It is no secret, of course, that the steadily improving economy has strengthened President Obama's reelection chances and left Republicans with a major headache on their hands (none more so than Mitt Romney, who seems utterly lost when talking about anything other than the economy). But no major Republicans have been willing to admit that. Indeed, they seem to be latching onto the attack line that either (a) things are improving fast enough ("Obama's not doing a good enough job digging the country out of the hole we put it in!") or (b) that Obama's policies are holding the economy back from more improvement.
But now it appears that the Frothy One himself has let things slip. Right on the heels of last Friday's job report, Rick Santorum, while speaking to supporters in Springfield, Missouri, stated that not only is the GOP losing the edge on the issue of the economy, he said that the economy may not even be the main issue of the election:
"You hear now the media starting to say, oh well, looks like the economy is getting better," Santorum told supporters Saturday night in Springfield, MO., shortly after the Associated Press declared him the winner of the Kansas caucuses. "You know, the economy may be getting better and Republicans may lose their edge on that issue. Well, if that was the only issue in this race, that may or may not be the case, we don't know."Yes, because foreign policy is such a fertile ground for the GOP to attack Obama on. They can ask Osama Bin Laden for advice. Oh,wait, they can't...
He added that, "the point is that's the point - we don't know what the big issue of the day is going to be when it comes to national security. It may be the dominant issue, national security with Iran on the precipice of getting a nuclear weapon, Israel feeling increasingly isolated by this administration."
You might think this may have been a slip by Santorum, but it doesn't seem likely, given his focus on social issues during his campaign. Later, he went more direct.
Later in his address, Santorum was more direct in shifting his focus away from economic issues.Santorum went further into Iran and national security as a possible "top issue" at a seperate event later that night.
"The issue may not be jobs and the economy," he told the crowd. "It may be for something more fundamentally important: Having someone who stood up for something called freedom."
"We have candidates running around saying they want to run for CEO of America. I'm running to be the commander in chief for America," Santorum said.Apparently, Santorum's comments rubbed some Republicans wrong, or at least the ones pinning their hopes on Romney. This morning on "This Week,", Lindsey Graham refuted Santorum and stuck to the GOP's current line on the economy:
"I don't think he's right at all," the South Carolina Republican said. "This is an anemic recovery after a pretty long recession."And:
Graham said, however, "The policies of the president are going to make it imposible for this country to recover."Actually, it seems to be improving nicely, Lindsey. No thanks to you guys.
I'll let TPM sum it up:
Political observers have remarked for a while now that the biggest factor in determining the outcome in November will be the economy, and it won't serve Republicans to give away the game up front and admit that Obama is presiding over a recovery. While Santorum's remarks might make sense as a strategy against Romney, they're an unsettling reminder to the Republican Party that if the economy continues to improve, they may need to start thinking about a plan B.The question is, what plan B could they possibly have? Social issues? We've seen how disastrous that's going for them with the contraception fiasco. Foreign policy? Just as bad, no matter how much Santorum may blather on about Iran. Immigration? See the social issues. Defending America? Do I need to remind you about Bin Laden?
There is no plan B for the GOP. It's the economy or bust. And if it continues to improve, their chances slip further and further into oblivion, no matter how much Santorum may think other issues may matter more.