You could have gotten a decent bet ten years ago that Rick Santorum would emerge as a finalist for the Republican presidential nomination circa 2012: He had the telegenic presence, the savvy required to dislodge incumbents in a fiercely competitive environment like Pennsylvania, and a reliably conservative record that was middle-class-friendly. Then the 2006 midterm intervened and Santorum’s fortunes seemed destroyed.
It wasn’t just that Santorum lost in 2006; that year was lethal for many Republican officeholders. It was the size of the loss — almost 20 points — and the trail of baggage from the race: a clumsy response to attacks that he had “gone Washington” and was barely in the state; impolitic comments on homosexuality; and a poorly run campaign that never seemed combat-ready. Instead of being offered a sinecure in the middle tier of the Bush White House, or getting a head start on the next governor’s race, Santorum faded into the oblivion of lobbying and consulting that is Washington’s graveyard.
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