As you know, today was Stump Speech Day at CPAC. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich attempted to make their case to the convention’s attendees, and each used a slightly different approach. My personal observations are as follows:
- Rick Santorum brought his entire family on stage (except for his youngest, who is still recovering from pneumonia) to emphasize his soc-con credentials and appealed to the audience to look for honor and integrity in their candidate instead of a massive war chest. He also continued to push his pro-manufacturing agenda — or, to use the Wall Street Journal term, his “supply-side economics for the working man.” And he vigorously decried both the contraception mandate and Obama’s obstructionism in re: domestic energy production.
Throughout his speech, Santorum was trying to position himself as the Not Romney. At the start, he stated that his priority was to help the poor and struggling, which to me sounded like a thinly-veiled swipe at Mitt’s recent remarks in re: our supposed safety net. He also criticized Romney’s record on health care without mentioning Mitt by name.
- Mitt Romney, on the other hand, spent a lot of time defending his record. And, to be fair, his achievements aren’t insignificant. He did save the 2002 Olympics. He did improve the budget situation in deep-blue Massachusetts. He did defend the Catholic Church’s right to run her own adoption agencies in her own way. And yes — he shouldn’t have to apologize for being a businessman. If Mitt were to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he would certainly be a drastic improvement over Obama. But right-wingers still have difficulty trusting him. If you ever watch the video of Mitt’s speech, you will hear quite a bit of enthusiastic cheering. What you will not hear is what I heard in the hallway afterwards: a lot of people grumbling about “Romney-bots” being “planted” in the audience and “stock phrases that will never be fulfilled.” One student even told me that he thought Mitt was lying through his teeth!
- Lastly, Newt Gingrich played to the Tea Party’s distrust of Washington. He mocked the establishment for taking so long to accomplish the simplest tasks and declared that DC needs bold, “unrealistic” reform. To that end, he promised to do the following things during the first twenty-four hours of his presidency: 1) sign bills repealing Obamacare, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Dodd-Frank, which he hopes the Congress will have ready for him by the time he’s sworn in; 2) get rid of all of Obama’s tzars; 3) approve the Keystone pipeline; 4) reinstate the pro-life Mexico City policy; 5) repeal the contraception mandate and any other Obama administration attempts to curb religious freedom. Basically, he stated, he wants to repeal 40% of Obama’s program before his first day is up. It all sounded rather grandiose to me, but that’s how Newt usually rolls.
In all honesty, I think the ideal Republican candidate would be someone who could use a fusion of these approaches — someone with Santorum’s religious values and appreciation for the working class, Romney’s business sense, and Gingrich’s willingness to stick it to The Man. Unfortunately, we can only pick one champion (so to speak), and like SABR Matt, I’m leaning towards Santorum because I like his pro-blue-collar ground game and the authenticity of his pro-life message. Of course, I can’t actually vote for Santorum in March thanks to Virginia’s uptight election laws, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cheer for his success elsewhere. Go, Rick, Go! Give Mitt a run for his money!