When Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race in 2o12 it was an easy decision to back Rick Santorum. Santorum was easily the best of the remaining field of candidates, as his political ideology closely mirrored my own. I have no desire to fe-fight the battles of 2012, though I will say that I thought some of the attacks on Santorum, particularly by some on the libertarian-right who depicted Rick as a big government conservative, were unfair.
Santorum is running again for the presidency, and thus far is gaining almost no traction. Considering that GOP runners-up have historically wound up being the man nominated next time, this is somewhat curious. It’s true that the field is (or was) much stronger, but Santorum had established a decent base of support. It’s also worth noting that while Donald Trump has rocketed to the top of the polls largely based on his strong rhetoric vis a vis illegal immigration, Santorum, unlike the Donald, has consistently been an immigration hawk. Even with Donald’s bluster, Santrum still holds the strictest line on immigration – legal and illegal. And yet he flounders, barely registering in the polls.
Whatever the cause for his stagnation, he and his supporters still hold out hope that he can make the same kind of poll comeback in Iowa as he did four years ago. Indeed he is in about the same spot in the polls as he was at this time, roughly five weeks before the Iowa caucus. Yet it doesn’t seem likely that Santorum will come from back of the pack this time, and one of the primary reasons is Ted Cruz. Cruz has garnered the support of the evangelical and conservative wings of the party, and what’s more, he has developed the sort of ground game in Iowa and elsewhere that makes it very unlikely he will fade from the race.
I am most certainly not the only Santorum supporter who prefers Cruz this time around. Though I still like Rick, there are a few key differences between the two that make me prefer Cruz. I’ve always been a bit bothered by Santorum’s more bellicose foreign policy views, and Cruz seems to fit a happier middle ground between the Paulite and McCainiac extremes of the party. Santorum has also backed ethanol subsidies and the Export-Import bank, two corporate welfare schemes that belie the idea that he is not in fact a big government conservative.
With Santorum being desperate to start gaining ground, he has decided to go after Cruz on social issues. Santorum, like Mike
Huckaphony Huckabee last week, has tried to take advantage of a Politico hit piece news story purporting to show Cruz being two-faced on social issues.
In June, Ted Cruz promised on NPR that opposition to gay marriage would be “front and center” in his 2016 campaign.
In July, he said the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage was the “very definition of tyranny” and urged states to ignore the ruling.
But in December, behind closed doors at a big-dollar Manhattan fundraiser, the quickly ascending presidential candidate assured a Republican gay-rights supporter that a Cruz administration would not make fighting same-sex marriage a top priority.
In a recording provided to POLITICO, Cruz answers a flat “No” when asked whether fighting gay marriage is a “top-three priority,” an answer that pleased his socially moderate hosts but could surprise some of his evangelical backers.
Aha! You see – Cruz isn’t as committed to social issues as his public statements make him seen. He’s a fraud!
Except, as Patterico points out, everything Cruz said in private is what he has been saying publicly for months on the campaign trail. First, Patterico provides the full quote from the fundraiser:
Q: Can I ask you a question? So, I’m a big supporter. And the only issue I really disagree with you about is gay marriage. And I’m curious: Given all the problems that the country’s facing — like ISIS, the growth of government — how big a priority is fighting gay marriage going to be to a Cruz administration?
CRUZ: “My view on gay marriage is that I’m a constitutionalist and marriage is a question for the states. And so I think if someone wants to change the marriage laws of their state, the way to do so is convince your fellow citizens — and change them democratically, rather than five unelected judges. … Being a constitutionalist is integral to my approach to every other issue. So that I’m very devoted to.
Q: So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?
CRUZ: “No. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty, stopping courts from making public policy issues that are left to the people. …
I also think the 10th Amendment of the Constitution cuts across a whole lot of issues and can bring people together. People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.
There’s more at the link. Long story short, there is absolutely no inconsistency between what Cruz said in private and what he has said in public.
Santorum, though, has decided to attack Cruz for his federalist-inspired approach.
“It’s basically that he’s not the social conservative that he’s portraying himself to be and is the answer is he’s not,” added Santorum, citing aPolitico story where Cruz said on a secret tape at a fundraiser that he wouldn’t make fighting same-sex marriage a top three priority in his administration.
“If people want to do drugs in Colorado, it’s fine with him,” said Santorum. “If people want have different kind of marriages, it’s fine with him. He doesn’t agree with it. If you want to have an abortion, it’s fine with him, he doesn’t agree with it, but he’s not gonna fight it. That’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for someone who has a very clear vision of what’s right and what’s wrong and be able to lay that vision out for the American people.”
This is at best a gross mischaracterization of Cruz’s beliefs. What’s more, as streiff at Redstate says:
There is nothing non-conservative about saying that you are willing to allow the voters of Colorado to legalize drugs or the voters of Massachusetts to legalize homosexual marriage. That doesn’t make those decisions right but what social conservatism is about is creating a space where people of faith are free to campaign to have their view be the dominant one. On abortion that means fighting in all states to have abortion outlawed. It doesn’t mean you have to win in all states. It means getting the Supreme Court out of these issues and not imposing Anthony Kennedy’s perverted view of human sexuality upon 300 million people.
I’d go a step further than streiff and note that Cruz’s approach is far, far more likely to lead to social conservative victories than is Santorum’s. Sad to say, Santorum is living up to his image as a would-be nagger in chief. Cruz’s approach, meanwhile, is one that would get the courts out of the social policy game. If the states are left to their own devices to set policy, then we would have a much greater chance of seeing abortion outlawed or gay marriages not sanctioned than we would now. That is not to say that we stop fighting the cultural values – just the opposite. It’s just that the primary objective of a president is to appoint justices who respect the 10th Amendment and would thus allow those fights to be had on a local level. It would then be up to social conservatives to spread their message in New York, California, Massachusetts, etc.
I understand why Santorum said what he said, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Yet I’ve been constantly disappointed by the need people seem to feel to absolutely denigrate every presidential candidate that is not their first choice, but that’s another discussion.