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  GOP Death Watch

We’ll Be Suffering From Santorum’s Campaign Legacy Long After His Michigan Primary Loss

Mitt Romney eked out a three-point margin of victory over Rick Santorum in the Michigan primary last night. The mainstream media characterized it as a sweep, but that more accurately resembles a blood-soaked clawback from complete disaster. With the blessing of the party establishment, his own personal cash printing press, and the native son advantage to buoy him, Romney turned what should have been a romp against an underfunded, under-organized candidate who talks about Satan and why contraceptives open the door to “things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be” and who lost his own reelection campaign for Senate by 18 points into a do-or-die battle. It takes a rare talent to pull that off, but Romney possesses it in excess.

The Michigan primary battle was a showcase for some of the loonier exegeses to come out of Santorum’s mouth, which, given his track record of extra-galactic ravings, is quite the accomplishment. There was the specious argument that colleges were liberal “indoctrination mills” (kind of like puppy mills, but for twinks). There was the statement that he “almost threw up” when he read JFK’s defense of the separation of church and state. And there was the claim that Obama practiced a “phony theology,” which Santorum later helpfully explained had nothing to do with religion.

What does Santorum get for revealing himself to be one of the most extreme candidates to run for a major party’s presidential nomination? A near upset in Michigan and the chance to prolong the endless root canal that is the Republican primary season.

The primary calendar doesn’t do Romney any favors any time soon. The next round takes place largely in Southern states, where Romney’s Mormonism and Massachusetts moderation don’t play. Those states will be ripe for Santorum and even Newt Gingrich, despite his increasingly moribund campaign. Will it change the ultimate outcome? Probably not. It’s still Romney’s nomination to lose, even though he’s doing his damnedest to exactly that.

Santorum doesn’t have the money to last forever. But he will one lasting effect on the GOP (or what Maureen Dowd recently dubbed “Ghastly Outdated Party“). He has forged a closer link between evangelical Christians, the key component of the GOP base, and conservative Catholics than the party has seen before. The two sides have always been wary of each other, even as they have been inching closer together. Evangelicals have viewed the Catholic Church as the whore of Babylon (or worse), and Catholics have looked upon evangelicals as so, well, Protestant. But with the Catholic bishops willing to act as the new shock troops in the culture war over religious liberty, they have a lot in common with evangelicals. A lot more, in fact, than the bishops do with their own flocks.

Santorum has unified the two sides for this campaign season and probably beyond. We’ll be suffering the effects of that alliance for a lot longer than we will the GOP presidential primary season.

photo by Gage Skidmore

By:           John Gallagher
On:           Feb 29, 2012
Tagged: , , , , , , ,

  • 1 Comment
    • Olive Austin
      Olive Austin

      Alternate headline: “We’ll Reap the Reward of Santorum’s Campaign Legacy Long After His Michigan Primary Loss”

      The GOP is marginalizing themselves in moderate mainstream thought (where all the swing voters swing), possibly forever.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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