Democrats for Santorum

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As Michigan went to the polls today in what seems to be one of the tightest races so far, Rick Santorum launched a last-minute effort to win over a group that has perhaps been ignored in the Republican primaries so far: Democrats.

Santorum’s campaign has funded a ‘robocall’, targeted at Democratic Michigan households, that says:

Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street, billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it.

While this has drawn inevitable opprobrium from Romney, his criticism of the calls has centred around the idea that this tactic is somehow off limits; that such calls fall under the category of ‘dirty tricks’. This is a miscalculation by the Romney camp for two reasons. First, it leaves him open to charges of hypocrisy, having previously touted his own tactical voting in another party’s primary. But more importantly, it focuses on the action itself, rather than its implication that Democrats would rather Santorum take Michigan than Romney.

It seems ridiculous that any Democrat would ever want to cast a vote for Rick Santorum; a man whose right-wing views on gay marriage, contraception and abortion hardly chime with those of the left. However, the Democrats who received phone calls from the Santorum campaign over the past couple of days may have been planning to switch allegiance at the booth in order to vote for him anyway, and despite what the Santorum campaign says, it isn’t due to his cross-party appeal.

Earlier this month, the left-leaning website The Daily Kos lauched ‘Operation Hilarity’ – a campaign to get Democrats living in the ‘open’ primary and caucus states to cast a vote for Rick Santorum in their state. Their reasoning for this is simple; Mitt Romney is still the candidate most likely to gain the Republican nomination, so any organised support for another candidate will work to extend the contest, depriving him of time and resources that he could have used against Obama in the general election. Add to this the fact that as the race goes on, Romney’s popularity continues to fall, and a vote for Santorum seems like the smartest thing an Obama supporter could do.

The issue of Romney’s popularity raises a question, however. If Romney’s approval has become so low, in conjuncture with Santorum’s surge, what if  ‘Operation Hilarity’ leads to the Republicans electing a more viable candidate than the one they would originally have chosen? What if this attempt at sabotage indirectly leads to the election of President Santorum; an administration that would leave left-wingers nostalgic for the days of George W. Bush?

The simple fact is that, for all his Tea Party support, the idea of a Santorum presidency is as unlikely as it is horrifying. He ranks far to the right of the rest of the country on social issues of all sorts, warning of the ‘dangers of contraception‘ and comparing homosexuality to bestiality. He lost his last Senate election by 700,000 votes in the biggest loss for an incumbent in 26 years, and spoke of wanting to vomit on reading John F. Kennedy praising the separation of church and state. Essentially, the very extremism that enthuses the grassroots far right would produce a coalition, stretching from moderate Republicans to those to the left of the Democrats, uniting behind Obama simply to keep Santorum out of office.

Santorum’s surge (however Democrat-fuelled) leaves the Republicans in an unenviable position. Either they nominate Romney, bruised, battered and rather poorer, after a campaign that has seen his popularity wane at an alarming rate; or they nominate Santorum, and risk a result reminiscent of Barry Goldwater in 1964. With such a choice, it is perhaps unsurprising that calls for a ‘white knight’ candidate to enter the fray at this late stage have grown in frequency and volume. Although Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich remain in the race, the prospect of a Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan or Mitch Daniels is a great deal more attractive than the current field to many in the GOP.

Matt Dowd of ABC said earlier that:

If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment, it’s just going to shake things to their very core.

This shock to the core may just be enough to force the Republicans to act, and euthanise a field that looked weak at the beginning of the campaign, and now seems simply laughable. Santorum said yesterday that he thought he was going to ‘surprise a few people‘ with his showing in Michigan. If he eventually does manage to secure the nomination, a rather stronger word would be needed to describe anything other than a Democratic landslide come November.

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About ourfriendsinthewest

A British take on American politics.

2 responses to “Democrats for Santorum”

  1. sekanblogger says :

    Santorum thinking ANY Democrat would vote for him just shows how entirely disconnected from reality he is.
    Ricky is the antithesis of everything democratic.

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