Reality Check

As we head into Michigan and Arizona, the Republican party needs a reality check.  Fortunately, here it is:

Rick Santorum

The media is doing their best to paint Santorum as some sort of radical conservative religious whacko.  Hardly.  Santorum on social issues is saying what most Republicans are thinking.  The thing is, conservatives are scared to death of Obama winning re-election and many will gladly sacrifice what they believe to take the candidate everyone is telling them can win.  But here’s the thing, Obama’s economy has about a 26% approval rating and any Republican looks amazing economically next to Obama.  If Obama wins, it will be because he runs an incredible marketing campaign, race bates, and paints his opponents as somehow more socially radical than he is.  It won’t be because Obama saved the economy, unless moderates and independents are even more gullible and stupid than we thought.

What should keep Republicans up at night about Santorum is his passion on Iran.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon.  I think they will use it on Israel if they do.  But America is not ready to commit to another war.  I think we would have to see another 3,000 US civilians die on one day before the majority of Americans get the stomach for what Santorum has been talking about.  That includes what he has talked about with central America.

Mitt Romney

Romney is uninspiring by design.  His economic plan is a mixture of timid populism.  In the end, what he is running on is his record of creating a great deal of personal wealth and success, as well as his management skills.  But Warren Buffett, another populist, has also made great personal success through good management, and I think he would be a terrible President.  If this election were solely about the economy,the DNC would be looking for a new candidate and Romney would already be the GOP candidate.  The fact is, as long as Romneyites continue to downplay social issues, they will continue to loose the support of the majority of conservatives who actually care about social issues.  Believe it or not, many Americans on both sides of the aisle hold the value of their social and religious issues higher than the economy.   For example, many pro-lifers would sacrifice a great deal of wealth to stop the murder of the unborn.

What keeps Republicans awake at night about Mitt Romney is the fact that even his economic plan has been as malleable as his social stances.  What was supposed to be Romney’s conservative strength has instead turned into calls to raise the minimum wage and tax the rich to redistribute to the poor.  In each case, this was a reaction from the Romney campaign to criticism from the left.

Newt Gingrich

Newt is the smartest candidate and he has the best ideas.  It is no secret that I believe this.  But Newt is easily destroyed by opponents and the media.  He has tried to run a cheap campaign with little or no ground game, which makes victory as visionary as a base on the moon.  Part of Newt’s problem is that now his electability is questionable instead of Santorum’s.  Newt isn’t going to win anything until he re-establishes himself as the only electable anti-Romney.  Every time Santorum wins another state, Newt’s chances dim even more.  Get ready for things to start looking real bad as Santorum wins Arizona and maybe Michigan.

What keeps Republicans awake at night about Newt Gingrich is how easily he is destroyed by negative campaigning and how weak his campaign structure is.  If Newt can’t beat the unelectable Santorum and uninspiring Romney in every state, how would he propose to beat Obama?

Ron Paul

No one ever thought Ron Paul would win, except maybe his 10% who also think that being obnoxious will win people over.  However, it has been noted that Paul seems to have a cozy relationship with Mitt Romney.  Perhaps Paul also thinks only Romney can beat Obama.  Or, as some have suggested, maybe Paul has a secret deal with Romney to secure a VP slot for him or his son.  Actually, a Romney/Rand Paul ticket would be an incredibly smart idea and might be the only thing that can bring the extremes of the Republican party back together.  The only thing, of course, other than Obama himself.

What keeps Republicans awake at night about Ron Paul is his Iran policy.  Yeah, maybe we aren’t ready to go to war in Iran like we did in Iraq.  But I also don’t think most Americans are ready to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that Iran isn’t a threat.  I think fewer Republicans have an appetite to continue the World America Apology Tour under a different name.

Barack Obama

The real reality check for Republicans should be a refocusing on Barack Obama.  Believe it or not, there are people out there who support him.  After Solyndra, Fast n Furious, reversing Mexico City policy, forcing religious organizations to provide abortion pills, Obamacare, and everything else Obama has done, there are actually cars on the road with Obama 2012 stickers on them.  Somehow, Obama still has a shot in this race.

What should keep Republicans awake at night about Barack Obama is that despite all that he has done to this country and to the rule of law and constitution, there are people who still support him.  The media refuses to vet Obama, even ignoring his radical social positions on abortion.  Meanwhile, in desperation Santorum is releasing economic plans that are going ignored by the party and media.  GOP candidates are doing a great job of getting their message out.  Unfortunately, their message is that each other suck.  Let’s hope that Republicans will find a way to inspire the entire base, and expose Obama on fiscal AND social issues.

Too Bad The Debate Won’t Matter

It is way too late in the game for the groundswell of Santorum supporters to turn back and take a gamble on Newt.  At stake is handing the Republican nomination to an establishment Republican with a liberal tax plan, timid economic plan, and nothing more than a strong business reputation to run on.  But after last night’s debate, the choice for the Republican nominee is as clear to me as the day I endorsed him.

I was proud of Newt for making a supremely important point in the debate over contraception.  The issue isn’t a debate between someone who wants to keep birth control pills legal and someone who wants to ban all contraception and chain women to the kitchen sink.  The debate is between someone who voted to make it legal for doctors to kill babies after they are born and the eventual GOP candidate who simply wants to protect religious organizations from having to pay for abortion pills.  The radical here is most definitely Obama and both Newt and Mitt pointed that out.

Santorum struck out more than once.  He came across as arrogant, angry and mean.  He has already taken a great deal of heat for dismissing unprincipled votes as “taking one for the team”.  This is the opposite of what anti-establishment Republicans are looking for.  I will give Santorum one very good mark though for making clear that when he talks about what is wrong with the family in America, he id not proposing that we use the government to solve it.  I mentioned that a couple days ago as something Santorum has not done a good job making clear.

Romney did a poor job connecting.  He has put up a conservative facade, but his opponents consistently poked holes in it.  In the end, he will keep his diehard supporters and establishment Republican allies, but he continues to disappoint.

Ron Paul continues to live in a time machine fantasy world where we supposedly can ignore what Iran is doing because we made them do it in the first place and ignoring them will make them go away.  Ron Paul does not seem to understand that on a scale of rationality, radical Islamic terrorists make the communists and fascists seem like Locke and Des Cartes.  Mutual guaranteed destruction is no great incentive for peace when offered to suicide bombers.

Unfortunately, Newt does not have the ground organization to convince Santorum voters to switch back.  But after last night’s debate, we may be kicking ourselves for a long time for overlooking him in 2012.

Is a Romney/Paul Ticket in our Future?

After the most recent Republican presidential primary debate, the Santorum campaign beganfloating rumors that the Ron Paul and Mitt Romney campaigns had teamed up to take out the socially conservative politician.  The rumors come at a time when the Michigan campaign is heating up ahead of its February 28th primary election and the candidates are competing for every vote.

Following Wednesday’s Republican debate, Santorum suggested that Ron Paul and Mitt Romney had teamed up in their attacks against Santorum, telling reporters that “You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they’ve got going together, their commercials look a lot alike and so do their attacks”.
Rick Santorum’s top campaign strategist took the rumor even further, suggesting that the two have a “tag-team strategy” and an “alliance”, and even went as far as to suggest that Romney was planning on taking Ron Paul on as his vice presidential running-mate.  Ron Paul has said in the past that despite significantly different foreign policy positions and disagreement over the Federal Reserve, he and Romney get along well.
The Mitt Romney campaign responded by denying that there was any coordination between the two campaigns, his chief strategist Stuart Stevens telling reporters that “I think that’s a sort of whiney silliness…to say ‘people are ganging up on me’ in a debate where there’s only four people in the debate and they’re raising questions kind of speaks for itself.”

What if Santorum Wins Michigan?

Rick Santorum is polling just slightly ahead of Romney in Romney’s home state of Michigan.  This is significant for more than just that reason.  Michigan is a blue state that has seen what the Democrat party can do to an economy.  So why is Santorum leading billionaire successful businessman Mitt Romney in a state that is starving for economic turnaround?

If Santorum does win, I think one thing it will demonstrate is how much Romney hurt himself with his scorched earth approach to his competitors. Romney has not set himself up as a policies or ideas candidate.  Instead he has set himself up as the “not the other guys” candidate.  Romney has correctly calculated that Ron Paul supporters would rather see four more years of Obama than vote for someone who has insulted Ron Paul.  So he hasn’t.  On the other hand, Romney knows conservatives will suck it up and vote for him if their guy loses.

What Romney didn’t seem to calculate was what effect his being the presumptive nominee and Ron Paul’s disappointing finish in Iowa and South Carolina would do.  Or what vetting Newt to death would do.  Now Social Conservatives, unburdened by the fear of a Ron Paul ascendency and no longer split now that Newt has descended into irrelevance, are freer than ever to vote their conscience.  It’s no longer about electability.  If you want to know what Social Conservatives with nothing to lose look like, look at the polls in Michigan.

But here is where it gets interesting.  Romney may be on the verge of losing Maine to Ron Paul.  Santorum is capitalizing on the mandatory abortion pill provision Obama has decreed.  Newt is all but finished with no momentum and the March 1 debate canceled.  Suddenly, Santorum is looking more viable than ever.  If Mitt loses Michigan, we could see the impossible: Barack Obama versus Rick Santorum.

CPAC’s Conservative Message

Despite Romney’s strawpoll win, the anti-establishment message of CPAC came through loud and clear from various speakers.  Alan West, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and even at times the Presidential candidates: the only way we can truly be free is by reclaiming the role of the church and community from the Federal Government.

For several years now the conservative movement has allowed private charity to flirt with and even get in bed with the Federal Government under the understanding that private organizations can use federal dollars much more efficiently than government bureaucracies.  Then along came Barack Obama.  It makes me think of Star Wars and Darth Vader’s line “Pray I don’t alter the deal any further”.

The problem is that conservatives abandoned their principles.  Trusting a pro-family, pro-conservative President in George W. Bush, we signed on to faith based initiatives.  Perhaps we never expected a President who would leverage those relationships to gain control over Christianity and use Christian institutions to spread liberalism.  We never expected a President who in three short years would be to the point of forcing Christian institutions to provide abortion pills or suffer the consequences.

The Government cannot protect our sacred institutions.  The government is using our tax dollars to control our sacred institutions.

The problem is that only one candidate in this has talked about the sort of shrinking of government necessary to get the government out of the charity and faith business altogether.  While he has appeared impotent when pressed, Ron Paul is the only candidate who will actually say that the government doesn’t belong in the insurance business or the charity business.  Mitt Romney would bring us back to the George W. Bush days when faith based initiatives allowed faiths to still manage themselves.  Newt and Santorum would certainly respect religious freedom, but would also strengthen the ties between government and faith based organizations with the same deadly good intentions W had.

This is not an endorsement for Ron Paul, but it is an acknowledgement that when it comes to the responsibility of Christians and community, Paul is more in line with the 2010 freshmen, and older wise sages like Huckabee, who must rise to the top if conservatism and freedom of religion is to survive in our country.  Perhaps Newt, Mitt and Rick will be persuaded by Paul on this like they were on the Fed.

Conservative Formula Plays Out

Imagine if you single-handedly picked Presidents.  The choice is up to you.  No need to consider electability, lesser of two evils, third parties, spoilers, or anything else.  Your choice is it.  Now, imagine you live in Montana, Minnesota, or Colorado and delegates aren’t rewarded based on your primary vote.  It’s pretty much the same situation.

The result?  Ron Paul got his standard 10-20% of libertarians and conservatives seeking radical constitutionalism, Romney got his standard 30-40% of fiscal conservatives who want a strong businessman, and the social conservatives split the rest.  Except in states where electability, lesser of two evils, third parties, and spoilers don’t matter, Newt Gingrich barely registered.  Instead, Rick Santorum, deemed unelectable from day one, swept bigtime.  It’s like “What’s My Line” where the points don’t matter.

Social Conservatives demonstrated what they really want, and it ain’t Mitt or Newt.  Mitt Romney is striking out with Conservatives, first with support of increasing labor price floors, then with information about his imposing abortion coverage on private companies like Obama is doing now.  Both of these are huge question marks on Romney’s record.

But Newt hasn’t done much better, with most of the country now thinking he was Freddie Mac’s number one lobbyist and had more sex partners than your average Mormon.  Romney has succeeded in dragging Newt down, and Newt hasn’t helped himself.

So does Santorum have a shot?  Probably not, but he does have something Iowa didn’t really give him: momentum.

Now Santorum can face the Romney attack machine for a while.  It started with the Donald saying that since Santorum lost in Pennsylvania he can’t possibly win the Presidency. Of course, that is a pretty funny standard to be judged by when it comes from a multi-billionaire business-owner who has declared bankruptcy four times.  I would think Trump would be able to relate to Santorum’s tenacity.

The problem with Santorum is that he doesn’t have that Presidentiality  that stupid, ignorant, and independent voters look for in a President.  He doesn’t have the hair or the chin.  Oh, and as Scarlett Johannson pointed out, he is unelectable because he wears sweater vests.  What Johannson underestimates is how many people out there who would take a bag of rocks wrapped in a sweater vest over our current President.

I pick on independents, but social conservatives aren’t much better.  When delegates are back on the table, don’t hold your breath for another Santorum sweep.  That would require conservatives looking themselves in the mirror and asking what they actually want in a President, not just who can beat Obama.  Tuesday’s message was loud and clear.

Rick Santorum’s Triumphant Trifecta Turns the Political Tables Yet Again

Bookmark and Share   In what proved to be another stunning turn of events in the ongoing Republican race for President, underdog Rick Santorum pulled off a truly stunning victory in not one, but three separate electoral contests across the nation.  Tuesday’s non-binding primaries and caucuses in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri were essentially beauty contests.  Quirky state Party rules do not allow for these contests to actually award any of each state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.  That is left to a series of other events in each of the three state’s unique presidential electoral nominating process.

Nevertheless, all three of Tuesday’s election contests do bode well for Santorum’s chances of receiving a sizeable number of delegates when the final stages of the allocation process does take place and in the mean time, his clean sweep of Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri have provided voters with another tremor in the 2012 election cycle.  It certifies this election as one which has broken the traditional mold created by past elections which usually allow Republicans to have a clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination at this stage of the game.  Even more astounding about the results of yesterday’s contests  were a number of factors that also include geography, money, and timing.

After big back to back wins for Mitt Romney in Florida almost two weeks ago, and another big win in Nevada this past Saturday, Romney should have established  a degree of momentum that added to a sense of inevitability regarding his becoming the eventual nominee.  Add to that the undeniably sizeable, professional, and well financed organization that Romney has and you had no reason to believe that Romney could lose one , let alone three, nomination contests that took place hundreds of miles away from one another on the same day.  The mere fact that Romney’s abundant resources provided him with the perfect opportunity to dominate in three different races in three different regions of the country at the same time, should have made it much more difficult for his underfinanced Republican rivals to compete against him in all three states very effectively.  Yet despite being out-organized, out-campaigned, and outspent by Romney, Rick Santorum who has not won a contest since Iowa back in January, not only beat Mitt, in one state, he did so in all three states and even more dramatic than that, he did so by wide margins that would seem to indicate that Romney was not even competitive. That inludes Colorado where Sanotrum won by anywhere from 5 to six percent of the vote.  Technically, a win by more than 5% in any election is considered a landslide.

The results were so stunning and such a boondoggle for Santorum that it left the rest of the field with absolutely no ability to put a positive spin on the results.

Ron Paul:

Aside from a second place showing in Minnesota, Ron Paul underperformed and remains a true non-entity in his plight to capture enough delegates to have some relevance at the Republican National Convention.  Of course I could be forced to eat my words if a very close brokered convention allows Ron Paul’s handful of delegates to adopt some sort of dangerous foreign policy or national security plank in the G.O.P. platform or to even determine who takes both the top spot and second slot on the Republican ticket in September.  Until then though,  Ron Paul has once again become a sidenote in another presidential election and will remain so until he can win a state, something which seems to be totally impossible for him to do.

Newt Gingrich:

Tuesday’s results were nothing but embarrassing for Gingrich.  He went from establishing himself as a comeback king and giant slayer in South Carolina, to being about as successful as the Hindenburg.  Being beaten by Romney would have been bad enough for Newt but to be beaten by Mitt and overtaken by Sanotrum and even losing to Ron Paul in one case, makes it hard for Newt to to try to maintain some staying power as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.  It also makes it nearly impossible for Newt to raise the kind of money that he will need to compete effectively during the three weeks leading up to the Michigan and Arizona primaries, not to mention the all important Super Tuesday gaggle of contests that follows soon after that.   Newt’s pathetic performance in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota  now leaves him in the middle of an electoral desert and while I will not write him off, I will admit that any roadmap out of the desert for Newt must include some major stumbles and wrong turns by his opponents.

Mitt Romney:

There was absolutely no reason for Mitt Romney’s poor showing in all three state’s on Tuesday.  Unless of course voters just don’t like him and unfortunately for him, the evidence would seem to indicate that that is indeed the case.   While Romney had everything working for him in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota, his rivals had everything working against them.  Yet Mitt Romney failed to move closer to the nomination and ceded valuable ground to what is a very sizeable sector of the Republican electorate that seems to be more interested in denying Romney the nomination than they are in  accepting a clear alternative to Romney.  This now puts Romney closer to his moment truth.  He can either forge ahead by aiming his fully loaded negative guns on Rick Santorum, as he did with Newt Gingrich, in an attempt to win the nomination by default, or he can finally stop trying to play it safe and be a leader who puts forth a number of bold reforms in a concise conservative agenda that addresses the desires of the conservative electorate whose shoulders he wants to be raised to victory upon.  This means no more singing of  the national anthem to waste time that could be used to address the policies that support the meaning behind our anthem.  It means no more platitudes about policies and conservativism, or attempts to impress the nation with his wife and sons standing loyally behind him.  It means now is the time for him to step up and show us exactly why and how he can be the leader we are looking for instead of trying to convince us of why everyone else is not the leader we are looking for.

As for Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator has been given his own Newt Gingrich-like opportunity for a second comeback.  I am not certain if the opportunity was because he has actually been impressing voters with his policies and leadership potential, or if he is simply the beneficiary of a vote that is protesting the perceived inevitability of Romney’s nomination.  Either way, it is most definitely another chance for Santorum to establish the type of momentum that could catapult him to the nomination.

Doing so though will be an uphill battle.  Santorum’s newfound opportunity will be riddled with a barrage of assaults upon his record, a record that can easily be distorted and challenge his image as a consistent conservative.  Romney, Gingrich, and Paul will almost certainly transform Santorum’s prolific return of earmarks to the people or Pennsylvania whom he represented in the United States Senate into the record of big spending, big government liberal.   Santorum’s conservative credentials will also be challenged based upon his one time support for liberal Republican Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in a primary against the more conservative Pat Toomey.

None of this will be impossible for Santorum to overcome, but it will help prevent him from gaining the head of steam that will be required for him to capture any sense of inevitability regarding the nomination for himself.  But at the same time, Santorum’s string of victories make it certain that inevitability still eludes Mitt Romney too.

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