Winning the Tuesday trifecta gives Rick Santorum a second chance to make a first impression. This will give him the momentum that his delayed Iowa victory could have given him. How should he proceed?
He needs to understand what Newt never did, that the path to the nomination runs through the somewhat conservative voter. A candidate can win caucuses on the strength of base conservative support, but not primaries. Somewhat conservative voters like experience and judgment along with their principles. Santorum needs to keep his head about him and speak in modulated tones to show he can talk the talk and walk the walk. If he does his job right, he’ll contrast with Romney on the talk and the walk.
One way to do this is to contrast records in office. He could say the following: “I was instrumental in working with Democrats to enact welfare reform, which enacted our principles. You worked with Democrats to enact Romneycare, which enacted their principles.” Or “I’m proud of my political experience. In politics, you have to work with people you disagree with, not fire them.” Or “while you worked to save the Olympics, I worked to save the country.”
A base-only strategy is a sure-fire way to earn a better gig on Fox News. A base-plus strategy might earn him something more.
— Henry Olsen is director of the American Enterprise Institute’s National Research Initiative.