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Unpacking the Electability Argument

Is Mitt Romney really that much more appealing of a general election candidate than Rick Santorum?

3:00 PM, Jan 5, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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At National Review Online, Artur Davis takes a look at the electability of the GOP contenders after Iowa. The conventional wisdom is that this issue is a big advantage for Mitt Romney, but Davis isn't so sure that Santorum can't defy expectations:

Democrats don’t want Romney. But it is striking how much of the Romney fear factor is a reductionist, fairly lazy analysis based on the thinnest of factors. One element is the state of current polls, which generally put Romney a little ahead or a little behind Barack Obama, while no one else is close. However, early polls are gauzy, out-of-focus snapshots, and they illustrate mainly that the line of attack on Romney has largely been that he is insufficiently conservative, a charge that doesn’t exactly jar non-conservatives. Another basis for the fear is the notion that Romney has been vetted, has a largely error-free career, and has an executive polish that is not tarnished by votes in Washington.

That’s all fair enough. The fact, however, is that Democrats have not had to strain to plan the race they would run against Romney. For four days in the week, they will paint him as a flip-flopper who has occupied both sides of a lot of ground; for three days, as an entitled tool of corporate interests who made millions doling out pink slips on behalf of a shadowy management firm.

Imagine if Axelrod and Co. had to ditch the playbook. The case for Rick Santorum — and yes, at this juncture, that phrase still feels weird — is that he is a conviction conservative with immigrant, middle-class roots who empathizes with battered places Republicans normally don’t see. If you don’t yet buy it, watch his might-as-well-be-a-victory-speech in Iowa: It was simply the best Republican rhetoric in the last decade.

If you want to take Davis up on his suggestion to kick the tires on Santorum a bit more, here's the video and transcript to his "might-as-well-be-a-victory-speech."

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