Santorum: Come to Think of It, I Might Run in 2016, Too

Guy Benson

11/27/2012 5:52:00 PM - Guy Benson

Since I've indulged my prediliction for writing deja vu posts several times in recent days, who's up for one more?  Election 2016: Return of the sweater vest?

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum says he is “open” to another run for president in 2016. Santorum was asked about a possible presidential campaign Monday at THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “I’m open to it, yeah,” Santorum replied. “I think there’s a fight right now as to what the soul of the Republican party’s going to be and the conservative movement, and we have something to say about that. I think from our battle, we’re not going to leave the field.” In 2012, Santorum won nearly 4 million votes and 11 GOP primary contests—the same number of states, he pointed out, Ronald Reagan won in his failed 1976 presidential bid. The nomination eventually went to Mitt Romney, whom Santorum argued did not focus on what he considered the “main issue” of the race: The role of government in the lives of Americans.  

Many conservatives have long admired Rick Santorum for his commitment to his family and his adherence to core values, even if they don't always see eye-to-eye on every policy particular.  His takedown of a flustered Barbara Boxer during a Senate debate over partial-birth abortion is legendary.  His staunch social conservatism may rub some voters the wrong way, but his values represent an important perspective to the national discussion.  All that being said, what the Republican Party does not need in 2016 is a field of presidential retreads.  If you missed it yesterday, here's what I wrote in response to similar musings from Newt Gingrich:

One of the party's post-destruction silver linings is its deep bench of fresh talent; the sooner this new generation of Republicans becomes the face of the party moving forward, the better. That commentary is in no way intended to demean or diminish the accomplishments or legacies of old guard conservatives; our moment in history simply requires a new breed of conservative leadership. This reality isn't limited to just Newt, either. Frankly, I don't think any of the 2012 Republican candidates for president should run again next time. Another small positive morsel amidst the 2012 devastation is that Team Red finally won't get stuck with their "next guy in line" tendency in 2016...if only because an obvious heir apparent doesn't exist this time around. So let's start from scratch, personnel-wise, with an entirely fresh field.  

Perhaps I jumped the gun in asserting that a "next guy in line" won't exist in 2016.  Technically, Santorum was the national runner-up to Romney, a point that obviously isn't lost on the former Pennsylvania Senator (hence his gratuitous Reagan comparisons).  But Santorum is likely misreading the mood of the Republican electorate.  His primary surge -- in Iowa, and elsewhere in the heartland-- was largely attributable to the conservative base's myriad misgivings about Mitt Romney.  A carousel of "not-Romneys" shot to the front of the polling pack throughout the long process, only to self-destruct or falter later on.  Santorum embodied the last stand of the not-Romneys.  In 2016, star power and conservative credentials probably won't be in short supply among the presidential field, so the dominant factor behind Santorum's distant flirtation with the 2012 nomination will vanish.  It's true that his views and passions represent a significant constituency within the Republican base, but I suspect there will be at least one socially-conservative devout Catholic in the mix next time out.  Perhaps some of these realities will become clearer to all involved as 2016 draws nearer.  But for now, it's still 2012.  I might need to consider a pre-New Year's Resolution to resist the temptation to write about the next quadrennial election at all in 2013.  Although, why make a commitment that you'll inevitably violate?  Sigh.