick Santorum.]

Substance is Santorum's Achilles' heal. His history of controversial statements comparing homosexuality to "man-on-dog sex," radical feminism "undermining families," and prenatal care "leading to abortion" only serve to lock him into an immoveable electoral position. He will not be able to moderate his views in the general election because he will alienate a broad swath of swing voters more interested in job growth than, as William McGurn put it in a recent Wall Street Journal article, "the weeds of a theological debate."

The volatility of this year's campaign is the result of a fractured Republican coalition with social conservatives fighting the establishment for the heart of the party's agenda. Ideology purity may trump pragmatism, but it will ruin any chances the GOP will have to beat President Obama. If Santorum wins the nomination, Republicans may find themselves in the same deleterious position the Democrats where in 1972 with their nomination of George McGovern. Losing the presidency because their nominee appeals to only a minority of voters.

Jamie Chandler

About Jamie Chandler Professor at Hunter College

Tags
Santorum, Rick
Romney, Mitt
2012 presidential election

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