Santorum considers staying ‘with what we have’

Updated
 

Rick Santorum prides himself on speaking without prepared texts – he recently recommended criminalizing Teleprompters – but once in a while, we’re reminded of the dangers of off-the-cuff rhetoric. Take the former senator’s appearance in Texas yesterday, for example.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Santorum, in reference to Mitt Romney, told voters, “You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there. If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch-A-Sketch candidate for the future.”

This was not well received. The Romney and Newt Gingrich campaigns wasted no time in hammering Santorum for suggesting President Obama would be preferable to Romney, and plenty of conservatives, including some who’ve offered Santorum support, denounced the public remarks in angry terms.

Realizing he’d gone too far, Santorum walked it back today, explaining in Louisiana this morning, “I’m gonna support whoever wins the Republican nomination.” He added that defeating the president is his main goal, “but we can’t do that with someone who agrees with him.”

As gaffes go, this certainly doesn’t help Santorum, and given his relative position of late, he can’t afford any major setbacks right now. But I think Kevin Drum got the larger context just right: “What matters, yet again, is that Santorum is taking a beating from conservatives over this remark. The same people who mostly gave Eric Fehrnstrom a pass for the original Etch-a-Sketch comment are now going after Santorum for taking advantage of it. The clear message is: we’re now in general election mode. No serious criticism of Romney from the right is allowed.”

Yep. Romney took a beating over “Etch A Sketch,” and with good reason, but you’ll notice the criticism from the right was rather muted. If conservative leaders started worrying about what promises Romney would break after he secured the GOP nomination, they kept it to themselves.

Limbaugh complained a bit on Wednesday morning, but quickly moved on, and the Republican establishment seemed far more interested in Jeb Bush, Jim DeMint, and Romney’s closed-door meetings with GOP officials in Washington yesterday. The criticism directed at Santorum’s comments in Texas, meanwhile, were harsher and louder.

This is generally what happens when a party coalesces.

Rick Santorum

Santorum considers staying 'with what we have'

Updated