Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Santorum stands strong in Ohio – now what?

By Nikhil Rao

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This time last week, I told myself that Rick Santorum would surely be unable to weather the acid test of Super Tuesday. I told anyone willing to listen to my armchair political ratiocination that Romney’s Super PAC, Restore our Future, would blow Santorum out of the water in Ohio, a decent bellwether state, and as a consequence he would win. As it turns out, it was a bit more smash and grab than that.

Massachusetts’ Mitt Romney stole the Ohio primary from staunch conservative Rick “Sweater-vest”’ Santorum by a mere 0.8 percentage points. That’s so small that it’s smaller than the number of goals that Fernando Torres has scored since he joined Chelsea Football Club in January 2011. But I digress. What on earth is the issue with these Republican primary voters? Well, we know that primary voters tend to be ideological purists and I imagine that that is the reason for their ad hominem exercise of political power. Rick Santorum has courted controversy on virtually every social issue to have come up recently. He has demonstrated a fallibly inconsistent conservative record, having voted for No Child Left Behind, multiple raisings of the debt ceiling and Medicare Part D. However, his social conservatism may be saving him. Now I do not know why Republican voters who say they are most aggrieved by the failing economy would prefer a pseudo-neoconservative Beltway insider with no experience dealing with the nitty-gritty of the economy, but they do. What also defies logic is that, prior to his meteoric rise, he raised a paltry amount of money compared to Romney, Gingrich and Paul, Super PACs considered. Now with Foster Friess showering the Pennsylvanian with money, the race is bound to get heated.

There is another theory relating to Rick Santorum’s skyrocketing popularity, though I am skeptical as to its ability to completely explain the phenomenon: his ability to connect with voters. He is the son of an Italian immigrant who worked in the mines for a majority of his life. I suppose that this fosters a sense of unity with the “common man,” so to speak. It is a pity that such an important quality has fallen to Santorum, in my opinion. At a time when populist movements and organizations such as the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement have come to the fore, voters are loath to support perceived elitists in the mold of Romney, Gingrich or even Obama. The presidential race, called ‘Indecision 2012’ by the hilariously affable Jon Stewart, was yearning for a true people person to be the proverbial knight in shining armor. Said knight never showed and the super conservatives have acquiesced to what they view as the next best thing- Santorum. The tragedy of it all is that he is wholly unelectable. The man who has decried the separation of Church and state, attacked irreligious philosophy and reeks of bigotry every 23 minutes is not an able challenger to the incumbent President; he isn’t even a real pretender to the throne. If Santorum wins the nomination, the image of the GOP may be tarnished, unfortunately resulting in a pyrrhic victory for Santorum as well as the Grand Old Party. But imagine if Obama was faced by a people’s man of substance, a real contender for the consecrated title of “POTUS.” We would have a real intellectual debate from June to November that could constructively spur the nation’s progress. Instead, we will probably hear things to the effect of ‘Maobama’ or ‘Crazy Santorum,’ invective that is not wholly untrue but not wholly accurate. I guess that is just the nature of contemporary American politics.

Nikhil Rao is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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