If Paul Winning Will Marginalize Iowa, Santorum Will Do Worse...
I recently noticed a slew of articles taking shots at the Iowa caucuses that seemed awfully coincidental with polls showing that Ron Paul had a good shot at winning them. Here's one. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Iowans will suffer if they vote for Paul, such as this one, from the New York Post, along with another from Yahoo. Here's Chris Wallace weighing in.
Now it seems that Rick Santorum is rising in the polls, as an alternative to Romney. Politico confirms this.
The whole "Iowa better not vote for Paul" meme is based largely on how Paul supposedly isn't going to win the general election against Obama or even the Republican primary. However, that argument applies even more strongly to Santorum for the following reasons:
*Santorum lost his U.S. Senate seat by a huge margin in 2006. Read all about it here. I remember a lot of mockery about Al Gore losing his home state in 2000. If Gore had won Tennessee and its 11 electoral votes, he'd have beaten Bush, Florida or not. Come the general election, Obama can bring this up to attack Santorum. And all the stuff Casey used to slam Santorum can be used by Obama for the same purpose.
*Meanwhile, a surprisingly successful Internet campaign has made the top search for "Santorum" a rather gross sexual thing. Check out the Wikipedia article for more. That's going to make it even harder for people to take him seriously and can you imagine all the awkward questions kids who do an Internet search for him because he's the presidential nominee are going to ask their parents?
*Santorum said he would launch a military strike on Iran if they did not admit inspectors to their nuclear sites. Given how Obama got elected in part because he said he would end the Iraq War, even threatening to launch a new war (or even something equivalent to an old-school punitive expedition and not an outright invasion/occupation) is not going to go over well with the electorate at all.
*Santorum's very socially conservative views cost him in Pennsylvania and they're going to cost him in the general election. For example, the public is growing more supportive of gay marriage, something Santorum is strongly against. I am willing to say that a decade ago, a show like Modern Family featuring a gay couple adopting a child and being generally liked by everybody wouldn't have been made, and neither would the show Glee. Meanwhile, he has advocated against contraception. Given that Santorum is a conservative Catholic, him holding that view makes sense, but I don't think someone who intends to use his role as president to denounce contraception is going to be all that popular with female voters, especially since hormonal birth control is used to treat menstrual cramps and other conditions. Santorum has specifically criticized the mandate for insurance companies to cover birth control, but this is something that's proven rather popular.
The United States has been growing more and more social liberal in recent years, something that's backed up by The Emerging Democratic Majority and Whistling Past Dixie: How the Democrats Can Win Without the South. Santorum's social conservatism, regardless of whether it's morally right or not, is going to be lethal in the general election if he gets the Republican nod.
Now, I am not suggesting someone be so unprincipled as to decide on their morals due to opinion polls, but the purpose of the Republican primary is to choose the best candidate to defeat Obama in 2012. If Ron Paul's views, the racist newsletters that went out under his name, etc. make him unelectable and if his un-electability will discredit the Iowa caucus, then electing Santorum will do the same thing--only worse.