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Santorum focused on wrong issues

Updated: March 22, 2012 8:07AM



The economy, thankfully, appears to be improving, mostly in spite of the policies of President Barack Obama, but it’s still in lousy shape. The Republicans’ best hope of capturing the White House rests on concentrating on jobs and the detrimental effect on them and economic growth of the explosive surge in federal red-ink spending.

Yet Rick Santorum, the current front-running not-Romney candidate, fell into the trap of appearing to question Obama’s commitment to Christianity over the weekend. That only demonstrates why he would be weaker than Mitt Romney as the GOP challenger to Obama in the general election.

Santorum said Obama operates on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.” He also said, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian” — which critics seized on to suggest he used code words to question Obama’s faith. Predictably, Santorum spent days explaining what he meant, declaring on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “I’ve repeatedly said that I believe the president’s Christian.” Then he stumbled again, emphasizing prenatal testing as a driver of abortions.

While Santorum does have a strong economic message, his candidacy is defined by his social conservatism. In the precious few debates in the general election, should he be the GOP nominee, Santorum would find the spotlight on his social, cultural values and his remarks about Obama’s “theology.” That’s a no-win situation.

It’s Obama’s political policies and the devastating impact they have on the economy that must be central to the GOP message. One in six Americans is unemployed, under-employed or dropped out of the labor force. By every standard that the administration set for its nearly trillion-dollar stimulus bill, the measure failed to measure up in creating jobs. The White House’s alibi is that the recession was worse than anyone realized.

That’s only further evidence of the administration’s failure. At a crucial time in the recession, Obama took a year off from the jobs issue to concentrate his political clout on passing the great liberal goal of a national health-care law in the form of Obamacare.

Gas prices are rising again, rebutting the administration’s claim that it’s increased oil production. A drilling slow-down continues in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP spill, reports Greater New Orleans Inc. The administration averaged issuing two deepwater drilling permits per month over the last three months — a 66 percent decline from pre-spill levels, the organization reports. Also troubling is that gas consumption appeared to be falling before the price jump, according to an analysis by Steven Hayward, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “A number of observers think it is possible that this sharply declining trend is another indicator that the economy is heading down again,” Hayward wrote.

Yet Santorum has the GOP nomination race focused on social issues and polls show him surging, even threatening Romney in his home state of Michigan. There’s no denying that Romney has failed to win over the conservative base, and he’s thus far avoided the kind of bold initiative that might do so.

Romney likely will tough it out with his last-man-standing strategy to be the nominee, but maybe not. Santorum could win the nomination or, along with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, so split the delegates that the GOP ends up in an “open convention” in Tampa.



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