Published On: Sun, Jan 29th, 2012

Why not Rick?

It is a puzzle.

We have four remaining Republican candidates for President. The four include political chameleon Mitt Romney, who can change political positions to meld with the background of any group he is trying to impress. You also have Newt Gingrich who is so volatile and unpredictable that people worry that he is about to go off like a Roman candle. Ron Paul is great with domestic issues, but as soon as foreign affairs come up, people expect Ron to put on his tin foil hat and start muttering about money spent overseas.

Then you have Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. He is a principled conservative with consistent ideas on life issues, health issues, the Constitution, and the role of the government.

In 19 debates Rick Santorum has held his own, never embarrassing himself or the audience. His positions are clear and straight forward. There is no reason to doubt his word in any of his answers. In the latest debate in Jacksonville, Florida last Thursday, Santorum had an outstanding performance. He looked much more presidential than the squabbling Mitt and Newt and much more reasoned on foreign affairs than Ron Paul. And still, Rick Santorum can’t seem to break out of the pack with Republican voters.

The only obvious knock against Santorum is the loss he suffered to Bob Casey Jr in the 2006 Pennsylvania Senate race. The loss by 17% was devastating for an incumbent Senator even in a year when Republicans were bearing the weight of the public’s war weariness and the unpopularity of George W Bush. In all other things, Sen Santorum seems to well fit the bill for conservative Republicans.

Rick Santorum is a family man who obviously loves his wife and children. He and his wife Karen have had eight children, seven of whom survive, including the disabled Isabella. Rick and his wife and family match up well with the equally attractive Romney family and certainly suffer from none of the drama of Newt’s marital relations. Rick has a compelling story as the grandson of a coal mining Italian immigrant who left his home and loved ones in Italy to come to America to make a new life for his family. Both of Rick’s parents were in the medical professional and spent their lives in public service working at the VA.

Sen Rick Santorum is staunchly pro-lfe, he opposes same sex marriage, he supports the Second Amendment, he opposed the TARP bailouts and he is clear in his opposition to ObamaCare. ┬áHe favors spending cuts and entitlement reform. He also has a clear understanding of the dangers posed by jihadists and Iran, particularly a nuclear armed Iran. In all respects he would seem to be the ideal Republican candidate for President, but except for Iowa, Rick can’t really seem to gain traction anywhere.

Sen Santorum needs a good showing in Florida next Tuesday if he is going to have any chance to carry on with his campaign. February will be filled with caucuses which are tough for a candidate with no money and no real organization on the ground. The next primary elections won’t be until February 28, 2012 in Arizona and Michigan.

Santorum needs some breaks right now. He needs Newt to collapse under the weight of Republican establishment assaults so that he can bypass Newt into second place in Florida. If that happens then Santorum will be the last not-Romney candidate standing and things should get interesting because Santorum will not be as easy a target for the Romney supporters to attack. A second place finish in Florida would give the Senator momentum and would certainly bring in a new infusion of cash.

Sen Santorum’s performance in the debate on Thursday January 26, 2012 was spectacular. With only four candidates on the stage, he got the time to clearly state his positions. He was able to do that in an articulate and positive manner. His answer to a question on faith was pure poetry and when a question from an out of work woman in the audience brought up the subject of health care, the Senator took on Mitt Romney on RomneyCare and it’s similarity to ObamaCare as it has never been done before. It is a good bet that Tim Pawlenty wishes he had done what Rick Santorum was able to do in Jacksonville back in debate number two in June of 2011.

The problem is that Sen Santorum’s sterling performance at the Jacksonville debate may have come too late. About 10% of Florida Republican voters have already cast ballots and there are hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots that have gone out. Newt Gingrich’s bravura performances in the South Carolina debates gave him a leg up on the field and gained him a big win in that state. Rick Santorum is certainly hoping that that result may be repeated in Florida.

So, it’s up to Florida’s Republican voters on Tuesday January 31, 2012 to set the stage for the future Republican primaries and caucuses. Will Rick Santorum finally get a serious look from the conservative Republican voters or will he just fade away as the money and support drys up? One can not help but hope that Rick Santorum does stick around for a while.

Republicans may well need him before this is over.

About the Author

- Paul Bianco, retired from a career in sales, now spends his spare time as a gadfly on the many political blogs. Paul says he is just going through a phase, but that phase seems to have lasted two decades. Paul's conservative political philosophy was formed well before conservative talk radio and Fox News came along. Paul remembers the days when conservatives like William F Buckley Jr were voices in the wilderness "standing athwart history, yelling stop!" From time to time Paul contributes some of the insights he has gained from observing politics for so many years, and hopes that readers will be entertained and perhaps even enlightened.