This must be part six in the ongoing saga of Savior Implosion, in which the GOP base, looking for someone more thrilling than Mitt Romney, touches on one who is much too exciting, and exciting in all the wrong ways.
This time, the savior would be Rick Santorum, last seen losing by 18 points in the 2006 midterms, who picked up the torch from the fading Newt Gingrich, who picked it up in his turn from three or four others, each of who promised to set the whole world on fire, but only flamed out by themselves.
But the sixth time isn’t the charm, as Santorum shows every sign of being just like the others, albeit in his own way. His own way is to take extreme stands on controversial and nuanced propositions, and make things still worse by the way he explains them, which makes blood enemies out of mild-mannered opponents, and makes even those on his side want to cringe.
This is his baggage, as much as the ex-wives of Newt Gingrich, and even more pertinent. “He has a video trail on social issues that may be about to devour him,” warns former Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), saying that even when people support him, “his mode of argument is often the most explosive” at hand.
These clips are time-bombs, primed to go off in the face of himself and his party.
And some of them already have.
For starters, Santorum said he “wanted to vomit” when he read John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston, when he promised not to impose the creed of his church upon others.
Santorum compared gay marriage to “man-on-dog” bestiality, suggested pre-natal screening was bad as it led to abortion, and suggested there was too much freedom in modern society, which might be curtailed by the government, all, of course, for our own good.
He may be one of the best friends ever of the abortion rights movement, as he makes it easy for the movement to demonize enemies. He has been lately serving the Democrats’ purpose by switching the argument to contraception, and away from religious freedom, Obama’s record, his health care reform bill, and jobs.
“With Santorum launching one social issues bomb after the other, there is no time to talk about the economy,” said John Hinderaker of Powerline. “Is this the Democratic Party’s dream [issue] or what?”
Polls consistently show “generic Republicans” leading Obama, but Santorum is anything but. As with Gingrich, he would be the issue in a race with Obama, which would be all-Rick, all-the-time.
As with Gingrich, he has few friends among the hundreds of people with whom he served in Congress, as he has been endorsed by just three. And if you think he’d fire up the Republicans’ base, wait till you see what he’d do to that of the Democrats.
Democrats might not cross the street to shake a stick at Mitt Romney. With Santorum, they would give till it hurt, work till they dropped, and crawl to attack him over hot, glowing coals.
With a new crop of stars rising fast who can unite the base and independents, and inspire them all, the last thing the party should do is be defined by a blast from the past, whose career never dealt with our current dilemmas.
It should let him go back to his prior retirement, from which he should never have strayed.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”