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The case against Rick Santorum

at 03:10 PM ET, 04/15/2011


Former senator and likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at a Tax Payer Tea Party Rally in Concord, N.H., earlier today.( REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Yesterday we looked at the reasons why former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum could be a major player in the 2012 Republican presidential race.

Today, we argue the opposite case.

* History: Republicans have a long history of picking candidates they are very familiar with — often people who have run for president before and lost. People aren’t familiar with Santorum, and he’s got a reputation as a wild card. With so much on the line for a Republican Party hell-bent on beating President Obama in 2012, it would be entirely uncharacteristic of GOP voters to hand the keys to a candidate as untested on the national presidential stage as Santorum.

* Electability: Republicans saw what happened when they nominated someone who is too conservative in 2010 (Christine O’Donnell, anyone?) and many are wary of putting such a far-right conservative on the ticket as the Republican presidential nominee. If Santorum was too conservative for Pennsylvania, after all, how can he expect to win in a bunch of swing states in 2012? He doesn’t need to prove his conservative credentials as much as he needs to prove that he is a candidate capable of beating Obama. And that’s a tough hill to climb.

* His 2006 loss: Yes, almost every other major potential Republican presidential candidate has a loss under his or her belt, but none were more embarrassing or are as fresh in the minds of Republican voters as Santorum’s 18-point loss in 2006 to now-Sen. Bob Casey (D). Put simply: a talented politician is not supposed to lose that badly, no matter the circumstances. Santorum’s people rightly point out that 2006 was a tough year for Republicans, but just how tough was it? Republicans familiar with the race note that polling showed Santorum struggling well before it became clear that the environment had turned against the GOP. And other potential presidential candidates won under similar circumstances; Tim Pawlenty won reelection as governor of Minnesota in 2006 and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels won in 2008 despite his state going for President Obama. That 2006 loss is the big hurdle for Santorum with donors.

* Lost in the crowd: While the leading potential GOP presidential candidates may not be in as well with the conservative arm of the GOP as Santorum, Santorum is not the only candidate looking to ride tea party support to the nomination. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) very much fits that mold and Bachmann is far more of a “rockstar” than Santorum. It’s hard to see how Santorum, as a former U.S. senator (read: establishment), appeals to such voters more than these other candidates do. If it was Santorum and a bunch of standard-issue governors, then Santorum might have a shot. But the more tea party candidates that are in the race, the harder is become for Santorum to break through the clutter.

 
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