Santorum: another nonRom, or something more?

We are in the middle of The February Lull… in the once frenetic and soon-to-be manic once more Republican Party primary campaign, of course.

Until Arizona and Michigan on 28th Feb, and Super Tuesday thereafter, the only excitement for this Wannabe Yank comes from the possibility of changing results past, a la Iowa, and indeed it seems Romney’s narrow win in Maine may – or of course may not – be under threat as a recount takes place.

In the meantime, I enjoyed this opinion piece in the Washington Post today by Michael Gerson, who suggests that whilst Santorum’s surge is in line with that of previous nonRoms, there are good reasons to think it’s a surge that could become a swell. Santorum is Romney’s most serious challenger to date, thinks Gerson, because:

Perry did not possess presidential-level skills. Cain lacked any apparent qualification for high office. Gingrich managed to systematically confirm every doubt about his style and stability.

But not only is Santorum less bad than the other lot, he may actually be pretty good:

Santorum, in contrast, has shown the ability to learn. While his initial debate performances were peevish and unappealing, he has grown more confident and likable over time. He has effectively prosecuted Romney’s public record while avoiding anger or overreach. (He pointedly refused, for example, to attack Romney’s business achievements and personal wealth.)

And of course last but not least, Santorum is a nonRom:

The former Pennsylvania senator possesses strengths that neatly fit some of Romney’s weaknesses. Santorum combines a deeply held social conservatism with an authentic blue-collar appeal. Romney has trouble competing in either category.

But not mad, familiar or chaotic enough to be a threat to the GOP establishment, as Gingrich was:

While Santorum is very conservative, he avoids being a conservative caricature. He was one of the Senate’s main advocates of global health programs and a champion of faith-based anti-poverty efforts.

The conclusion Gerson finishes with is that Romney’s campaign may, as it has with previous nonRoms, pinpoint Santorum’s weak spots and pound him into submission, but this leaves voters without a sense of what Mitt actually stands for. Romney’s campaign ‘remains short on aspiration’ and is ‘…a campaign – but not a cause’.

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