Really?!?!?

And now it’s time for a segment that I like to “borrow” from Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler at Saturday Night Live called “Really?!?!? an homage to Seth and Amy.”

Really, GOP? Really? Rick Santorum?

The other night my friends and I watched Ides of March which not surprisingly led directly into political conversation.  We’re pretty much a political roundtable.  I’m usually both literally and figuratively in the center.  My friend, CFO, is a self-described “Ronald Reagan conservative” and my friend, TBS, is an Obama Democrat.  Since I was sitting between them, CFO on my right and TBS on my left, the conversation went about how you’d expect.  (I’m paraphrasing two separate conversations including Wednesday night’s roundtable in the interest of time):

PPP:  “You can’t actually be excited about Mitt Romney.”

CFO: “Haha, why not?”

TBS: “Seriously?”

PPP: “Because he doesn’t have it.”

CFO: “I know he doesn’t have it.  I don’t have to vote for it.”

PPP: “I only vote for it.

PPP:  “Well, then why doesn’t the GOP just nominate Santorum and go big or go home?”

TBS:  “Cause it’s a guaranteed loss.”

CFO: “At least Romney will make it close, make it interesting and if he can’t pull off the win, he loses with dignity.”

PPP:  “Fair enough.  But why not lose the cardboard cut-out candidate and see if Santorum can’t shake things up.  Unless he doesn’t represent you.”

CFO:  “He doesn’t represent enough of the Republican Party.  It’s a bad idea.  At least Romney represents the traditional center of the GOP. He’s a little old school and not extreme.”

PPP:  “Booooooring.” (Yeah, intelligent, I know. In my defense, it was getting late.)

Look.  The reason I haven’t been blogging as often about this year’s Republican primary is that I didn’t actually consider it a true race.  I thought that the media was capitalizing on the 24/7 news cycle, the general public’s fear of the economy, Twitter, blogs and all the other media tools that have exploded since 2008 and simply trying to make viewers believe there was an interesting GOP primary going on.

In my opinion, it was not that interesting.  I was much more interested in the dynamic between Romney and Obama.  As my best friend wrote on his blog, Romney/Obama represents the clash of two classic views of politics, policy and culture.  That’s the clash I was interested in.

It never occurred to me (after Iowa) that anyone but Romney could win this nomination.  I did my best to keep an eye on the campaigns so that when the candidates or media touched on issues bigger than the so-called horserace, and actually got into America’s values and future, I could make a note or comment or whatever.  But, President Gingrich? President Santorum? Hardly gave it a second thought.

Yet, here we are.

The New York Times noted yesterday that Romney’s “other” victory, Maine, might be stripped by GOP officials running the election up there.  If that happens, even Romney’s perceived lead would still be subjected to the mathematical scrutiny of delegating-counting.

As if that’s not enough, the Daily Beast is writing pieces and tweeting about Romney supporters supposedly backing Santorum.  Even if that’s not the “announcement” the Santorum campaign is about to make today, the story alone gives the appearance of Santorum gaining ground.

Which apparently he is.  A new CNN poll has Santorum leading in Michigan and tied with Romney overall.

Seriously?!?!? Rick Santorum?

Look, perhaps he’s the so-called “red meat” of the Republican Party.  You know, the rare T-bone steak? The bread and butter? Coca-cola? Whatever gastronomical reference you prefer.  He’s the classic conservative.  I don’t happen to agree but maybe that’s why I’m an Independent.

I don’t see it or it, for that matter.

I think Romney’s out of touch – the “I’ll bet you $10,000” jokes or the “I didn’t make that much off speaking fees, I think it was $350,000 or something” references to wealth – but he’s a skilled and smart individual.  He struggles too much with the trying to be a certain type of Republican and “play nice” with the Far Right.  As a result, he appears weak, confused and impersonal.

Given that environment and the lack of enthusiasm to trot him out against Obama who is an expert campaigner, I can understand other candidates getting more attention than they deserve.  Exhibit A – Rick Santorum.

Look, I’m not necessarily saying he’s a bad person.  Although, by now, we all know what Dan Savage thinks of Candidate Santorum.  What I am saying, is that Rick Santorum is not the best candidate to represent the Republican Party and he’s not electable.

Simply put, it’s a bad strategy.  Unless the GOP has given up on Mitt Romney and doesn’t mind “losing without dignity” as my friend CFO implied.  If that’s the case, then Santorum could serve a valuable purpose to the future of the Republican Party.  This primary and Romney vs. Santorum can help the GOP figure out who it is moving forward.  How will the GOP represent all the divergent constituents of the party? Is the GOP really one party or is it really two – fiscal conservatives (David Brooks, George Will, Mitt Romney) and social conservatives (Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum)?  If this party cannot find a way to include the Romneys, then that’s a major problem.  If loyal voters are defecting the Romney campaign because he’s not a “true conservative,” then that’s a major problem.

If Romney’s boring and doesn’t have it, that’s fine.

If Romney is no longer considered conservative enough, yikes.

I think that’s my biggest issue with Santorum’s latest surge.  Why is it happening?  The answer to that question tells us a lot about the future of Republican, and American, politics.

In short (as if that’s ever possible here on The Pickle), I do not believe that Santorum wins the nomination and I do believe that Romney becomes a stronger candidate having been through this difficult primary.  But what I once thought was ridiculous – Santorum winning the nomination – looks more possible everyday.  Enough that it at least got me thinking and writing about politics again.

Note:  The Huffington Post link above includes a 44 minute video of Dan Savage interviewing Rick Santorum.  I was only able to watch the first 20 minutes so far, but I would highly recommend watching the interview.  Two men who disagree about almost everything in American society sat down and actually spoke to each other about their beliefs and thoughts without name-calling and without (too much) rhetoric. Check it out. Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/06/dan-savage-rick-santorum-google_n_1257300.html

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