Poor Ricky Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator bounced back from a resounding 2006 defeat to nearly derail Mitt Romney's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but unlike past GOP runners-up, he faces exceedingly long odds in his likely presidential quest in 2016. Good old Santo registers less than two percent support in polls of the GOP field, standing at 11th place in Real Clear Politics' average of recent surveys. With flashier contenders like Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Ben Carson in the race, Santorum currently seems about as likely to serve as grand marshal in the Capital Pride parade as he is to emerge as the leading right-wing alternative to Jeb Bush.
But fear not, all ye who loathe "blah people" and worry about a national epidemic of man-on-dog sex. Real Clear Politics' Caitlin Huey-Burns reports that Santorum's nascent campaign thinks it's found just the trick to boost their guy's gravitas and keep the dream of President Santorum alive. It's time, they say, for Santorum to ditch his signature sweater vest.
The thinking in Santorum's camp seems to be that he lost the 2012 nomination not because he was underfunded or had a penchant for bizarre and inflammatory utterances on issues like gay rights and contraception, but because he didn't project an air of presidential authority. Hence the sartorial fix. Santorum's aides, Huey-Burns tells us, want him to "appear less hokey and more presidential" this go-around.
For the record, Santorum also vowed in January not to say "crazy stuff" this time, but Santorum without the "crazy stuff" is akin to Catholicism without guilt. At any rate, he already looks to have abandoned that pledge, if his recent remarks lashing out against the insufficiently dogmatic pope are any indication.
And Santorum won't be recalibrating his policy proposals either -- no siree. Perfectly encapsulating the arrogance and anti-intellectualism that define today's conservatives, Santorum told Huey-Burns that he already has "very definite opinions" on foreign policy. "I don't go and get a briefing book before I talk about these things," the boastful ignoramus said.
So if unhinged rhetoric will always be a part of Santorum's shtick, and he already knows everything he needs to know about the world, I suppose it's only natural that his campaign is homing in on the vestiary. What else is there to change?
“The sweater vest was great four years ago, but should he decide to run again, we will see if he can start another fashion craze," one Santorum adviser said, adding that Santorum "believes it would be important for folks to see him as the same guy, but also the guy who is ready to sit behind the Resolute desk."
“It’s important to be able to strike that balance so that the folks in Oskaloosa (Iowa) see him not only as Rick, but also as Rick the serious presidential contender," the adviser continued.
Discarding his sweater vests would make Santorum a serious presidential contender indeed. If he's willing to be this bold in standing up to Jos. A. Bank, he'll surely have ISIS quavering in their boots.