Politics & Policy

Chris Matthews Puts the “Reelect Santorum” Sign on His Lawn

It's not as bizarre as you think!

Democrats Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell agree with me: Reelect Santorum.

Well, that might be a wee bit of a stretch, I’ll admit. But after Thursday’s Pennsylvania Senate debate, for credibility’s sake, both Matthews and Rendell might want to go ahead and make the endorsement. After all, they both are already part of the way there.

On Hardball last month, Matthews, a former staff guy for the late Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, said: “You know, I have to tell you one thing about Santorum. He’s the genuine article for what he is, and that is a rarity, because so many of these politicians cultivate and groom themselves to be acceptable, and he doesn’t give a damn.”

Over the summer, Democratic Keystone State governor Ed Rendell said, “Rick Santorum has proven that he gets the job done. Time and time again he has come through.” A new Santorum ad highlights a Rendell quote from another time, another race (his against Casey for governor in 2002): “If his name wasn’t Bob Casey, he [Santorum’s opponent, son of a late pro-life Pennsylvania governor] wouldn’t be running at all.” Though Rendell and Casey have since kissed, it’s hard to believe Rendell’s heart is in it.

So make honest men of yourselves, guys. America needs you. Matthews and Rendell should go ahead and make it official. After this latest debate (only the second that Casey has participated in) the Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat Santorum currently occupies made it pathetically clear what an insubstantial candidate he is. Like a cocky high-schooler who didn’t bother to do his homework, Casey has followed a strategy of hiding behind his late father’s name and betting that voter angst with the party in power will get him elected to the Senate. Unfortunately, if poll numbers are any indication, the Casey strategy is working. That’s a terrible shame: A Rick Santorum defeat would be a serious loss for the Republican party, and the election of Bob Casey would be a loss for us all.

I am no fan of most of Joe Lieberman’s politics. But he’s been a leader on the war on terror and he’s a responsible, mature Democratic voice. His presence in the Senate is a good thing for the Democratic party — even if the Democratic party made him go Independent when they rallied around his way-left challenger (evidently their new mainstream). Inasmuch as Lieberman challenges his party’s Ned Lamontist defeatism, he is a boon to America. I disagree with him on a great many things — including issues close to my heart, like partial-birth abortion — which I don’t push aside without great hesitation. But there aren’t too many complete packages over on the Democratic side. I’ll take a leader on at least one major issue of our day where I can find him. Casey is — how to put this politely? — no Lieberman.

Almost echoing Matthews’s assessment of him, Santorum closed this week’s debate with: “I’m a passionate guy. I’m tough, I’m a fighter. But you know what? I’m an Italian kid from a steel town. What do you expect from me?” You expect a senator who wants to go back to Washington to continue to be a national leader on everything from welfare reform (Rick and Bill Clinton, perfect together!) to the war on terror (challenging a not infrequently inarticulate White House). Matthews may think he’s nuts on Iraq or Iran, but he’s serious, honest, fair, and smart. If you’re going to have opponents in D.C., Chris, don’t you want one like Santorum? Don’t you want the senator to keep playing Hardball?

While debating Santorum Thursday, Bob Casey Jr. looked so lightweight he was bound to float away if he didn’t hold on to the podium with all his might. Might Matthews and Rendell seriously consider letting the guy go? Fellas, you’re almost there.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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