Get Ready For More Rick Santorum In 2016

Rick Santorum looks to be getting ready to hit the campaign trail again, but it's doubtful he can find appeal beyond the religious conservatives who supported him in 2012.

Rick Santorum

If anyone has the right claim the status as the guy who came in second place in the race for the Republican nomination in 2012, it is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. While he was not given much of a shot when the race began, Santorum managed to end the race with the second highest level of total votes throughout the entire primary process and winning the second highest number of primaries or caucus. When things got to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, that didn’t exactly translate into the second highest number of delegates in the final count, a status that went to former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, but that was largely because most of the states ended up giving all their delegates to Mitt Romney as a sign of unity regardless of how the primary or caucus in their state had gone. Granted, those numbers become far less impressive one you realize that Romney had won roughly 10,000,000 votes and 37 states while Santorum had won less than 4,000,000 total votes and come in first place in 11 states while gaining second place in 15 others and third place in the final 17 contests and that Newt Gingrich was only 1.2 million votes behind Santorum in popular votes. (Source)

Some have suggested that, because of this, he qualifies as the Republican “heir apparent” for 2016, but that designation is questionable largely because, even if you consider the numbers that Santorum racked up in 2012 to be impressive, the reality is that the former Senators appeal throughout the campaign remained limited to a very specific segment of the Republican Party. Unlike previous “next in line” Republicans, there was never any sign that Santorum would be able to obtain crossover appeal from people who were voting for Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, or, most importantly, Mitt Romney. In the two years that have passed since the race for the 2012 Republican nomination, there’s really no indication that Santorum’s appeal has evolved beyond this limited segment of the GOP, and there are several other potential candidates who also appeal to the same religious and social conservatives who arguably would give Santorum a run for his money.

Despite all of that, Santorum seems to be gearing up for another run at the White House, and of course he thinks he can win:

Rick Santorum won primaries and caucuses in 11 states in 2012, coming in a respectable second in the GOP presidential primary season. And Republicans have a history of bestowing their nomination on the next guy in line, usually an also-ran from the last contest.

Yet the former senator from Pennsylvania is rarely mentioned in the already feverish pre-game 2016 chatter among the political commentariat and the donor class.

That’s just the way he likes it. Or so he says.

“America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race,” he said in an interview Tuesday. Santorum added that being underestimated — again — “has given me a lot of latitude.”

His iconic sweater vests will likely make a return appearance. But Santorum 2.0 will be a very different presidential campaign than the one that came from almost nowhere to win the Iowa caucuses in an overtime decision, he vows.

“I get the game,” Santorum said.

Where he had to build his operation from the ground up in 2012, Santorum now has a grass-roots operation called Patriot Voices, which boasts 150,000 activists across the country. Its current push, an online petition drive to oppose President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, has generated what Santorum strategist John Brabender says are “30,000 new e-mail relationships.”

Whether Santorum can raise the money he needs is another question. Foster Friess, the benefactor who ponied up $2.1 million to a pro-Santorum super PAC in 2012, says he would support him again. The former senator is sounding out other deep-pocketed donors, whom he declined to identify.

He is retooling his message, hoping to appeal beyond his socially conservative base and reach blue-collar voters who are being left behind in the economy.

“I don’t think I’ve met a ‘suit’ yet,” Santorum said of his travels around the country. “It’s very much heart of America, average Americans who have found a place where they see someone who will stand up and fight for them. If the Republican Party has a future — and I sometimes question if it does — it’s in middle America. It’s not in corporate America.”

That is a theme he has sounded for years, though it often got overlooked in the 2012 campaign, where most of the attention was on Santorum’s culture warrior credentials.

“Part of what I had to do last time was lay out my bona fides” on moral and social issues, Santorum said. “That’s done.”

At the same time, Santorum is likely to have more competition for the support of social conservatives than he did in the last campaign. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and retains a strong reservoir of support among evangelical voters, is considering another White House bid.

Santorum argues that the reemergence of immigration as an issue will work in his favor because he takes a tougher line than many other Republicans do.

“I take the approach that immigration policy in America ought to be about Americans,” he said. “The principal focus of immigration policy is not about the rest of the world. It’s about us.”

Perhaps Santorum has a better chance than I am giving him credit for, but I kind of doubt it. One of the main reasons he did well in 2012 is because he was the lone representative of the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party that was left in the race and, in many ways, served as a way for some voters to express their discontent with Mitt Romney, who was clearly headed for victory in the race by the time the Florida primary was over in late January. Even prior to then, Santorum’s only real competition for the religious conservative vote came from candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, neither of whom were ever really considered viable or serious candidates for the nomination notwithstanding the fact that they both had brief spikes in their poll numbers during which they could claim to be a “front runner.” Had their been an actual contest for the social conservative vote at the time, or if the contest for the nomination were still actually up in the air, then its probable that Santorum would not have done as well as he actually did, which again wasn’t nearly as well as the phrase “came in second place” makes it sound when you actually look at the details. As the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty notes in the article linked above, if Santorum runs in 2016 he’s likely to find himself competing against candidates like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Mike Pence, all of whom have broad appeal with the very same voters that Santorum was drawing from in 2012 and the advantage of a more recent governing record than a guy who hasn’t held political office in nearly a decade now. Indeed, even Foster Friess may find that his money is best spent on someone other that Santorum, in which case the odds of the former Pennsylvania Senator being able to run a viable campaign would seem to be dead.

In any, case, Santorum hasn’t officially said that he’s running again, but his comments to Tumulty seem to make it clear that this is the direction that he’s headed in. At the very least, that should be good for the sweater vest industry.

Please follow and like us:
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Did Santorum get new window pane glasses too?

    Any reason to think he’s running for any purpose except to con Friess out of enough money to pay off his debt from last time?

  2. Argon says:

    The article should be subtitled:
    And… get ready for more Santorum.

  3. Mikey says:

    At the very least, that should be good for the sweater vest industry.

    Seen somewhere on the internet:

    “What is the deal with sweater vests? Is it winter on your torso and summer on your arms?”

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    YES!!! YES YES YES!!!

    *Calls financial advisor about popcorn futures*

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Fantastic, Rick increases the entertainment of the campaign quite a bit.

    Rick is what Michele Bachmann would be like if she filtered her remarks into a normal level of bitterness.

  6. Paul Hooson says:

    God no! Not more of that stupid antipornography sweater wearer who can’t even win a public office in his own state these days, let alone be elected president…More proof that not everyone has fully evolved from the apes as of yet…

  7. CET says:

    But hey, on the bright side we’ll get to see Santorum in this cycle’s episodes of Political Kombat

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:
  9. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s what’s weird to me: running for office is miserable work by the standards of any rational human being.

    I tour a couple times in a given year and I stay in hotels. Figure I’m in a hotel maybe 20-30 times a year. I stay in good hotels, Hilton or better, because I make that a condition. Business class flights, 4 star hotels or better. (I used to demand the room have a minibar, but that’s become untenable as fewer hotels do minibars.) Really good hotels – your Ritz Carltons, Four Seasons, Peninsulas, some boutiques, are great. For about three days. Then the walls start closing in on you, and you get really sick of Cobb Salads.

    If you’re running at the Santorum level you’re not staying in great hotels, in fact you’re most often staying at a motel. A motel just off the freeway in Asscrack, Iowa or Glum Harbor, New Hampshire. In freaking winter. Do you know how depressing that is? A Travelodge next to a Denny’s across a slushy parking lot?

    Who the hell does that for fun? Santorum’s an a-hole but he must know he has no chance of winning. So, months at Travelodge? In Iowa and NH? Really? I’d kill myself.

  10. RGardner says:

    I’m not sure which Pennsylvania Pol I dislike more, Santorium (R), or Joe Sestak (D) (wow is REAR Admiral Sestak’s Wikipedia selectively edited). Sestak seems to be running again for Senate in 2016.

  11. CET says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Well said. I can only assume that when you’re doing God’s Work in the World physical discomfort is less important (I wouldn’t know). Maybe horrific campaign travel is Santorum’s hair shirt . . .

  12. stonetools says:

    I think he’s hoping for a VP slot. Then if his ticket wins, he can pray for a heart attack to the top of the ticket…
    OK, maybe too mean, but I could see a Perry-Santorum ticket.

  13. Pinky says:

    I always say, there are three Republican primaries: for top conservative, for top moderate, then the face-off between them. So, which moderates can win over conservatives, and which conservatives can win over moderates?

    Note that if Paul runs, the dynamic is going to be a little different – the “third” primary will be between the conservative, the moderate, and him. Paul won’t get far, though. This three-way scenario will play out in debates.

    Back to the question. There are a few moderates looking to run; more than usual. None of them appears to have a decent claim for conservative support. Their problem is that to become the moderate candidate, you have to run sort of against the conservative base. I see Jindal, Perry, and Walker as being the conservatives who could do best among moderates. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Walker should be in the conservative pack or not – that might work for him as a candidate for all seasons, or it might work against him not being able to form a bloc early on.

    Regarding Santorum, I just don’t see him as a strong enough candidate to scare off other conservatives. If Cruz runs, Santorum will look stale. If Carson appears reasonable, he’ll get a lot of evangelical support, and maybe even some Tea Party people who prefer inexperienced politicians. Santorum has a populist angle, but if Walker or Ryan position themselves correctly, they could pull the rug out from under him. So I’m seeing a wide-open conservative race (at least in the early stages), and I’d be surprised if Santorum can distinguish himself in it.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    If Carson appears reasonable…

    As “reasonable” as a person can be who makes the most ridiculous statements…of course, his audience is full of people who believe in ridiculous things…

  15. Scott says:

    I supported Rick Santorum in 2012 and I will support him again in 2016 should he choose to run. It is time to take back America and I know of no one who leads by example better than Rick Santorum. I hope the Connecticut primary is on or before Super Tuesday so we can make an impact her in the Nutmeg State. I hope Mr. Santorum will come for a rally when the time comes!

    God Bless America
    Scott

  16. Pinky says:

    @Scott: Anyone else you have your eye on?

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Traveling by itself gets to be too much. I remember one night when my luggage and I had become separated. I got to the hotel, and then a few hours later came a call from the front desk that my luggage had arrived. Went down to claim it, got back in the elevator, looked at the panel of buttons and realized I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what floor I had come from. (I had just flown in from Amsterdam and previously from Moscow, which gives an idea of the jet lag.)

    The older I get the more willing I am to stay home.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott: “Take back America”, huh? “Take back America” from WHOM, pray tell?!

    If you want to know why the Republican party is limited to that of old white geezers and their Stepford wives, look at your slogan and know why.

  19. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: Every party says “take back America” when they’re out of power. If memory serves, there were three books by Democrats with that name in 2008.

  20. patriotmom61 says:

    I have to take major issue with your notion that Rick Santorum has no cross over appeal beyond social conservatives. Did you not take notice that it was his blue collar appeal to everyday working Americans that fueled his brushfire campaign? Have you not noticed how much approval he gets from disaffected Reagan Democrats for talking up manufacturing, infrastructure, and energy that provide good, decent family sustaining jobs? That it’s because he speaks to, for, and about the backbone of America, the working people who are out there struggling in and competing for jobs increasingly being taken by an influx of both legal and illegal immigrants? That his policy prescriptions, all his policy prescriptions, put AMERICANS first? That all his policies must be in the best interests of Americans, not immigrants, not other nations, but Americans?

    Rick Santorum has the freshest, most unique, doable message and vision of pure substance in the entire field of possible 2016 presidential candidates. He includes ALL Americans, not divided segmented groups of people with messages targeted just for them. His message and vision not only unifies the party but unifies the country. Had he been able to stay in the race in 2012 I am fully confident we’d have President Santorum in the White House. He is the Democrat Party’s worst nightmare because unlike the last few moderate milquetoast squish losers the GOP elitist bosses and donors “purchase” and force on us election after election, Santorum will put his Democrat opponent in the hot seat on trial in the national spotlight to defend his or her indefensible positions on the exact same social issues they use to beat up our moderate candidate who has neither the credibility nor ability to counter and punch back. Every time we are on defense we lose. Santorum goes on offense like no one else can. Rick Santorum vs whatever Democrat who runs will be the epic battle of worldviews we’ve not had since Reagan. Let’s stop it with marginalizing candidates who actually walk and live their talk. Let’s let him duke it out on the national stage for a change, and people will come out of the woodwork to vote for him: social and cultural conservatives, TEA Party conservatives, blue collar voters, and even Independents who aren’t issues oriented people anyway but are looking for someone the electorate is excited about. If social issues were a hotspot with Independents they’d be on one side or the other. They aren’t. That’s why they are Independents. They will sway with the excited base in a general election. Time for a blue collar takeover of the stuffed shirt elitist GOP. I say Game ON! Santorum 2016!

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    First couple times I thought it was an honor and kind of fun. As I imagine you know, it’s a thing in publishing, getting to tour. It’s a sign your publisher takes you seriously. But pretty quickly the “honor” wears off. Last book tour I shot a selfie (no, I’m not putting it on Twitter) of myself in the bathroom of a 747 coming back from the UK as a sort of mordant reminder to myself that it’s not just enthusiastic fans and industry dinners. You forget though, and when you’re asked to go out again, you say, “Sure!” And then you’re in a passenger jet’s bathroom. Not exactly the Bataan Death March, and definitely a “first world problem” but all in all, I’d rather be home with my insane family.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @patriotmom61:

    He is the Democrat Party’s worst nightmare because unlike the last few moderate milquetoast squish losers the GOP elitist bosses and donors “purchase” and force on us election after election, Santorum will put his Democrat opponent in the hot seat on trial in the national spotlight to defend his or her indefensible positions on the exact same social issues they use to beat up our moderate candidate who has neither the credibility nor ability to counter and punch back. Every time we are on defense we lose. Santorum goes on offense like no one else can.

    2 things:

    (1) As a Democrat I hope that Santorum is in the race because he is exactly the type of dour, overly negative and resentful candidate that will have absolutely no crossover appeal to Democrats. The working class Democrats you speak of left the Democratic Party 34 years ago and they now form the White working class base of the Republican Party. There are zero crossover votes to be had by a socially conservative class warfare guy like Santorum.

    (2) If Santorum should win the GOP nomination he has a chance because Democrats do not fight back at all (they lay back and let Republican attack unanswered).

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    If Carson appears reasonable, he’ll get a lot of evangelical support, and maybe even some Tea Party people who prefer inexperienced politicians.

    Carson has equated ACA and Democrats with Nazi-ism and slavery, so ‘reasonable’ is not going to happen, and that is exactly what social conservatives and tea party types want and prefer.

  24. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Everyone’s equated everything with Nazism. Equating Democrats with slavery just means he’s read a book.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Equating Democrats with slavery just means he’s read a book.

    What book – the GOP Platform? Any of Ann Coulter’s books?

  26. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Not trying to be snotty here – you do realize that the Democratic Party was synonymous with slavery through most of the slave era, and a lot of years afterwards, right? To equate the Democratic Party with slavery is like equating Texas with oil and cattle; it’s not all there is, but it’s so much a part of it you’re overlooking the obvious to not make the connection. It’s like talking about the history of American filmmaking “in Indianapolis, Utah, and elsewhere”.

  27. Pinky says:

    The Democratic Party is to slavery as the dry drunk is to alcohol. The dry drunk can be pro-alcohol or anti-alcohol, but he’ll never be post-alcohol. The beverage is everything to him. I guess we should be happy when Democrats say they want a strong government to fight those sweet, sweet racist urges, but an objective observer has to feel at least a little creeped out by it.