Monday, May 20th, 2019

A March Madness presidential primary


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Mar 22, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

A March Madness presidential primary
Wisconsin tough state for Santorum

A little March madness everyone? My brackets are all screwed up. I had Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels in the Midwest semifinals and neither of them got past the opening round.

It could be worse. I know a guy who had New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Northeastern final. Former Sen. Rick Santorum? Where did he come from?

We knew all along that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would be the front-runner to take it all at this point. This is not to give in to some silly conspiracy theory about how the “Republican establishment” was always going to pick the winner. All it took was a look at which candidate had the strongest organization and the most financial strength to win in the long term.

Of course, it always helps in the Republican primaries if the voters perceive it’s “your turn.”

As I told you back in January, Santorum would be this year’s Mike Huckabee chasing Romney all the way to the convention without a chance of winning.

There is a lot to be said for Santorum. He is definitely the most conservative candidate when it comes to the issues near and dear to social conservatives. Unlike Romney, Santorum’s positions on abortion and gay marriage have never been in doubt.

Santorum gets something else about the conservative base of the Republican Party. For many of them, economics isn’t just a bunch of numbers. It’s a social issue, too.

When we talk about bailouts and health care, we’re not just talking numbers. We are talking about the culture, and where this culture is heading.

Santorum does a better job of conveying that message than Romney.

For those of you who missed Santorum’s speech Tuesday night after the Illinois primary, he talked about what average people were experiencing in this sluggish economy. He took a shot at “Romneycare” in Massachusetts. But mostly he related the economic issues in his speech to our basic freedoms.

Romney, too, followed that theme, even as he focused his attacks on the president.

Despite the seeming late date of Wisconsin’s primary on April 3, we’re about to get the attention of the Santorum and Romney campaigns. They are going to have a tough time getting our attention over the noise of the recall elections and the acrimony in Madison.

That should favor the Romney campaign, which will have more money and organization to cut through all the background noise to reach Republican primary voters.

Romney’s appeal to Republicans is simple. He is the “inevitable” candidate, and he can make the case he is the most likely to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

On the other hand, Santorum should have more appeal to the strong social conservative streak in Wisconsin Republican voters and may be more appealing to the tea party movement due to his more populist economic message.

Santorum will have a tough time making his campaign noticeable above all of the recall noise. If he has any illusions about his difficult challenge, he should talk to the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. You know, those guys, that millionaire and an ex-governor or something. I think there’s an excongressman running, too. It’s hard to tell.

But do not fall for any hype about the importance of the presidential primary in Wisconsin. It will be very hard, almost impossible, for Santorum to get enough delegates by the end of the primary season to prevent Romney from having enough delegates to win the nomination before the convention.

If by some miracle the nomination is still open when the Republican National Convention takes place, does anyone seriously believe the delegates would choose Santorum or former Speaker Newt Gingrich?

Now for our fun thought of the day. If the Republican delegates do not choose Romney on the first ballot, whom might they pick?

I like the sound of President Paul Ryan, don’t you?

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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