The Hawkeye Cauci have arrived, and tonight we’ll watch in breathless anticipation to see which presidential candidate will walk away with the lion’s share of the precious 25 delegates being awarded tonight – a critical two percent of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Rick Santorum has climbed up the polls and is a serious threat to finish third, if not win the caucus outright. And as with all candidates who have experienced a burst in popularity, the knives have come out for Santorum. Yesterday I linked to Alan Colmes’s disgusting mockery of the manner in which Santorum and his family mourned the loss of their child, but that is just a taste of the attacks that Santorum has experienced in the previous few days and will experience if he continues to be a somewhat viable candidate.
In particular the blog Red State has run a number of blog posts in recent days that have, to put it mildly, been very critical of Santorum. Just scroll through the link and you can see that Erick Erickson in particular has been a busy beaver. Now most (though not all) of the contributors to the blog are pro-Perry and they see Santorum as a threat mainly to Perry. And for what it’s worth, I am sympathetic to Red State’s views. Though I certainly think people should vote for the candidate they feel is best, as a Perry supporter myself I lament that Santorum will do more to divide the conservative vote and help nominate Romney than anything else. Rick Perry is much better suited for a long run at the nomination than Santorum, so I have mixed feelings about Santorum’s rise in the polls as he is my second choice for the nomination. In fact I’d be ecstatic if either Rick won, yet both candidates are basically evenly dividing the not-Mitt vote with Gingrich.
Red State’s takedowns of the other candidates, especially Ron Paul, have been very good. The anti-Santorum stuff, on the other hand, has been very weak tea. There’s but the vaguest hint of a scandal with a company that Santorum was associated with, and this attack on Santorum about not believing the President to be a Chief Executive is nitpicky at worst, and smells of desperation. The most effective criticisms revolve around the issues I brought up in this post from about a month ago. In particular, this post simply linking to Santorum’s video endorsement of Arlen Specter is just damning.
Santorum defenders have pointed out that he admitted that this was a mistake, and I’ve personally always thought that this issue was overblown. That said, the primary defense of Santorum’s endorsement is itself fairly weak. I’ve read it in multiple sources, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll cite Creative Minority Report:
But last year in an interview with the Spectator, Santorum admitted the endorsement was a mistake.
“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” he said. “I’ve admitted that. But you’ve gotta understand what my thinking was at the time. We had a 51-49 majority in the Senate. George W. Bush was up for a tough re-election fight. My sole focus was, how do we secure our majority, related most importantly to how could we confirm up to three Bush nominees to the Supreme Court.So let’s just get this right. Santorum’s decision to endorse Specter was one that would further the pro-life cause to get judges confirmed.
Remember, at the time of the endorsement Democrats were filibustering conservative federal judicial nominees and paying little or no political price. Republicans wanted to keep their slim majority and were afraid that Toomey, who didn’t have the name recognition he has now, wouldn’t win against a good campaigner in Democrat Congressman Joe Hoeffel.
If Toomey would’ve beaten Specter in the primary and lost in the general election we can’t know what would’ve become of the nominations of judges John Roberts or Samuel Alito. Santorum has said that Specter promised him that he would support George W. Bush’s judicial nominations. And he did. That support helped get Samuel Alito and John Roberts onto the Court. So one could argue that Santorum’s seeming defection helped put pro-lifers on the court.
I agree with Santorum that it was a mistake. It can be argued, however, that he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. I consider it a failing but the good news is that so does he. Politicians, like all of us, make mistakes. We’re electing human beings who make mistakes sometimes. But Rick Santorum made a mistake for the right reasons. His core principles are aimed at advancing the culture of life.
The problem with this defense, especially the bolded section, is that Specter was not needed to put Roberts and Alito on the Court. Republicans wound up with a more sizeable majority in the wake of the 2004 election. Furthermore, Roberts was confirmed with 78 votes, and Alito with 58. Neither man needed Specter. Now, it could plausibly be argued that Specter at least helped get Alito moved to a floor vote, but that’s doubful. Both men, with or without Specter, would have been confirmed. Moreover, we don’t know that Pat Toomey wouldn’t have won the general election. After all, Toomey was elected to the Senate just this past year. 2004 wasn’t quite as favorable to Republicans as 2010, but it was still a good GOP year.
As it turns out Arlen Specter was a critical vote during his last term – as the 60th vote for Obamacare. And it’s not like nobody could have seen such a betrayal coming. After all, Specter was one of the prime reasons that Robert Bork never made it to the Supreme Court – thus helping to keep Roe as the law of the land. So it’s not as though Santorum’s endorsement is only foolish in hindsight.
As I’ve said, his endorsement of Specter is not disqualifying, but it’s not nothing either. But if that’s the best that his critics can come up with, then Santorum might have some juice left in this campaign after tonight.
Assuming he can move to the other 49 states like he’s basically done with Iowa.