Heaven knows how utterly opposed I am to his foreign policy of reckless belligerence and domestic policy of relentless interference. And yet I’m pretty sure I know what he believes – and it is exactly what Romney says he believes too. The difference is that Santorum means it, and says it, and defends it in public … and will probably implement it – so far as he can – when he gets into office. Romney is, in contrast, impossible to decipher.

Jon Stewart and John Oliver have a brilliant skit in this respect:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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George Will recently sighed: “Romney is not attracting people who want rationality leavened by romance. Santorum is repelling people who want politics unmediated by theology.” That’s about right. But for the past decade, the Republican elites and base have precisely insisted on a politics that is mediated by theology.

They are the ones who have insisted that religious argument has an integral role in public discourse; that there is a “war on Christmas” and now all religion; they are the ones who have campaigned against gay marriage as un-Biblical or in violation of a “natural law” barely updated from the 13th century; they are the ones raging against a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine because God bequeathed it all to the Jewish people; they are those who directed the federal government to involve itself in an end-of-life decision already resolved by state law; they are those who have made criminalization of abortion a litmus test for Republican candidates for a generation, and who want to give women an invasive ultrasound before allowing them to exercize what has now been a constitutional right for decades.

And when an intelligent, sincere candidate emerges who has actually walked the walk on these issues, and refused to back down on them, and overcomes a massive financial and organizational disadvantage to become the national leader in the polls, he’s suddenly far too extreme.

Is Santorum unelectable in a general election? Yep. The current polling says Rick loses to Obama by 6.3 percent. But Mitt loses to him by 5.1 percent. How big an argument do you want over 1.2 percent?

I despise what the GOP has become. But it is what it is. And Santorum is its logical leader. Let this party stand up and be counted. Romney would shroud it in bullshit and blather – while not deviating from it a scintilla. If he won the nomination and lost the general campaign, the GOP would simply blame it on his lack of “real conservatism”. And we’d be back where we started. With Santorum, we’d finally get to test whether that “real conservatism” is indeed the future of the GOP or what I think it is – a reactionary form of madness.

And, by the way, those Washington pundits now huffing and puffing about Santorum’s extremism? They should have spoken up a long time ago. Or tell us now what substantive differences there are between Santorum’s apocalyptic war-mongering and Romney’s; or between Santorum’s belief in erasing the difference between politics and religion and Romney’s. Or simply acknowledge they have no principles but defeating Democrats by whatever means necessary.

But that would be honest, wouldn’t it? Like the candidate they now oppose.