Up in OH and MI, Santorum using humor to parry Romney attacks

posted at 9:15 am on February 15, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

How does an underfunded candidate defend himself against a big onslaught of negative attack ads?  Newt Gingrich tried leveraging the media attention received from going nasty and personal in response and ended up flaming out in Florida and a string of caucuses in the last three weeks.  Rick Santorum has decided to use humor to just attack the attack in a new ad running called “Rombo”:

In its morning e-mail blast, Politico reports on the strategy, which purposefully avoids what it sees as the mistakes made by Gingrich in January:

Campaign leaders feel that Newt Gingrich’s initial dilly-dallying in Iowa after the Romney machine started attacking in early December proved fatal. They understand their man’s favorables will come down to earth as negative ads run, but they’re determined not to allow the frontrunner to define the former Pennsylvania senator without a fight. They decided that going funny, instead of nasty, would engender more goodwill from voters who think Romney went into the gutter to sideline Gingrich after South Carolina. Santorum plans to stay as positive as possible on the stump. Campaign officials will point out at every opportunity that Romney is the candidate being overwhelmingly backed by Washington lobbyists. The main talking point in coming earned media will be that Romney is attacking because he does not have a good record to run on.

Voters may well appreciate the lighter touch, especially after the campaigning seen so far since the race turned serious in December.  Romney already has seen his favorables decline during his internecine fight with Gingrich.  “Rombo” makes those attacks an issue itself for the campaign, and it might inoculate Santorum from the inevitable wave of ads coming in states like Michigan and Ohio.

Speaking of which, Santorum has taken leads in both states, although narrowly.  Rasmussen polled Michigan over the weekend and found Santorum up by three:

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, following his wins last week in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, has now jumped ahead of Mitt Romney in Michigan’s Republican Primary race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters in Michigan shows Santorum with 35% of the vote to Romney’s 32%. Well behind are Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 13% and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 11%. Only one percent (1%) prefers some other candidate in the race, while eight percent (8%) are undecided.

The latest survey marks a significant 18-point boost for Santorum in the Wolverine State where he trailed Romney 38% to 17% less than two weeks ago just after the former Massachusetts governor’s big win in the Florida GOP Primary.  Gingrich has dropped 12 points from 23% support, while Paul earned 14% of the vote at that time. The Michigan Republican Primary is on February 28.

Santorum is the only candidate who leads the national GOP front-runner when the race is down to a two-man face-off in Michigan. Santorum bests Romney 49% to 37% in a one-on-one matchup, while Romney leads Gingrich 51% to 32% and Paul 63% to 25%.

Quinnipiac shows Santorum up by seven points in Ohio, a big change in their polling series in the state.  Those negative ads have taken their toll:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shoots to the top among Ohio likely Republican primary voters with 36 percent, followed by 29 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich runs third with 20 percent, while Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul gets 9 percent. …

“For the first time, numerically more voters in Ohio view Romney unfavorably than favorably. His pattern in the earlier primary states has been to use his money advantage to run a large number of negative ads on his biggest challenger. But doing so now risks further increasing Romney’s own unfavorables as a side effect of throwing the mud himself. Yet, Romney may feel the need to raise questions about the lesser-known Santorum in the eyes of GOP voters.”

Romney gets a slightly negative 37 – 40 percent favorability rating from all Ohio registered voters, with a 61 – 25 percent positive from likely Republican primary voters. Santorum, whose overall favorability was 25 – 25 percent in January, is now 35 – 22 percent favorable among all voters and 62 – 7 percent favorable among likely Republican primary voters.

However, Santorum’s new frontrunner status means a lot more scrutiny — and not just from this point forward.  Michael Scherer at Time goes back to an October interview with evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts, and finds Santorum pledging to speak out against contraception as President:

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. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.

Again, I know most Presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.

That won’t win over too many voters who wouldn’t be voting Republican anyway, needless to say.  However, in practice, Santorum has avoided making any pronouncements on contraception.  Even in the current debate over the Obama-HHS mandate for employers’ insurance to fully cover all contraception costs, Santorum has emphatically refused to address it as a social-conservative issue; in our interview from CPAC, Santorum tells us explicitly that “it is not a social conservative issue, it is a religious liberty issue.”  He didn’t take the bait in the much-derided ABC debate in New Hampshire, either, when George Stephanopoulos insisted on spending more than ten minutes on the topic.

Still, it’s not helpful at all, and there may be more sound bites like this that will emerge over the next couple of weeks. Expect this to be a question raised in the next debate, especially in the context of the debate over the mandate — and we’ll have to see how Santorum handles it then.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5

Blaming Romney is disingenuous.

Oh, yes, because Willard Fillmoure Romneycare has been a pillar of chivalry and virtue thus far with his disingenuous slimeball hatchet-men throwing poo like it’s “Monkey Madness Week” at the local zoo.

He drew the sword in this campaign, it’s only fitting he tastes it.

SilverDeth on February 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM

I understand that inconvenient comparisons make you uncomfortable. Such as…..Romney has been an executive, a business owner, and job creator, and saved the Olympics.

Santorum has been a life long Washington insider, never run anything, and voted for the expansion of the federal government.

My original comment is completely valid as it is the truth. You can’t handle the truth!

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Two other Romney accomplishments that make him a shoe in to beat Obama in Nov.

Passed & owns ORomney Care v1.0 with Free Abortions…
Passed & owns Cap & Trade…
Seems Obama needs to play catch-up or dems might have to vote for Romney… He delivers for progressives…

Gotta love them severely conservative flavoring….

CAP & TRADE GOP WANTS CAP & TRADE… REPEAL what I created… REPEAL what I created… Free Abortions, Free Abortions… Good chants for the RomneyCare coronation at the GOP convention…

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Romney has been an executive, a business owner, and job creator, and saved the Olympics.

Ooooooh! He saved the Olympics!!! Gee, now there is something near and dear to my heart… oh wowza! Boy that’s going to certainly make me forget the fact that Mitt Romney is a big spending, gun grabbing, socialized healthcare enforcing, liberal judge appointing, global warming alarmist!!!!

Yup!! You have made me see the light! He saved the freaking Olympics! Now we can forgive him for his record of being a democrat in all but name… after all, where would we be if we could not have the OLYMPICS!!!

Whoop-de-do-lad-de-dah.

SilverDeth on February 15, 2012 at 3:03 PM

It appears that you have your data wrong. 2007 shows 6.1 billion, not the 9.3 you quoted. But comparing much of the data between the years you cite, the entirety of the MA income and expenses raised at approximately the same rate. Which is mostly due to the economy. Blaming Romney is disingenuous.

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 2:39 PM

No, yours is. You obviously don’t understand governmental accounting.

Looking at all governmental funds…

In 2003, federal grants and reimbursements totaled $7,634,068,000 (page 42, rightmost column, third line down).

In 2007, federal grants and reimbursements totaled $9,335,388,000 (page 44, rightmost column, third line down).

So federal funding increased exactly 22.3%.

Tax revenue increased 32.4 (but Romney never raised taxes, oh no!)

Total revenue increased 24.9% and total expenditures increased 24.2%.

The deficit in 2003 was $1.41 billion In 2007, Romney left the state with a deficit of $1.52 billion (but Romney balanced the budget every year he was governor, oh yes he did!).

steebo77 on February 15, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Past ORomney Care v1.0 with Free Abortions…
Past Cap & Trade…

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 2:55 PM

Obamacare will be decided by November and will be off the table as an issue except for the fiscal impact if ruled constitutional.

It’s the economy and Romney beats all comers with his experience and record.

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Obamacare will be decided by November and will be off the table as an issue except for the fiscal impact if ruled constitutional.

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

If on the off chance it is ruled constitutional Romney has repeatedly vowed to repeal it and/or starve it to death if he is elected.

V7_Sport on February 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Obamacare will be decided by November and will be off the table as an issue except for the fiscal impact if ruled constitutional.

It’s the economy and Romney beats all comers with his experience and record.

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 3:17 PM

And CAP & TRADE will be decided by November too…. GOP LOVE US some CAP & TRADE for Nov… And MANDATE Romney is the way to go… MANDATES, MANDATES, MANDATES… Capt. Mandate doesn’t tell u anything about his false severely conservative governing cred… I know.. I know.. Is what he says now that counts… Not the laws he instituted and continues to be for…

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Just LOVE the new Santorum ad!!!!! I hope and pray that the folks in Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio just keep their heads on straight, and recognize that RINO Romney (aka Obama-Lite) has only got Axelrod-styled attacks containing LIES, LIES, and more LIES!!! (Sometimes one could get the impression that Willard has quietly hired Axelrod!) Willard (from the RAT movie of the same name) LIED ON NATIONAL TV just this morning referring to Santorum as the quintescential “LOBBIEST.” What a freakin’ LIAR!?! If the COMPLICIT RepublilcRAT establishment is successful at ram-rodding RINO Romney down our throats, the RepublicRAT establishment, if thaey can get Willard the LIAR elected, will have simply replaced the current J@ck@ss LIAR-In-Chief with the (R) version!?! Nice goin’, STUPID Party!!!!!

Colatteral Damage on February 15, 2012 at 3:29 PM

If on the off chance it is ruled constitutional Romney has repeatedly vowed to repeal it and/or starve it to death if he is elected.

V7_Sport on February 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

He promised… Cross his heart… Nice…

And will he starve to death ROMENYCARE in MA by cutting any and all FEDERAL Funding of it if he is elected President????? or will he continue the Federal Funding of it even if ObamaCare is or isn’t constitutional….

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Having your opponent fire a gun at you in an ad = colossally stupid

Firing brown frothy stuff at yourself when you know you have a google problem with said frothy brown stuff = colossally stupid

Well done, Santorum.

Dave Rywall on February 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM

steebo77 on February 15, 2012 at 3:12 PM

You are cherry picking numbers and taking them out of context.


More data…..

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 3:41 PM

You are cherry picking numbers and taking them out of context.

More data…..

csdeven on February 15, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Nope, not cherry picking. You think a few anecdotal stories about Romney’s tax record are superior to comparing the overall tax picture, statewide, from the beginning to the end of his term? Seriously?

steebo77 on February 15, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Y314K

He promised… Cross his heart… Nice…

What else do you want?

And will he starve to death ROMENYCARE in MA by cutting any and all FEDERAL Funding of it if he is elected President?????

Love the extra question marks. One has nothing to do with the other.

or will he continue the Federal Funding of it even if ObamaCare is or isn’t constitutional….

He has promised to repeal Obama care. Don’t like Romnetcare? Don’t move to Massachusetts. Problem solved.

V7_Sport on February 15, 2012 at 4:25 PM

V7_Sport on February 15, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Why would he repeal ObamaCare if RomneyCare is awesome… They both use Federal funds…. They are both Mandates… He is telling us he will repeal his grandson… But we should all leave his son intact… His son is his pride and joy…

The guy that gave birth on the books to RomneyCare is telling us that he will repeal ObamaCare… Sold… Hook line and sinker…

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 4:31 PM

Awesome!

That is all.

ornery_independent on February 15, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Why is Rick Perry shooting a paintball gun at Santorum

roy_batty on February 15, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Why is Rick Perry shooting a paintball gun at Santorum

roy_batty on February 15, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Cause he is heartless…

I actually would of prefer to vote for Perry… But Santorum it is…

Y314K on February 15, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Good ad. If Santorum is the nominee, I can’t wait for his take on Obama’s “I got Bin Laden” ads! :)

Kevin71 on February 15, 2012 at 5:09 PM

If on the off chance it is ruled constitutional Romney has repeatedly vowed to repeal it and/or starve it to death if he is elected.
V7_Sport on February 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Shhhhh. Keep this hush hush or Newt will conduct another robocall:)

Tax revenue increased 32.4 (but Romney never raised taxes, oh no!)
steebo77 on February 15, 2012 at 3:12 PM

*facepalm* I guess you’re not familiar with things like the Laffer Curve. You know – the concept that raising taxes doesn’t raise revenue and can actually have the opposite effect?

Buy Danish on February 15, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Pretty clueless of a politician running for the presidency to have an ad where someone is apparently trying to assassinate him.

Rick, trying thinking for a change.

profitsbeard on February 15, 2012 at 7:10 PM

I’m not going to get all faux-outraged about the gun thing. But the ad is amateurish, and it’s jaw-droppingly hypocritical to run an attack ad which attacks attack ads.

Buy Danish on February 15, 2012 at 7:26 PM

I love this ad. Rick shows that ads with guns are the best ads of all!! Go Rick!!

Dollayo on February 16, 2012 at 12:07 AM

Bwaaaaha – nice advert!

DaMav on February 16, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Great ad but it would have been epic if Bruce Campbell was in it.

roy_batty on February 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5