Republican presidential wannabe/spoiler Rick Santorum has said a lot of crazy things. And I mean a lot. His latest, however, may take the prize. Not satisfied with being a leading voice on climate change denialism, Santorum is trailblazing new ideological territory: economic denialism. How else to explain any presidential candidate saying “The issue in this election is not the economy?”
On Monday morning, as Santorum kicked off a full day of campaigning in Illinois, where he trails Mitt Romney in the polls, Santorum gave critics of his messaging more ammunition.
“The issue in this race is not the economy,” he said.
His statement was part of a longer monologue about why Obama’s health care overhaul is a symbol of government overreach, and that Americans’ freedoms are eroding.
“The reason the economy is an issue in this race is because we have a government that is oppressing its people and taking away their freedom, and the economy is suffering as a result,” Santorum said.
But to make such a statement so explicit is unlikely to help Santorum. It is, however, in line with his habit of speaking frankly, sometimes so much so that it draws attention and hurts him politically.
Where, oh where to begin? There are several different ways to attack Santorum’s statement. Let’s just start with the obvious. (I may get to the rest later.)
“The issue in this race is not the economy”? Really? The people, according recent polls, beg to differ.
- In a March 2012 Bloomberg News poll, 42% picked unemployment as “the most important issue facing the country right now.” The defict came in a distant second, with just 21%.
- In a March 2012 CBS News/New York Time poll, 51% said the “the most important problem facing the country today” is the economy and jobs. Second place, with 22%, was “Other.”
- A February 2012 CBS News/New York Times poll indicated that 44% chose the economy as “the one issue” they would “most like to hear candidates for president discuss” during the 2012 campaign.
- In a January 2012 ABC New Washington Post poll, 51% chose the economy and jobs as “the single most important issue in your choice for president.”
But perhaps the worst news for Santorum’s new talking point comes from the same CBS News/New York Times poll cited above. It appears that, of the 1,009 adults polled nationwide, 66% said economic issues mattered more to them than social issues in decising which 2012 presidential candidate to support.
What more is there to say? It’s one thing to say “The issue in this race is not the economy,” to a room full of Santorum supporters, or a room full of GOP primary voters. It’s entirely another to take that message to the American people in 2012. Not only do most Americans say that the economy is the issue in this presidential race, but there’s a strong consensus on how to fix the economy. Here’s a hint for Santorum and the rest of the GOP field: tax cuts for the wealthy, austerity for the rest of us, and deregulating Wall Street again didn’t make the cut.
First climate change, and now this. No wonder President Obama recent joked that the GOP’s slate of candidates would have been “founding members of the Flat Earth Society.”