Au Revoir Santorum

So by now it’s obviously totally old news that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Republican primary 2012.  I’m going to point out that with no money, no organization, no personal charisma, no driving issues and in fact no real policy differences with the favorite, and in general no real positive credentials beyond conventional conservative credentials, religious fanaticism, and ability to speak without drooling, he STILL beat Mitt Romney ten times.   This has been commonly interpreted as a sign of Romney’s weakness, which in part it is…but I’m thinking along a slightly different line of argument. The conventional wisdom on Romney is that he would have folded like a house of cards against a candidate with both a conventionally strong resume and a record of reliable conservatism. 
I’m going to venture out on a limb and suggest that no such animal exists and, in fact, such a creature is theoretically impossible in America in 2012.  First, the obvious – if anyone existed who could have crushed Romney, he would have run.  But of course that’s not really a logically airtight argument, since all it really proves is that no one exists who obviously would have crushed Romney.  But let’s be clear: Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush (to name three) would have been destroyed in the primaries – each had crippling vulnerabilities.  I think Tim Pawlenty was probably dumb to drop out, since he had the best shot at claiming the “generic conservative” ground and would probably have been more effective at it than Santorum.
I think the issue here is that there is a huge contradiction, in the year 2012, between the two clauses of “conventionally strong resume” and “a record of reliable conservatism”.  The Republican Party has just shifted so far to the right over the last three years that no one who has accumulated a weighty resume and experience will meet the standard of orthodoxy.  Keep in mind, Romney was the conservative challenger to McCain in 2008.  Conversely, anyone who would meet the standard of orthodoxy will have had to work really hard to avoid engaging in actual governing.  The only candidate in this cycle who unambiguously met the orthodoxy standard was Michele Bachmann, whose opinions were so far out of the mainstream that her role in Congress consisted entirely of symbolic gestures.
Anyone who has had contact with the actual compromises of governance (and thus a resume!) ended up fatally flawed by the standards of Republican orthodoxy today.  Rick Perry, for my money the strongest challenger if he had just been less of a dolt, as governor had to deal with the reality that Texas had to deal with millions of illegal aliens rather than pretending they could just kick them out.  Rick Santorum voted for repeated, massive expansions of the deficit (the tax cuts weren’t held against him, though Medicare Part D was).  Newt Gingrich admitted that global warming existed.  Mitt Romney implemented what was at the time the conservative blueprint for America’s healthcare system. Herman Cain supported TARP.  At the time, many if not most current Republican primary voters supported these policies, but they don’t have to answer for their past beliefs – politicians do.
And so the ring went to the fatally flawed candidate with the best organization, the most money, and the best connections.  Am I making the countercounterintuitive suggestion he was in fact inevitable?  Er…maybe?

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