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My Advice for Rick Santorum

Dear Rick,

To quote the late Steve Jobs: Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow. Like another Pennsylvanian named Rocky Balboa, you've got your shot at the title-something nobody ever thought you'd have. Make the most of it.

It won't last long, but for the moment, everybody is rooting for you-even the "liberal media" that you've enjoyed railing against for so many years. Sure, they'll turn on you eventually with a vengeance, but for the moment enjoy it. Enjoy them. Play the game. Everybody loves a cheerful underdog. Roll with it. 

Whatever their beliefs, they love a great story and a good contest. It does nothing for their ratings or readership to have a Romney coronation. They may hate your message but they desperately want a race. Give them one.

Your speech in Iowa sent shivers down the spines of every Romney and Obama operative who hasn't heard a Republican talk about the hopes and dreams of working class Americans in the industrial belt like that since Ronald Reagan

Keep at it. 

Talk to the country as though you're talking to the residents of the district which first sent you to Congress. They are your audience.

Never forget the real reason you got trounced by Casey in '06. Don't blame Bush 43. You won just fine when Bush 41 lost in '92. Sure, Casey's last name made the race tough, but you lost by 18 because like Rocky Balboa in "Rocky II," you forgot where you came from and who you are.

You forgot about the hopes and dreams of the people of the 18th district and others across the state who began to wonder if you were more concerned with the plight of children in Africa than the kids whose parents sent you to Washington to make their kids' lives better.

Don't forget that Rocky came back in "Rocky III" when he remembered where he came from. So can you. Keep your distance from do-gooder rock stars who want to appropriate the hard-earned money of the people of the 18th district for their noble causes, even as they try desperately to avoid paying taxes themselves. They're not your people. Your people are in the suburbs of Pittsburgh who gave you your first shot.

Sure you're a bit out of the mainstream on birth control, but so long as you make it clear that your opposition to all forms of birth control is something that you and your wife believe and not something you'd impose through legislation on the rest of the country, you'll be fine. You've voted in support of contraception before-remind voters of that and that you'll stay out of their bedrooms.

Speaking of bedrooms, you philosophize on homosexuality at your own peril and this will inevitably lead you to man-on-dog mistakes. Answer questions about gay marriage quickly and succinctly, but don't get drawn into esoteric discussions which are designed to make you look as though you're far too interested in the topic for a straight man.

Explain why you're opposed to the practice, then move on. Use the birthright line, remind voters that you have the same position as Hillary Clinton and President Obama and then take the next question.

Your problems with the GOP primary voter and maybe even the larger electorate are more style than substance, but style is important. Did you ever hear the story of the time Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger watched in horror as Reagan prepared to ride a horse for a photo op dressed in English riding boots and jaspers? When Nofziger told Reagan to go back in and change because he looked "like a sissy," the Gipper was smart enough to listen and make the adjustment.

You swing wildly between looking as though you're experiencing an ulcer and smiling too much. Stop the wincing. Look as though you're enjoying yourself and not as though you've just popped a Rolaid. Stop the laughing and giggling and smirking at questions. You have gravitas-you're a two-term United States Senator-the schoolgirl giggling detracts from it. The only thing worse than a guy who's grumpy all the time is a guy who smiles and laughs at moments that don't call for it. There's nothing wrong with being serious. The country is in a mess. If you're the guy who's going to solve the problems people want to see that you're a serious and thoughtful man.

Serious times call for serious men and women. You need a lot more Winston Churchill and a lot less Jerry Seinfeld.
Speaking of Seinfeld, the hair is a problem. Its been 40 years since your pals called you Rooster because of your hair's refusal to stay down, but we've been in the TV age of presidential politics since 1960 and if you can't get in to see a barber once a week to keep the back and sides of your head from exploding, maybe you don't deserve to be president. I know Howard Fineman has gotten away with this same problem for years but just because he does it doesn't make it right. Your wife looked fantastic the other night. Follow her to her next hair appointment and order a double.

We've all noticed the weight creeping back on you ala Gov. Huckabee. You started the campaign lean and mean and at least 20 pounds lighter, and now it's back on again and the sweater-vests show us way too much (more on that later). In Romney and Obama you have the two most disciplined politicians in the modern era-with no extra pounds and nary a hair out of place. Wake up early, crack a couple of raw eggs and go out for a run. Eye of the tiger. It worked for Rocky. You can't tame the deficit if you can't stay out of the M&M's in the mini bar.

Sweater vests? Really? Maybe it was cute in Iowa, but its time to move on. Run don't walk to your closet and take out every sweater vest and send them to Jimmy Carter. It gets very cold in Plains this time of year. Unless their Presidents are talking about malaise or their daughter's efforts to stop nuclear proliferation, Americans don't want to see their presidents in cardigans let alone sweater-vests. It's unprofessional, unbecoming and just plain weird.

You looked like a million bucks in your Iowa speech because you were in a crisp suit. It hides the pounds too. Stay disciplined. Keep the suit on until your weight reaches JFK's.

You're a remarkable politician with proven skills at attracting working class Democrats in a way not seen since the Gipper. Find the balance between talking about social issues you and the more immediate needs of millions of Americans who are hurting, just as he did. Your conservative credentials are solid, and that gives you the space to talk about other things, the kinds of things that the people in suburbs of Pittsburgh talk about at the dinner table every night.

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Finally, wear as a badge of honor, the attacks from the groups who seek to turn your last name into the product of a sex act. Every decent American will be disgusted by that and will be looking to you for your reaction. When they see you refusing to whine, overreact or minimize it, but flick it off your shoulder like you would a gnat, they'll respect you.

The wind is at your back, Rick. One man stands between you and Barack Obama. He's yours if you have the discipline to make the changes you need to make.

Remember: Even the Gipper had to learn to be a cowboy.

Mark Joseph is a producer/writer/editor who is based in California.

Mark Joseph is a film producer and marketing expert who has worked on the development and marketing of 25 films. His most recent book is The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: Narnia’s Journey To The Big Screen.

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