PUT AN L ON RICK'S FOREHEAD
The GOP knives started to come out for Rick Santorum yesterday -- the most prominent line of attack was to damn Santorum as a "big-government conservative," a supporter of activist, interventionist government to achieve right-wing ends (especially religious-right ends). But that dog won't hunt with the base -- insider pundits can come up with all kinds of taxonomies to describe GOP voters, but for the most part those voters don't sort themselves into watertight categories. They hate big government or love it, depending on who's doing the big governmentin', and for what reason. So if Santorum wants to spend tax dollars on forcing the citizenry to love Jesus more and engage in less icky non-marital sex, that's a means of leading us to "freedom" -- and, by contrast, privatized "Obamacare" is still "socialism."
If that line of attack on Santorum came from Team Romney, then Team Romney is going about this all wrong. Frankly, I don't understand why Romney's surrogates don't play their strongest card against Santorum -- which would be stressing the fact that he lost his last election to a damn dirty Democrat by 17 points.
What Republicans voters really want is someone they think will be a boot in the liberal face forever; the policy nuances don't matter all that much. When they backed Gingrich, it was because they thought he was the one most likely to out-debate Obama; they briefly backed Perry because they knew he'd never lost an election; and they liked Cain because, back in the '90s, he confronted Bill Clinton about his health care plan, and they think he was part of the reason it subsequently went down in flames. GOP voters abandoned Gingrich and Cain when they couldn't fend off attacks (from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats and, in Cain's case, the non-political press) -- once Herman and Newt were wounded, they began to seem like weak horses, and could no longer be the object of GOP total-dominance fantasies. And Perry sunk himself with gaffes that made him a laughingstock in the center and on the left.
What the GOP base daydreams about is a conservative conqueror who's a juggernaut, unharmed and unfazed as he (or she) cuts the liberal beast down to size. That's why the highest praise for any wingnut hero is "this is the person liberals fear the most." (That was said repeatedly about Sarah Palin until it became abundantly clear, even to the right, that the exact opposite was true.)
So, Mitt, if you want to be rid of Santorum, just remind Republican voters how big a loser he was in 2006. Don't assume that they know about the size of the loss -- that's inside baseball. Tell them we Antichrists beat him badly. He'll fade instantly.