West Palm Beach, Fla. — Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is heaping blame for the GOP’s election trouncing on Mitt Romney and the Republican party’s biggest donors. In an address Thursday evening in West Palm Beach, Santorum said Romney’s failure to articulate a compelling vision of America that countered the president’s vision of a European-style social-welfare state cost him the election. “Was this race about big things?” Santorum asked rhetorically. “We didn’t trust the American public enough to give them a real vision.” He also pointed the finger at GOP donors, who he said put their money behind the wrong candidates because they “don’t know the first thing about what it takes to win.”
In accounting for the GOP’s loss, Santorum emphasized Romney’s inherent limitations as the GOP standard-bearer. “He ran the campaign he could,” Santorum tells National Review Online. That was a campaign focused primarily on the economy, rather than on the three major issues that fueled the tea-party movement in the wake of President Obama’s election and drove voters to the polls in 2010: Wall Street bailouts, Obamacare, and cap and trade. As the founder of Bain Capital, and having instituted a universal health-care program and proposed joining a carbon-fee regime as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was poorly positioned to capitalize.
Santorum pointed to the 2010 midterm election as a study in contrasts. When bailouts, Obamacare, and cap and trade took center stage, he claimed, voters delivered huge wins for the GOP. Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate, a performance President Obama memorably described as “a shellacking.” This year, by contrast, the “issues that energized our base were not mentioned at all,” Santorum tells NRO. “We can win this argument, but not if we don’t make it.”
Santorum’s dissatisfaction extends beyond the general election to the primary process from which Romney emerged victorious. “What I found out in the Republican primary is that the donor class of Republicans are different from the donor class of Democrats,” he said, in that Republican moneymen are more reluctant to put money behind dark-horse candidates. (Though casino mogul Sheldon Adelson did spend $16.5 million backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich before donating millions to the Romney campaign.) Santorum said that Republican donors “want a return on their investment,” but that “most people who are giving that money don’t know the first thing about what it takes to win.” Santorum lamented that they take their cues from political pundits who are similarly ignorant and “live in big blue counties,” to boot.