Rick Santorum is in trouble. Sure, polls indicate that he is on the rise in Iowa, now running fourth. But there is a ceiling- a relatively low ceiling- for a guy who seems to believe that marriage for all will cure what ails the United States, a land in which barely half of all adults now are married, a record low. And many of those couples are childless, not in the sort of marriage which would send a tingle up Santorum's leg.
But there is another problem with Santorum's goal of seizing the Repub nomination for President. In a hotel-restaurant in Pella, Iowa recently, the former Pennsylvania senator observed
The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern- and it's a legitimate one- that blue-collar workers, lower-income workers, are having a harder and harder time rising.
Sure, Santorum said "legitimate," rather than "justified," a higher bar to exceed. But just a guess here- those "lower-income workers" to whom he was referring are not the same as the "job creators" Republicans are infatuated with. Santorum then went on to note
We are not as income-mobile as even some western European countries, according to a lot of the data. So that is something that as Republicans we should be talking about and being concerned about.
Comparing the U.S.A. unfavorably in any way to a European (even western) European country is not very wise in his party. Old Europe! Freedom fries! Pampered Greek workers!
More subtle is his reference to "data." That would be statistics- as in facts. Don't look now, but Santorum may believe that human activity is related to global warming, though he wouldn't be so foolish as to admit it as every Repub contender vies to prove that he/she is more conservative, and oblivious to reality, than the other.
To be sure, Santorum's prescription, including taxation and deregulation, falls along the lines of right-wing orthodoxy. And in Pella, he did exclaim "President Obama is for income equality. That's socialism. It's worse yet, it's Marxism. I'm not for income equality. I'm not for equality of result- I'm for equality of opportunity."
In order: no, he's not (Goldman Sachs wouldn't permit it); no, it's not; no, it's not. But no Republican running for President can deliver a speech without suggesting that Barack Obama is a threat to the very existence of the nation. Further, judged in the context of his other remarks, Santorum's assurance that he is "not for income equality (but for) equality of opportunity" seems a lot like Democrats pleading "I'm for the troops" or a President from Chicago by way of Indonesia by way of Hawaii ending nationally televised speeches with "and God bless the United States of America."
Certainly, Democrats are for the troops- for body armor, veterans' benefits, and, in some cases, for making sure they aren't sent abroad to get killed- but the myth persists that somehow they're unpatriotic. And if I had devoted much of my adult life to public service and still were accused of being born in another country, I would end every sentence with "and God bless the United States of America."
As the only Republican in the race to have expressed discomfort with outsourcing American jobs abroad, Santorum
noted that the Wall Street Journal has criticized his idea for favoring one sector of the economy over others. He defended the plan, saying manufacturing jobs are the easiest to move overseas. “ Vermeer can move to China,” he said, referring to a leading Pella machinery manufacturer. “This hotel can’t. And therefore, we need to make sure we compete so Vermeer doesn’t move to China.”
Santorum is bidding for the nomination of a party which, fifteen months ago, blocked an effort by Senate Democrats to increase taxes on companies that move jobs abroad and reduce them on companies which brought them back from overseas. Not only is encouraging American companies to increase American jobs a sure-fire loser with the party's corporate base, it is not a sure-fire winner among with the voter base. Ask Newt Gingrich, who responded to Mitt Romney's criticism of him over his ties to Freddie Mac by asserting “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain Capital, that I would be glad to listen to him.” George Will accused Gingrich of being "the least conservative candidate" in part for charging Romney with "committing acts of capitalism"; and with the mainstream media gushing over Gingrich's uncharacteristic good sense and candor, the former House Speaker tanked in the polls.
Rick Santorum is an extremist on a wide-range of issues, including the environment, taxes, foreign policy and, especially, cultural issues. But he is energized primarily by a kind of old-fashioned approach to American culture, as someone fervently opposed to abortion rights, gay rights, and unmarried life. Coupled by a modicum of interest in the middle class (politically incorrect with the Republican hierarchy), Santorum, if he gains significant traction, would present a serious threat to the GOP establishment.