There is a gap in the programme of Republican primaries starting from now. The next elections won't take place until two weeks tomorrow: at that point, Arizona and Michigan hold full primaries where a total of 59 delegates will be decided.
Rick Santorum has to win at least one in order to maintain his momentum and, crucially, to add to his delegate totals. Don't forget, in the four nominating contests that he has won so far not a single delegate has been decided.
Given that he is out-spent and out-organised by the huge Mitt Romney machine, the triple-state victor of last Tuesday has decided to focus all his energy on one state. It's Michigan, where Romney's father was once governor.
The latest state polling suggests that he is in with a shout but fifteen days is a very long time in a contest like this. Newt Gingrich came out of his South Carolina victory in mid-January with poll leads of up to 9% for the next state in line, which was Florida. But on election day Romney won by a margin of 14.5% after spending millions of dollars on anti-Newt negative advertising.
The signs are that this will be the frontrunner's strategy in Michigan, with Santorum being the target. The big question is whether it will have the same impact.
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A long-time source of frustration for many small-government Republicans has been politicians who buy into various subsidies, mandates, restrictions and other big-government “solutions” to speculative or nonexistent energy and environment problems. This frustration has continued throughout the Republican primary season as frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich each have a history of supporting such big-government energy and environment policies. But the times may be a-changing. Rick Santorum has been emphasizing small-government energy and environment policies in recent weeks and the conservative base is responding.
Most visibly, Santorum is throwing down the gauntlet on global warming. While blasting Obama on global warming, he is also hitting Romney and Gingrich hard on the topic. “Both of them bought into the global warming hoax!” Santorum has taken to saying on the campaign trail and in media interviews.
Santorum’s strategy is powerful for two reasons. First, he has an unassailable record of questioning alarmist global warming claims and opposing carbon dioxide restrictions. Second, he is pressing the issue with a fervor that conveys clear and unmistakable sincerity.
True, Romney and Gingrich have been saying the right things lately on global warming and other energy/environment topics. Small-government Republicans hope they will govern in a manner that is consistent with their recent statements and pledges on these topics. But small-government conservatives have reason to be concerned.
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This has not been a good week for Mitt Romney, in the same way that 1912 wasn’t a good year for the Titanic. Polls now put Rick Santorum ahead nationally. Santorum also has a lead of between 4-10 points in Michigan – the next big primary and Romney’s home state. Rick’s lead in Ohio is estimated to be an astonishing 18 percent.
Of course, this is a race with incredible ups and downs and it could just be that Santorum is enjoying his moment of glory. But one challenge that Romney does face is the growing importance of the “weirdo factor” – the creeping sense that he isn’t like you and me.
The weirdo factor was first popularised in discussions about Jimmy Carter back in 1976. Part of Carter’s problem was his idiot smile and his frosty manners. But the bigger issue was his religion. Carter talked a lot about being “born again” and confessed to a journalist that he often felt “lust in my heart” for women other than his wife. Americans found Carter’s strain of evangelical Baptism hard to follow. “What does he believe?” pundits asked. Does he “talk to God”? Does he take the Old Testament literally? Will he try to outlaw abortion?
Following his comments on Saturday that President Obama’s policies are based on a “phony theology,” Rick Santorum said on Sunday that he was referencing Obama's capitulation to environmentalists on issues like global warning, which he said were “not scientifically proven.”
Speaking on CBS' Face the Nation, Santorum expressed his view that man should be "good stewards" of the Earth—but not necessarily serve the Earth.
"Man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth," he said. "We're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective."
Santorum added that the debate over global warming is problematic because it is "not scientifically proven," and "when you have a world view that elevates the Earth above man," you allow for government overreach.
"This is all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and give more power to the government," he said.
Liberal politicians and green groups are exaggerating the dangers of hydraulic fracturing to scare people and raise money, Rick Santorum said Thursday in a wide-ranging rant against environmental activists.
The failure of cap-and-trade legislation in 2009 was the “politicization of science,” Santorum said.
In fact, he added, the Republican Party is “the truth party.”
“You hear all the time, the left: ‘Oh, the conservatives are the anti-science party.’ No we’re not. We’re the truth party,” the former Pennsylvania senator said at a campaign event in Oklahoma City. “Because the left is always looking for a way to control you. They’re always trying to make you feel guilty so you’ll give them power so they can lord it over you. They do it on the environment all the time.”
Environmentalists use universal desires for clean water, clean air and conservation to “distort the truth in order to get you to give them authority.”
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