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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Candidate Profile: #13. Rick Santorum

For background to this series, click here.

Our last three candidates belonged to the lowest of four tiers, one I call "They Know They Can't Win."  Next we have Tier 3: "We Know They Can't Win."

Now let's get to the guy who finished in second place last time but is counted out four years later. The 13th most likely nominee of the Republican Party is . . .

Rick Santorum, 57, Former Senator from Pennsylvania, 1995-2007

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.ricksantorum.com-"Restore the American Dream"

PPFA Slogan--"Restore the American Dream . . . of 60 Years Ago"

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +8 (Individual rights: +5; domestic issues: +9; economy: +10; foreign policy: +8) You would think a spectrum that has Rick Santorum's conservatism only at +8 out of 10 needs some recalibration, but his surprisingly moderate record on individual rights slides him further left than one would expect. So even though he hits a full +10 on the individual liberty issues of abortion, gay rights, and religion in public schools, his openness to affirmative action and campaign finance reform brought him down to a +5 in that category.

Conservative Rank based on above: 2 of 16. Yes, someone is to the right of Rick Santorum.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--In 2011, Rick Santorum went from the very edge of the December debate stage, polling 3 to 4 nationally and 4 to 8 in Iowa, to the forefront of it in January 2012. He was the only candidate to visit all 99 of Iowa's counties, and at the January 3 Iowa caucuses, he came out of nowhere to fall just a few votes short of overwhelming favorite Mitt Romney. Two weeks later, it was determined that Santorum actually won the Iowa Caucus, though it was far too late for the "Iowa bump." For three months, in an astounding underdog run, he then challenged the much better funded Romney, but he ultimately had to suspend his campaign. Imagine what he can do now that instead of having to exert so much energy to make a name for himself, he comes into the Republican Primary with a raised profile.

Spin from opponents--What Republicans say: The man is a great conservative, no doubt about that. But he had his chance, and he went up against a candidate that, let's get real, was seriously doubted by the party. The theme of the 2012 Republican Primary was which "NonRom" the Republicans would settle on. It ended up being Santorum, but he wasn't good enough to win. Plus, he's a polarizing figure that would alienate so many moderates in November that he could hand deliver the White House to Hillary Clinton in November. Like White Gloves Service deliver. What Democrats say: NO STOP IT GO AWAY!

How do the polls look?--His RCP national average is 2.3, which is 11th place in the field. He has polled as high as 4 but as low as 0. In Iowa, that kick-off state he narrowly won in 2012, he averages only 5.3, putting him in 9th place. His 0.7 RCP average in New Hampshire is dead least among the 14 candidates registering (but at least he IS registering, unlike Bobby Jindal and Poor George Pataki). He's also dead last among those registering in South Carolina. In sum, he has little traction in the first three primary states, including a state that embraced him in 2012.

PPFA analysis--I just don't see him having another miraculous run. Last time he won Iowa, albeit retroactively, and ten more states. Yet it still wasn't enough, because too much of the country just didn't buy in. He won states like Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kansas, but that's not enough to win a national campaign. With that failure on record, even far right conservatives will try their luck with someone else; with Carson, Cruz, Jindal and others in the race, there are a fair share of far right conservatives to choose to from. Indeed, just last month at a Santorum event in Hamlin, Iowa, just one person showed up. One. Last time he came out of nowhere as voters learned about him on his Iowan crusade, but now people know who he is and are rejecting him nonetheless. Not good.

PPFA nomination rank--13 of 16, although Santorum and the next couple candidates in Tier 3 will be tightly packed. (Odds: 35:1)

PPFA general election rank--16 of 16. He's made a career out of making the far right swoon but everyone else squirm. Although other Republican candidates compete with him in the "extreme conservative" status that alienates large swaths of America, none of them are as known a quantity as Santorum. He has become the personification of the far-too-conservative right that incenses the left and much of the center. Whereas other arch conservatives will have a puncher's chance of constructing a better narrative for themselves, Santorum would be dismissed before he even begins general election campaigning. Therefore, I rank him dead last in general election likelihood of victory.

Tier 4--They know they can't win
Number 14
Number 15
Number 16

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