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And this is the key to why.

A Santorum candidacy would probably just be a longer version of the Sarah Palin section of the 2008 election, with actual sentences this time. Only difference is Palin was a genuinely magnetic figure–whether you believed she walked on water or correctly believed she was a completely ignorant trainwreck of a person, she commanded serious attention. Santorum, though, is just a sad, bitter man who can’t get over losing in 2006, has preserved the particular fights he waged at the time in amber and wants to fight them again and again, ad infinitum, as well as refighting a lot of older ones. Scattered message discipline is the hallmark of an underfunded, ad hoc political campaign, which again, shades of McCain 2008. But it’s not just that, as Alex MacGillis persuasively argues:

We talk a lot these days about Washington having been overtaken by conservative ideologues, but this is an exaggeration. Many of those glibly parroting right-wing ideology these days—say, Eric Cantor—are mere opportunists. But Rick Santorum is a rare breed—a bona fide ideologue with a fixed and coherent world view. He can’t just switch some button and turn off the social stuff and talk jobs instead. It’s all woven together. “I’m not going to go out and lay out an agenda about how we’re going to transform people’s hearts,” he said today. “But I will talk about it.” The contrast with Mitt Romney, the man who is all buttons and switches, couldn’t be any greater.

Which means that, if Santorum is the candidate, he’s going to be running on a holistic hyper-right worldview that will mystify and alienate pretty much everyone else. That’s much harder for Obama to campaign against, but luckily it will be impossible for Santorum to argue for everything to the electorate. How on Earth is he going to convince Protestants (who outnumber Catholics substantially in America) that they’re not really Christians? That’s not at all a political issue and it’s incredibly poorly suited to our soundbyte media culture to boot. Overall, the Santorum campaign doesn’t believe much in emphasizing one issue over another, modulating the impact of his statements for general public consumption, or even holding back on some of his less popular notions. Which is to say that his true enemy isn’t Romney or Obama, but the very idea of politics itself. This is why the Tea Party loves him, as it’s largely their contempt for the actual practice of politics that drives them, as opposed to the not-at-all political Great Statesmanship of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, men who were so morally pure and leader-y that they completely dominated all opponents and got every single thing they wanted when they wanted it due to that awesomeness, and none were known to make a bad call ever. It’s a complete fantasy, of course, but seductive to a lot of people on the right and some on the left too. This is why Santorum would be completely hopeless in a general election (and, God forbid, as president).

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