Wouldn’t you rather have Santorum?

Rick Santorum has won the Missouri. Colorado, and Minnesota delegate battles last night.   I know we’ve talked about his faults.  But all things being equal and leaving Ron Paul and electability out of the equation, wouldn’t you rather have him than Newt Gingrich?  Wouldn’t you rather have him than Mitt Romney?

Big campaign developments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the GOP presidential race.  He endorsed Newt Gingrich.  So did Sarah Palin. Ex-candidate Herman Cain, however, endorsed “the people.

Gingrich’s former wife is saying that he wanted “an open marriage” even as he was making speeches about family values.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses.  A miscount had given the victory to Mitt Romney, but it turns out that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

So where does all of this leave us?  If enough candidates drop out, might voters coalesce around someone other than Romney?  If so, who?  Ron Paul is, of course, a major alternative.

Who do you think would be better–or worse–Gingrich or Santorum?

Christian right leaders anoint Santorum

A conclave of leaders of  social conservative organizations and evangelical political activist groups voted to rally behind Rick Santorum:

A week before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Rick Santorum’s quest to emerge as the chief alternative to Mitt Romney received a boost Saturday from a group of evangelical leaders and social conservatives who voted to back his candidacy in a last-ditch effort to stop the GOP front-runner’s march to the nomination.

About three-quarters of some 150 pastors and Christian conservative political organizers meeting in Texas sided with Santorum over a home-state favorite, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — an outcome that illustrated continuing divisions within the ranks of conservatives who make up the base of the GOP.

The gathering also reflected the lingering dissatisfaction with Romney over abortion rights and other issues, and the belief of conservatives that they need to unite behind one contender before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary if they are to derail the former Massachusetts governor they view as too moderate. Romney leads narrowly in polls here after victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“There is a hope and an expectation that this will have an impact on South Carolina,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who attended the Texas meeting.

It’s unclear, however, whether conservative voters will heed the advice of these leaders and back Santorum particularly with other conservative candidates still in the race. The backing of a chunk of conservative leaders could help Santorum, who long has run a shoestring campaign, raise money and set up stronger get-out-the-vote operations.

via Santorum Backed by Social Conservative Leaders – ABC News.

Much will be said about Santorum as the evangelical candidate.  Remember, though, that he is not an evangelical.  He is a Roman Catholic.  Notice how tolerant evangelical activists have become!

I know the complaints about Santorum, as have come up in the discussions here, is that he is a big government conservative, that he wants to use the power of the federal government to promote his moral agenda (however laudable that might be).  What would be an example of that?  His opposition to gay marriage and abortion?  His favoring constitutional amendments to address those issues?  Isn’t it the government that has been pushing gay marriage and abortion?  The constitution limits government, so why isn’t working for a constitutional amendment an appropriate tactic?  Or are you thinking of something else?

Also, in other election news, Jon Huntsman has dropped out of the race.

Santorum’s philosophy of government

Michael Gerson on Rick Santorum’s brand of conservatism:

Perhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to its center. Rick Santorum is not just an outspoken social conservative; he is the Republican candidate who addresses the struggles of blue-collar workers and the need for greater economic mobility. He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family. He draws out the public consequences of a belief in human dignity — a pro-life view applied to the unborn and to victims of AIDS in Africa.

Electability Republicans can live with Santorum’s populism and moralism. Anti-government activists cannot and have begun their assault. Santorum is referred to as a “pro-life statist.” David Boaz of the Cato Institute cites evidence implicating him in shocking ideological crimes, such as “promotion of prison ministries” and wanting to “expand colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries.”

But Santorum is not engaged in heresy; he represents an alternative tradition of conservative political philosophy. Libertarians may wish to claim exclusive marketing rights, but there are two healthy, intellectual movements in American conservatism: libertarianism and religious (particularly Catholic) social thought.

Libertarianism is an extreme form of individualism, in which personal rights trump every other social goal and institution. It is actually a species of classical liberalism, not conservatism — more directly traceable to John Stuart Mill than Edmund Burke or Alexis de Tocqueville. The Catholic (and increasingly Protestant) approach to social ethics asserts that liberty is made possible by strong social institutions — families, communities, congregations — that prepare human beings for the exercise of liberty by teaching self-restraint, compassion and concern for the public good. Oppressive, overreaching government undermines these value-shaping institutions. Responsible government can empower them — say, with a child tax credit or a deduction for charitable giving — as well as defend them against the aggressions of extreme poverty or against “free markets” in drugs or obscenity.

This is not statism; it is called subsidiarity. In this view, needs are best served by institutions closest to individuals. But when those institutions require help or protection, higher-order institutions should intervene. So when state governments imposed Jim Crow laws, the federal government had a duty to overturn them. When a community is caught in endless economic depression and drained of social capital, government should find creative ways to empower individuals and charities — maybe even prison ministries that change lives from the inside out.

via Rick Santorum and the return of compassionate conservatism – The Washington Post.

Santorum has been dismissed in some of our comments as a “big government conservative.”  But isn’t his political philosophy, if Gerson is right, more Burkean in its attention to other social institutions?  (For example, he blames poverty in part on the breakup of the family.)

Do you see anything distinctly Roman Catholic about this version–”subsidiarity”–or can it fit just as well with Protestant theologies?  Does it assume the church’s earthly authority (which both Catholics and some Reformed could agree with)?  Does it work with the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms?

Romney wins Iowa by 8 votes

Rick Santorum surged into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus votes, the difference being a mere 8 votes.  Ron Paul came in third.  Here are the results, with the raw numbers and the percentages:

Mitt Romney      30,015      24.6%

Rick Santorum   30,007     24.5%

Ron Paul             26,219       21.4%

Newt Gingrich   16,251        13.3%

Rick Perry           12,604       10.3%

Michele Bachmann 6,073     5.0%

Jon Huntsman           745       0.6%

Others                          341        0.3%

 

via Iowa Caucus results, visits and political geography – 2012 Campaign Republican Primary Tracker – The Washington Post.

I’d like to credit my “What’s Wrong with Santorum?” post for turning the tide to him.  (The post was linked to a lot and picked up by a Christian news aggregator.)  [I don't seriously think that.  It was obvious for social conservatives to finally consider the last man standing.  And if anyone read the comments, they would see that you readers found quite a bit wrong with him.]

But still, does this make Santorum the non-Paul alternative to Mitt Romney?

Paul performed worse than expected.  He did, however, win one of the proverbial three tickets out of Iowa.

There was a big gap with the other candidates.  How the mighty Newt has fallen!  And Perry!  And Bachmann, the winner of the Iowa straw poll!  If their supporters rally to Santorum, though, the percentages add up dramatically in his favor.  Do you think that will happen?

What’s wrong with Santorum?

Nothing, as far as I can see, from a conservative point of view.  He is under no suspicion of being a closet liberal.  He is a devout Christian, a Catholic but one who seem evangelical.  He agrees with the social conservative agenda.  He has been a champion of the pro-life cause.  He has no skeletons in his closet, as far as I know.   He is also intelligent and articulate.  And yet Christian conservatives–who have been floundering for a candidate–have not rallied behind him, nor have conservatives in general.  Why not?

The only mark against him from those circles, at least that I’ve heard, seems to be that he isn’t inspiring, he sometimes comes across as shrill, he lost a Senatorial election in Pennsylvania, so he probably can’t win the presidency.  But if any of the Republican candidates have a chance, it will be because the public has had enough of Barack Obama.  If it’s Obama who will defeat Obama, campaign charisma from the other side will not be so important.  But the Republicans have to have a credible candidate.

As the various Republican candidates have their turn in the sun as front runner, only to shrivel under the increased scrutiny the person in that position inevitably receives, why not give Rick Santorum a chance?  Does anyone know why the Republican base isn’t rallying behind him, even though he seems to exemplify what that base finds important?


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