Try as I might, I can’t pass up an article in which former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum talks about his presidential ambitions (and, as a bonus, Sarah Palin). I have written previously about Santorum in this context, as he is high on my list of media-mentioned Republican presidential hopefuls who will never be their party’s nominee. Having already visited Iowa in October, Santorum begins a two-day swing through another early state, South Carolina, today.
Still, I find Santorum’s newfound presidential ambition to be of particular interest as a symptom of increasing tensions in the Republican Party, between business and institutional elites on one hand, and movement conservatives (social and religious) on the other. Santorum, despite his years in Congress, clearly sees himself as fitting squarely in the latter camp, which is currently dominated by the Sarah Palin/Glen Beck/Tea Bagger ethos of traditional values and political alienation. Palin is his competition, hence the little some explaining to do jab he throws at her in the article.
With Republican institutional elites knocked back on their heels in recent months by a groundswell of anger among movement politicians, we may see the Republican presidential caucuses and primaries in places like Iowa and South Carolina populated with more social and religious conservatives like Santorum than we have seen in a long-time. At some point in the cycle, however, the party’s traditional elites will inevitably strike back, giving political observers a front-row seat at the pitched battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Santorum’s interest is an early harbinger of the conflict to come.
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