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Santorum's errors give Romney edge

It's been a wild ride, but the storyline of the Republican race remains remarkably simple and constant: It's Mitt Romney and the perishable pretenders.

Five have come and gone, if you count the Donald's aborted proto-candidacy. And now the sixth and most plausibly presidential challenger just had his moment -- and blew it in Michigan.

It's no use arguing that Rick Santorum won an equal number of Michigan delegates. He lost the state. Wasn't Santorum claiming a great victory just three weeks ago when he shockingly swept Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado -- without a single convention delegate being selected?

He was right. It was a great victory. Delegate counts were beside the point. These three wins instantly propelled him to the front of the field nationally and to a double-digit lead in Romney's Michigan backyard.

Then Santorum went ahead and lost it. Rather than sticking to his considerable working-class, Reagan-Democrat appeal, he kept wandering back to his austere social conservatism. Rather than placing himself in "grandpa's hands," his moving tribute to his immigrant coal miner grandfather as representative of the America Santorum pledges to restore, he insisted on launching himself into culture- war thickets: Kennedy, college and contraception.

He averred that John Kennedy's 1960 Houston speech on separation of church and state makes him "throw up." Whatever the virtues of Santorum's expansive view of the role of religion, the insulting tone toward Kennedy who, living at a time of frank anti-Catholic bigotry, understandably offered a more attenuated view of religion in the public square, was jarring, intemperate and utterly unnecessary.

As was his sneering at President Obama's wanting to open college to all. Santorum called that snobbery and an attempt at liberal indoctrination. Sure, there's a point to be made about ideological imbalance in higher education and about the dignity of manual labor. But to do so by disdaining the most important instrument of social mobility -- one that millions of parents devoutly desire for their children -- is simply bizarre.

Finally, the less said about contraception the better, a lesson Santorum refused to learn. It's a settled question. The country has no real desire for cringe-inducing admonitions from politicians about libertinism and procreative (versus pleasurable) sex.

The result of these unforced errors was Santorum's Michigan slide. His post-trifecta lead vanished. He forfeited a victory that would have shattered the Romney candidacy.

Santorum knows why. He's now recanted the Kennedy statement. And remember that odd riff with which he began his Michigan concession/victory speech? About three generations of Santorum women -- mother, wife, daughter -- being professional, strong, independent, i.e., modern? That was an unsubtle attempt to update his gender-relations image by a few decades.

Too late. Among men, Michigan was essentially a dead heat. But Santorum lost women by five percentage points -- and, with that, the race.

Social issues are what most deeply animate Santorum but 2012 is not the year they most animate the electorate. In Michigan, among those for whom abortion was the most important issue, Santorum won by a staggering 64 points. But they made up only 14 percent of the electorate. Seventy-nine percent cared most about the economy or the deficit. Romney won them by 17.

And, of course, he won overall. But only by three points, a weak showing in Romney's native state where his (former governor) father is legend and where Romney outspent Santorum 2-to-1.

The result should never have been that close. Romney won by default. Santorum had a clear shot and simply missed his mark.

It's not over. Super Tuesday could scramble the deck. But once again, the smoke clears and Romney remains -- slow, steady, unspectacular. The tortoise in the race, dull and methodical, with an awkward, almost endearing (note: almost), stiffness. In short, a weak front-runner in an even weaker field.

Hence the current Republican gloom, the growing Democratic cockiness. But the game is young. True, given the national mood and the state of the economy, Republicans should be far ahead. They've blown a significant lead. But the race is still 50-50.

Romney remains the presumptive nominee. His Michigan victory speech was jaunty, sharp and good. He'd advanced a serious plan for tax and entitlement reform four days earlier. Now he needs to (1) bite his tongue anytime the temptation arises to riff about class, money or cars (Cadillacs in particular), (2) ask George Bush 41 the proper way to eat pork rinds, (3) pray for yet more luck, the quality Napoleon famously valued in his generals above all others.

Email Charles Krauthammer at letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

Comments

portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

Washington Insider: Newt Gingrich? No, Rick Santorum, No, …Mitt Romney? Bingo! ““I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities,” Romney tells the group. And while Romney now often criticizes his opponents for being Washington insiders, in this video he touts his Washington connections. http://www.wmal.com/article.asp?id=2406051&SPID=28718

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portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

Massachusetts lost population for two years in a row during Romney’s term. That means the unemployment number went down because the denominator shrank, but that’s hardly a sign of a growing economy. Total jobs in Massachusetts were the same when he left office as when he started and many key industries actually lost jobs.” (Ben Adler, The Nation, 11/14/11)

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portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

REPATRIATED CORPORATE PROFITS (Estimated $1 - $3 trillion now overseas)

Santorum: Immediately reduce overseas income tax rate to zero ONLY IF overseas profits are used to create jobs inside the USA.

Romney: Transition to ‘territorial tax system’—zero tax on overseas U.S. corporations, continue 28% tax on corporations within U.S.

Gingrich: Immediately introduce 'territorial tax system--zero tax on overseas U.S. corporations, continue 15% tax on corporations within U.S.

Ron Paul: Immediately reduce overseas income tax rate to zero, same as corporate tax within U.S.

NOTE: In 1990s Congress reduced overseas rate to zero hoping overseas profits would be used to create jobs. But with no requirement to create jobs, the profits were actually used to pad dividend payments to stockholders. Santorum’s plan corrects this problem by requiring plant/equipment purchase inside USA before giving zero income tax reward

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portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

Romney threw money 6-to-1 at Santorum in an effort to crush his campaign after Rick's 3-state win Feb. 7th. Yet, even with that money advantage, without the prior votes from the Early Voting/Absentee Ballots, Santorum would have beat Romney handily in his own home state. Greta van Susteren calculated that to have the 10-to-1 money advantage over Obama that Romney would probably need to win, he will have to have a 'War Chest' of $3.6 Billion!

Following last night's Money Forum hosted by Mike Huckabee, both Huckabee and Charlie Gasparino enthusiastically discussed how 'impressive' Rick Santorum was answering probing questions about the banking crisis and jobs creation. Take another look at Rick Santorum's courageous, intelligent candidacy: Watch Rick Santorum make his case on NBC’s Meet the Press. http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/rick-santorum-makes-his-case/6giifeb

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portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul are all repeating an old error. In the 1990s Congress reduced the U.S. overseas corporate income tax rate to zero when the profits were brought home, hoping overseas profits would be used to create jobs. But with no requirement to create jobs, the overseas corporations actually used their repatriated profits to pad dividend payments to their stockholders.

Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul’s plans all repeat this error in their plans to repatriate the estimated $1 to $3 trillion in overseas U.S. corporate profits as President…giving the zero income tax reward to repatriated overseas profits with no restrictions, no strings attached. Will their plans work? History says ‘No, they won’t’.

Rick Santorum’s is the only plan that corrects this problem by requiring that repatriated profits are spent for plant/equipment purchases to be used for new factories inside the USA before they get a zero income tax reward.

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portcharlotte 2 years, 1 month ago

Romney and Gingrich often rely more heavily on the solutions of the 1980s and 1990s. But they fail to take into full account changes since then. Critical changes and drastically intensified problems that Reagan and Clinton did not have to deal with include the burgeoning population of Single Moms and their children. Forty percent of these families are below the poverty line, and need government assistance, adding heavily to the drain on our tax funds.

The loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs is also now much more serious, due to higher production costs in the U.S. resulting in higher prices for our goods, which therefore are not competitive with lower priced goods produced in China and elsewhere.

Vote for Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate who addresses traditional economic problems with the traditional Reagan solutions…but Rick also addresses newly emerged serious problems with innovative, private initiative solutions. Pick Rick, a strong Reagan conservative with innovative solutions for new problems of today and tomorrow. .

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