Today may be the biggest day of Rick Santorum's political life, or at the very least of this presidential campaign, as he makes his primary season debut in crucial Michigan
while going toe-to-toe with establishment GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.
The latest polls show him just ahead or essentially tied with his Michigan-born rival in the state. He's released his tax returns (showing he makes about $1 million annually as a DC consultant and Fox News talking head), which is great money for most of us but nothing near the $45M Romney territory.
How much of an advantage do Romney and his allies have? According to the Fix, his forces are spending 29 times as much as Team Santorum on Michigan advertising. And the knives keep coming out: Democrats such as Larry O'Donnell and the head of Daily Kos are promoting Santorum's bid, saying it will help Obama's reelection chances. Huffington Post did a long story -- sourced almost entirely on 1990 stories by the Press's Dennis Roddy and the Post-Gazette's Harry Stoffer -- on Santorum's moderate Republican roots.
None of that matters as much as his problems with women. Cause if the WashPost's Jennifer Rubin -- long Santorum's biggest cheerleader -- is criticizing his messages to women voters, that's big. On Santorum's stance on contraception, she writes:
. . . this sort of thing undermines Santorum’s electability argument. (Current polling match-ups between President Obama and each of the two frontrunners, before the GOP has a nominee and before Santorum’s record is out there, are virtually useless.) This is how, in part, he lost Pennsylvania — by appearing extreme and schoolmarmish, too far to the right of average voters in a purple state. If he is the nominee in 2012, he might get some blue-collar fellows, but what about those women in Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc.? And what about more secularized suburban communities? Fuggedaboutit.
The post -- called "Santorum: Birth control 'harmful to women'" -- was still the most popular opinion piece on the Post website Thursday morning.
There's lots of good news to go around too: he leads Romney in Ohio according to the latest Quinnipiac poll (where women break 36-37% in their opinions of him) and conservative thinkers like Bill Kristol and Byron York are defending him against Romney's attacks on earmarks, extending the debt limit and other moves in his Senate career.
And who needs soccer moms when you have the endorsement (though maybe not) of legendary speed-metal frontman Dave Mustaine? The founder of Megadeth and the original lead guitarist for Metallica has lurched rightward since his glory days (below) and his problems with Newt, Romney and Paul sent him in Santorum's direction. From Music Radar, via Slate:
Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable. Also, just watching how he hasn't gotten into doing these horrible, horrible attack ads like Mitt Romney's done against Newt Gingrich, and then the volume at which Newt has gone back at Romney… You know, I think Santorum has some presidential qualities, and I'm hoping that if it does come down to it, we'll see a Republican in the White House... and that it's Rick Santorum.