Rick Santorum gave a fine speech today at the Detroit Economic Club. However, it was a speech that did not seize the moment. He did not have any new fresh economic policy proposals; he stuck mostly to phrases and slogans, some of which were pretty good, such as “President Obama is keeping our oil and gas in the ground to protect us, whereas he should be taking it out of the ground to enrich us.” While Santorum hasn’t achieved a sustained front-runner status, it is within his grasp. He should have used this speech to say something sharp about the economy and escape the distraction that he is vulnerable to because of his own words regarding contraceptives and other social issues.
At this point, all of the GOP candidates who have had their time in the spotlight have either stumbled out of it like Gov. Rick Perry or have not broken out, like Mitt Romney could have or as Newt Gingrich predicted he would. Is the GOP front-runner position somehow cursed? In the Republican laws of political physics, “front-runner” is supposed to mean victory in our presidential nominating contest. So far, it hasn’t fit anyone.
For the first time in 2012, I believe the Obama forces are enjoying themselves. I don’t believe that they believe they really have a lift from the economy; I believe they are becoming convinced that they could face a flawed opponent. It is a mistake to think that this early in the campaign for the general election, but I’m sure it’s irresistible given the display that they are witnessing in the Republican contest.
For the first time, it is more than just gossip that Republican leaders would like to see a different candidate. Experienced and savvy GOP leaders are studying the calendar and the convention rules that could make a new nominee possible. This is probably impossible, but the fact that it’s really taking place could only delight the Obama forces.