Last night brought shining victory to the even more conservative alternative to the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney: Rick Santorum has won Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. That last one doesn’t really count, since it was a non-binding primary that does not award delegates for the national convention. The first two can be dismissed, too, because those states are evidently full of people who think Rick Santorum should be president. But the altar/alter boy cannot be stopped, and he vowed to take his campaign all the way to this summer’s convention in Tampa and, eventually, make it illegal for women to wear pants.
Conventional wisdom ascribes Santorum’s victory to evangelicals and Tea Partiers, a phrase that is rapidly becoming commenter code for “hicks.” As with Iowa, the Republican Party in Minnesota and Missouri is rural and religious—exactly the audience most receptive to Santorum’s message that, in a time of economic downturn and decreased world influence, what this country needs is more god.
Here’s a fun question: what is Rick Santorum’s position on job creation, the tax code, Iran, immigration or Citizens United v. FEC? No fair using the internet—you have to try to remember it yourself. Now, what is his position on gays? We’ve discussed this before, but Santorum is essentially a protest candidate—against secularism, against the “media elites” who give short shrift to his campaign, and especially against Mitt Romney.
That last guy is unconcerned. As his defeat in Missouri and Colorado and Minnesota became clear, Romney explained that he would be just fine, since he is richer than the last eight presidents combined. Actually, he explained that he didn’t need those states anyway. I quote the Times:
Mr. Romney’s aides played down the significance of the night, noting that he did not compete very hard, especially in Missouri, and adding that four years ago Senator John McCain had lost many state races before ultimately winning the nomination.
See? John McCain lost a bunch of primaries, and when the general election came around he did great. Besides being another rad instance of Romney tone-deafness, this assessment reminds us that opposing a Democrat and supporting a Republican are two different things. The contemporary GOP is definitely not into Barack Obama. As Romney oscillates with increased frequency between inevitability and defeat, however, it is clear that the contemporary GOP is not into him, either. Newt Gingrich does well in the area of not being Romney, but he loses points to Santorum in the area of not being Newt Gingrich. Santorum excels at both, although he fails in pretty much all other areas.
So it’s a horse race. Those of us who A) like Barack Obama better than all these guys and B) spend a lot of mornings trying to make the 2012 election funny are praying for a Santorum nomination. It won’t happen. Even in a year when the Republican Party has been so afflicted with oppositional-defiant disorder that they are against their own front-runner, Santorum is manifestly not ready. That is why his victory delights me so. He is an absurd candidate for an absurd party—one that has faith that if we just do everything differently, somebody will make it all better for us.