Santorum Missed His Chance to Land Knockout Punch on Romney

By now everyone has read news and commentary coverage of some of the most exciting debate moments in recent history: the exchange that took place between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney concerning Romneycare. And perhaps many of you, like me, watched the debate and saw the exchange as it happened. If you did, I’m guessing those among you who are conservative found yourselves cheering for Santorum as he took it to Romney on what is surely the most dangerous aspect of a possible Romney candidacy–Romneycare.

It’s dangerous for the reasons Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have indicated by predicting that Obama can’t wait to face Romney because Romney WILL NOT be able to go after Obamacare with any moral integrity. As soon as he brings it up Obama will just say: “All I know is that while you were Gov. in Massachusetts, you implemented the plan we followed in designing our Health Care reforms.” And that will end the debate on Obamacare.

Santorum proved this during the debate in Florida on Thursday night, by explaining that just as Obamacare requires everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine to the government, so too Romneycare requires Massachusetts citizens to do the same or pay a fine to the state. In other words, both plans carry a personal mandate which forces citizens to buy healthcare (or pay a fine) whether they want to or not. And when Romney responded to Santorum by saying he was proud of what they’d done in Massachusetts and the people of Massachusetts seemed happy with it too, Santorum offered a foretaste of the way Obama is going to take Romney apart on this issue. Said Santorum:

“What Gov. Romney just said is that government-run, top-down medicine is working pretty well in Massachusetts and he supports it. Now, think about what that means.”

Romney’s position here is simply indefensible, and although Santorum is the only one to call him out so clearly to this point, Santorum will certainly not be the last. And this is why Santorum kept saying, “We cannot give the issue of healthcare away in this election.” Dan Riehl made this point clear in his post on Big Government January 27, when he quoted Paul Begala as saying that on the issue of Romneycare v. Obamacare, “Mitt still doesn’t have a straight answer. Rick Santorum skillfully dissected Romney on the topic. If Romney is the GOP nominee, you can be sure Barack Obama will do the same.”

Which brings me to my central point: Namely, that for all the good Santorum did with his line of questions and his relentless regurgitation of the facts against Romney, he still passed on his chance to throw the knock-out punch.

(I’m not intimating that he passed on purpose, only that he did miss the chance to finish his impressive flurry with a knee-buckling uppercut.)

When he had Romney up against the ropes and Romney said, “It’s not worth getting angry about,” Santorum should have countered with: “Are you seriously saying that a freedom killing individual mandate and government-run, top-down medicine aren’t worth getting angry over?” Had he done this, I honestly believe we would have witnessed something similar to what we used to witness when Mike Tyson, in his prime, refused to pass up the chance to deal the knockout blow. But instead, Romney’s one counterpunch–and the statement about anger was a desperate counterpunch–worked, and Santorum didn’t throw his uppercut.

I’m not criticizing Santorum. Far from it, I’m encouraging him not to hold back on the knockout blow if he gets Romney the ropes again during this primary season. Because you can bet the farm that Obama won’t pass up on the chance to hit Romney where it hurts and that point, the match will be over, and Obama will be choosing White House draperies for four more years.


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