I saw Rick Santorum speak to a small group today in Chicago. He has announced that he is running for President. He spoke to a group of mostly Conservative Catholics, some of whom I believe would be able to help a candidate financially in a meaningful way. I am not in that category, but I was invited anyway, and the little snacks were nice.
I came away, to my surprise, favorably impressed.
I went to the meeting disinclined to be supportive. I generally agree with Santorum on the “cultural” issue. For example, I am 100% Pro-Life 100% of the time, and will never vote for a serious pro-abortion candidate. But in our current circumstances, I want the GOP candidate to be focused on taxes, spending, entitlement reform. We will be destroyed as a nation if we do not get those issues under control. My sense is that Santorum has been pre-labelled as a one-note social conservative. Whether that is unfair or not, I went to the meeting believing this was too steep a hill to climb, and that we don’t need the distraction in 2012, thus disqualifying Santorum from serious consideration. (Further, I am from Chicago, and Mayor Daley, Senior advised, “don’t back no losers” and Santorum’s failure to win reelection to the Senate in 2006 is a red flag.)
Santorum is obviously aware of this type of thinking, and spoke accordingly. He focused his remarks on the money issues. He was rock solid. Further he was intensely realistic about the situation, meaning pessimistic until Mr. Obama is voted out. He noted that the GOP House majority can only do so much, and that many activists will be disappointed. We need a GOP president who is committed to getting the budget under control. He described his own record on these issues, and he made a compelling case for himself, particularly on opposition to HillaryCare, and now to ObamaCare. He also addressed the strictly political side, explaining in some detail that mobilizing the base is at least as important as reaching into the center, and that he can certainly do the former. A facially plausible argument.
His comments on defense and the danger or Islamic radicalism were solid. His criticism of Mr. Obama on these scores was tough but fair.
His discussion of American exceptionalism was moving. He said that he loves the Constitution but “I’m a Declaration guy.” He spoke about the rights granted by our Creator, and the how the point of America is for each individual person to have the freedom to develop into the person they were meant to be. I am not doing justice to these comments, which were powerful.
He was challenged on his support for Arlen Spector over Pat Toomey, which was a question many of us wanted answered. He gave a completely convincing, and somewhat indignant, response to this, which you will hear at some point if his campaign carries on very long. Before this meeting I had considered his support for Spector to be a defection, and I would have told you I would never vote for Santorum as a result. He changed my mind, and he disposed of that issue for me. I told him afterward that if that question and answer had been preserved to became a video on YouTube (there was no video) the Spector issue would be neutralized.
Personal back-pat: At one point he said, here is a trivia question, when is the last time the Republicans nominated someone from East of the Mississippi for President, not counting Ford? I correctly and quickly answered it: Thomas Dewey. He noted that the states of the Midwest and Northeast are in play and will decide the election and being from Pennsylvania will help the GOP carry those states. Maybe so.
I don’t know what fortune Sen. Santorum will have in this race. As of this minute, I like Santorum better than any of the front-runners: Romney, Gingrich, Pawlenty.
Sen. Santorum will be a red flag to the legacy media. They will try to make his candidacy an all day, every day discussion about abortion rights, intelligent design, gay marriage, Terry Schiavo, etc. They will be absolutely rabid in their attacks on him, and he has given them plenty of ammunition.
On the other hand, the legacy media is going to be over-the-top, psycho-vicious to whoever the Republicans put up. I don’t know how much difference it makes. If he survives the primary process, and got the nomination, the public will have gotten a good look at him, and may judge him on the totality of his positions and his record.
Sen. Santorum came across as sincere, very well prepared, smart and serious. In fact, his seriousness about the current dangers we face was impressive. He did not put a smiley face on anything.
I still like Mitch Daniels, and I hope he runs.
I liked what I heard from Rick Santorum today, too.
And I wish him luck, and look forward to hearing more.
(Oddly, I cannot find his campaign website. He must have one. He should fix that.)