A poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling shows Senator Rick Santorum 15% ahead of Governor Mitt Romney for the February 28 Michigan Republican presidential primary. This echoes another poll released Sunday by the Pew Research Center, which shows Santorum leading Romney by 2% nationally. Should Santorum win the Michigan primary, and possibly the Arizona primary held the same day, not only could Santorum match Romney’s delegate count, but Santorum will have beaten Romney in Romney’s native state of Michigan. That in turn will show the fragility of Romney’s standing among Republicans, blowing the Republican presidential primary race wide open yet again.
The punditocracy is expecting things to get dirty between moderate Romney and socially conservative Santorum, but what else is new? Romney has orchestrated negative campaigning against other Republican candidates for months. In fact, it was Romney’s negative ads in Iowa that turned Newt Gingrich from a standard GOP candidate into a “payback time” candidate, bent on revenge.
As Santorum has become the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, we can expect to see a wave of negative ad hominem attacks against him not only from competing Republicans, but also from the media, academia, Hollywood, and every other liberal in America. It will probably get very ugly.
See, it’s OK to have policies that coincide with Ronald Reagan’s other two stool legs, specifically fiscally conservative policies and conservative approaches to national security issues. That’s pretty standard. But if a candidate makes a convincing case not only that he is a social conservative, but also that he has a good chance of getting elected president, then that candidate can expect an avalanche of personal attacks and vitriol. To put it another way, Rick Santorum is sitting on a volcano of criticism, and it is about to blow.
In fact, the ash cloud beneath Rick Santorum is just now becoming visible. Recall that only a few weeks ago Santorum was ridiculed for bringing his dead son’s body home from the hospital in 1996, allegedly “playing with it for a couple hours so his other children would know that the child was real.”
To be fair, Alan Colmes later apologized for his cruel comments, but following Santorum’s later sweep of the Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri contests on February 7, Santorum criticism has increased, and not just on his political positions. In fact, the criticism is mostly personal.
Liberal internet chat-sites are filled with open assertions of hatred for Rick Santorum, some comments using words that need context for definition. It is helpful for the reader to use a slang dictionary to follow along. And recently, it has been pointed out that a search for “Santorum” on the search engines Google and Bing result in a disgusting anti-Santorum website close to the top of the search results.
Following Santorum’s February 7 sweep of the contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, John Cassidy of the New Yorker shared his feelings, calling Santorum an “abomination,” even criticizing Santorum’s number of kids (7), his fashion sense, and his house in Virginia. In another New Yorker post, David Remnick wrote that we are in a “culture war” and that Santorum’s views are “anathema” and his rhetoric “abhorrent.”
The last candidate to underscore her social conservative positions with a serious chance of being elected president was Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who, since being picked as John McCain’s 2008 running mate, has been vilified without end. There are many other examples of how she was treated, but in the last four years Sarah Palin was hanged in effigy; she was accused of not really giving birth to her fifth child, Trig; David Letterman joked that Palin wears her makeup to look like a “slutty flight attendant”; and her personal e-mail account was hacked and her e-mails passed around on the internet. A critical author even rented a house next door to the Palin family in Alaska in hopes of finding dirt to report. And that author was not shunned for his creepiness — in fact, he made all the network talk shows promoting his book about Palin. And Palin was widely accused of being an encouraging factor in the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
As the next socially conservative and viable presidential candidate, Rick Santorum will probably receive similar treatment. In only a few weeks or even days, that Rick Santorum is evil, dangerous, perverted, or whatever will be a topic of conversation, taken seriously by everyone. Is Santorum evil? Is his family demented? Does he keep a severed head in his freezer?
All right — that last question might be an exaggeration, but the point is that soon, nothing will be off the table in topics promoted to vilify Rick Santorum. From his house, his personal style, his family, former girlfriends, anything, people will be demonizing Rick Santorum like they did Palin before him. Santorum needs to be ready, and his supporters need to be ready to defend him.
This column was originally published in American Thinker