Wednesday 7 December 2016

Tim Stanley: The game’s up for Rick Santorum ... anyone out there to take on the challenge?

Published 29/02/2012 | 14:05

Rick Santorum speaks with supporters at an election night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo: Getty Images
Rick Santorum speaks with supporters at an election night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo: Getty Images

MITT Romney won the Arizona and Michigan primaries last night, solidifying his status as the Republican frontrunner. Michigan was the most competitive election and Romney only won it by roughly 41 to 38pc. But he enjoyed a ten point lead among registered Republicans and dominated the middle-of-the-road party faithful. This will launch him into Super Tuesday next week. Mittmentum is back.

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For Rick Santorum, things look pretty bleak. As the results poured in, I found myself feeling very depressed about his defeat. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve come to love Saint Santorum or if it’s that I’ll have nothing to write about when he’s gone. This guy has been manna from heaven for smartass bloggers. In the last seven days, he has said that the very thought of separating church and state makes him want to “throw up” and that Obama is a “snob” for encouraging kids to go to college. His “concession” was a spectacular misfire. The first five minutes of a Santorum speech are always good; it’s the next five hours that are a nightmare. Michigan’s was a long, rambling tour through an angry mind – culminating in a riff about liberals being similar to the British red coats who once oppressed America. When he called the Brits “good and stiff,” I almost gagged on my cocoa. Fox News, on the other hand, cut away to announce that Romney was the winner. When Fox News gets bored with a conservative, that conservative is dead in the water.

But I’m not alone in harboring a secret liking for Mr Santorum. A USA Today poll found that he’s the only Republican candidate who leads Obama in a hypothetical general election. Michigan showed that much of his support comes from beyond the Republican Party. In this primary, he won the votes of Democrats, union members and the comparatively poor. He also ran even among independents. To be sure, some of these people probably voted for Santorum in order to block Romney’s path to the nomination. But Rick also appeals to a populist alliance of middle-class conservatives across all affiliations – demonstrated by his strong performance among prolifers, evangelicals, Tea Partiers etc. In Michigan, he proved that he has the ability to fuse together the social and economic conservatism that put Nixon, Reagan and Bush in the White House. Romney, by contrast, is just the candidate of the regular Republicans.

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