Rick Santorum Pushes the 'Right' Race and Religion Buttons to Capture the Deep South

Mar 14 2012 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party, U.S. Senate

The Rick Santorum campaign took right-winged flight Tuesday as Santorum and his almost indecipherable message to normal people captured both Alabama by a respectable 5 point margin and Mississippi in squeaker. Newt Gingrich showed some signs of life in coming in 2nd, while Santorum’s fellow Yankee, Mitt Romney, came up just short of Gingrich for 3rd in both states.

The media will obsess on the Santorum victories, but Romney captured just as many wins, both essentially meaningless with ‘triumphs’ in Hawaii and American Samoa. The Hawaii win was by far the biggest margin of the night – 20 percentage points with Gingrich coming in last. The irony for the Santorum camp is that proportionality will probably see him trailing by the same number of delegates that he did before Tuesday. The top three will split Alabama’s 47 and Mississippi’s 37 delegates while Romney gets to keep all of his ‘winner take all’ Hawaii delegates and he’s locked up the American Samoan contingent of 9.

The takeaway is a bit more breath in the Santorum campaign, just enough juice to keep Gingrich and his fantasy $2.50 gas prices in the race and the Deep South’s reliable support of the most extreme right-wing candidate. Santorum kept that mantle in his victory speech from Louisiana when he got a rousing cheer in saying something about the “centrality of faith in our lives”, reassuring yet another southern state that Jesus would be padding about the house and senate floors should Rick get the nod.

So, the Sisyphean Republican Presidential Primary rolls on. My local newspaper’s Tuesday headline read, “GOP rivals hit Deep South with conservative message” You’d better have that conservative message. Y’all and ‘cheesey’ grits just ain’t gonna cut it.

Going into Deep South Tuesday, the polls (almost universally off base) had Romney and Gingrich pretty much neck and neck with Romney given a slight edge. Running third was Santorum who trailed by almost double digits in some polls in two of the most narrow-minded states you’ll ever find. Third? In Alabama and Mississippi?  To a consummate outsider like Romney? Part of the pollster’s big miss was that respondents gave them the answers they wanted to hear. In other words, potential voters lied. Let me explain why Romney got edged (not drubbed) in two politically twisted states. It’s an easy answer. Evangelical right-wingers constituted the overwhelming majority of Tuesday’s Deep South voters. And they voted race no matter what they tell you.

I’ll never forget the late George Wallace who, after losing the 1958 Democratic Primary for Alabama Governor to his KKK-endorsed opponent, told an aide, “I will never be outni****ed again. And from that point forth, he wasn’t, later declaring “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” His blocking of a University of Alabama auditorium door to black enrollees remains one of the most disgusting chapters in American history. He later recanted his racism, after being nearly killed in an assassination attempt.  Clearly, the overwhelming number of Evangelicals who showed up for the Tuesday primary were not going to risk voting for someone who could be outni****ed. They were determined to elevate the candidate who they mistakenly believed had the best chance of beating the black president, Barack Obama. Santorum has no chance. Like Limbaugh, he terrifies women (and most other rational thinkers).

Yes, it was racism that drove this primary. Not overtly mind you. Everything is coded in the Deep South (remember, I live there). You won’t hear the ‘n’ word uttered in public where there might be a chance of some white liberal taking offense. I can’t speak for corner bars, hunting trips or in-home social gatherings, but publicly, out loud…ain’t happening.

When Gingrich talks about a food stamp president; that’s code. Romney’s comment “I’m not concerned about the very poor”, even though accompanied by assurances that he would help those truly in need, is code; the very poor being the very black. The main reason Santorum won is that he doesn’t even bother coding his racism, once telling an Iowa audience, that he doesn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” Of course, he’ll eagerly give multi-billion dollar oil companies ‘somebody else’s money’.

So with the southern switchover from Democrat to Republican with the passage of ’60’s civil rights legislation, GOP primary candidates better wear their n-hating cred on their sleeves, coded or blatant, in Alabama and Mississippi.

Religion, of course, played a role. It always does with Santorum successes. You can’t get deeper immersed in more extremist right-wing religious zealotry than that of Alabama and Mississippi. And nobody does the 2 ‘R’s better than Santorum. In his victory speech from a campaign site in Louisiana, he talked of the “centrality of faith in our lives” and the crowd cheered and clapped for what seemed like a couple of minutes.

In the near-term, Missouri starts its caucus process March 17th after a February 7th non-binding vote that went overwhelmingly to Santorum. That should carry over to the caucuses. Puerto Rico comes along on March 18th followed by the next big dog, Illinois with its tasty tidbit of 69 delegates. Then it’s a month-long dry spell for Santorum until April 24th when he’s likely to pick up his home state, though Romney will probably have trumped that win with mighty New York.

As a practical matter, Santorum trails by too many delegates to catch up, but there’s that church/state thing to peddle and neither Gingrich’s or Paul’s ego will let them step aside just now. But if you’ve ever played Jenga you know Paul’s tower is about to tumble.

Lurking just off the political stage is the possibility of a brokered convention. If you think Santorum’s scary, it’s starting to look like Sarah Palin is making herself available.

Call 911.

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