WASHINGTON — Talk about campaign trail déjà vu. As hundreds of bundled-up supporters gathered around him on a freezing January day, Rick Santorum towered over a lectern and rallied his troops. Aides pecking at smartphones lined the perimeter of the hotel conference room. An army of young children scurried across the floor. Volunteers collected email addresses and phone numbers at a fold-up table near the door.
The people, the “candidate” — even the weather — gave the event a presidential primary campaign feel. But this scene played out in the Capitol Hill Hyatt in Washington, not a Sheraton in West Des Moines — and there won’t be a presidential election for another two years. It’s at events like this gathering before the March for Life, which marked the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that Santorum is conducting a presidential campaign in waiting.
There were banners, aides, supporters, a stump speech — a whole campaign-style apparatus organized by Patriot Voices, a conservative advocacy group the former Republican presidential hopeful founded after ceding the field to Mitt Romney in April 2012.
Santorum’s constituency, even at its largest, was never enough to win him the White House. And today that constiuency is much diminished from its glory days. He claims to be running as a “conservative,” but he’s really running as a single-issue social conservative. That single issue, now that the whole question of gay marriage has been mooted, is abortion.
It just isn’t enough to put him over the top, even in the GOP primaries. It might be enough for him to poop in the soup and spoil it for any real conservatives like Ted Cruz. I’m sure that’s what a lot of the folks “backing” him are hoping for. They know he’s no threat in a general election, but he may be put to good use in destroying the candidacies of those who might do so, paving the way for another warmed-over RINO dogs-breakfast of Jeb Bush or Chris Christie.
The best way to handle him now is to point out the hopelessness of his candidacy, and refuse to support him in any way. In other words, just ignore him.