Down the Ballot? Down the Toilet.

Rick “Tim Tebow” Santorum. It has to be said, and said now, to clear the record. I know, Rick Perry tried to capitalize on Tebowmania, and the young quarterback himself has shown remarkable dexterity in avoiding getting involved with politics, which is a good thing. Now that Rick Santorum has left the race, in retrospect, the comparisons are almost scary. The hard-line Christianity that, actually, upon closer examination, looks heartfelt and sincere. Then there’s unexplainable winning from behind when everyone had counted him out, despite awkward throwing, or in Santorum’s case, campaigning, mechanics. And of course, both met their demise in favor of a presumptive winner who has some serious flaws that may prove to be fatal by the beginning of next season. Oh, and Bill Maher hates them both.

Well now that the Tebowmania of the primary is over, Mitt “Peyton Manning” Romney had better have something up his sleeve. He has had a couple of good zingers during the debates, and he has been comparatively stable behind the podium, but that alone does not a good candidate make. (Write like Yoda, today, I shall) He had better hit the downfield passes, not just hand the ball off. He had better run the offense, not just adjust to the defense the media sends his way. For example, his response to the accusation that Romneycare is Obamacare’s ideological predecessor has been, so far, “You should have called me to see what worked and what didn’t”. I’ll say it for all of us: Governor Romney, that is not enough. “Why didn’t you call me and ask what worked” is not a rebuttal that sinks in with voters, its what you ask your neighbor when they buy the same grill as you did, and screw up setting it up. Don’t tell me how you would make socialism work, tell me how you would make it gone.

To be fair, which is totally unnecessary, Mitt has said he will repeal Obamacare. That is not enough, not in the light of what Rick Santorum has experienced. When I was helping to prep my station’s local morning show today, I came across an interesting video clip from November of last year. In the clip, Rick Santorum talks about the struggles and triumphs of dealing with a daughter who suffers from Trisomy-18. In one clip, the Grand Inquisitor of Catholic wing of the GOP erases everything  that has ever been said about him being a religious nut, and vindicates the image he tried to construct of a family man. It’s not a construct. Rick Santorum believes the family is the central and essential unit to the preservation of liberty. But there’s one moment, one joyous and tragic moment, where Rick Santorum talks about his daughter’s health care, that transformed my image of the man in a minute. The moment begins at 1:35 and goes to about 2:30.

I cannot tell you how much the line, “And then Mama Bear stood up” choked me up. Here is a doctor, telling a parent, that you have to come to grips with the imminent death of your child. To be fair to the doctor, they are required, far too often, to deliver such news. But to be fair to Karen Santorum, I am glad there are those out there that refuse to hear it. This is why Rick Santorum said “we cannot let them have this issue”. Imagine if the doctor, having the actuary tables on Trisomy-18 in front of him, was not allowed to prescribe the oxygen, and had to give the painkiller instead. Sound familiar?

This is why Rick Santorum was better prepared to take on Obama on the healthcare mandate debate. Let’s say he and his wife recieved Bella into the world after the full implementation of this law. What then? Are we to lay down and die when told, as the Secretary shall direct? Are we to let our children, precious and defenseless as they are, lay down and die, as the Secretary may direct? This was the crux of the Santorum campaign. Whether he got that message out or not was his responsibility, but nobody questioned whether he believed it. And what did the GOP have to say about Rick Santorum? Well, John McCain called Rick’s campaign “irrelevant”, and when John McCain says something about irrelevant, I trust him. He is the subject matter expert on irrelevant campaigns. (McCain’s quote here)

And Romney appears to not be too far behind. And this is the not-so-secret fear of the GOP Establismment. Santorum’s exit may prove a double-edged sword. It’s now Mitt’s show, and show he must. There is speculation that Romney was backed as a non-offensive candidate to try and prevent voters from souring to the possibility of a GOP President come 2016, and that Romney is the candidate who gives the party the most strength “down the ballot”, since Obama’s re-election is a fait accompli. This is actually the opposite of what has happened, though. The prevailing sense among the conservative and TEA Party rank-and-file is that Mitt Romney, as Santorum prophesied, is being shoved down our throats, and instead of bringing in independants, may drive away conservatives forever if he fails to win. The GOP might not be able to win with conservatives alone, so the thinking goes, but it will fail without them. And the GOP elite clung so hard to him during this primary season, they have effectively placed all their political chips on one space of the roulette wheel.

And now it is spinning fast. If the conventional wisdom around Romney being the Least Objectionable Loser (LOL) turns out to be true, the GOP has a bigger problem: They will appear to have forgotten how to win, or how to fight, and they may have spurned the spirit of the most powerful populist movement since The Progressives. Bad mistake, on both counts. The GOP, for all its bluster, seems to be capable of picking the perfect candidate for four years ago, every election cycle. McCain, being stong on national defense and moderate on economics, and, well, just about everything else, would have been perfect as a GOP candidate in 2004, if George W. Bush weren’t already on the ballot. Mitt Romney would have been better than McCain for 2008. About six months ago, we should have set the clocks at GOP headquarters ahead to 2016, and maybe we would have received an Alan West, or a Paul Ryan, or a Mitch Daniels, or a Rand Paul, and possibly a Ron Paul again (those people are dedicated).

But this game is different. Mitt is not the candidate who should give us the most in defeat. Instead, the voters are expecting him to win. That’s why they told us we should vote for him, wasn’t it? He has the greatest chance of beating Obama. GOP leaders have either underestimated how badly we want to win, or simply don’t care, at their own peril. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, as someone once said. This President has proven to us time and again what is down the ballot does not matter. When he had a majority in both houses, he blamed the Republicans. When he got shellacked in 2010, he set the House up as the villain, even though legislation to solve his problems is waiting there, along with his opportunity to “bury the old politics of the past”. He has demonized, publicly, the Supreme Court, for the possibility that it actually did its job! This is the real danger of the Least Objectionable Loser stratagem: If the GOP Etablishment backs a losing horse here, they may not get invited back to the track. For real American conservatives, the question is not what Romney can provide the party as a loser, but where should we go for a winner?

Joseph Kurt will bear the banner of conservatism, and he realizes now more than ever, it is for life. He has found his calling, and he is happy.