David Hill has a post up arguing against Rick Santorum on the basis of his blow-out loss in 2006. He underlines his point by noting that Santorum did no better than rookie campaigner Lynn Swann.
I think there are two problems with this analysis. First, the fact that the well-known and previously successful Santorum gained about the same support as the rookie Swann could be taken as evidence that 2006 was a wave election of especially great strength in Pennsylvania which punished GOP candidates statewide. This same effect can often be observed in elections on local levels where one candidate might raise a lot of money and knock on thousands of doors only to perform roughly the same as one who does much less work, but has the same party label on his jersey.
Second, and more important, I think, is that Democrats performed masterfully in recruiting a challenger. Santorum was previously able to win as a conservative in the Keystone State because of his ability to translate his strong pro-life record into additional support from blue-collar voters. By choosing the namesake of the popular former governor (and well-known pro-lifer) Robert Casey, the Democrats were able to nullify the pro-life advantage Santorum had with voters important to his coalition.
Did Rick Santorum lose because of Iraq? Yes, as did a lot of other GOP candidates. Did he lose by an especially large margin because of masterful candidate recruitment by the other side? Yes, again. Did he lose because he was a terrible candidate? Not at all. In fact, Bob Casey, Jr. coasted on his name and avoided debating Santorum. The former two-term senator was caught in something of a perfect storm.
— Hunter Baker is an associate professor of political science at Union University and author of The End of Secularism.