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Santorum a Good #2 for the GOP Ticket?

By Ben Griffiths, Contributing Writer

As New Hampshire becomes the latest state to fall to the increasingly unstoppable looking Mitt Romney, let us pause to ponder the fate of the fifth-place finisher in that NH primary, Pennsylvania native Rick Santorum.

After a shocking near-victory in Iowa last week, the Santorum campaign fell back to earth this week. But as his presidential aspirations dwindle, the debate around whether or not Santorum would be a good vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket is heating up.

“The first rule of a vice presidential candidate is, do no harm,” explained Republican strategist Charlie Gerow, who this week signed on to manage Newt Gingrich’s campaign in Pa. “I think you need to peel back each layer of the onion to discuss whether or not he [Santorum] would make a good candidate.”

The first layer of the Santorum onion is that many believe that Mitt Romney will need a more socially conservative running mate to do well in the general election. This is a category that Santorum certainly falls into, as Thomas Fitzgerald of the Philadelphia Inquirer points out:

“The former Pennsylvania senator has right-wing street credibility and is strong among evangelical Christians and other social-issues conservatives – important parts of the GOP coalition. As the grandson of an immigrant coal miner, Santorum also is a Northeasterner with a working-class sensibility (Did you hear him from Iowa on Tuesday night, describing his grandfather’s hands?). Pennsylvania is a swing state, and, until his landslide loss to Bob Casey in 2006, Santorum had demonstrated strong appeal to economically stressed but culturally conservative whites, a key voting bloc.”

Further adding fuel to the Romney/Santorum ticket speculation is the fact that Rick Santorum has shown restraint in his campaign trail attacks on Romney, as this New York Times article highlights:

“While much of the Republican pack was blasting Mr. Romney as a heartless, leveraged buyout executive during his years at Bain Capital, Mr. Santorum declined to do so.

“Rather, Mr. Santorum repeated his milder criticism that Mr. Romney was not a true conservative. But Mr. Santorum did not mention his rival by name, giving rise to speculation that Mr. Santorum might be angling for the vice-presidential spot on a Romney ticket.”

However there are many conservatives who feel that Santorum’s in-your-face style of social conservatism is too controversial for the vice presidential position.

“The VP position is supposed to be somebody who is not a polarizing figure, said GOP strategist Ryan Shafik. “Whether you like him personally or not,the consensus is, even among his staunchest supporters, that Santorum is one of the most polarizing politicians in the country.”

Shafik supported Senator Pat Toomey in his 2004 primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter, when Santorum endorsed the incumbent. That decision is often cited by Pa. conservatives as one of Santorum’s biggest missteps.

Another key element of a good vice president selection is the ability to deliver a state.

Shafik, pointing to Santorum’s 18-point loss to Bob Casey in 2006, cast doubt on Santorum’s’ ability to deliver Pennsylvania (or Virginia, he added). Shafik warned that Santorum’s stridently conservative views on social issues would not endear him to most independent or moderate voters.

“The Democrats would love to have Rick Santorum on the ticket,” said Shafik. “He would energize their base in a way that Barack Obama could not do.”

It should be noted that although Governor Romney has not made any mention of Santorum as a possible running mate, Newt Gingrich has been quoted in The Washington Examiner saying that the former senator from Pennsylvania would be a valuable asset.

“He’s tremendous — he’s a very good competent person,” Gingrich replied when asked what he would think of Santorum as a running-mate. “There are a lot of people who are very competent and that you’d want to use in a variety of ways, whether it was as a cabinet officer, or whether it was a special assignment, or whether it was as the vice president.”

4 Responses

  1. “The VP position is supposed to be somebody who is not a polarizing figure, said GOP strategist Ryan Shafik.

    Really? Says who?

    What about Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, or Dan Quayle? Or, to include unsucessful VP candidates, what about Bob Dole or Sara Palin? It’s more about balancing the ticket…and if its a Republican, the pick will be characterized as poloarizing no matter what.

  2. Nope….no advocate of Christian Sharia Law and no one who signed the VanderPlatt “Iowa” pledge should be allowed to set foot in the White House!

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