Santorum the right choice for Oklahoma

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ricksantorumlogo.jpgI had decided some time ago that when Oklahoma's turn to vote came around, I would cast my vote as necessary to block Mitt Romney's progress toward the Republican nomination. Whoever was ahead of Romney in the polls or the closest to beating him would get my vote.

(Dan McLaughlin, aka Baseball Crank, in his recent entry "Mitt Romney, the Unconvincing Convert," details four of the problems with Romney -- "the unconvincing nature of his political conversion, the hazards of becoming enamored with candidates whose primary rationale for running is their money, the unprecedented difficulty of winning with a moderate Republican who lacks significant national security credentials as a war hero or other prominent foreign policy figure, and Romney's vulnerability arising from his dependence on his biography" -- and at that blog entry, you'll find links to McLaughlin's 2007 series on Romney's electoral liabilities.)

But as the presidential field narrowed and the Oklahoma primary approached, I've come to the conclusion that the last remaining conservative alternative, Rick Santorum, is not merely the best tactical vote, but the candidate closest to my views on economic, social, and defense and foreign policy issues and the best candidate to fight and win the general election against the incumbent.

On economics, Rick Santorum supports bold entitlement reform and immediate action to address the climbing national debt, not kicking the can down the road for another decade as some have proposed. He rightly identifies the importance of manufacturing to economic recovery, particularly for the middle class, and his corporate tax plan, combined with regulatory reform, would make it easier for manufacturers to bring jobs back to the US. His personal income tax plan is a significant simplification over the current complicated tax code -- two brackets, five deductions -- but it has the advantage of being politically plausible. It's not the sort of shocking departure that would be easy to demagogue. It retains the deductions that most taxpayers use and expect.

As a senator, Rick Santorum was a leader on the issue of welfare reform, understanding the moral and economic imperative of helping Americans by helping them move from dependency into self-sufficiency.

Energy is a major focus of Santorum's speeches. He sees the controversy over hydraulic fracturing, a practice that dates back to World War II, as nothing more than the Green Left's latest fundraising gimmick, now that manmade global warming has run out of gas. Santorum rightly identifies the political agenda behind the Obama administration's restrictions on energy exploration, production, and transportation. To Obama and his allies, higher prices are a feature of the Obama energy policy, not a bug.

On foreign policy, Santorum understands the essence of the threat faced by western civilization and is willing to give it its proper name. Santorum says the "Global War on Terror" is a misnomer. Terror isn't an enemy; it's a tactic used by the enemy, which he correctly identifies as radical Islamism. A President Santorum will not bow to foreign potentates.

When asked by an ORU student to contrast his foreign policy with that of Ron Paul, Santorum said, "I believe in peace through strength; he believes... well, maybe I'll just say, he doesn't. I believe that America is the source of stability in the world.... If we do what Congressman Paul has suggested.... there are forces in the world that would replace us, that would not have our best interests in mind. There wouldn't be a vacuum." He noted that radical Islamists, China, and Russia are poised to move in in response to American disengagement from the world.

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The media has made Santorum out to be the social issues candidate, but social issues haven't been the focus of his campaign materials or his speeches. His thoughts on social issues line up perfectly with the majority of Oklahomans, and while other candidates (including President Obama) pay lip service to these issues but shrink back apologetically when challenged by the liberal media, Rick Santorum patiently defends his views, which are grounded in first principles. Santorum was a leader in the fight against the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion and in the effort, inspired by the plight of Terri Schindler Schiavo, to protect the incapacitated from being starved and dehydrated to death.

Yes, Rick Santorum has made some disappointing compromises during his 16 years in Congress. But so have the Oklahoma politicians who have endorsed Romney, a man whose entire political career has been about morphing his political positions for political expediency.

(When a planet wobbles from its predicted orbit, astronomers know to look for a hidden force pulling on the planet. It's how we discovered Neptune and Pluto.)

Some Republicans are laundry-list conservatives -- they can check all the right boxes on the candidate survey, but they miss the heart of the matter. As I wrote about the 2010 governor's race:

In my years of involvement in conservative and Republican politics, I've noticed that there are those politicians who profess support for the laundry list of conservative positions on the current list of hot issues and then there are those who understand the issues of the day in terms of the bigger picture -- a coherent philosophy of government, society, and human nature and a view of the long-term consequences of today's decisions. Elected officials in the latter group seem less likely to be led astray; when a new issue comes along, they have a philosophical compass to guide their decisions, while members of the former group are susceptible to lobbyist suasion.

I'd rather have a laundry-list conservative in office than the left-wing equivalent, but I'd much rather have a leader who sees today's issues in terms of our future liberty and prosperity, guided by a coherent conservative philosophy.

Rick Santorum is that kind of leader. It shows in his personal life and in the politically costly stands he has taken, common-sense stands that sent the nasty, radical Left into conniptions.

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Like Ann Coulter used to believe, before she drank the Jim Jones powdered drink mix, I believe that Romney would be a disaster as the GOP's general election candidate. He doesn't provide enough of a contrast to Obama on the big issue that drove the big Republican gains in 2010: Obamacare and the need to repeal it before it comes into full effect. Back on September 7, 2011, the Wall Street Journal editorial board called Romney's economic plan "surprisingly timid and tactical."

The attempt by Romney fans to end things quickly and create a bandwagon through endorsements underscored his inability to withstand scrutiny. The best hope of the Romney camp was to dishearten conservatives, to crush their hope of a conservative alternative, to convince them to surrender early on to the inevitability of the Romney nomination and not waste their contributions and volunteer time on another candidate.

Romney is this year's "it's his turn" candidate, the latest representative of a 24 year pattern in which Mr. Second Place becomes front runner for the next go-around, attracting endorsements and cash from bandwagon-jumpers who like to bet on a sure thing. States leapfrogged each other on the primary calendar in hopes of having some voice in the process, but the plurality-takes-all delegate allocation rules in most states made an early win essential for all but the most well funded candidate. In 2008, the race was all but over by Valentine's Day. Romney threw in the towel the day after Tsunami Tuesday. Republicans then spent the next 10 months with a bad case of buyer's remorse, mitigated only for a week or two after McCain's vice presidential pick.

Despite brazen violations by a few states, the new GOP rules for 2012 have had the desired effect of slowing down the process, allowing for more states and more Republicans to have a meaningful say in the choice of a nominee, providing time for voters to take a close look at potential nominees before they have the nomination practically sewn up.

Back in December, when Rick Santorum was barely polling above Jon Huntsman and Buddy Roemer, I dismissed him as an also-ran, handicapped by the 2006 loss of his Senate seat and his unwise endorsement of Arlen Specter.

But as I wrote that, Santorum, accompanied by his wife Karen and their children, was working harder than any other candidate, campaigning in every county in Iowa. His persistence paid with a first-place finish on Iowa caucus night, a shoestring campaign finishing just ahead of the candidate with all the money in the world.

Unlike the other not-Romneys who emerged and faded under scrutiny, Santorum has shown staying power. I believe it's because his positions on the issues are really what he believes. They aren't calculated for the sake of political expediency. Santorum has thought through the big issues that challenge our nation.

Even if I haven't persuaded you to support Santorum on his own merits, I hope you'll consider the tactical case for a Santorum vote in Oklahoma.

If you're an Oklahoma conservative who doesn't want a nominee who has flip-flopped on all the big issues, who has rejected and embraced Reagan and the conservative movement on an as-needed basis, voting for Rick Santorum is the best way to block Romney's momentum and keep the Republican Party's options open. If you're an Oklahoma fan of Gingrich or Paul, voting for Santorum is the best thing you can do to block Romney and keep your man's candidacy viable.

Tactical voters have to begin from the starting point of the latest polls. Who is in a position to finish first? Who is in a position to win delegates? The number of tactical voters is small enough that you can only hope to tilt a closely balanced race. In a recent poll, Santorum was leading statewide and in each congressional district. Right now, what's in the balance is a win for Santorum big enough to deny Romney any Oklahoma delegates under Oklahoma's proportional delegate allocation rules. It's an important step toward knocking out Romney and opening up the race.

In Georgia there's a different answer to that question, and if I lived in Georgia, I'd cast a tactical vote for Newt. If I lived in Virginia, where only Romney and Paul are on the ballot, I'd vote for Ron Paul. But in every other Super Tuesday state, including Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee, Santorum is the best tactical choice.

But I think that if conservative Oklahoma voters will listen to his speeches and compare his record to the other candidates, you'll come to the same conclusion that I've reached: Rick Santorum is the best candidate to carry our conservative Oklahoma values into the general election and on to the White House.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 5, 2012 9:03 PM.

Rick Santorum rallies full house in Tulsa was the previous entry in this blog.

Super Tuesday is underway is the next entry in this blog.

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