Rick Santorum hasn’t been taken seriously as a contender for the 2016 Republican nomination. On Wednesday, my colleague Byron York posted a recent interview he conducted with the 2012 GOP runner up, and questioned this conventional wisdom. But I think the conventional wisdom about Santorum’s 2016 chances is correct.
There’s no doubt that Santorum surprised a lot of people with his late surge in Iowa and longevity in the 2012 primaries. But there are a lot of factors that propelled Santorum the last time around that won’t work to his favor the next time.
The most important factor is that the field is going to be a lot stronger. In 2012, Santorum only surged when a string of non-Mitt Romney candidates collapsed – Rep. Michele Bachman, R-Minn,; Gov. Rick Perry, R-Tex.,; Herman Cain; and Newt Gingrich. In 2016, there is going to be a significantly deeper bench of conservative candidates with strong pro-life records and the ability to talk about social issues.
Without the ability to strongly contrast himself with other candidates, Santorum will have the same problems as always – a long record of controversial statements, support for big government policies during the Bush era, and a political career that includes losing his Senate seat in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania by 18 points in 2006. Santorum is unlikely to repeat his 2012 performance, let alone build on it.