So the vacationing Carl Scott made the following observation that I think deserves more attention than it will get in the comments section:
The key here is Peters 35 state claim [Peter Lawler passing on a story from the Politico that Santorum would lose 35 states.] Where is the data or the reasoning that supports that?
Nothing else matters to me. I say we know Santorum would be a much better president than Romney. His social conservatism and his hawkishness are far from being as out there as people have suggested . . . moreover, the type of Republican Congress we are likely to get in victorys case would easily restrain him on both issues.
And we know that Romneys ability to win is also shaky. A case can be made that it is even more shaky.
Today Ross Douthat tries to explain why Santorum would have trouble winning the general election. Basically at the top level of competition represented by a presidential election, Santorum is a rhetorical clod who has a great deal of trouble talking to people who don’t already agree with him. In theory, he has the potential to be a Catholic, Rust Belt, Mike Huckabee, but he just isn’t that likeable (unless you are already pulling for him) and he isn’t very good at picking how he makes his case. I would add for my part that Santorum has worked harder at crafting a federal-level issue agenda in 2012 that Huckabee did in 2008. Douthat argue that the voters would reject Santorum and that the political class and much of the public would interpret that as a rejection of social conservatism. Douthat doesn’t have data, but I think he expresses a gut feeling shared by a lot of people who share Santorum’s basic policy preferences. I suspect that is part of the reason why lots of conservative (to include social conservative) politicians like Bobby Jindal, Bob McDonnell and Scott Walker have either endorsed some other candidate (including the Romneycare guy) or nobody.
Reihan Salam reminds us that the stakes in this election are huge. The longer Medicare stays unreformed and the longer Obamacare stays on the books and is consolidated, the harder it will be to enact right-leaning reforms. That isn’t an implied argument for Romney. Does anyone know anyone who thinks Romney believes the policy related things he says? I guess one can argue that, over the last four years, people have already heard every criticism of Romney a bunch of times and that he is till standing, while Santorum hasn’t faced nearly the same critical scrutiny. Maybe, but Romney seems to be trying to win some kind of bet about how he can win the Republican nomination without making any kind of convincing case for himself and just tear down his opponents.
Maybe none of them are the right choice. Maybe we just suck it up and stand up for whatever flawed (perhaps fatally) flawed candidate we get. Fine. I do agree with Carl that, if facing a constrained choice, I would prefer Santorum to Romney for all the reasons Carl mentions.