Rick Santorum had a super Tuesday. Long lingering at the back of the Republican presidential pack, the former Pennsylvania senator delivered a stunning upset by winning all three of yesterday’s electoral events.
In Missouri, he clinched 55% of the vote, far more than presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney’s 25%; he took about 40% in Colorado, 5 points ahead of Romney, who won that state four years ago; and in Minnesota, another state Romney won during the 2008 race, Santorum captured 45% of the vote, followed by Ron Paul’s 27%, leaving Romney in the dust at only 17% of the vote, according to the Huffington Post.
The main takeaway here is that Romney lost big, but the secondary story is, or should be, the fact that socially conservative Rick Santorum’s wins represent something of a micro-battle between the Republican Party’s traditional ideological leanings and Ron Paul’s brand of Libertarianism. “Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota,” Santorum told a jubilant crowd last night. “Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people.” It was, therefore, a loss for Paul’s increasingly vocal voting bloc.
Libertarianism has been flexing its muscles in Republican circles for years, and Santorum’s campaign represents something of a throwback to the GOP’s most notable base, one that is inherently against the political ideas espoused by the likes of Ron Paul. In fact, Santorum has previously said he wants to route out Libertarianism all together.
“[I will] fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican party and the conservative movement., he said last June. And in 2005, he remarked, “[Libertarians] 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 regulation low and 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.”
Yes, that’s why conservatives like Santorum prescribe big government intervention on things like gay marriage, as seen in the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while Libertarians agree lawmakers should stay out of the bedroom.
Santorum’s wins, especially in Minnesota, expose the ongoing tensions between upstart Libertarians and old school conservatives, representing a micro-view of the infighting happening within the Republican Party. If he can’t be slowed down, then Santorum may officially trounce a movement that has for years been trying to build its support and influence. Santorum’s wins were probably something of a fluke, and it’s unlikely he’ll have similar success in the forthcoming races. But if he does, Ron Paul and his supporters will see a huge ideological setback, one that could severely damage their Libertarian movement for years to come.