Santorum Isn’t Anyone’s Favorite

Byron York wonders why Rick Santorum isn’t considered the GOP’s 2016 frontrunner:

In 2012, he won 11 primaries and caucuses, making him the solid second-place finisher in a party that has a long history of nominating the candidate who finished second the last time around. (See Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.) And yet now, no one — no one — is suggesting Santorum will be the frontrunner in 2016, should he choose to run. As far as the political handicapping goes, Santorum’s 2012 victories don’t seem to count for much.

Larison solves the mystery:

York presents Santorum’s message on economic issues as one of the strengths of the campaign, and to some extent it was, but what goes unmentioned here is how allergic many in the GOP are to anything that sounds like economic populism.

His voting record is littered with all of the major blunders of the Bush years, so he can’t very credibly pose as a champion of limited government, and he has been denouncing libertarians for the better part of a decade. Santorum also comes across as abrasive, and when he speaks it usually feels as if he is lecturing and dictating to the audience rather than trying to appeal to them. If you wanted to invent a politician who could alienate several different parts of the Republican coalition all at once, you would design someone like Santorum.

Yglesias digs into Santorum’s economic agenda:

York quotes Santorum saying various things about the need to champion working class economic interests. And indeed on the campaign trail, Santorum said a fair amount about this. He also championed a tax plan that relative to a scenario in which the Bush tax cuts were fully extended would have extended an additional $448,000 per year in tax cuts to people earning over $1 million per year, while delivering around $1,000-$2,000 to the median family. To pay for that, you would need to enact large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs.

Maybe that’s a good idea. But I sincerely doubt that it would serve the financial interests of the typical working class American. But this seems to be about where we are in terms of economic policy discourse in the conservative movement.

Joyner adds:

Santorum simply comes across as harsh and extreme, even to die-hard Republicans. While it’s true that the GOP has a tradition of nominating the guy whose “turn” it is, my strong guess is that, as when George W. Bush was nominated in 2000, none of the candidates from last time around will be relevant. Mitt Romney almost certainly won’t run again. Santorum hit his ceiling in 2012. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, who barely mattered, are has-beens.