What Would Happen If Rick Santorum Beats Mitt Romney?

Once again, I heard over the weekend about how a sizable number of powerful Democrats in Washington have really started to hope that Rick Santorum will win the Republican nomination. The thinking among these Dems is, of course, that good ol’ Satan-hating Santorum would be a lot easier to beat in the general election than Mitt the Mild. But I think those folks should quit putting that vibe out in the universe. Not that they’re not right about Santorum being easier to beat. Santorum would lose under almost any circumstances. But — and I hate to even say this — not under all circumstances. And there’s the rub.

Let’s do a thought experiment. First, let’s walk through the imaginary scenario that some Dems in Washington are hoping for: Mitt Romney makes one too many gaffes, and Crazy Ricky somehow pulls off an upset win. In that scenario, more and more attention turns to Santorum, and he keeps saying more and more of the kind of things he has already said. Things like all that stuff about Satan, that separation of church and state makes him want to throw-up, that public education is anachronistic, that the pursuit of happiness is harming America, that birth control is harmful to our society, and so on. There’s always a camera and a microphone to catch it, and people really begin to realize that this guy is full-on, bat-flapping nutty. Under this scenario, the domestic news continues the positive trend we’ve seen of late. The economy continues to add jobs at a good clip, the unemployment rate continues its downward trend, the housing market finally has stabilized, inflation is tamed, interest rates are low,the Dow is up, the GDP grows, and the deficit shrinks. People start feeling good again. Landslide. Nice.

But now, somewhere around July or August, let’s imagine a second scenario and throw in a Black Swan. A Black Swan is something that has a very significant effect and is both rare and unforeseen, but it all makes perfect sense in hindsight. Or, say for instance, things in Greece come unglued. Or all of Europe falls into a recession. Or Iran or North Korea do something totally insane and oil deliveries are disrupted and gas prices spike and that throws the U.S. economy back into a deep recession. Then people are all scared and mad again, and Santorum is out there leading the crazy parade — not to mention that every right-wing radio host in the country is screaming “See, I told you so!” And after all the American people have been through in the past decade: 9-11, two wars, the Great Recession, the rise of the crazies, the endless bickering. Santorum may look nutty, smiling through it all in his cute little sweater vest, but at least he’s not the guy who is in there now and whose fault everything must be. And so Rick Santorum, crazy Rick Santorum, ends up as our president. My friends, we would all be doomed.

Take Santorum’s budget proposal, for starters. According to an analysis by the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the mid-range estimate for the consequences of Santorum’s proposal is that the U.S. budget deficit would grow by about $4.5 trillion, causing our debt as a share of our GDP to soar to 104 percent, even as the social safety net was shredded. Santorum wants a war with Iran. He wants to appoint Supreme Court Justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade. He wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. And he is so contemptuous of public education he says he would home-school his kids in the White House. And so on. It would not take long before this became a totally different country, one more in line with the 19th century than the America we know and love today.

So yes, under all of the most likely events that will happen in the next eight months, it would be easier for Democratic politicians to have a Santorum to run against. He is so far outside the mainstream, so tenuously disconnected from rational thought that the swing vote would run from him in droves. But, as economists like to point out, Black Swans do happen. The unforeseen and unlikely do occur. We all have, in fact, lived through one great whopping example. And if something like that should happen to us again, wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if someone like Romney were Obama’s opponent? Wouldn’t it be better to have someone who is close enough to the mainstream that he can at least see “normal” from his house (or, one of his houses, at least)?

I, for one, am rooting for Romney to become the GOP nominee … the one Obama beats. So, good luck to you Mr. Romney, sir. At least until November 5.

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  • Charlie469

    I don’t know. Bible sales will go up, we will all need to dress our kids in sweater vests, condoms will have to be purchased in dark alleys, the US will declare a “war on birth control”, colleges will close, gasoline will be free, everyone will be able to resume payments on their mortgages, the airlines will offer charter flights to Mexico for abortions, taxes will go down, the debt will be wiped out, and we will all live happily ever after.

  • Barry

    Dear Charlie,
    You are certainly right about some of what you say – but wrong about debt and taxes. As the article notes:

    According to an analysis by the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the mid-range estimate for the consequences of Santorum’s proposal is that the U.S. budget deficit would grow by about $4.5 trillion, causing our debt as a share of our GDP to soar to 104 percent, even as the social safety net was shredded. And though some of our fire and brimstone brethren may be happy – you paint an Elmer Gantry world that holds no appeal to me.

    Regards,
    Barry Nolan