Pro-Santorum Super PAC targets Gingrich’s coveted southern states

posted at 1:20 pm on March 8, 2012 by Tina Korbe

To further complicate Newt Gingrich’s “southern strategy,” the same pro-Santorum Super PAC that yesterday released a memo to call for Gingrich to exit the race has today announced that it purchased  $500,000 worth of advertising time in Alabama and Mississippi, two states Gingrich desperately needs to win to remain in the game.

The Red, White, and Blue Fund announced Thursday that it is making an ad buy of between $500,000 and $600,000 in the two southern states, both of which Newt Gingrich has prioritized as primaries he hopes to dominate.

Both states hold primaries on March 13.

The ad buy reportedly includes a television commercial attacking Gingrich and Mitt Romney on healthcare. …

“On the heels of our call for Newt Gingrich to unite conservatives by exiting the race, now we are investing heavily in the next two primary states to ensure that happens with a Santorum victory,” Red, White, and Blue Fund adviser Stuart Roy said in a statement. “Then voters will be able to have a choice between an authentic conservative in Santorum and a calculated conservative in Mitt Romney.”

The Super PAC is smart to stay focused on healthcare. What has fueled Santorum’s success so far has been his ability to tap into American anger about Obamacare and the American hunger for freedom. Daniel Henninger explains:

What Mr. Santorum has discovered in this campaign is that for a large number of voters, a connection has surfaced between Barack Obama’s economic policies and the issue of personal freedom. The potency of the latter is what’s new, and a vulnerability for this presidency.

Freedom, or liberty, is a staple of conservative politics. Ron Paul speaks about “liberty” as libertarian philosophy, and that has drawn new support. In the Santorum version it comes out as “freedom,” and it wells up from something more akin to the “Don’t tread on me” motto and coiled rattlesnake sewn into the famous yellow Gadsden flag created before the American Revolution. The Gadsden flag was a staple at tea party rallies two years ago.

Rick Santorum has linked these concerns about the status of personal freedom directly to ObamaCare and beyond that to the broader policy legacy of Obama administration.

As I wrote yesterday, the GOP nominee — whoever he is — has to continually remind voters of the central-planning tendencies of this president, which are most clearly expressed in his signature legislation of Obamacare but have begun to be particularly evident in other areas of his administration, too, as in his energy policy. The GOP nominee needs to force Obama to own his own ideas and make it impossible for him to hide behind conservative rhetoric or rallying words like “hope” and “change.”

So far, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both have done that better than frontrunner Mitt Romney — but that doesn’t mean Romney couldn’t begin to do that now or in the general. The question is: Does he recognize the need to do that at all and will he be willing to risk dislike to very clearly and in no uncertain terms call the president out? Whatever he’s doing now is working in a technical sense — he continues to score more and more delegates — but not in a general sense, as his approval ratings have sunk over the course of the primary. His goal — indeed any of the candidates’ goal — can’t just be the nomination; it needs to be the presidency. He needs a new approach if he wants to have any momentum going into the general.


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