Don't Overestimate Post-2012 Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is heading straight to the back of the line in 2016.

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The book on former Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign, suspended Tuesday, is that he was a plucky insurgent who shook up the GOP establishment with little money and a big heart.

This is partly true, but mostly sentimental gloss.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum.]

The reality is that Santorum's dark-horse campaign benefited from a number of factors.

  1. Former Gov. Mitt Romney is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad candidate. But nonrich Republican voters were powerless to stop him.
  2. The non-Romneys who might have mounted a real challenge to Romney, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also turned out to be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad candidates.
  3. Super PACs have made it possible for people with little institutional support or organization to make a lot of noise (which, contra legacy media worrywarts, might not be such a bad thing).
  4. As the American Conservative's Noah Millman has written, the Republican party changed the nominating process specifically to allow for a candidate like Santorum (if not Santorum himself) to have a shot at winning the nomination.
  5. I wish Santorum well (and his daughter Bella good health) in whatever the next four years bring him. But he should be under no illusion that, should Romney lose, 2016 will be his turn. Despite the astonishing run he had this year, he's going straight to the back of the line.

    • See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney
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