Ramesh, the only problem with your narrative — that social-issues “gaffes” from a pugnacious Santorum have turned off voters — is that it ignores the reality of what is actually keeping Romney in the lead: punishing 4–1 outspending of Santorum, painting him as a Washington insider and big spender.
Women voters like Santorum at least as much as they like Romney. There’s just no sign the narrative you put forth explains anything in the politics of the last few months either among GOP primary voters, or among polls of swing voters. Of course if you just meant it in the conditional future — if Santorum were the nominee his stance and tone would bring him down — well all I can say is that I would like to test that proposition in November.
Any Democrat who tried to run against Santorum on the contraceptive issue, or the fact that he once spoke of Satan at a Catholic college, would face exactly the negative pushback you describe. Voters appear to know when politicians are spinning side issues not connected with their concerns.
#more#Certainly Santorum would have to do a better job than he did in the one week he was a front-runner in avoiding some obvious traps. But then Romney has had seven years and a humongous staff, and he has problems on the stump too with characteristic gaffes.
Santorum’s sense of genuineness, and his fierce commitment to principles (including life and marriage) is what is keeping him competitive, preventing Romney from closing the deal, and causing the growing frustration of Team Romney. First the uncharacteristic “press secretary” crack from Romney himself, now John Sununu’s claim that “softness under pressure” disqualifies Santorum. “Softness” is not what Santorum is exhibiting on the campaign trail, in most people’s eyes.
Any marriage counselor can tell you that “contempt” is the most poisonous expression in any potential relationship, and Team Romney’s dip into open contempt for the man the base of the party keeps voting for isn’t smart. They must be tired and frustrated at this point.
But for social conservatives to decide their hero is unelectable on the evidence you provide would be to commit suicide as a movement. Romney has many advantages. Let him beat Santorum fair and square. He has yet to do this. It’s up to the voters.