Political Animal


January 09, 2012 10:00 AM Santorum starts to find new friends

By Steve Benen

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t much care who Gary Bauer endorses for president, but there’s a relevant backstory to this.

Bauer, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a prominent religious right leader, a veteran of the Reagan White House, and a former GOP presidential candidate (he finished fourth in Iowa in 2000, a few points ahead of John McCain). As of the weekend, Bauer is also an enthusiastic Rick Santorum supporter, traveling with the former senator to South Carolina yesterday.

Bauer … praised Santorum as “the next Ronald Reagan” while introducing him at Stax restaurant here.

“For me, Ronald Reagan has always defined what the right political prescription was for the United States,” Bauer said. “As I listened to [Santorum], I realized the next Ronald Reagan had been standing in front of me all this time and I hadn’t been paying attention.”

Now, Bauer doesn’t control a massive voting bloc, so in isolation, it’s not as if his endorsement will suddenly give Santorum a major boost towards the nomination.

I mention this, though, because we learned last week that several major religious right leaders planned to hold “an emergency meeting” in Texas on Saturday to find a “consensus” anti-Romney candidate they could coalesce behind. Bauer was one of the attendees, and a day later, he was on the campaign trail with Santorum.

It would suggest that if this Republican contingent intends to pick their horse, they’re betting on the former Pennsylvania senator (and not the disgraced former House Speaker).

In all likelihood, the right is too late. Romney won Iowa, he’ll win New Hampshire, and he’s leading in South Carolina and Florida. Conservatives knew early on they didn’t want him as their nominee, but they splintered and failed to pick a Romney rival when it could have made a difference. Sure, they’re scrambling now, and seem to be settling on Santorum, but if they wanted to have a real impact, these prominent far-right figures should have gotten their act together a month ago.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see just what kind of investments these movement conservatives are willing to make over the next week or two, and whether they have any success in driving some candidates (see Perry, Rick) from the race altogether.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • skeptonomist on January 09, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Lack of unity is characteristic of religious movements. An ecumenical unification behind a candidate is unlikely and a seemingly unified movement can splinter at any moment. This is odd, since religious concerns are supposed to be universal and at least Christians are supposed to be concerned with the welfare of others. On the other hand, people who are supposed to be, on principle, devoted to their own self interest - that is plutocrats - are much more successful in uniting under the leadership of a Carl Rove or even Mitt Romney.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 09, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Go Ricky!
    So many outrageous statements, so little thought.
    That little slice of insanity you call your base won't make you president.
    You have started believing your own hype.
    Best thing that could happen to Obama

  • walt on January 09, 2012 10:19 AM:

    There is no ideal Romney alternative. Last summer, the consensus was that Rick Perry might be the guy (remember his ostentatious display of public Christianity?). When Perry revealed himself as a virtual moron, there was no fallback candidate, which explains how the improbable Rick Santorum is their default candidate.

    The happy paradox for Republicans is that they can make a savior out of anyone, including a technocratic Mormon vulture capitalist and ex-moderate. And that's what they'll do.

  • MattF on January 09, 2012 10:24 AM:

    There's a dynamic that keeps them from uniting behind any single candidate until it's too late-- they're all competing for the same small slice of the pie, and only the winner will even have a chance of getting any.

    That said, the peculiar notion that the whining, bigoted Santorum is the new Reagan just shows how far from reality the wingers have drifted.

  • c u n d gulag on January 09, 2012 10:27 AM:

    "...and seem to be settling on Santorum..."

    I've heard of settling on some sh*tty land, but not on Santorum!

    If only Icky Sticky Rickey were an Evangelical Christian and not a Catholic, he'd be their total "Golden Boy" package.

  • hells littlest angel on January 09, 2012 10:32 AM:

    I don't see any reason to believe that Romney is not vulnerable to the same collapse in support that his rivals have suffered once people got to know them. Romney is just as much of an unknown quantity (to the low-info Republican voters) now as Gingrich was last summer and Perry was last spring and Bachmann was last winter. The other flameouts were unknowns because no one was paying attention to them, while Romney is an unknown because he's worked so hard to hide his true self (if such a thing exists). Thirty percent worth of shallow support is nothing.

  • penalcolony on January 09, 2012 10:55 AM:

    I don't want to do the necessary digging to confirm this, but I'm fairly sure it's true: isn't Santorum the first Catholic to come anywhere close to winning a GOP primary or caucus?

    The next one: probably Jeb Bush.

  • rrk1 on January 09, 2012 11:27 AM:

    Look for the Rethug establishment to destroy 'icky, sticky, stinky Ricky Santorum' as quickly as possible. He's too much of an unknown to the military/industrial/intelligence complex to be trusted, and a possible loose cannon. Plus he's a sure loser in the general election. Romney is their guy, and he's gonna get the nomination. New Hampshire is no more important than Iowa, and may only serve to give Huntsman some needed credibility.

    The religious fascists are a day late and probably more than a dollar short. The big money isn't going to get behind ol' Sanctimonious Santorum. Gingrich and Romney will attract that, and Gingrich is already in a political hospice. The boys in Texas have decided on their guy, too late, and may talk Perry out of making more of a fool of himself, if that's possible, but Gingrich isn't going until he gets even with Romney for all those ads. Newt is all about Newt (and making money) so his enormous bruised ego
    has to give Romney some payback even if it hurts the Rethug cause.
    This will be fun to watch indeed.

  • TCinLA on January 09, 2012 11:43 AM:

    With all these Republicans - Gingrich, the Religulous Right - violating the Eleventh Commandment as brought down from the mount by Sainted Ronnie the Ray Gun (Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican), this is going to make their nominating contest more difficult, and make their coalescing around the Mormon they hate that much harder come this summer - not to mention the Mormon they hate is going to be looking like the real life Gordon Gekko (not a real popular figure in America), which is actually the truth, after they get through with him. So going out and getting all the non-GOP idiots to vote for him is not going to be easy.

    Bad news for Republicans = Good news for America.

  • Ron Byers on January 09, 2012 12:13 PM:

    The movement conservatives, the tea party people and every other Republican who doesn't winter in Palm Beach have been outfoxed by the money wing of the Republican party. We are going to get a rich blue blood who has absolutely no interest in their issues. That doesn't make Romney acceptable to those of us who aren't movement conservatives or members of the tea party because he doesn't have any interest in any regular American's issues. All he cares about is separating the American middle class from what is left of its wealth on behalf of himself and his investors. He is still the head of a leveraged buy out group.

  • Anonymous on January 09, 2012 1:38 PM:

    Over at Mother Jones there is a tool to look at the primaries and delegates.

    If you go through and assume that in the early primaries Romney's ceiling is 30% in the South, 40% in Nevada, and 35% elsewhere, the inevitability scenario looks unlikely.

    Even giving all of the winner take all [only Ohio is a large winner take all] except Oklahoma to Romney, and giving 40% plus in NY and CA, Romney reaches the convention 200 delegates short.

    The convention should be either ugly with lots of arms twisted out of socket or brokered.


    Great way to waste an hour.

  • jsjiowa on January 09, 2012 4:10 PM:

    How much at this point are the religious conservatives really angling for an anti-Romney to prevail over Romney, and how much are they simply angling to generate significant support for a single candidate that Romney would have to take as VP?

  • Just a guy on January 09, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Good luck to Mr. Santorum! I hope the Repubs drink deeply of the frothy mix.

  • kk on January 09, 2012 7:05 PM:

    Gary Bauer will rally his troops for whoever they're told by the Republican Party that they're supposed to rally for. They rallied for John McCain, one of the more notorious adulterers in the United States Senate, and that's saying something.