The liberals are choosing our candidate for us, and we are helping them do it.

I never did put much stock into the claims that the liberal media force McCain on us.  We had our own primaries and voters chose him, I figured.  And the Democrats were busy with their own primaries, which went on much longer than ours.  So I’ve never really bought into the idea that anyone could choose our candidate but us.

But that was before I saw the blatant manipulation that the Obama administration has engaged in this season.

Do you think Obama would have made his controversial decision to force the Catholic church to pay for contraception coverage if Rick Santorum wasn’t in the race?  I say no.  It wouldn’t even be an issue.  He wouldn’t take the risk of alienating scores of Catholic Democrats if he didn’t think he could get something out of it.  So what is he getting out of it?  Simple: He gets an issue he can successfully campaign on.

Do you think Barack Obama wants to campaign on his record, or the economy?  Of course not.  He’s an abject failure in that arena and everyone knows it, even if the media is desperately trying to claim otherwise.  If the economy is the major issue in this election, he loses by default.  The only way he can win is if he can distract people by making them think that the Republican candidate poses a bigger threat to their personal freedom than he does.

It’s no coincidence that Obama’s HHS has made the decision to force religious organizations to pay for things that violate their beliefs just as Santorum is emerging as an alternative to Romney.  Make no mistake, this administration is afraid.  Not of Romney, but of the possibility that they will have to answer for their failures on the economy and the size of government.  But if they can change the battlefield from the economy to contraception, then suddenly they gain an advantage.

Let’s face it: the American people are not going to put up with a candidate who says things like “One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.”  That’s a direct quote from Rick Santorum.  Yes, I realize he’s not quite saying he would outlaw or oppose contraception, but nobody who doesn’t follow conservative politics is going to draw that distinction.  And most Americans will take affront to a candidate who wants to tell them what they can and can’t do in their bedrooms.  It is the only thing that can motivate them to vote against their own economic well-being.

The Obama administration did not make a miscalculation in their decision to provoke religious organizations.  Make no mistake: Obama wants to have a fight about contraception.  He wants to look like the guy who is defending personal freedom against religious zealots, because that’s the only fight he can win.  Republicans have done a good job so far framing this issue as a matter of religious freedom.  But if Santorum is the Republican nominee for president, suddenly those past quotes come back to haunt him.  And the media certainly isn’t going to allow him to change the subject back to the economy.

Look, don’t get me wrong, if I thought Santorum was a reliable conservative I’d say this was a fight worth having.  But he’s not.  We’re talking about a pro-union shill who voted against national right-to-work legislation.  We’re talking about a big government spender who porked up his district with earmarks, voted to raise the debt ceiling five times, and voted to expand the entitlement system with the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.  Until ObamaCare, that was the biggest increase in entitlement spending since Medicare was first put into place!  And when it came time for Rick Santorum to answer for these votes, he tried to hide behind a veneer of social conservatism as a way to appeal to those he had sold out.  That strategy backfired, and he lost his Senate seat by 18 points.  The choice we have at this point in the primary season is not RINO vs. Conservative.  It’s RINO vs. phony.

I’m no Mittbot.  He’s a consummate politician, willing to say whatever it takes to get elected, and his record is as atrocious as Santorum’s.  But at the same time, he’s not pretending to be something he’s not, like Santorum.  And he doesn’t carry with him the potential to turn this election from a question of economic freedom to a debate about contraception and personal freedom — which Santorum will surely lose.  I’m not saying Romney is a better choice for conservatives — there is no good choice for conservatives.  I’m saying Romney’s negatives are known, and Santorum’s have barely begun to surface, and that makes Romney a stronger contender against Obama.

It is no coincidence that the Obama administration has chosen to provoke religious organizations just as Santorum is emerging as an alternative to Romney.  He wants to give Santorum that boost, because he knows that will make it easier to change the subject to contraception and make the Republicans look like sex-hating prudes, just as liberals have always claimed.  And it’s no coincidence that he’s using ObamaCare to justify those rules, either: by doing so, he turns ObamaCare from a govermnent takeover of health care into an assurance of personal liberty, like some perverse Orwellian doublethink nightmare.  This is what we’re allowing to happen if we nominate Santorum.

Obama and his media enablers are preparing the battlefield this November as a false contest between religious conservatives who want to take away people’s access to contraception and liberals who just want to maximize personal freedom, because it’s the only fight they can win.  In order to facilitate that, they are choosing our candidate for us.  And by fooling ourselves into thinking that Santorum is a conservative alternative to Romney, we are helping them do it.