Rick Santorum

May 2011 Update:  Santorum registered a crisp and aggressive showing in the South Carolina debate earlier this month.  With the departure of Huckabee from the race, Santorum may be able to seize the social conservative niche of the Republican primary electorate; however, this could cut both ways.  Some viewed Santorum’s staunch conservatism as a contributing factor in his nearly 20 percentage point re-election loss.  Those voters may see Santorum as too conservative to compete in a presidential general election.  Still, if he falls short of the nomination, the former senator may prove a very strong contender for the vice presidential slot on the ticket, especially if the nominee is a moderate or is considered more fiscally conservative than socially conservative.  One other possibility:  if Santorum doesn’t do well in the primaries, he may leave the race in February or March and try to resurrect his Senate career by competing in a rematch of the 2006 campaign against Senator Bob Casey, Jr.

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March 2011 Update:  No movement for Santorum this month.

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I put former Senator Santorum at the bottom of my list.  His in-your-face style of conservatism may play well in the primaries, but I think it may push many voters away in a general election contest.  Republican primary voters may sense that potential and choose someone else.  There is also the fact that he lost re-election.  I know that 2006 was a tough year for Republicans and that the loss was very close and that Pennsylvania is an increasingly tough state for Republicans (though that argument did not matter last year).  But at the end of the day, Santorum was a loser the last time he ran for something–he did not retire or leave for something better, he was beaten.  I think that matters.  Still, Santorum may do incredibly well.  Time will tell.  Stay tuned.

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