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Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 02/21/2012

Santorum is too strident for this ‘center-right’ nation


Listening to the rhetorical red meat spewed by Rick Santorum over the weekend, I was reminded of the opening paragraph of a story by The Post’s Karen Tumulty from earlier this month. “The playbook for Republican presidential contenders goes at least as far back as Richard Nixon,” she wrote. “Run hard to the right in the primaries; steer back to the center for the general election.” Her piece was about the trouble Mitt Romney might have were he the nominee. Now that Santorum is poised to become a certified frontrunner, I find myself wondering if he would have the same trouble.

What Santorum and Rommney are doing is not a uniquely Republican strategy. Democrats do it, too. Like its far-right brethren in the GOP, the far left is the energy and lifeblood of the Democratic Party. You’ve got to win them over to get the nomination. But I’m convinced that Santorum’s comments of late go so far to the right that, even if he were to pivot back towards the center, he’d still be too far right for a nation that likes its leaders to hug the center as much as possible.

On contraception (from Jennifer Rubin at Right Turn): “One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act.”

On Obama and religion (from Fox News via ThinkProgess): “What they’ve done here is a direct assault on the First Amendment, not only a direct assault on the freedom of religion, by forcing people specifically to do things that are against their religious teachings. . . . This is a president who, just recently, in this Hosanna-Tabor case was basically making the argument that Catholics had to, you know, maybe even had to go so far as to hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues. This is a very hostile president to people of faith. He’s a hostile president, not just to people of faith, but to all freedoms.”

On pre-natal testing (from CNN.com): “One of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America," Santorum, a conservative Roman Catholic, told a Christian Alliance luncheon in Columbus. “Why? Because it saves money in health care. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.”

All this might play well with the evangelical base of the Republican Party, but I’m having a difficult time seeing how this red meat will be appealing to moderates and independents who actually decide general elections. More specifically, I cannot fathom how all this harsh talk about contraception and restricting its use is going to be a winner with women. They are 54 percent of voters nationally after all.

A well-placed Republican friend admonishes, “You’re thinking like a liberal!” He went on to say about Santorum, “The Left (in particular) would see his candidacy as a gift, but their arrogance presumes too much about how people are reading what Santorum is saying; after all, America is still a center-right nation. So while the way Rick says stuff or hell, even the stuff he says may not ‘appeal’ to them, it strikes a chord in their center-right nerve that doesn’t frighten them as much as one may think (or hope).”

That may be. And the counsel about liberal “arrogance” is well-taken. But if this is a center-right nation (an assertion I don’t exactly buy) then it’s the center that must win out. Anyone with a modicum of moderation in their political soul (read: most Americans) would not elect as strident a voice as Santorum’s to the presidency.

By  |  04:00 PM ET, 02/21/2012

Tags:  Election 2012

 
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