The Republican establishment is in full freak-out mode over the possibility that Rick Santorum could ruin Mitt’s party.
As a result, many have started to hit the panic button, and they’re doing so in a way you probably wouldn’t have expected from the GOP, which still counts evangelicals among its strongest and most reliable base vote. Nevertheless, the freakout is evident from the Romney-allied Drudge Report homepage right through to radio host Laura Ingraham’s national airwaves.
Rick Santorum, conservatives and his opponents started to say Tuesday, is just too dang extreme.
Excuse me for a second…
Okay, I’m better now. (Snort.)
The key bullets from Tuesday, when the story really started to emerge:
• The Drudge Report’s powerful homepage banner spent a full day blasting out a 2008 Santorum speech at Ave Maria University in Florida in which the former Pennsylvania Senator told the crowd that Satan is trying to destroy the US. Drudge sold the story as “developing”, but Right Wing Watch had pretty much the whole thing reported last week.
Drudge is generally seen as a friendly outlet for Romney, and the timing of the less-than-flattering story — coming just a week before the primaries in Arizona and Michigan — was dead-on for someone hoping to derail Santorum’s momentum.
Ed Kilgore noted that Drudge wasn’t the only generally pro-Romney conservative to call out Santorum for extremism Tuesday. Jennifer Rubin took Santorum to task for his comments about women in combat, women working outside the home and this weekend’s meltdown over Obama’s “theology”:
“In short, Santorum on social issues is not a conservative but a reactionary, seeking to obliterate the national consensus on a range of issues beyond gay marriage and abortion.”
Over at the New York Times, Ross Douthat weighs in with a modicum of deep thought, balancing Mr. Santorum’s assets as a Republican candidate against Mr. Obama: he’s from the Midwest (Pennsylvania is Midwest? Right next to Nebraska?), he comes from a humble background (although he’s not exactly clipping coupons), and he comes from the right church; he’s Catholic, which means he can appeal to a broader segment of the Jesus voter than the evangelical bullies and he’s not a Mormon. But that’s not the problem; it’s not the material, it’s the sales pitch.
Whether the topic is social issues or foreign policy, his zeal exceeds his prudence, and as a result his career is littered with debating society provocations (referencing “man-on-dog” sex in an argument about gay marriage, using his doomed 2006 Senate bid to educate Pennsylvanians on the evils of Hugo Chavez, etc.) that have won him far more enemies than friends. His passion for ideas and argument often does him credit, but in a national campaign it would probably do him in.
That’s his polite way of saying “There’s no effing way this fanatic can do anything but ruin the Republican party for the next three election cycles.”
This is what I have found absolutely fascinating — if not horrifying — about this campaign. The Republicans have the opportunity to nominate a candidate who could appeal to every aspect of the American experience; a populist who understands the hardships of the middle class, a moderate in terms of social issues, a temperate but tough commander in chief who doesn’t scare the crap out of our friends overseas but doesn’t take shit from our adversaries, and someone who is at ease enough in a campaign situation that he or she doesn’t come across on the stump like the Abe Lincoln automaton at Disneyland and knows how to laugh at him or herself. That kind of candidate would really give the Democrats a run for their money. The only problem is that he is already running. For the Democrats.
So instead, the Republicans have cleared the bats out the attic. They’re all high on sniffing batshit for the last twenty years — ever since Bill Clinton — and now they’re streaming out from under the rafters and into the daylight. Some have already flown into the wall (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry), leaving the wildest and craziest still zooming around and scaring everyone in the establishment.
Gee, I wonder what it is about Barack Obama that has brought out the bats in the GOP.