The Strange Sticking Power of Rick Santorum
The Topic Least Talked About
by Laura Flanders
March 8, 2012
Mitt, money, Christians and rage. That list just about sums
up the deciding factors in the GOP presidential race Super
Tuesday, at least in the view of the pundits.
"What is wrong with Romney? He's just not connecting!"
After an hour of insights like that from MSNBC, CNN and Fox,
I headed to bed, even before "more number crunching by our
experts" and "How Sarah Palin cast her vote!"
What explains the surprising strength of Rick Santorum in
the GOP primary race? While everyone rightly bemoans the
power of money in politics, it doesn't seem to be about the
money. Santorum's holding steady despite being radically
outspent. In the run up to Super Tuesday, Governor Romney's
side reportedly spent eleven times as much as their opponent
on Super PAC attack ads. It's not democratic, it's stirring
up random rage, but it's not working all that brilliantly.
All that cash, and Romney only won Ohio by a sliver.
The Christians then. On Tuesday night, Michael Moore wasn't
the only one warning of a Santorum crusade. The Christian
Right have often been good at running effective ground
operations at low cost and there's no denying the evil aims
of Santorum's anti-pill pals. But the Christian Right is not
the political power it once was and Santorum's machine is
not so slick, certainly not in Ohio. There, Santorum's lot
couldn't even meet the deadlines to register a full slate of
delegates across the state. So what oh what, oh what could
explain the strange sticking power of Rick Santorum?
As they exited polling stations across Ohio, more than half
of all voters told pollsters the economy was their biggest
concern. Could it be that, just down the road, the shuttered
stores on Main Street have something to do with it?
Employment's up slightly in Ohio this year. Statewide
unemployment sits officially at a relatively low 7.7 percent
(compared to the national rate.) But shocks like the ones
that hit Ohio, North Dakota and the other Super Tuesday
states over the last decade are still very much in evidence.
Look back to the last presidential election, and the
Democratic candidates were vying for the nomination across a
landscape peppered with shuttered factories from Youngstown
to Toledo. Ohio lost a chilling 257,600 manufacturing jobs -
roughly a quarter of all such jobs - in NAFTA's wake and the
trade pact punched North Dakota farmers in the gut too.
A big part of how Obama gained support in states like these
was his pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade
Agreement. (Although in office, he quickly jettisoned all
that talk and signed more, similar pacts.) Rick Santorum
for all his sins, has the advantage of actually having voted
I know it's not as ratings-friendly as his position on sex,
(and it's an awkward topic for networks owned by
multinational corporations,) but in all those hours of so-
called reporting, it would have been interesting to hear the
word, even once. Among white voters in states like Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and across the manufacturing belt,
Santorum has one hell of a stick he could use to beat both
Obama and Romney. Whether he's using it is surely as
newsworthy as how Sarah Palin's voting. Or is it?
[Laura Flanders is the host of The Laura Flanders Show
coming to public television stations later this year. She
was the host and founder of GRITtv.org. Follow her on
Twitter: @GRITlaura. ]
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