Friday, February 17, 2012

What does Rick Santorum have in common with Newt Gingrich?

Question: what do Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have in common? Aside from their alternating status as the un-Mitt du jour I mean.

Answer: Both served multiple terms in Congress, and neither left of his own volition.  Newt was drummed out by his own caucus. Senator Santorum was tossed out by his constituents after two full terms, by a whopping margin (18 percent).

Any observer of American politics understands how powerful an advantage incumbency is in our elections. It is a rare thing for a sitting US Senator to be deposed by his constituents; rarer still for his ouster to be so emphatic (absent scandal, that is). The voters of Pennsylvania had twelve full years on which to base their decision in 2006, and their verdict was unambiguous. Out Senator Santorum went. Yes, 2006 was a bad year for Republicans. But it was a particularly bad year for Rick Santorum.

Another Answer: Both have had difficulty winning endorsements from Republicans who served with them in Congress. This phenomenon has been more conspicuous in Gingrich's case, as many of his former top lieutenants have sat on their hands or, worse, publicly declined to support him (this John Boehner interview is just painful).

Now take a look at Rick Santorum's list of endorsements. Yes, he has the lead singer of Megadeth, locking up the Republican 80s skateboarder vote (all three of them). But a voter searching for significant support from Santorum's former Congressional colleagues will search mostly in vain. Ohio AG and former Senator Mike DeWine endorsed Santorum today - marking the good AG's third endorsement this primary cycle. So that's one (or, put more charitably, it's a hundred percent increase!).

It seems the people who know Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum best - their colleagues in Congress and, in Santorum's case, the voters of Pennsylvania - have some pretty serious misgivings about them. There can be many reasons for that, of course. Politics make for rivalries and animosities as often and easily as allegiances. But it is a factor worth pondering.

Not a former Republican Senator

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