Friday, January 13, 2012

Should Conservatives Get Behind Newt or Santorum?

It's obvious that there really is room for only one conservative in this race if we have any hope of beating Mitt Romney.  So I thought it would be useful to compare Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum in several categories.  I realize I have already endorsed Newt Gingrich but I will try to be as objective as my subconscious will allow.  Let's get started shall we?

Economic Policy -

Newt has a very strong conservative record in this regard, he:
  • Voted YES on the Reagan tax cut of 1981
  • Voted YES on the Reagan tax reform bill of 1986
  • Voted NO on the George H.W. Bush "Read My Lips" tax hike in 1990.
  • Voted NO on the Clinton tax hike in 1993.
  • Voted YES on the capital gains tax cut in 1997.
  • Voted NO on the Chrysler bailout in 1979
  • Voted YES on the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget bill in 1985
  • Voted YES on a balanced budget amendment (as part of the "Contract for America" effort that he led) in 1995
  • Led the effort and voted YES to cut $16.4 billion from the budget in 1995.
  • Voted YES on welfare reform in 1996
Rick Santorum has a strong record as well:

  • Voted NO on the Clinton tax hike in 1993
  • Voted YES on the capital gains tax cut in 1997
  • Voted NO on a cigarette tax hike in 1998
  • Voted YES on repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax in 1999
  • Voted YES on the 2001 Bush tax cuts
  • Voted YES to repeal the Death Tax in 2002
  • Voted YES to the 2003 Bush tax cuts
  • Voted YES to extend the Bush tax cuts in 2006
As you can see, both seem to have voted correctly in just about all major votes during their tenure in Congress, especially in regard to taxes.  That is a big reason why Newt has a lifetime ACU rating of 90 and Santorum gets an 88.  Neither were perfect as Santorum voted for Medicare Part D and it's clear that Newt campaigned for it when out of office.  One area though that Santorum is notably weaker than Newt is trade.  Santorum actually voted against NAFTA, which created a free trade zone between Canada, Mexico and the US.  While protectionism makes good speeches it actually makes for very bad economic policy.  Also, Santorum was able to get steel tariffs in order to protect some industry in his home state of Pennsylvania.   Those are the kinds of policies you would expect from a Democrat who is backed by the AFL-CIO, not a Republican who claims to be conservative.  And it doesn't end there.  Jeff Emanuel at Redstate has excerpted some choice remarks from his book "It Takes a Family":

What was my vision? I came to the uncomfortable realization that conservatives were not only reluctant to spend government dollars on the poor, they hadn't even thought much about what might work better. I often describe my conservative colleagues during this time as simply 'cheap liberals.' My own economically modest personal background and my faith had taught me to care for those who are less fortunate, but I too had not yet given much thought to the proper role of government in this mission.

and then:

I suspect some will dismiss my ideas as just an extended version of 'compassionate conservatism.' Some will reject what I have said as a kind of 'Big Government Conservatism.' Some will say that what I've tried to argue isn't conservatism at all. But I believe what I've been presenting is the genuine conservatism our Founders envisioned. One that fosters the opportunity for all Americans to live as we are called to live, in selfless families that contribute to the general welfare, the common good.

And then let's not forget his defense of compassionate conservatism, George W. Bush's philosophy that helped our domestic spending explode under the GOP.  Newt Gingrich is not exactly a small government conservative either but given that spending growth under his tenure as Speaker was the slowest of any period in the last 30-some years (and went down significantly as a % of GDP), his record kind of speaks for itself.

Advantage: Newt

Social/Cultural Policy - Both have similar views on abortion and gay marriage etc., though Santorum definitely takes his conservatism to another level on this.  This quote on personal autonomy from Santorum is very telling about how he feels:

This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can't go it alone.

He is so over the top on this that he believes states should be allowed to ban contraception.  I think Newt is a lot more like Reagan on this.  Conservative but unsure that the government should be getting involved with this which is pretty much where I fall as well.  Government is big enough, we don't need it regulating morals in the public sphere outside the classic commandments against killing/stealing etc. 

Advantage:  Tie.  Conservatives can feel good supporting either one though if they are more combative on social issues, Santorum is the one.

Foreign Policy - Both are very strong here, strong on both Iran and Israel.  I really have no doubt that both would be excellent here.

Advantage:  Tie

Personal (likeability, personal life etc.)

Likeability is a tough call but personally I think Newt is more likeable than Santorum.  Yes, Newt has a temper and has been described as an "attack muffin" but he can also be extremely inspirational.  Whether speaking at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition or in front of veterans in New Hampshire, you can just see people hanging on his every word and also thinking "he is our only hope."  You don't really get that from Santorum, who often comes across as whiny.  Also, my wife doesn't watch many debates but when she did, she clearly liked Newt (actually saying "good for him" when people were attacking him for telling the truth about the Palestinians) while for Santorum all she could muster was "why does he keep screaming?"  Also, I kind of view Newt as that favorite uncle who has had a turbulent life but is a lot of fun to be around. Santorum is that co-worker who, while competent, just has no sense of humor.

On their actual personal lives, well you really can't argue that Newt has a chance in this category, given his affairs, changes in religion and numerous wives.   Santorum is pretty much a saint from what I can tell.

Advantage:  Tie.  Newt wins on likeability and Santorum wins on his personal life.


Obviously, this is a pretty subjective category, but I think Newt is more electable.  He has the gravitas of a great man who will be able to inspire this country out of the mire we have found ourselves stuck in.  Santorum really doesn't.  Right now he is probably ready to be a Senator or Governor but I just don't think he has that x-factor to be President.  Not yet, anyway.  Newt just has this incredible upside as a candidate and as a potential President.

In terms of negatives/downsides, I'm sure it seems like Newt has more negatives but we already know Newt's dirty laundry after the Romney machine unloaded it all on him, in the case of Santorum, he has pretty much been given a free pass.  Newt was ripped a new one by the media and other candidates for doing consulting for Freddie Mac while a private citizen.  Well how do you think they will feel about Santorum taking money from lobbyists through a slush fund that he used for personal expenses while in office?  Or his scammy foundation?  There are quite a few issues with Santorum that have received zero press so far and given he has tried to sell himself as a squeaky clean moralist, they will probably do quite a bit of harm when reported widely.

Newt does have a propensity to say things that his supporters either have to explain or that he has to apologize for later.  But let's not forget some of Santorum's goodies like believing that contraception could be banned by the states, blaming radical feminism for the fall of the American family or blaming liberalism in Boston for the church child molestation scandal or equating homosexuality with bestiality.  There is a very large percentage of the population that will be offended by what he says and will keep a lot of independents from voting for him on election day.

Because he is so inspirational, Newt wins this one.

Advantage:  Newt

So there you have it.  I think that if you just go down the line, Newt is a better candidate for conservatives to get behind than Santorum.  In terms of policy, Newt is more conservative economically and probably more libertarian socially/culturally.  He is quite a bit like Reagan in this respect, while Santorum is more like George W. Bush who is less conservative economically but more conservative socially and I think conservatives would prefer Reagan to George W. Bush seven days a week and twice on sunday.

Newt is also more electable as he won't be scaring away voters with over-the-top social conservatism.  Plus I personally have a sense he is the type of person that today's Reagan Democrats can get behind.

But that is just my opinion.  Whoever the choice is of conservatives, I hope we can just agree on one so Mitt doesn't just glide through on a split vote when he would probably lose in a head to head against any of the other candidates other than Ron Paul.

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