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Post Partisan
Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 02/23/2012

Rick Santorum loses ‘true conservative’ crown at Arizona debate


Rick Santorum loves to lecture his fellow Republican presidential candidates on their lack of principles. He talks of how he is the guy who has been a consistent and reliably conservative. How he is the man whose candidacy was propelled by the power of principle. All that came crashing down at last night’s debate in Arizona in his answer to criticism of his support of No Child Left Behind.

I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sports, folks, and sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.

No wonder Santorum got booed.

After the Tampa debate last month, Santorum’s campaign crowed that he “stood alone as the one candidate ready and able to stand firm, stand tall, and effectively implement conservative principles as our next commander-in-chief.” The former Pennsylvania senator slammed Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich because “They rejected conservatism when it was hard to stand.” He said, “In 2006, I talked about the issues that we are all talking about today while a lot of folks crouched down. There is one thing worse than losing an election, it’s not standing for the principles you hold.”

The morning after his victories in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, Santorum continued that line of attack on CNN. Listen to how Santorum responds to a jab from Donald Trump about losing his Senate seat by 18 points.

A lot of folks lose races, but I didn’t lose, unlike Governor Romney, my principles. I stood up and fought for what I believed in, in a very tough election year....
We stood by what we fought for, which was entitlement reform. I talked about the fear I had of a nuclear Iran at the time when no one wanted to hear about Iran. I talked about Social Security reform. I talked about deficits that were coming down the line and no one back then was talking about those things. So, I’ll stand by my record. I’ll stand by what I fought for. I stand by the fact I wasn’t a well-oiled weather vane that was out there looking for where the American public is going. I stood by principle, and I’ll do that as president.

Republican primary voters have made it clear that they want a principled conservative to carry their banner and take the fight to President Obama. Romney’s inability to convince them that he is that person has stripped the aura of inevitabilityoff his nomination quest. Now that Santorum has admitted that he was willing to “take one for the team” on an issue conservatives care about, his days as the “true conservative” alternative to Romney are numbered.

By  |  10:04 AM ET, 02/23/2012

 
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