Behind the Ad: Ron Paul targets "serial hypocrite" Santorum in South Carolina
As we proceed through the primaries and then the general election campaign, not only for the presidency but for Congress and various governorships as well, we're going to be posting some of the more prominent political ads -- in our new "Behind the Ad" series -- and offering some beneath-the-surface analysis. This will complement our extensive political coverage. And, besides, who doesn't like watching political ads, especially when they're viciously negative?
The image here, as you may know, is from Lyndon Johnson's famous 1964 daisy ad, one of the most effective ads in U.S. political history -- not that LBJ was going to have much trouble with the right-wing Goldwater, but this association of the Republican with nuclear armageddon was awfully powerful. (You can watch it here.)
Okay, let's get started...
Who: Ron Paul attacks Rick Santorum.
Where: South Carolina.
What's going on: Just as he attacked Gingrich as a "serial hypocrite" in Iowa, contributing to Newt's collapse in the polls (and dismal showing in the caucuses), Paul is going after the surging Santorum in South Carolina, the next battleground state after New Hampshire.
In a way, though, SC matters more than NH at this point. Romney will win NH, his backyard, in a landslide. The only question is by how much. Paul will finish second, most likely, but will struggle from then on. Why is he going after Gingrich and Santorum?
On the one hand, he may well want Romney to win -- if it's not going to be him (which it won't be). It makes sense that he would prefer the business-minded, plutocratic Romney to social conservative authoritarians like Gingrich and Santorum, whatever their allegiance to the unregulated free market. And in any event he may realize that Romney is the likely nomination.
On the other hand, he may (delusionally) think he still has a shot and is hoping to take down the anti-Romney alternatives one by one so as to be the only one left standing. There's no way the GOP would pick him over Romney, but, well, who knows what he thinks.
Whatever the case, he may just want to make sure he finishes a strong second, assuming he stays in the race for the long haul (like Pat Buchanan did in '92), so as to have a place of prominence at the convention and more generally within the party. It's not that he'll be the veep pick or have a Cabinet post in any Republican administration, but he can still be a major player, his right-wing libertarian agenda part of the party platform whether the establishmentarian elites like it or not.
At this point, it looks like Santorum is the only credible anti-Romney left. (Yes, I'm assuming that Gingrich is done. Right now he's just pathetically lashing out, once more the egomaniacal bully, at both Romney and fellow conservative Santorum. Wasn't it just a short while ago that Newt was bemoaning all the negativity when it was directed at him?) And so he's the obvious target for Paul's venom. And the place to take him down is South Carolina, where Romney has the lead but Santorum is coming on strongly (and may even be running a very close second) and, with a strong showing, could turn the race into a one-on-one affair, with Paul pushed out.
Just imagine the look on Romney's face when he first saw this ad. And imagine him rubbing his hands together gleefully. If he ends up winning the nomination, he should give Paul an expensive gift (or profusive thanks), just like a running back rewards his o-line after a great season. There would many reasons for Romney's success, starting perhaps with behind-the-scenes Romney booster Karl Rove, but it certainly helps that Paul, who has no chance of winning the nomination himself, is helping to clear the path of major obstacles.