Rick Santorum’s Debate Debacle and Fall from Grace

The unexpected rise and soon to be the expected fall of Rick Santorum has been largely due to his own folly. He was the undisputed front-runner after sweeping MN, MO and CO in one night. He had done what no pundit had predicted – he defeated Romney in all three states! This trifecta propelled him into the national spotlight where the glare was too much for him to handle, even on the night he pulled off this upset.  His lack-luster victory speech was not presidential, nor inspirational, and he seemed nervous about being ahead in the race. That was a sign of things to come.

What did Santorum do with this lofty position of front-runner? The same thing that all the others did before him – he bungled it so badly that within a couple of weeks he will have talked himself out of contention.  Take for example the CNN debate (Wed Feb 22, 2012).  While Perry had a “oops” moment last fall that eventually caused him to drop out of the race, Santorum had a “oops” debate.  The problem is that he can’t lie, or even use creative truth-telling like other politicians. He just lays out the facts, explanations and excuses to justify what he did but just end up shooting himself in the foot. He did that over and over in the debate every time he was challenged by Romney or Paul. His long voting record in the House and Senate has betrayed his social and fiscal conservative positions that he has proclaimed all along the campaign trail.

He voted for contraception, abortions, debt increases, earmarks and large-scale spending programs, as well as two wars that have incurred a significant loss of life and treasure. This does not jibe with his rhetoric on the campaign trail. You’re right Ron Paul, he is a fake.

Now he’s decided that women should not serve on the front lines in war because they are “emotional”, defends an abstinence program from the federal government (which costs money), is against gays and gay marriage, believes that college is for snobs, and does not want a separation of church and state (although he does want separation of mosque and state, synagogue and state, or any other religion and state). Whatever happened to the freedom and liberty that he quotes in every speech? All of these things restrict freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh well, more campaign red-meat and rhetoric for the uneducated masses.

Consider, for example, the “No Child Left Behind” question from the CNN debate, which is very telling. Here’s what he said and a “translation” into simple English:

Santorum: “…I have to admit, I voted for it…against the principles I believe in…”

Translation: I am unprincipled in my voting.

Santorum:“I took one for the team…look, politics is a team sport”

Translation: I voted based along party lines, not based on what was good for my state which I represent or for the country that I believe in,  but whatever the party decided was right, which makes me a typical Washington insider.

Santorum: “It was a mistake.”

Translation: I make mistakes by voting without thinking it through because it seems like the right thing to do to support the President’s program.

Santorum: “It was a bad idea…for all the money that was put out there…”

Translation: I’m not a fiscal conservative since I spend taxpayers dollars without worrying about debts or deficits.

Santorum: “I will repeal No Child Left Behind”

Translation: I was for it before I was against it.  Oops!

When your votes contradict every position you take in your campaign speeches as a candidate for President, you lose all credibility.  Sorry Rick, your fifteen minutes are almost up!

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The Romney Playbook

Remember the book entitled “How to succeed in business without really trying”?  There must be another book somewhere called “How to run for President without really trying” now being used by Mitt Romney as the basis for his campaign.  The initial paragraph of the book probably reads something like this:

“Congratulations on the purchase of this book! It is your first step to a successful run as the party nominee and eventually the presidency.  This guide book will provide you with enough information to win the nomination of your party and defeat an incumbent President who stands in the way of your rightful place in the White House. Let’s get started.”

Throughout the book, there are undoubtedly lots of do’s and don’t’s for use along the campaign trail. Do look Presidential, Don’t give a lot of interviews (if any!), Do use negative attack ads, Don’t admit to any flaws, mistakes, or flip-flops in the past, etc. Somewhere in the book, there must be a section describing how to construct a stump speech that the candidate will have to give over and over, except for a change in the name of the city or state being wooed.

Stump Speech Outline:

o Start by pointing to random places in the audience during the initial applause as if you know everyone there and then thank the state for its warm welcome (make sure you remember which state you are in!) and mention a whole bunch of local politicians in the audience to make it look like you have lots of endorsements from the state

o Tell a heart-warming story about immigrant parents who came to this country with a dollar in their pocket and a promise of a better life, and sacrificed a lot so that eventually you and your ego could run for president

o Then attack any rivals in the primary with exaggerated statements about their minor offenses as the main mechanism to influence the crowd to vote for you. Lots of mud-slinging is encouraged since some of it may stick for those not following closely, which is most of the voting public

o Throw out a lot of applause lines, sound bites, red meat and vitriolic statements that tend to pander to the audience. These portions will show up on the 24-hour news channels and increase your visibility in the media, effectively getting free air time.

o Attack the incumbent president on all partisan issues and say you’ll do better. Tell them what a lousy job the administration is doing and that the country is headed in the wrong direction. But NEVER say exactly how you will do better. Keep them guessing. Otherwise, they will find some flaw in your approach. NEVER let them pin you down on any issue so keep specifics out of the speech. In fact, do not let them know where you stand on any issue so that it cannot be debated in the media, or anywhere else.

o Wrap yourself in the flag, the constitution and religion, as you recite various portions of the Declaration of Independence. Sing God Bless America, America the Beautiful and the National Anthem – even if you can’t sing. Remind the crowd that you want your country back, that you are fighting for the soul of America and that the government is by the people and for the people. Toss in a line about keeping the military strong and remind everyone to “Support our troops at home and abroad” to seal the deal. None of this means anything but voters will eat it up like hogs at a trough!

o End with the fact that America’s best days are still ahead, and it’s the last best hope for the earth as the shining city on the hill. Now smile and wave like you just gave the best speech in recorded political history! Start glad-handing with the folks on stage and then in the audience, while keeping the smile pasted on your face and an ample supply of hand sanitizer in your pocket.

With this type of speech, repeated over and over like a broken record, you will win over a large segment of the GOP population. Make sure you stay on script every time you give the speech; otherwise, you might inadvertently say what you mean, rather than not meaning what you say. Although you’ve said absolutely nothing of substance in the speech, everyone will walk away thinking that you are the right person to lead the nation to glory.

Commentary: Isn’t it about time for Romney to re-work his entire stump speech so that it has some content, some vision, some positions on key issues and most importantly – solutions? It’s getting tiresome listening to the same old uninspiring talk everyday. It’s not working! And while he’s at it, he should stop following the guide book and start working on a real campaign than can excite the GOP electorate!!!