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Right Turn
Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 12/07/2011

Santorum warms them up, Huntsman leaves them cold

It was a study in contrasts. Rick Santorum talked extensively about the war against jihadist terrorism. He was relaxed and showed obvious affection for the crowd of pro-Israel, Jewish Republicans. He made a pitch for electing a conviction politician. Jon Huntsman, who followed, was largely greeted with stony silence. He bashed “nation building” and offered a few platitudes about standing with Israel. The bulk of his remarks talked abstractly about “leadership,” but leadership to do what?

Santorum is struggling to move up in the polls in Iowa. Although his speech at this candidates forum was to a Jewish crowd it would have played as well with Christian conservatives in Iowa. He forcefully declared that because our security is at stake, we must be the nation to prevent Iran from going nuclear. He debunked the idea that a nuclear-armed Iran could be contained. Mutual assured deterrence is an inducement for fundamentalist Islamists, he argued. He slammed the president for being inactive when the real Arab Spring began in Iran in 2009. He did run through his domestic positions, but his overriding message, aside from his dedication in fighting jihadism, was that he’s going to be someone the GOP can trust. Without attacking his rivals he made his case that he, not the frontrunners, best embodies the consistent conservative the base is looking for.

Huntsman did himself no good. He droned on at some length about his domestic record. He slammed his rivals, claiming he’s the only one who wouldn’t “contort himself into a pretzel” to get votes. (But didn’t he just change positions on cap-and-trade?) When he finally got around to foreign affairs, he offered thin gruel. He urged the United States to bring home our troops and stop all this nation-building. He referenced his experience in China, which is a sore point with Republicans who don’t trust a fellow who would work for the Obama administration. His delivery was stiff and pompous. Only a few audience members bothered to ask questions.

The lesson of these two speeches is simple: You really can’t fool informed voters. The candidates whose views just don’t match up with the voters are not going to get a free ride. Or even much applause.

By  |  10:54 AM ET, 12/07/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign, American Jews

 
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