Memo to Romney: Learn from Santorum's journey
Mitt Romney would be wise to take a good, hard look at what Rick Santorum did right and what he did wrong during his campaign. Because in his quest to unseat President Obama, Romney will face some of the same challenges Santorum faced.
Back in the summer of 2011, nobody thought Rick Santorum had a shot at the Republican nomination. Nationally, he was polling about 3 percent. But through sheer hard work and persistence, he won the Iowa caucus, and thus was catapulted into the big time.
There are many lessons to be learned from Santorum's political journey, beginning with having a dream and fighting to make it happen. The senator did that, and it makes him a noble figure to those of us who admire achievement.
But Santorum also made some vivid mistakes, underestimating the secular culture and the intent of the media. And it is here where the Romney tutorial begins. The national press is generally biased left and has the long knives out for anyone spouting spiritual beliefs. Once Rick Santorum began answering questions about his theology, it began to damage his political message. And when he criticized John F. Kennedy on the separation of church and state issue, the media went wild. You don't mess with JFK.
The skeptical tone toward Santorum was defined in January by ABC's George Stephanopoulos in the New Hampshire debate. He zeroed in on the senator's moral view of contraception and, foolishly, the senator engaged. He should have simply said this: "Hey, George, I have seven kids. I don't know much about it." That's it. End of exposition.
But, no, Santorum rambled on about the downside of birth control, something most Americans simply don't want to hear about. Although most citizens are believers, the United States has become a largely secular country, and voters do not want politicians telling them how to conduct their private lives.
Soon, Santorum was besieged by questions about his faith-based belief system and, again, he entered into the conversation, answering questions about the morality of homosexuality and the like. By doing this, he walked into a swamp he couldn't get out of and was marginalized as a religious zealot.
Memo to Mitt Romney: If the press asks you about Adam and Eve, simply say they didn't have jobs, and it's Obama's fault. Keep the conversation on issues that matter to the voters. The media doesn't really care what you think about Cain and Abel or what you believe spiritually. They simply want to make you look like Elmer Gantry.
In the end, Rick Santorum's spirited challenge to Mitt Romney actually defined the governor better for the voters, which may be either a good or a bad thing, depending on your viewpoint. But going forward, Romney will face the same sand traps that bedeviled Santorum. Best to walk around them, governor, because once you get in, you'll never get out.