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Taking the middle road won't help in Pennsylvania<li><a href="http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=9482">American Spectator: GOP Turns on Santorum</a><li><a href="http://humanevents.com/blog-detail.php?id=12909">Republicans Working Against Santorum</a<li><a href="http://humanevents.com/blog-detail.php?id=12912">Right Attacks Santorum, Santorum Attacks Toomey</a>

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Santorum Faces an Uphill Battle With Conservatives

Taking the middle road won’t help in Pennsylvania

  • American Spectator: GOP Turns on Santorum
  • Republicans Working Against SantorumRight Attacks Santorum, Santorum Attacks Toomey
  • Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is, by most accounts, one of the most important, powerful voices for conservatism in the federal government today. Both fiscally and socially conservative, Santorum has been a close ally of President Bush and has played a key role in many of the victories that Republican senators have enjoyed in recent years. His seniority, combined with his principles, makes his re-election a critical one for Republicans in 2006.

    Santorum has a long road ahead of him, however. His challenger is Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. The son of a popular former Pennsylvania governor, Casey already has unusually high name recognition for a challenger. He is also, at least ostensibly, pro-life. This gives conservative Democrats in Pennsylvania, a light blue state at best, what they may consider a real choice. Combine this with an almost rabid desire by liberals to see Santorum defeated, and you have a recipe for a brutal, close campaign.

    There is another factor, though, that needs to be considered. Santorum has found himself increasingly on the wrong side of the conservative base that has been responsible for electing him again and again. He not only supported liberal Sen. Arlen Specter over the staunchly conservative Pat Toomey in 2004, but Santorum actively worked toward Specter’s re-election. Santorum has endorsed the idea of raising the minimum wage by $2 over two years, and refused to rule out raising taxes to offset the cost of Social Security reform.

    These few examples, combined with a handful of others, have given many conservative Pennsylvanians pause as they consider the battle to be fought in 2006. Many realize that Casey is a liberal, in spite of his pro-life statements. However, they have also become increasingly apathetic over what they perceive as betrayals by Santorum. This apathy could be his downfall.

    Some of the unrest with Santorum is unfair, and is more of a general dissatisfaction with national Republicans who can’t keep spending down, couldn’t get us Social Security reform, can’t secure our borders, and have failed in many other areas critical to conservatives. Nonetheless, it is transforming into a lack of desire on behalf of conservatives in Pennsylvania to defend their ally in the Senate.

    Santorum has fought hard battles in the past, and always arisen victorious. This has been due to the hard work and passion of conservatives who want a voice in the federal government. Conservatives have few champions, and perhaps none as well-known as Santorum currently is. Santorum has always depended on these grassroots efforts to win the day for him.

    The potential exists, though, for the tables to be turned on Santorum this time around. Liberals are ready to mobilize at the grassroots level against Santorum, with groups like MoveOn.org and others at the helm. We will likely see a massive grassroots effort by liberals, unrivaled by the left in this state. At the same time, the grassroots conservative movement is at best lukewarm about Santorum, with many previously adamant supporters now holding onto their wallets and leaving their yards and bumpers empty.

    What is Santorum to do? He must sell himself, and start running like an incumbent. Thus far, Santorum’s campaign has revolved around painting Casey as a liberal, complete with nicknames such as “Silent Bob” and even the designation of “Negative Campaigner Week,” in honor of Casey’s negative campaign tactics. This is the campaign of a challenger, not an incumbent. Worse, it is a sign that Santorum’s campaign doesn’t realize what they need to do to win.

    Santorum needs to reignite the passion among conservatives that has existed in years past. If conservatives head into November to simply vote against Casey, Santorum will lose. Santorum must rely on grassroots volunteers’ plastering their car with stickers, calling all of their friends, and working diligently to ensure not a car passes by without seeing a Santorum yard sign.

    To make sure that this happens, Santorum needs to change philosophies. The current strategy seems to be to attract moderates, likely resulting from the fact that many pro-life Democrats that previously voted for Santorum will abandon him to vote for Casey. Santorum seems to feel that he must give them another reason to vote for him.

    This strategy, in fact, will only exacerbate the problem. The more moderate Santorum tries to become, the more disenfranchised conservatives will feel. This will create a dream scenario for Casey and a nightmare for Santorum. Santorum simply needs to get back to basics. More talk about tax cuts, strong anti-abortion statements, and many, many more events with Toomey.

    The energy level among conservatives in Pennsylvania for Santorum is noticeably down. Rather than just sit idly by and hope and pray that conservatives will work for him, Santorum needs to add the political version of amphetamines to his base. He does this by being himself. By standing up for his values, taking on the left, and being a lightning rod for the Democrats. Stop running for re-election, and just do what you do. Be yourself, Senator, and let us take care of the rest. Then we can all jump on the Santorum victory train for another ride.

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    Written By

    Mr. High is a political activist and editor of FreePA.org.

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