10.18.11

How Santorum Would Destroy America

He’s to the left of Cain on taxes, to the right of Netanyahu on terrorism—and he lands body blows in debate. Rick Santorum may be about to have his moment. Plus, more Daily Beast contributors grade the debate.

As one who thinks every one of these Republicans would destroy America, I now confess myself most interested by far in the particular way in which Rick Santorum would destroy it. This is at least the third debate in a row in which he has shown himself to be the most cogent of the bunch. His riff toward the end when he bragged about winning three times in a blue state just might have been the kindling. Whether he’s spread enough gasoline to get the fire going, I have no idea. But something tells me he’s about to get his 15 seconds.

He floats like a butterfly around these stodgy people. He’s to Herman Cain’s left on taxes. Well sort of. But surely he is the only one who sort of seems to pretend to care about things like poor people and manufacturing jobs, which draws on a forgotten but (in today’s context) quasi-admirable working-class seam mined by Jack Kemp back in the day. He’s to Bibi’s right on Gilad Shalit, which is usefully reassuring to the John Bolton caucus. He was interesting on immigration and defense cuts. He didn’t milk his 3-year-old daughter’s surgery, but actually mentioned it with a measure of taste.

Cain wasn’t impressive enough to secure a tight hold on the “anti-Romney” spot, and he mentioned apples and oranges about three too many times. Rick Perry keeps ... stopping ... in the ... middle ... of his ... sentences. What is that? Romney was the best of the bunch, but not overwhelmingly.

Best Moments from Republican Debate

There’s still flux here. Don’t forget that Iowa—northern Iowa—is pretty heavily Catholic. That’s Santorum land. He might not make it to the A level and might not have the money to last. And he’s perhaps too earnest in an age when earnestness is distrusted. But if he can keep his campaign alive, don’t discount the possibility that he could make things interesting—mess up things for one of the top-tier people enough to screw them up, shake up the race, alter the debate. Maybe knowing something about policy matters, even in a Republican primary contest.