Rick Santorum Proved that Authenticity Matters

Santorum didn't mince words and because people believed him when he said something.

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Rick Santorum's most unlikely campaign proved one thing about American politics: Authenticity matters. It is also not enough. Messaging and money are at least as important in electoral politics or Santorum's path may have been different. But Rick Santorum wrestled way above weight on the national stage for his party's nomination because he didn't mince words and because people believed him when he said something.

[See pictures of Rick Santorum.]   

Such conviction arises from only one kind of individual: the person who cares more about the issues at stake than the office to be won. Santorum's dive into issues such as birth control and abortion, clearly not driven by polls, gained him points for candor even as it cost him in controversy. But such passion has merit regardless of philosophical perspective, and one would hope it does not disappear from the presidential race with the exit of Rick Santorum. In debate after debate, Rick Santorum held his own and made it clear that his compass points were faith, family, and his belief in American exceptionalism. His decision to end his campaign today was grounded in these convictions. In other words, Rick Santorum left the race at the right time and for the right reasons—a note one hopes is not lost on Newt Gingrich. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus put it well in his response to Santorum's announcement:

Today, Senator Santorum has made a commendable decision. He has decided to put his country, party, and desire to defeat President Obama ahead of any personal ambition. I applaud his decision and congratulate him on the campaign he has run.

Too many of our politicians, rightly or wrongly, seem willing to say or do anything to ensure victory. It is why some still doubt Mitt Romney's ability to clinch the sale and why cynicism abounds toward President Obama. Authenticity isn't a word that springs to mind for either gentlemen. Both come off as studied and disciplined, with Romney getting points for competency and optimism and Obama seeming somewhat bored and annoyed by the whole process.    

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

So here is some advice for the remaining candidates: Santorum had one thing profoundly right. Elections are about changing hearts and minds—so have the courage to say what you mean and mean what you say. You will be aided if you can convincingly describe why you say what you say, so work on your arguments more than your sound bites. And should you win, remember to charge ahead boldly regardless of the political consequence. It's called authenticity. It's called leadership and America is desperate for it.  

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