Campaign 2012: Does Rick Santorum have staying power?

February 22nd, 2012

With the Michigan and Arizona primaries less than a week away, several recent polls show that the GOP race for president is close, with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a statistical tie in Michigan. We asked our Campaign 2012 experts: Is Rick Santorum the current flavor of the month or does he has staying power?

Tom Whalen, associate professor of social science, is an expert on American politics and the American presidency. Whalen can be contacted at 978-888-3131; tjw64@bu.edu

He’s like the Red Sox never ending search for a quality shortstop. The GOP rank and file are willing to audition anyone. Anyone not named Mitt anyway. Look for Santorum to fade like all the other would-be front runners and look forward to a brokered Republican National Convention this summer. Maybe by that time, the Bosox will have a competent shortstop. Then again, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tom Fiedler, Dean of the College of Communication, is an expert on politics and political reporting. Fiedler can be reached at 617-353-3488; tfiedler@bu.edu

In the Republican version of Whac-a-Mole, Rick Santorum has the honor of sticking his head up this month. He may actually keep it there through Michigan and on to Super Tuesday. But like the values’ candidates of prior elections going back to Pat Roberson, he is too far on the fringe to make the finals.

John Carroll, assistant professor of mass communication, is an expert on political media and a political analyst. Carroll can be reached at 617-353-3493; carroll@bu.edu; Twitter: @carroll7_bu; Blog: Campaign Outsider

Rick Santorum has gone all in on social values, staking his campaign on culture-war attacks on Barack Obama. He’s dusted off Sarah Palin’s 2008 playbook that declared “Obama is not one of us.” Santorum’s version has him claiming that Obama practices a “phony theology” and also asking “whose side is [Obama] on?”

Risky as it may sound, that gambit plays well with social conservatives, and the more mainstream media question/criticize Santorum for his tactics, the more it reinforces his base of support.

Fred Bayles, director of BU’s State House Program, is a former national correspondent for the Associated Press and USA Today. Bayles can be contacted at 617-353-7736; fbayles@bu.edu

What is missing in most of the hype about Rick Santorum’s latest “wins” is the analysis of who voted – and more importantly, who didn’t.

The turnouts in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado were small. And why not? The votes didn’t count for much in the way of actual delegates. The moderate, suburban Republican swing voters stayed home and watched NCIS while the more conservative, rural Republicans eschewed television to make a statement.

This phenomenon of small numbers works fine if you’re a candidate for the local school board and get all your friends to vote for you. It even helped in the 2010 congressional districts, where motivated Tea Party leaning voters turned out to throw the bums out. But it didn’t work so well in that year’s U.S. Senate races, where fire-breathing conservative candidates lost in Delaware, Nevada and Connecticut.

The true test for Santorum and his rivals will come on Super Tuesday. If the numbers remain low, it does not bode well for the Republicans. A small turnout will mean moderates can’t get themselves excited enough to go down to the school and cast a ballot for Mitt Romney. The motivated minority will get to pick a more conservative candidate who may not do so well when more people vote in November.

Related link:

Road to Power: Campaign 2012 videos

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