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Posted at 01:08 AM ET, 02/08/2012

Rick Santorum, beyond the sweater


Hand gestures! (SARAH CONARD - REUTERS)
What happened to the guy in the sweater vest?

Rick Santorum will not be ignored!

In fact that was the theme of his victory speech. He prevailed over Romney in Missouri’s so-called beauty pageant, which...I guess I can see? Santorum is one of those guys who will start looking like Jerry Seinfeld in two beers and Ryan Reynolds in eight.

The most telling moment of the Rick Santorum victory speech came early in the evening, as triumphant and brass-heavy orchestral music played and Santorum moseyed towards the stage. Someone in a sweater vest appeared. The crowd made an appreciative sound. But it wasn’t Santorum! He was wearing a suit jacket. And they still recognized him!

He’s in it.

The theme of his speech was “President Obama doesn’t listen.”

This is only one in a life’s worth of speeches that Rick Santorum has given complaining that people were not listening to him, and, predictably, he shone.

First Santorum spoke appreciatively about his family – “My wife Karen here – what a rock, what a rock through these last few weeks” – addressed his kids back home and his daughter Bella, thanking her for getting better, and praised the Tea Party people for working in the vineyards. At first I thought he’d failed to grasp how tea is grown, but it turned out that this was a Biblical reference. (None knows the hour of his coming, but then lo! Santorum is upon us, and until then, we toil in the vineyards, or something.)

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, that Obama is not listening to these cheers. “He thinks he knows better. He thinks he’s smarter than you. He thinks he’s a privileged person who should be able to rule over all of you.” It’s an argument Gingrich once attempted to make, but then everyone laughed hysterically at the idea of Newt Gingrich complaining about someone who thought he was smarter than you.

But now, it’s “Gingrich who?” Santorum was not even here to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. “I stand here,” he said, “to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Governor Romney’s great attribute, Santorum pointed out, is his money and organization. But in the fall, there will be someone else with money and organization. Therefore, Santorum argued, the GOP needs someone with less money and organization to fight him. Hey, it worked for David! Okay, the way he phrased it was slightly different. He suggested “someone with other attributes to recommend him to the American people.”

And then he twisted the knife. “I care about the very rich,” he said. “I care about the very poor… I care about 100 percent of America!” It seems so easy when he says it.

His main point, though, was that the government cannot give you rights. If the government gives them, the government can take them away and intrude in your lives. No, God gives you rights! God is already pretty invested in your life, from Santorum’s point of view, so it’s really not much trouble for Him to hop in and pick up the healthcare side of things as long as He’s sitting around making certain you’re not a homosexual.

Santorum’s pitch has always been old-fashioned. One would expect nothing less from a man whose sweater vest is his most constant companion. He spoke of the Declaration of Independence, to which the Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their “sacred honor.”

Sacred honor is not a term you hear flung around very much nowadays. Since Ms. Blackman, Honor has taken a bit of a downturn. But that’s what Santorum is all about – restoring the America of the Founders. Especially the honor bit. And, if he’s lucky, the parts where no one in the country has access to any form of birth control not available in Colonial times, and gay people not only can’t get married but are liable to be tried for witchcraft.

At the end, he tried for humor: “We’re not done with you yet!… You got a caucus coming up next month…go out and pledge -- no, not your lives, maybe your fortune, Rick Santorum.com is the website, but your honor… your honor is at stake.”

What is this, 1850? But it seems to be working — at least in states like Missouri and Minnesota, where the turnout is comparable to what might happen if you told people a place that Justin Bieber would not be.

As for Mitt Romney, you’d think he would be the one making an antiquated and peculiar pitch, but instead he came out and gave his usual rewarmed victory speech. For him, it was an evening of dismal leftovers, as he watched Missouri – even the beauty contest! – Minnesota, and Colorado slip through his fingers

He told a story about his father’s ability to spit nails out of his mouth and his time selling aluminum paint out of the trunk of his car. All in all, he seemed less angry than baffled.

“We got a long way to go,” he concluded, “and I sure love this country.” Proving people wrong is a favorite activity — “it’s a lesson I learned from my dad.”

The one lesson of the Mitt Romney campaign so far is that Mitt Romney’s dad would have been a great candidate for president, if only because he reminded voters more of Rick Santorum.

Rick’s in it, all right.

More on Rick Santorum’s sweep

Rogers: Does Santorum’s win spell the end for Gingrich?

Achenbach: Voters, not pundits or pollsters, decide elections

Rubin: The momentum swings again

By  |  01:08 AM ET, 02/08/2012

Tags:  Romney, Santorum, Election

 
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