Can Social Conservatives Rescue Rick Santorum? (The Note)

Mar 16, 2012 8:50am
gty rick santorum campaign missouri thg 120313 wblog Can Social Conservatives Rescue Rick Santorum? (The Note)

(Image Credit: Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

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

Three of the next key primary states are shaping up to be familiar nightmares for Rick Santorum.

In Louisiana, which holds its nominating contest on March 24, Mitt Romney and his allies are outspending Santorum and his supporters two to one. In Illinois, which votes next Tuesday, Romney forces have already topped Santorum on the television airwaves more than seven to one. And in Wisconsin, with its contest more than two weeks off, Romney and the pro-Romney super PAC have a 28 to one spending head start on Santorum.

This has been the reality for months. Santorum’s been running a win-a-few, lose-a-few campaign against a better-funded and better organized challenger. His aides like to point out that they’ve resisted becoming a “bureaucratic behemoth” like the Romney team, but that hasn’t helped them post a larger delegate tally than their opponent who leads by more than double.

But in the eyes of Santorum’s backers, especially those in the social conservative community, their candidate is accomplishing something more important that accumulating delegates.

“What we’re seeing here is the gap between Mitt Romney and conservatives is widening, it’s not narrowing,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council told The Note. “The longer this contest draws, out the more people see the vulnerabilities of Mitt Romney.”

Perkins, who has not officially endorsed Santorum but is supportive of him, was among a group of like-minded individuals who recently met in Texas to help raise money for Santorum.

But there has yet to be a high-profile, public coming-together of these conservative forces behind the candidate — a kind of game-changer that might draw others into the fold and ease lingering anxiety about electability.

As another supporter and prominent conservative leader, Richard Viguerie, recently noted, Santorum “has now been endorsed by over 200 leaders of the conservative movement, and their support in local precincts and counties across America continues to power the Santorum campaign to fly under the radar.” http://bit.ly/xwKlwK

After Santorum’s wins in Alabama and Mississippi this week, Viguerie was among those calling on Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race, writing on his website that the former House Speaker could “change the calculus of the campaign” by doing so. Perkins agreed.

“When you add up the vote that Newt and Santorum have, it drowns Romney,” Perkins said. “It just totally eclipses him. The lion’s share would go to Santorum.”

But he was hard-pressed to outline a specific strategy to usher Gingrich out of the race. And in an interview this morning on CBS News, Gingrich wasn’t budging.

“”I’ll be with you in Tampa,” he said, insisting that there are no circumstances that would compel him to drop out.

As Perkins noted, much of the pro-Santorum movement is “kind of organic.”

Romney’s most dangerous rival is relying on “a network of evangelical Christians, anti-abortion rights activists and home-schooling parents” to help organize voter turnout efforts, bus tours and spark fundraising, Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer and Julie Hirschfeld Davis noted today. http://bloom.bg/xhtsrl

Will the organic prevail over the bureaucratic? Romney is still best-positioned to clinch the nomination — or, at least, come the closest to the magic number before the convention — but the primary contests over the next few weeks will help clarify just how much the conservative base has coalesced around one alternative.

 

THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK”: RICK SANTORUM. ABC’s Jonathan Karl guest hosts this Sunday’s edition of “This Week.” On the day of the Puerto Rico primary, Karl welcomes presidential candidate Rick Santorum to talk about his David-and-Goliath battle with Mitt Romney and his prospects in the Illinois primary next Tuesday. Also on the program, an all-star “This Week” roundtable that includes special guest, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Tune in: http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/

 

OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY IN 17 MINUTES. The new Obama campaign film ”The Road We’ve Traveled,” which officially premiered online last night, offers a view of the President’s first term that’s at once sweeping and cursory, and entirely favorable, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. And to the team of Democratic strategists and Hollywood stars who produced it, that’s precisely the point. The 17-minute film, crafted by Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim, reprises with dramatic flourishes the highlights of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy agenda, particularly those with the greatest appeal to his liberal base. Narrator Tom Hanks sets the opening scene in late 2008, immediately after Obama’s historic election and at the height of the financial crisis that had gripped the country. Interspersing images of modern day jobless lines with breadlines from the 1930s, the film equates the challenges Obama faced with those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression. “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president,” Hanks says. “As president, the tough decisions that he would make would not only determine the course of the nation,” he says.  ”They’d  reveal the character of the man.” More on the film, including a link to watch it: http://abcn.ws/xET1ke

REPUBLICAN COUNTER-PROGRAMMING.  “We don’t need a Hollywood movie to know what the president accomplished over the past three years,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Unfortunately Americans live Obama’s accomplishments every day from higher gas prices, food prices, healthcare costs, unemployment and record debt. Hollywood may not be able to find anything wrong with Obama’s first term but Americans literally can’t afford to find out what another four years looks like under Obama.”

 

MUST WATCH: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PRESIDENT. ABC’s Jake Tapper takes a closer look at how Barack Obama is balancing his duties and President Obama with his obligations as candidate Obama. WATCH:  http://abcn.ws/FOAO1y

NOTED:  Tapper reports that President Obama met yestrerday with two activists focused on the Sudan, actor George Clooney and John Prendergast of The ENOUGH Project. Among the many items they discussed was the Kony 2012 video (currently up to 79 million hits on Youtube), which brings attention to accused war criminal Joseph Kony, thought to be in the Central African Republic. One tidbit as yet unreported: according to a senior administration official, President Obama first heard about the video the same way so many people have: from one of his children. In this case, it was from Malia, 13. http://abcn.ws/yyueD6

 

THE BUZZ

RAHM WELCOMES ROMNEY TO ILLINOIS. Mitt Romney, in his bid to retake the momentum in the Republican primary from Rick Santorum with a win next week in Illinois, arrives in Chicago on Friday. But, as ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports from the Windy City, Chicgao’s mayor — and former White House chief of staff  Rahm Emanuel – couldn’t wait to rip into the GOP front-runner,  saying  Romney lacked “the fortitude,  strength or character”  to serve in the Oval Office. “Now I’m not going to give advice to Republicans. They don’t take it and I don’t want to give it. They’ll make whatever decision they want to make,” Emanuel said at an event Thursday morning in Chicago. “You just take a look at the fortitude, the strength, the determination and the vision the president made on the auto industry and juxtapose it to Mitt Romney, who doesn’t have the fortitude, the strength or the character in my view to stand up to Rush Limbaugh. How can he stand up and make a decision to save 1.3 million manufacturing jobs?” http://abcn.ws/zDDZZe

SANTORUM’S COLORFUL PUERTO RICO SEND-OFF…. With a jazz bland blaring island music and a narrator touting Rick Santorum’s conservative credentials in Spanish, the Santorum family led a pop-up parade in their honor down a main thoroughfare here yesterday afternoon, ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports from San Juan. Santorum, his wife Karen, and five of their seven children jumped out of their SUVs and were instantly swarmed by a mix of press, Puerto Ricans, and American tourists. While the family made their way down the cobblestone streets, behind a band playing Puerto Rican music, and a green banner reading “Made in America,” supporters changed ”Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum!”  in an island accent. The Santorum family stopped to take photos and sign autographs both for those who can vote for him the Republican primary in Puerto Rico Sunday, and for Americans who seemed surprised when then ran into a presidential candidate while vacationing. http://abcn.ws/wlSVo7

…BUT QUESTIONS OVER CONTROVERSIAL COMMENTS. Santorum was asked again about some controversial comments he made while campaigning here Wednesday. English, he told a local newspaper, should become the “principal language” of the territory if Puerto Rico wants to be the nation’s 51st state. Today, he told reporters, “English should be taught here and everyone should speak English here.” “It’s something that I think is essential to be an American period,” Santorum said. ”Whether you’re going to be a state or not, people should speak English. And English should be a common language among all Americans. Period. And the idea that somehow or another it should be the only language — it’s not the only language in California, it’s not the only language in Arizona, it’s not the only language in New Orleans — we understand that people of different cultures speak different languages, but we have a common language, and that’s what I was saying yesterday.  To suggest that maliciously, I would add, (that) someone would maliciously write that I said that, was really unfortunate.” He told reporters before leaving the island that the original story was “crap.” http://abcn.ws/wlSVo7

GINGRICH CONCEDES ILLINOIS IS A ROMNEY-SANTORUM FIGHT. After two days of campaigning in Illinois, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told reporters that he believes the race in Illinois “largely will be Romney and Santorum,” ABC’s Elicia Dover writes. A poll last week from the Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV, showed Gingrich at 12 percent support in the state, while Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were neck and neck, with Romney at 35 percent and Santorum at 31 percent. Illinois congressman and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who endorsed Romney for president, told reporters on a fly-around of the state campaigning for Romney Thursday that while he still considered Gingrich a friend he did not support his candidacy for president. “You’ll find that a lot of people who worked with Newt Gingrich over those years aren’t supporting Newt Gingrich. This guy is all over the place. You can’t trust him. There’s always a doubt out there about where this guy’s going to go,” Hastert said. When asked if Gingrich would have wanted Hastert’s support in the state, Gingrich told reporters, “That would have been fine.” http://abcn.ws/zPRYHa

OBAMA’S FRIDAY FUNDRAISER FRENZY. You’ll want to “#FF”  – that’s “follow Friday” for the non-Twitter crowd — the first family today as they fly off for a frenzy of fundraisers, with First Lady Michelle Obama landing in Minneapolis and President Obama in Chicago and Atlanta, ABC’s Devin Dwyer notes. The six events combined should net at least $5.6 million for Democrats and the president’s re-election campaign, according to estimates provided by an Obama campaign official. Mrs. Obama will host an afternoon reception with 350 supporters in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center. The invitation for the event lists tickets starting at $250 to attend and up to $10,000 to mingle with Obama and take a photo with her. Meanwhile, the president will start his day in Chicago, headlining reception at the Palmer House Hilton with more than 600 guests. Tickets for the event start at $2,500, a campaign official said. Flying south to Atlanta, Obama will then hobnob with donors into the evening at three fundraisers tailored to the African-American community. Before returning to Washington, Obama will visit the home of actor and director Tyler Perry, who’s hosting the ritziest party of the night at $35,800 per head. At least 60 people are expected to attend to toast the president. http://abcn.ws/A78Cjq

MEGHAN MCCAIN’S PLAYBOY REVELATIONS. John McCain may have recently come to former running mate Sarah Palin’s defense, but in an interview with Playboy magazine, his daughter Meghan revealed still-simmering tensions between the McCain and Palin clans, according to ABC’s Russell Goldman. Meghan McCain told Playboy that a memoir written by Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter known for her teen pregnancy, was a “total lie.” Bristol, she said, avoided her at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and “totally took off” when she saw Meghan across the room, lest Bristol be confronted about jabs she made about the McCain women in a recent memoir. In her book “Not Afraid of Life” Bristol dings Meghan and mother Cindy McCain for having “so much Louis Vuitton luggage, so many cell phones, and so many constant helpers to do hair and makeup.” Bristol also writes of Meghan that after their first meeting she had the “sneaking suspicion that I might need to watch my back.” http://abcn.ws/zim0F4

MISSOURI CAUCUS PRIMER. Contests typically have winners and losers, readily discernible after the fact. Missouri’s presidential-nominating mechanism, however, is a rare exception, home-stater Chris Good explains. Although the state will hold caucuses on Saturday — the Show Me State’s main event this primary season, after its nonbinding February primary — no candidate will wake up Sunday morning having banked Missouri as a “win” or a “loss.” The basic reason: Missouri caucusers won’t vote on presidential candidates. When Missouri Republicans arrive at the state’s 142 county-caucus sites on Saturday, they will only vote for preliminary-level delegates. Not national delegates, to represent Missouri at the Republican National Convention in Tampa  — rather, 2,123 delegates to Missouri’s April 21 congressional-district conventions, and another 2,123 delegates to the June 1-2 Missouri state convention. Those conventions, in turn will elect Missouri’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. Hence, there will be no “results” from Missouri on Saturday, in the traditional sense of the word. We won’t know what “percent of the vote” Rick Santorum won, for instance, because there will be no “vote” to calculate. Since Saturday’s delegates run individually, and don’t have to state which candidates they support, not even the preliminary-delegate totals can be broken down by candidate. http://abcn.ws/z0R0zV

 

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:

CONSERVATIVE GROUP PUSHES FOR CONSERVATIVE BUDGET. “In a letter sent today to House Republicans, Let Freedom Ring and several prominent conservative organizations, including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, 60 Plus Association, and ForAmerica called for a conservative budget, one that balances in ten years or less and does not raise taxes on the American people. The letter pledges Let Freedom Ring’s support for such a conservative budget that provides a stark contrast with President Obama’s budget that never balances and Senate Democrats’ complete lack of a budget, stating:  ’Now you have the opportunity to produce a serious budget of your own, but it must sharply contrast with the Obama budget.  It will be difficult for President Obama’s opponent to set up such a stark contrast if they have to defend a budget that is not serious.’”

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@MelanieDNC: .@MittRomney is wrong for women and wrong for Illinois. New DNC video:  http://bit.ly/yaRfnh

@jeffzeleny: Was Missouri primary as meaningless as Romney says? Counties can vote to bind result for Santorum delegates http://nyti.ms/zp86j4#mopolitics

@SarahPalinUSA: “Breitbart Is Here”… now let the vetting begin! http://fb.me/WgtXBK9H

@ngjennings: Four Pinocchios for Obama’s Rutherford B. Hayes telephone statement http://ow.ly/9H7F7

@edatpost: Have you seen Paul Ryan’s dramatic budget preview? http://wapo.st/whQPNo

 

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

 

* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.

* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

 

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus