Rick Santorum: Rebranded or Receding?

I’m not a big fan of getting into the endless discussions on distant presidential election fields, and I’m certainly not a fan of Rick Santorum, who I believe to be a horrible person. But I was mildly intrigued by some extensive comments he made to the Associated Press about a possible second presidential run during an interview about his latest book.

He’s still quite obsessed with decrying sex — an obsession that made him famous initially as a U.S Senator — and in the new book blames poor voters for having too much consequence-free sex. But he also seems to be staking a clear position as the “Big Government Republican” wing’s standard-bearer, much in the way that George W. Bush was, and against the Paul/Cruz libertarian wing.

Anxiety among those voters remains high, and Republicans have for too long talked to the top earners and not the workers.

“A rising tide lifts all boats – unless your boat has a hole in it. A lot of Americans, we’ve got holes in our boats,” Santorum said. “Millions and millions of Americans (are) out there who want good lives but have holes in their boats. … They just see the water level going up and their boat sinking.”

That’s why, he argues, candidates need to put forward policies to help those voters.

“I’m looking at 2014 and I’m thinking the Republican Party is heading toward No-ville, which is `we’re against this, we’re against that, we’re against this.’ We’re not painting a positive vision for America,” Santorum said in the interview.

[…]
“There’s a strain within the Republican Party now that smacks of the no-government conservatism,” Santorum said. “That wasn’t Ronald Regan. It wasn’t Teddy Roosevelt. It wasn’t Abraham Lincoln. It wasn’t any Republican that I’m aware of. It wasn’t Calvin Coolidge. And yet there seems to be this creation of this strain of conservatism that has no basis in conservatism.”

Santorum said Republicans should respect Reagan, but he doubted the former president would offer the same policies today that he did during the 1970s and 1980s.

 
(N.B. Calvin Coolidge was 100% the embodiment of “no-government conservatism” so I have no idea what he’s talking about there…)

If he decides to run again, this puts him in a bad spot with a lot of Republican primary voters these days, which he seems to know. So, it could be a hail-mary pass to try to rally a lot of unusual primary voters who want an interventionist government (that helps the “right” and “deserving” people, of course) and care about social justice, in the same religious vein he does.

But it’s probably incompatible with “Gospel of Wealth”-style Protestants and the libertarian/tea party-style Republicans who still dominate much of the party’s primary process. It’s also badly incompatible with the Big Business Republicans who kept his 2012 presidential hopes alive despite a mess of a campaign committee.

So, this may not be a rebranding, so much as another way to cash in while there’s still some amount of attention on him, before ultimately opting not to run. Comments like “Yeah, I don’t know if I can do this. It’s just tough,” are not usually associated with people who decide to run after playing coy. (If the campaign is tough, being president is tougher.) And he’s got a reasonably successful private sector career now, making Christian-themed movies. Plus, he’s still (quite reasonably) very concerned about the health of his youngest daughter who has a severe genetic disorder that may not allow him much more time with her.

If I had to guess, I’d say he won’t run again, but it’s always hard to predict these things because circumstances change and people get pressured in or out of the race unexpectedly. But to me it sounds like he’s pretty much pulling the plug on running and just wants to be a “thought leader” in the party (which I don’t expect will work out too well).

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and is a Senior Editor for The Globalist. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.
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