Santorum to “Plant His Flag” in Michigan

 

I think there are two reasons that Rick Santorum is enjoying another surge in the GOP Primary Reality Show, having won all three caucus states last night, two in a blow-out.

First and foremost, Santorum is the only one of the GOP candidates to be able to somewhat credibly claim to be what Nixon (as best described by Rick Perlstein) an Orthogonian–the outsider who resents the arrogance of the elite.

Nixon’s insights into the possibilities of harnessing voter resentment, Perlstein maintains, derived from his own; indeed, he was a “serial collector of resentments.” As a student at Whittier College, a young Nixon addressed his own painful exclusion from the school’s social elites, the Franklins, by forming his own club of outsiders, the Orthogonians, open to “the strivers, those not to the manner born.” For Perlstein, the Franklin-Orthogonian divide captures perfectly a split between social and economic elites and everyone else (at least among whites) that Nixon manipulated to his advantage.

His signal achievement was in successfully casting his Democratic opponents as Franklins and enlisting many non-elites into the Orthogonian ranks. He thus seeded the ground for the culture wars that sprouted during the 1960s and persisted, in varying forms, ever since. For the white suburban middle class, admiring Nixon involved “seeing through the pretensions of the cosmopolitan liberals who claimed to know so much better than you . . . what was best for your country.” As a presidential candidate in 1968, he gave them a name: “the ‘silent center,’ ” those ” ‘millions . . . who do not demonstrate, who do not picket or protest loudly’ ” and who “lived virtuously.” Within a few years, he fastened on the term that would endure: the Silent Majority.

In last night’s victory speech Santorum took on Obama, repeating over and over that Obama thinks he “knows better” than Santorum’s supporters. He said Obama doesn’t listen. And while that’s not much different from the nastiness and victimization that Newt performed to win the South Carolina primary, coming from a “grandiose” college professor it just sounds off. And Mitt and his Cayman Island tax shelters?

If you ignore Santorum’s self-dealing on PACs and his stint as a lobbyist, you can almost believe that Santorum has faced the same challenges as many Americans.

This year’s Republican voters–the relatively few who are turning out to vote–hate the knowing technocracy Obama is giving them, and Santorum can play on their resentment of that in a way Mitt and Newt can’t.

But Santorum’s wins have, also, been focused (with the exception of Colorado) on Midwestern states. One reason for that, I believe, is his explicit call for manufacturing, pushing to eliminate taxes on manufacturing in this country. Whether or not you believe he would do that, he speaks to the many benefits of manufacturing in a way that resonates in the Midwest. (Nate Silver predicted Santorum’s strength in the Midwest last week.)

And so Rick Santorum has–predictably, in my opinion–announced he plans to focus on MI rather than AZ for the next GOP primary day, February 28 (suck it, bmaz!).

But with the next major contests for the GOP nomination in Arizon and Michigan on Feb. 28, Santorum said on msnbc’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday morning that, “We think Michigan’s a great place for us to plant our flag.”

The reason is clear – Santorum, who hails from a blue-collar, manufacturing state, hopes he can translate that into votes in other blue-collar, manufacturing states like Michigan, where he can at least win a portion of the available delegates by doing well, and Ohio, which votes on March 6, Super Tuesday.

“We’re heading to Michigan,” Santorum said. “We’re really excited about that. we’re also heading to Ohio, Super Tuesday’s going to be a very big day for us.”

On paper, AZ and MI are both strong states for Mitt. AZ has a significant Mormon population and in 2008 he did well in the Mountain West (just ignore that CO result last night). MI, of course, is where Mitt was born, and a bunch of buildings around Lansing bear his father’s name.

But there’s that whole “Let Detroit go bankrupt” line, which has been replayed here in MI constantly in the last year, the outsourcing of jobs (like that of our governor, whom we’re getting tired of). In both states, I think Mitt’s affluence would work badly this year.

In short, if Santorum’s Sugar Daddy will provide him the cash, he might certainly make MI interesting (though we allow crossover voting and Democrats have already started talking about how to make trouble). And if Mitt lost–or even underperformed in his birth state–it might raise real questions about his viability.

So I expect MI to be seeing a lot of Mitt and Santorum in the next few weeks. This blog might even look like an old-time political blog in the next few weeks.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

20 replies
  1. Benjamin Franklin says:

    This Santorum surge is just what is needed to keep the chaos vibrant until the Convention. Best case scenario, the Tea-pers will force a third-party challenge to the Chosen One. It’s all good…

  2. prostratedragon says:

    Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m having a heckuva time trying to decide whether to dust off those Carioca steps or the Cuban motion.

    Seriously, looking back over the last decade or two (is that far enough back?), when did it get to be too late to avoid this patch? What did we miss, where were we negligent? Was it a failure of collective action, or some local inattention at a critical time or place? I have a lot of questions, and increasingly am wondering if the answers will matter.

  3. bmaz says:

    This means war!!

    In case y’all have not noticed yet, February 28 will be The Emptywheel Primary Day, with contests in both Michigan and Arizona. Now, if we can just find some damn bloggers to cover this giz, we will be in business!

    For the record, I know I should be hurt that Frothy Santorum will not be bringing the full man on dog political effort here, but I will try to press on without that here in my state.

  4. rugger9 says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: #1
    My betting is still a hung convention and a stealth candidate covered by tons of Koch money and Rovian dirty tricks. The former will suck up all of the air time for oppo research by the Obama campaign, and the latter will steal the election. It’ll be Petraeus by my reckoning, just remember KKKarl doesn’t want to be out of power, so there’s no chance that he throws two elections in a row.

  5. MadDog says:

    To me, Santorum embodies the very soul of today’s Repuglicania. A true believer in their alternate fantasy universe. The one that’s overseen by Baby Jesus wearing a sweatervest (and white and tan saddle-shoes).

    It’s the mirage portrayed by the 1950’s television where only white folks lived in the suburb of Pleasantville.

    It’s where Ozzie is still faithful to his one true love Harriet, the Beaver always eats his brussels sprouts even though he really doesn’t like them, and Wally never has an erection because he’s saving himself for marriage.

    It’s their imagined youth that never was. Chaste women and virile men.

    It is fun watching this alternate fantasy universe of Repuglicania destroy itself before our very eyes. The nonsense they spew, the gibberish they spout, the imprecations they chant, all in hopes of restoring a reality that never existed, and all of it further and further from the reality that does exist.

    When even George Will, David Frum, Ann Coulter, and many other Repugs decry the craziness of today’s Repuglicania, readily apparent for all to see, and which they themselves cheerlead into existence, can the final deathstar implosion of Repuglicania be far behind?

  6. JTMinIA says:

    I googled “santorum surge” to see what you all are talking about and I am shocked! … shocked, I tell you.

  7. Benjamin Franklin says:

    @rugger9:

    Petraeus is still active duty, but like Hunstman, he worked for Obama, and that poison will pollute the TP Koolaid. Besides that, i think Petraeus eschews politics. There really aren’t any surprises I can see.

    Santorum has been brutal on Gingrich, and wears gloves when speaking of Romney.

    I think the endorsed ticket will be Romney/Santorum, but wtf do I know?

  8. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: I bet you’ll get Ron Paul as a booby prize. Though I bet he could get 15% here, particularly given the cross overs.

  9. bmaz says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: Petraeus officially retired from the military last fall prior to being sworn in as CIA Director. It will not be Petraeus for 2012, though he may still pop up in the future somewhere.

    There are only really three legitimate “outside” possibilities apart from the current candidates: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels.

  10. Benjamin Franklin says:

    @bmaz:

    Christie and Jeb are way outside. Mitch Daniels is a little inside, but has the appeal of Pawlenty.

    But, wtf do I know?

  11. bmaz says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: I just meant outside of the current race. Jeb and Christie are not really as conservative as a lot of the GOP now prefers it seems, but both I think could at least make a pretty raucus go of it; they can handle themselves. Which is more than any of the current crop can claim. I have never understood the draw of Daniels, he seems very much the wet cardboard Pawlenty is – as you note.

  12. Bob Schacht says:

    …This blog might even look like an old-time political blog in the next few weeks.

    This blog has *not* been political? Who knew?
    Anyway, while you’re doing that political stuff, don’t forget to keep us informed about the race pitting Crazy Pete against Debbie Stabenow. I hope she creams him, but given MI politics lately, I don’t feel real confident about that.

    Cheers,
    Bob in AZ

  13. klynn says:

    Seeing the words, “…plant our flag…” and Santorum in the same sentence is not a euphemism is it?

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Santorum’s ability to channel Nixon might certainly threaten Mr. Obama, the ultimate technocrat who promised us the soul of RFK, but gave us Brainiac’s.

    Rick Santorum may not have the national juice to trump Mitt. If not, he could be his VP or his top man at DoD or the NSC. He would then visit on us the power of the surveillance state as if he had just led a revolution on the desert planet Dune.

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