With Santorum launching one social issues bomb after another, there is no time to talk about the economy. Is this the Democratic Party’s dream, or what? In a national poll that came out today, Santorum is leading Mitt Romney by eight points among likely Republican voters. Can Republicans possibly be that foolish? Is it conceivable that a president with Obama’s lousy record could coast to victory, virtually by default, because the Republicans nominate a candidate who would rather talk about gynecology than debt? At the moment, that prospect does not seem far-fetched.Well, yeah, they could possibly be that foolish. But why is that? Hinderaker's colleague Scott Johnson understands why:
Mitt is an inspirational candidate. The problem is that what he inspires is intense apathy among a substantial number of conservatives and Republicans. They (we) resist him. Santorum is the recycled non-Romney who now benefits from this resistance. He may be the last non-Romney standing. Among the previous beneficiaries of the resistance to Romney are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Santorum, Gingrich and now Santorum again. The logic of a Romney candidacy has been insufficient so far to wear down the resistance of a large share of conservatives and Republicans.And Johnson makes an equally important point:
The inclination of Republican primary voters and caucus goers to support Gingrich or Santorum is not the sign of a character flaw or mental defect on their part. It is a sign that Romney is a problematic candidate for the party whose standard bearer he seeks to be. Decrying the failure of Republican voters for failing to fall in line behind him seems to me something less than a winning argument.
Yep. What we need to hear from Romney, and from his supporters, is the affirmative case for why Romney is a better candidate. We got a passing look at the Romney parade here in Minnesota a few weeks back and the result was a Santorum victory. I was in the caucus and I can tell you, the people who attended weren't wild-eyed True Believers or slack-jawed morons. They were my neighbors. They are concerned about many things, some of which Romney can address. But he needs to do a better job if he's ever going to make it. And he didn't make the sale among those who were gathered at Mounds View High School that day.
Hinderaker, to his credit, has written often and well concerning Romney's credentials. The problem is this: you have to go to the Powerline archives to read those pieces. What you see on the front page now is a frustrated guy savaging Romney's opponent. I understand the impulse -- half the fun of blogging is going after your opponents. But in the end, if you want to build a winning campaign, making the affirmative case is the better path. And if you have to make the same argument repeatedly, that's fine. The audience continues to change.