Human Events Blog

Santorum: We might as well stick with Obama if Romney is the nominee

 

On the campaign trail in Texas, Rick Santorum decided to give the Etch-a-Sketch metaphor one shake too many, as reported by the Associated Press:

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday said Republicans should give President Barack Obama another term if Santorum isn’t the GOP nominee and for a second day compared rival Mitt Romney to an Etch A Sketch toy.

Santorum reiterated an argument he has made before: The former Massachusetts governor is not conservative enough to offer voters a clear choice in the fall election and that only he can provide that contrast.

“You win by giving people a choice,” Santorum said during a campaign stop in Texas. “You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there.”

Santorum added: “If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch-a-Sketch candidate for the future.”

While he was saying this, “what we have” was burning thousands of gallons of fuel, and millions of taxpayer dollars, so he could have his picture taken in front of an oil well in Oklahoma.  Because that will make everyone think he’s an “oil president,” you see.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Etch-a-Sketch reference, it has become, at least for the moment, a highly amusing metaphor for the Romney campaign, after one of his advisors responded to concerns that Romney was being pulled too far to the right in the primary campaign by saying the general election would be “almost like an Etch-a-Sketch: you can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

That was a gaffe, but Santorum’s musings about settling for Obama Part II instead of Romney are a disaster.  Every time the length and intensity of the GOP primary is discussed, people ask if the ultimate candidate will be weakened due to months of withering criticism from his opponents, and the bitter division of the Republican Party.  Liberals certainly hope that will be the case, but it’s not inevitable.  Plenty of successful candidates have emerged from tough primaries.  The Democrat contest in 2008 wasn’t beanbag, as any Hillary Clinton support will tell you.

What will weaken the Republican candidate is outbursts like Santorum’s, which weaken conservatism, or the Republican Party itself.  Turnout will be a crucial factor in this election.  It is absolutely unacceptable for the Number Two candidate to tell his supporters they might as well stay home if the other guy wins the nomination.  It’s a horrendous mistake to underestimate the powers of incumbency, inertia, and media bias.  The “default” winner in 2012 will be Obama, no matter how bad his poll numbers get.  We’ve got to defeat him, not hope he falls off his throne.

It’s also absolutely ridiculous to suggest President Romney would be worse than a lame-duck, let-it-all-hang-out Barack Obama, with four more years to “finish what we started,” as he’s been ominously promising in his 2012 campaign.  No matter how squishy one fears Romney might be on various conservative issues, he’s not proactively dangerous like Obama is.  He won’t deliberately try to shut down gas production, as Obama has.  He won’t be working to “transform” America in a hard-Left direction.  He won’t grab another trillion dollars and hand it to his cronies in dead-end junk-bond “green energy” companies.  He won’t waste a pile of money finding out that “shovel-ready jobs” don’t really exist… and then laugh about it.  His cabinet will not include the likes of Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, or Kathleen Sebelius.  He won’t be putting more Sonia Sotomayors or Elena Kagans on the Supreme Court.

We heard plenty of Santorum’s thinking during the 2008 campaign, when those dejected by the eminently dispiriting McCain campaign said we’d be better off letting Obama win.  How’s that working out for you, folks?  Was it worth six trillion dollars in debt, two million jobs destroyed, and the permanent re-alignment of the relationship between the State and its increasingly hapless citizens through ObamaCare? 

What do you think Obama will do this time, when victory means he never has to worry about standing for re-election again?  Can anyone seriously believe that a President Romney under constant pressure from his right flank, to live up to the most admirable accomplishments of his private sector and gubernatorial careers, would be worse than a fully unleashed Barack Obama?  Particularly after his electoral coat-tails have strengthened his party in Congress?  Dispirited Republican voters who decide to stay home on Election Day, because Rick Santorum told them it’s not worth the effort to fight for Romney over Obama, won’t be voting in House or Senate races, either. 

Close your eyes and imagine a beaming Obama dancing joyously through the First Hundred Days of his second Administration, while the media throws rose petals at his feet, and declares his re-election gives him a “powerful mandate” from the American people… and also fundamentally discredits all the concerns of everyone who criticized him during his first term.  That’s really preferable to finding out what the “severe conservatism” of Mitt Romney is really made of?

As related in the AP report, both Romney and Newt Gingrich were quick to make this point:

Romney, who made no public appearances Thursday, issued a statement expressing disappointment “that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican.”

“This election is more important than any one person. It is about the future of America,” he said. “Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure.”

Rival Newt Gingrich tweeted: “Rick Santorum is dead wrong. Any GOP nominee will be better than Obama.”

I’ll be perfectly frank: I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney when my state held its primary.  He wasn’t in my top three choices until there were only four candidates left.  But I stitched “ROMNEY #1!” into an over-sized oven mitt on the first day of this campaign, and I’ll be waving it madly when he takes the stage at the Republican National Convention if he’s the nominee. 

I have reservations about how Romney will fare during the general election campaign, and what he’ll do when he reaches the White House… but I want to be proven wrong.  I have no reservations about what Barack Obama will do if he’s still in power come 2013, and like all the other Obama critics, I was absolutely right about him in 2008.  No group of critics has ever been more thoroughly vindicated.

Whom the Etch-a-Sketch would destroy, it first makes mad.  What Rick Santorum said on Thursday was nonsense, and this campaign has no more room for nonsense.

Update: Via National Journal, a kinda-sorta walkback that also destroys the cottage industry of Santorum apologists who have been giving him immense benefit of the doubt, and claiming he was talking about what other people think regarding Romney vs. Obama:

On CNN’s Starting Point, Stewart defended the candidate’s comments Thursday in which he said: “We might as well stay with what we have” in Obama, rather than elect Romney.

“What we have with Mitt Romney is… a mirror image of Barack Obama,” Stewart said. “Both believe in government takeover of health care, cap and trade, big government spending, Wall Street bailout.”

On health care, she said, “We can’t take Mitt Romney’s word that he’ll repeal and replace it.”

But later in the show, when pressed on how Santorum could support Romney if he’s saying he’s the same as Obama, Stewart responded:  “Rick has made it abundantly clear once a nominee is chosen he’ll stand behind the nominee and do everything we can to replace Barack Obama.”

Does anyone recall an instance of a Democrat candidate saying we might as well stick with the Republican incumbent if his “me-too” opponent wins the nomination?  Or walking it back by saying that well, of course he’d still support the mirror-image Democrat when push came to shove?

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