If it were up to Rick Santorum, the Republican Party would be the most aggressively conservative that it has been in decades, if not ever.
While he did not walk the walk as a Senator from Pennsylvania, he is now talking the talk as a man with the lead in most Presidential primary polls and in line to either win the nomination or secure a spot on the ticket next to Mitt Romney.
Santorum is a foreign policy hawk, willing to go to war at the drop of a dime if he thinks it will serve any positive purpose for U.S. interests.
His social conservatism is unquestioned. He openly scorns the concept of gay marriage, elective abortions and divorce while fiercely defending the right to public displays of the Christian faith.
His current tone on the economy is in line with hard right wing ideals, chiefly that tax increases are totally off the table, deep cuts in entitlement programs are needed and discretionary federal government spending must be curtailed immediately.
On illegal immigration, he strikes a balance between kicking every one out of the country and acknowledging the economic reality that perpetuate the problem. He is further to the right than either Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry were and is more realistic and eloquent on the issue than Mitt Romney.
Santorum's win in Iowa cemented his position as a strong conservative with working class roots, capable of winning several deeply conservative states during the primary. His wins in Minnesota and Colorado further emboldened his cause.
Now, he is in a position to put his mark on the Republican Party and it's national image. So what would Santorum's GOP look like?
This is the question he will need to answer over the coming 3 weeks, leading up to Super Tuesday on March 6th. If Rick Santorum is the nominee and de-facto leader of the national party, what does the mean for Republicans across the country?
Some in the party (Rockefeller Republicans or Romney Republicans) worry that Rick's rise will stain the party as one of old-school policies that don't fit the current state of affairs. They fear he is so conservative that he is outside the mainstream of American voters in swing states and thus dooms the party to losses not only in the President election, but also in the Congressional elections, as voters punish local Republicans for allowing Santorum to rise.
The other elements within the party say that while Santorum is very conservative, he also has a very appealing personality. He appeals to working class and blue collar voters as well as middle class suburban families for whom faith matters. He has a very attractive family whom he clearly loves very deeply and is devoted to. His religious zealotry is not contrived or phony, it's as real as his sweater vests. His family connection to the working class and his simple upbringing make him relatable to voters. His passion about politics and conservatism is unmistakable, which is very appealing to Republican primary voters who have seen candidate after candidate call themselves classic conservatives only to back track when elected.
As a candidate, Santorum has stood out from the other candidates by staking his position as the only person on the stage who was able to win elections in a blue state without having to compromise his principles. It is a strong argument and a compelling story line for an electorate looking for a genuine candidate with serious credentials.
The smart money still has Romney winning this nomination, thus continuing the Rockefeller tradition of moderate national Republicanism. However, Santorum's GOP presents a motivated, passionate and idealistic version of American conservatism.
The next few weeks will reveal a lot about Santorum and his ability to stand up to heavy political attacks. He has already won quite a few Republican hearts, now he needs to change a few minds to stage a big coup in the GOP primary.
Filed under: National Goverment