Stakes Rise for Santorum

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Published January 05, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Big Opportunity, Big Risk for Santorum in New Hampshire

“This is not a time for us to shrink. This is a time for us to have bold colors, not pale pastels.”

-- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigning at the Rockingham County Nursing Home in Brentwood, N.H.

It doesn’t look like Mitt Romney could lose New Hampshire, but then again, he can’t really win it either.

Even a 20-point landslide by Romney in New Hampshire would be instantly discounted as merely meeting expectations for the former governor of the neighboring state who keeps a summer home there.

The only way Romney could make news in New Hampshire would be if he ends up in a squeaker. Romney, having skated to a narrow victory in Iowa, would then be seen as hugely vulnerable. The stakes are high, but the risks of such an embarrassment look low.

For Iowa runner up, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, though, both the stakes and the risks are very high. Little-known Santorum needs a boost in New Hampshire to establish himself as the “Not Romney” in the race.

But just as he will be competing with well-known southerners Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry (who opted to reassess his reassessment of his candidacy and press on) for votes in South Carolina, Santorum must deal with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is a semi-open primary and the libertarian Paul and Obama appointee Huntsman may draw a large number of independents and liberals into the primary pool. We saw this with Paul’s independent appeal in Iowa, but it could be even more significant in New Hampshire where Huntsman has been doing what Santorum did in Iowa – claiming squatter’s rights.

Santorum’s first task is to finish second ahead of Paul, Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. Anything less would be a massive mojo deflation. The next task is to put up a respectable number against Romney. If the divided vote leaves Santorum in a far-distant second place, it will take some luster off of the current media narrative of scrappy Santorum fighting his way into contention.

Santorum has some advantages beyond the current media hype. New Hampshire is a state where Catholics outnumber Protestants and Santorum’s biography as the son of an Italian immigrant will resonate. He only has five days in which to capitalize, though. And as he does, Santorum will continue to feel the sting of attacks from Paul and others who claim that he is a big-government Republican in the mold of George W. Bush.

Santorum must perform well in a pair of debates in New Hampshire this weekend. While Romney needs only to return to his original posture of being above the fray, Santorum will have to respond to multiple accusers without sounding defensive or whiny. His main foe, though, will be Paul, with whom he will be battling for conservative votes.

If he can rise out of the pack into a second-place finish to Romney in New Hampshire, Santorum could be more than just an Iowa guy and improve his chances in the more difficult terrain of South Carolina. But if the story on Tuesday is Romney alone and everybody else tangled up far below, Santorum could run out of gas fast.

 


 

Obama Goes for Double Play: Pleasing Labor While Goading GOP

“When Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them.”

-- President Obama at a campaign stop in Ohio discussing his decision to install several appointees without congressional approval.

George W. Bush opted to disregard the advice of some of his advisers to ignore the technical, pro forma sessions of Congress to go ahead with recess appointments because he feared a dangerous escalation in the power struggle between the branches of government.

President Obama, conversely, is looking past the past legal advice of his own advisers as well as the arguments he supported while trying to blockade Bush nominees during his nearly four years in the Senate. While Bush was looking to avoid escalating hostilities, Obama is trying to increase the strife in Washington.

Obama is looking to capitalize on his success in dividing and embarrassing Republicans with the wrangling over the extension of his Social Security tax holiday stimulus and funding for extended unemployment benefits.

Democrats were able to splinter the House Republican caucus and pit the House GOP and their Senate counterparts against one and other. The Obama Democrats had been working to that end since the 2010 elections, but only saw it come to fruition at the end of 2011.

Now, with Republicans feeling pessimistic and self-conscious, Obama is taunting them with the appointment of a liberal favorite, anti-bank crusader who lost his 2010 re-election bid as attorney general of swing state Ohio. Not only is Richard Cordray much celebrated by the left, but the agency Obama intends him to lead is itself a flashpoint. The new body, created under the much-maligned Dodd-Frank bank regulations, is intended to be a new layer of regulation for the financial sector, overseeing consumer finance transactions like car loans, credit cards and even dental payment plans.

Obama Democrats hope that the focus stays on Cordray because it helps reaffirm their preferred media narrative for this year’s elections: Democrats stand with the abused masses against the depredations of the rich white dudes in the world of finance.

It’s all predicated on the assumption that rich white dude Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee and that Obama himself has some serious problems with blue-collar voters. Obama, he of the Kamehameha-style winter getaways and Ivy League pedigree, has been hurt by accusations of aloofness to regular folks and timidity in the face of a fight. So, Obama is picking a fight in which he adopts the posture of a champion of regular folks against those even more privileged than he.

When Republicans sputter about the brazenness of the act and the lack of respect for separation of powers, it helps Obama with his new class warrior rhetoric. Can he be blamed for spilling a little constitutional milk for trying to save the American apple pie? Remember also that the fight over Social Security taxes will soon be revisited. When that starts, Obama would love to have Republicans all tangled up in their BVDs over abstruse Constitutional matters all in the name of opposing someone who is referred to in establishment press reports as a “consumer watchdog.”

The danger here, though, is twofold.

First, his actions make it increasingly hard for even sympathetic observers to buy Obama’s line that he has tried to fix Washington. Jamming a controversial appointee in for a two-year recess appointment using a novel legal argument is not the act of a healer.

Second, the discussion may move away from Cordray and onto the other three appointments Obama made this week: restocking the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB has been an albatross for Obama, as his labor-backed appointees have pushed two extremely controversial measures: the recently abandoned bid to block the expansion of a non-union Boeing plant in South Carolina and rules allowing snap union elections for employees at shops targeted by labor organizers. The former was a PR disaster and the latter may become one. Especially with the backdrop of Obama’s resistance to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada’s oilfields, the NLRB’s actions have allowed Republicans to paint Obama as a job killer.

The NLRB had fallen into limbo as the terms of sitting members ended and the Senate was sitting on fresh appointments, owing to the controversies. It happened to George W. Bush with the Federal Elections Commission and other boards, but Obama is driving through to keep his labor board functioning.

This is a boon to big labor, dollars and ground troops from which will be essential to Obama’s re-election campaign. Lacking a popular groundswell and surge in independent support that he had in 2008, Obama must rely on the traditional Democratic coalition, big labor being the most important part.

If Obama can keep the focus on Cordray and his effort to protect vulnerable Americans from the abuses of people who look a lot like Willard M. Romney, the play could be a good one. If, however, the focus shifts to the controversial labor board, Obama may find that he got a little carried away with the “we can’t wait” stuff.

 


 

And Now, A Word From Charles

“I think it's not about the appointee or even about the agency. I think this is a lawless action by the president at the end of a long string of lawless actions. It's banana republic style. The president is saying I won't let Congress stop me. Actually, but it's in constitution that you have to have the Senate approval.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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