The Corner

George Will on Santorum

Two unrelated observations about his column.

1. He writes,

White voters without college education — economically anxious and culturally conservative — were called “Reagan Democrats” when they were considered only seasonal Republicans because of Ronald Reagan. Today they are called the Republican base.

Who is more apt to energize them: Santorum, who is from them, or Romney, who is desperately seeking enthusiasm?

If the entrance polls are right, Santorum actually underperformed among voters who never went to college, a group that slightly preferred Romney. He did, however, do significantly better among voters who went to college but got no degree, which was a larger pool of voters. Both candidates tended to do better the more schooling a voter had. (Gingrich and Perry exhibited the reverse pattern.)

2. He also writes,

Yes, in 2006, a ghastly year for Republicans (who lost 30 seats and control of the House, and six Senate seats), Santorum lost by 17 points in his bid for a third term. But, then, Richard Nixon was defeated for governor of California six years before being elected president, carrying California.

Nixon lost by only five points. Even in 2006, no other Senate Republican lost as badly as Santorum. On the other hand, no Republican as conservative as Santorum was running for reelection in as blue a state (Olympia Snowe won reelection in Maine, hence the qualifier). On the other other hand — the third hand? — Republican challengers were able to do a little better than Santorum in just-as-blue Michigan and significantly better in bluer Maryland. I’ve never seen a completely persuasive explanation for why Santorum did as badly as he did.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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