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Right Turn
Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 02/19/2012

Is Santorum the Sharon Angle of 2012?

Two stories surfaced last week that amount to a loud vote of no confidence in Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee. ABC News reports that a top Republican senator wants a new choice if Santorum wins Michigan. Why? “ ‘He’d lose 35 states,’ the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich.”

This senator is not alone. Mike Allen reports:

A tippy-top Republican, unprompted, . . . sketched the germ of a plan for a new candidate if Rick Santorum upsets Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28. Our friend brought visual aids: chicken-scratched versions of prosaic documents that are circulating among GOP insiders like nuclear-code sheets: In case of mayhem, break glass!
Most reporters still think Romney “will find a way to win Michigan.” Nevertheless, some of the nation’s most powerful Republicans are poring over filing deadlines and pondering worst-case scenarios.
Our friend handed us a printout of FEC deadlines for ballot access, with five of them circled and starred: California (March 23), Montana (March 12), New Jersey (April 2), New Mexico (March 16) and South Dakota (March 27). The point: Even after Feb. 28, it might be possible to assemble a Hail Mary candidacy that could garner enough delegates to force a CONTESTED convention (a different nuance than BROKERED, which implies that someone is in charge).

In other words: “Whom are we kidding? We’ll get slaughtered with Santorum as the nominee.”

You see, right-wing, socially conservative pundits don’t actually have to win elections, but experienced senators and party operatives who know how to win races outside Republican strongholds aren’t putting their heads in the sand. Santorum’s views and persona have limited appeal in a general election, and they know it.

There are, of course, many problems with the knight-in-shining-armor plan. Romney wouldn’t necessarily get out of the race, and the not-Santorum vote would then be subdivided. A new candidate who actually wants to run and hasn’t stood up the party at the altar would have to be located. And the knight might not be so popular with actual voters.

But put that aside for the moment. There is no “back-up” plan circulating if Romney wins. The assumption is that he’d do fine in a general election, so there’s no need to find a knight to block him from the nomination. But for Santorum, the opposite is true: His nomination, experienced Republicans know, would sink the party.

But, but — you say — these people were the ones who wanted Charlie Crist instead of now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). But, really, Santorum is no Marco Rubio. Whereas Rubio expands the party’s base of support, Santorum shrinks it. Whereas women, independents and young people see Rubio as a forward-looking reformer, Santorum seems stuck in a time warp from a different era, someone chasing issues that were “lost” decades ago.

Republicans should remember 2010. Republicans could well have had control of the Senate had they not nominated characters such as Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Ken Buck — fire-breathing Tea Partyers, who were unable to win in swing or blue states.

Those Republicans scurrying for a back-up plan don’t want to lose the White House (and likely the House, in the event of a landslide) as they did Senate seats in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado. Voters concerned about electability should take note.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 02/19/2012

 
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