The Santorum Conundrum (The Note)

Feb 20, 2012 10:09am
abc rick santorum interview thg 111108 wblog The Santorum Conundrum (The Note)

(Image Credit: ABC NEWS)

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

Rick Santorum is on a roll. He’s drawing huge crowds on the campaign trail. The latest Gallup poll shows him ahead of Mitt Romney by eight points nationally. Even in Romney’s backyard of Michigan, Santorum looks like the candidate to beat.

Yet, his success at driving enthusiasm on the trail in the short-term, may hurt him in the long run.

After his three-state sweep in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri two weeks ago, Santorum argued that it was his stance on the economy — not social issues like contraception — that was responsible for his success.

To prove he was more than just a one-dimensional candidate, Santorum and his supporters promised that he would be talking about jobs and the economy. After all, his blue collar roots and his focus on reviving America’s manufacturing sector was going to be a strong sell in places like Michigan and Ohio.

Instead, Santorum has been spending almost all of his time since his wins the other week talking about almost everything other than the economy.

Santorum appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday and sought to explain his comments that President Obama’s agenda was based on a “phony theology” — a remark that he made at a campaign stop in Ohio over the weekend.

“I’ve repeatedly said I don’t question the president’s faith,” Santorum said. “I’ve repeatedly said that I believe the president is a Christian. He says he is a Christian. But I’m talking about his world view or his — the — the way he approaches problems in this country and I think they’re — they’re different than how most people do in America.” http://abcn.ws/wiQznp

Santorum got tangled up in his words on the campaign trail yesterday too. As ABC’s Shushannah Walshe notes, he’s been introducing new lines into his stump speech, comparing GOP voters to the so-called “greatest generation” and this year’s election to World War II.

In a mega-church in Georgia on Sunday, he ramped up his rhetoric, urging his crowd not to be complacent about the Obama administration as Americans initially were before they finally learned that “this guy over in Europe” was “not so good of a guy after all.” (Santorum’s historical analogy appeared to be a reference to Adolf Hitler.)

And he spent a series of media interviews last week disassociating himself from the comments of one of his wealthiest benefactors, Foster Friess, who joked that “back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

To be sure, Santorum’s success with very conservative voters and evangelicals is helpful in the upcoming primaries. But, in Michigan where just 39 percent of GOP voters in 2008 identified as evangelical, the economy, not social issues, remains the driving agenda.

The more Santorum spends talking about home schooling and “phony theology”, and not the economy, means that he misses the chance to expand into a real three-dimensional candidate.

Apparently hoping to change the subject back to jobs, Santorum wrote an Op-Ed in the Detroit News today declaring that when it comes to the economy and the manufacturing sector, “America can do better. Much better.” http://bit.ly/yGyKZb

 

THE STAKES FOR ROMNEY IN MICHIGAN. ABC’s Rick Klein lays out what would be a Doomsday scenario for Mitt Romney: “A loss by Mitt Romney in Michigan would unleash years’ worth of frustrations at the GOP front-runner. It might even be enough to convince a critical mass of Republican leaders to look outside the current field, to a non-candidate who could consolidate the party at that extinct political animal known as a contested convention. ‘If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate,’ a veteran GOP senator who hasn’t made an endorsement in the race told ABC’s Jonathan Karl late last week. Romney remains the favorite for the nomination, and would still be so even if he loses Michigan. But a string of losses that start in Michigan would make a Rick Santorum win plausible — something that would spark serious worry among Republicans whose primary goal is winning the presidency. … Romney continues to look vulnerable, notwithstanding the fact that he holds an advantage in every objective campaign metric, in addition to a delegate lead over his rivals. Six years of campaigning for the presidency haven’t been able to convince the party’s regulars to fall in love with Romney. But a loss in Michigan would betray more than a simple lack of enthusiasm. He’d be losing a large industrial Midwestern battleground — filled with the kinds of voters who will decide the presidential campaign — not to mention the state he was born and raised in, and where his father was governor.” http://abcn.ws/yGQwC6

STILL SEARCHING FOR A ROMNEY ALTERNATIVE?There are growing calls for an alternative to Mitt Romney as the Republican standard-bearer, with the names of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie again being seen as the most likely saviors,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin note. “With concerns over Romney rising after a series of gaffes and polls showing him losing to Rick Santorum in Michigan — a state in which he was born and raised — and with a protracted primary fight ahead, some Republican activists are desperately looking for alternatives. … Indiana GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb, one of Gov. Daniels’ closest advisers, revealed to POLITICO that ‘the whispers have become shouts, the knocks on [Daniels'] door have become fist pounding.’ … Despite the fact that he is a top Romney surrogate, Christie, too, has received entreaties from senior Republicans, sources said, with the pitches rising again in recent weeks as Romney has struggled.” http://politi.co/woHnjk

 

POWER PLAYERS: POLITICAL PUNCH. ABC’s Jake Tapper looks at the history of music in presidential campaigns and the Obama campaigns 29-song official playlist with a music critic who asks, ‘why no Hip Hop?’ WATCH: http://yhoo.it/xZFVog

 

“THIS WEEK” REPLAY: MCCAIN’S COMPLAINT. Sen. John McCain Sunday morning expressed deep concern over the tone of the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination on ”This Week,” admitting that it may actually be helping President Obama in his bid to be re-elected in the fall. “I am concerned about that,” said McCain, speaking from Afghanistan to ABC’s Jake Tapper. “And I think there is reason to be concerned about it…I don’t think I have seen one that was as personal and as characterized  by so many attacks as these are.” McCain, R-Ariz., blamed the plethora of negative attack advertisements on super PACs which, following a ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court, can receive unlimited donations that can be used for attack advertisements. McCain blamed the Court’s “ignorance” for the new power super PACs now possess. “I think it’s a very tough campaign and I understand that, but the fact is that these debates and these kinds of negative campaigns have driven the disapproval ratings of all of the members up.” http://abcn.ws/wDfjeP

On Sunday, Jake also interviewed Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to the Obama re-election campaign and former White House press secretary. In case you missed that or the roundtable: http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/

 

THE BUZZ

DONALD TRUMP HITS THE MICHIGAN AIRWAVES FOR ROMNEY. With just over a week to go before Michigan voters head to the polls, Mitt Romney is enlisting the help of one of his highest-wattage surrogates: Donald Trump. The real estate mogul is preparing to spread his pro-Romney, anti-Rick Santorum message in a series of radio interviews this week on local stations from Traverse City to Detroit. Trump’s effort begins Monday morning with an interview on the “Art Lewis Show,” on WSGW news radio in the Flint-Saginaw media market. On Tuesday he will call into the “Ron Jolly Show” on WTCM in Traverse City. On Wednesday it’s the “Paul Smith Show” on WJR in Detroit. And on Thursday, Trump will talk to Michael Patrick Shiels, host of a drive-time radio program on WJIM in Lansing. In recent interviews, Trump has not been shy about his distaste for Santorum, who appears to be locked in a close race with Romney in Michigan — a high stakes contest for both candidates. “All of a sudden, he says, ‘let’s become president?’ Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren earlier this month. “Give me a break.” http://abcn.ws/AlZAry

HERMAN CAIN TEACHES NEWT GINGRICH HOW TO CAMPAIGN. To help Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pull off a needed win in Georgia, former candidate Herman Cain stepped onto Gingrich’s campaign bus Saturday to ride along for all three campaign events of the day and introduce the candidate, whom he endorsed in January, at each stop, ABC’s Elicia Dover reports. Cain had an idea or two for his friend of 16 years, and Gingrich listened. “113-4.2-4″ might not be as catchy as “9-9-9,” but Gingrich said Saturday at a campaign stop that after inspiration from Cain, he’s going to be pitching his own numbers and comparing them to President Obama’s. “Something I frankly got from listening to Herman, if you take $1.13 gasoline and 4.2 percent unemployment and a balanced federal budget, you realize those things were all facts,” Gingrich said. “That’s a pretty nice contrast to Barack Obama.” Though Gingrich has touted low gas prices, the unemployment rate and a balanced budget from when he was speaker of the House in the 1990s on nearly every campaign stop since Iowa, Saturday he changed his “stump” speech to tell the audience he had several numbers he wanted them to remember. http://abcn.ws/xGWIH8

LATINO MORMONS TURN THEIR BACK ON ROMNEY. A dispatch from the Associated Press’ Russell Contreras: “When Honduran-born Antonella Cecilia Packard converted to the Mormon Faith 20 years ago, she said it was like “coming home.” The Catholic-educated Packard, who grew up in “the middle of Mayan ruins,” appreciated the faith’s strong sense of family and conservative values. She also saw her own history in the Book of Mormon with stories of migrations, tragedies and triumphs of a people many Mormons believe are the ancestors of some present-day Latinos. But two decades after her conversion while a college student at Mississippi State, the 43-year-old Packard finds herself on a new mission: defeating Mitt Romney and any Mormon politician who betrays what she sees as a basic Mormon principle of protecting immigrants. As Romney continues to seek the Republican presidential nomination while rarely discussing his faith, a growing number of vocal Hispanic Mormons say they intend to use Mormon teachings as a reason to convince others not to vote for him. They have held firesides (equivalent to a tent revival) on immigration, protested outside of Romney campaign events and have traveled across state lines to help defeat other Mormon politicians with similar harsh immigration stances. “Yes, we are happy that we have a Mormon running for president,” said Packard, a Saratoga Springs, Utah, resident and member of Somos (We are) Republicans. “But a lot of us aren’t supporting him because of his stance against immigrants.”

STATE DEPARTMENT FOCUSES ON GLOBAL BUSINESS. From the State Department’s Public Affairs office: “On February 21-22, Secretary Clinton will host the first-ever State Department Global Business Conference.  The Conference will bring together senior officials from U.S. business support organizations from over 100 countries; U.S. private sector executives focused on international business; and senior U.S. government leaders from the White House, the Departments of State, Commerce, Treasury and Energy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. … The first day will include remarks by Secretary Clinton, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue, and The Boeing Company Chairman, President and CEO W. James McNerney, Jr.  It will also feature panel discussions and small group meetings on export promotion, increasing foreign investment in the United States, creating public-private partnerships, facilitating business and leisure travel to the United States, and key policy topics of interest to businesses abroad.  The second day of the Conference will include breakout sessions, hosted by the State Department’s regional Assistant Secretaries, to discuss regional strategies to advance shared economic interests.”

 

PRIMARY STATE RADAR by ABC’s Elizabeth Hartfield and Chris Good:

–With Rick Santorum scheduled to appear at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Grand Rapids on Monday, Mitt Romney won’t be there — but one of his top surrogates will. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), one of Romney’s prominent gubernatorial backers and the recipient of much VP buzz since his election in 2009, will address the crowd. http://on.freep.com/yrHe6m

–But Romney isn’t bashful when it comes to playing up his Michigan roots. Romney continually name-checks small towns and local spots. “Every TV ad, every appearance, every conference call with voters… is peppered with local lore and a bit of nostalgia,” The Detroit Free Press reports. http://on.freep.com/wd386s

–Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney will also spend time in Ohio today. The Dayton Daily News reports that Romney will discuss jobs and the economy with employees at Meridian Bioscience- a company which manufactures and sells a variety of diagnostic and treatment medical technologies in Cincinnati. Santorum will be in Steubenville, Ohio (a city located along the border with West Virginia) where he will hold a rally. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Santorum “invigorated” the crowd in Port Columbus at his campaign spot over the weekend.”He’s got a sincerity about him that politicians generally don’t have” Brock Lawley, 30, told the Dispatch. http://bit.ly/zdF5VF

–Steve Koff, Washington Bureau Chief of The Plain Dealer reports that Ohioans are still open to changing their minds ahead of the state’s March 6 primary, and that voters could be swayed by the outcomes in Michigan and Arizona on Feb. 28. “That is not to suggest that Ohio voters are lemmings, waiting to be led by just anybody” Koff writes. “The primaries that precede Ohio’s give voters a sense of each candidate’s political, organizational and rhetorical skills, qualities crucial for taking on Obama.” http://bit.ly/wGDf8x

–As Newt Gingrich completed a two-day stint campaigning in Georgia over the weekend, Rick Santorum took his stump speech to the First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga., Sunday night, drawing an estimated 3,300. The crowd should have been encouraging for Santorum: It was peppered with GOP activists and state lawmakers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported–and the venue was so packed that U.S. Rep. Bob Woodall (R) watched from an overflow room in another building. http://bit.ly/wOhdGW

–Why did it take the Nevada GOP a day and a half to count a total of votes smaller than a well-attended MLB baseball game? Nevada GOP officials had the results and were ready to release them well before deciding to put them out, around 5 a.m. two days after the caucuses–but they were afraid of lawsuits from the campaigns. “Whatever you have heard, whatever you have read about the GOP caucus disaster, it was worse,” Jon Ralston writes at the Las Vegas Sun, delving into the debacle. http://bit.ly/yf6Crn

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

 @jwpetersNYT: Romney’s stance on auto bailout? It’s complicated. Even Bain Capital left GM in the cold: nyti.ms/yEUOC3

@kenvogel: Ron Paul’s campaign may be small-donor fueled, but PayPal founder Peter Thiel has given $2.6 m to pro-Paul super PAC: politi.co/yv1xxb

@FredWertheimer: End secret money in politics wapo.st/zWRX1A @WashingtonPost#Editorial

 @RyanLizza: “Romney…has an eye on the long-shot possibility of a brokered convention fight, his advisers said Wed” –NYT, 2/7/08:

 @Rebecca_CBSNJ: Happy birthday to @TheFix!

 

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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