It was outrageous outrage indeed. By omitting the full context of the quote, Mitt Romney and his camp yesterday were able to make hay of Rick Santorum’s remark that he doesn’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be by election time. Santorum never should have said it, as it’s easy, easy ammunition for Obama. It’s sad, though, that the attack on such a stupid statement come not from Obama, but from a fellow Republican.

Fortunately for both Romney and Santorum, who has taken cheap shots at Romney just as Romney has taken cheap shots at him, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus isn’t losing sight of the forest for the trees. Just as Santorum tried to imply with his ill-advised remark, this election is about something even more foundational than the unemployment rate. It’s about freedom. Priebus backed that up in an appearance on CNN this morning.

“I think that Rick Santorum’s right. I mean, this election is about big things. It’s about liberty and freedom,” said Priebus on CNN’s “Starting Point.” …

Priebus tried to shift the focus away from the Republican hopeful’s gaffe to President Obama’s healthcare legislation, slamming the law for what he said is a failure to decrease health costs or increase access to medical care.

“We’ve got the two-year anniversary of ‘ObamaCare’ that’s coming,” he said. “ObamaCare isn’t what everyone thought it would be and in fact it’s the opposite and it isn’t working and it isn’t improving anything.” …

Priebus told CNN that the presidential election is going to be about “not only what the Department of Labor says the unemployment rate,” but also healthcare, the debt and deficit and the recently released GOP budget plan.

“Those are the big issues that this campaign will be about,” he added. “Some of these things come and go, but I think they can be explained pretty easily when they’re taken one at a time.”

As I’ve written before, the GOP candidates have to always be mindful of the medium: If there’s a camera catching their words, they have to be careful not to utter an easily twistable soundbite. It’s tedious to watch your tongue, but presidential contenders have to do it. Both our frontrunners could stand to improve in that respect.

Perhaps because he’s not under the pressure of running for president, Priebus maintains message discipline for the TV particularly well. In this instance, he showed Rick Santorum how he could better have made his point — and delivered a silent reprimand to Romney for twisting Santorum’s words to the detriment of the GOP at large. Republicans are lucky this guy is on their side.