Jim Talent, Super-Surrogate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 14 2012 3:01 PM

Jim Talent, Super-Surrogate

It was just six short weeks ago, right before the Iowa caucuses were mistakenly called for Mitt Romney, that I saw former Sen. Jim Talent in the halls of the Hotel Des Moines. He was a top Romney surrogate, so I asked him: What did he make of Santorum's good showing there?

"Rick's a good speaker," Talent shrugged. "I just think we've got the candidate with the background and the ability to beat Obama. Everybody up there checks some boxes, but Romney checks 'em all."


Talent had served with Santorum in the Senate. What had he learned about him that should give voters pause?

"I'm not going to trash Rick," he said. "I'm very happy for him. I just think we're the ones that won tonight -- anything that's close is technically a tie, and everyone else had to beat Romney."

The race went on. Santorum, surprisingly, became Romney's most credible rival. So the Romney campaign held two surrogate conference calls today, giving Idaho's Gov. Butch Otter and Missouri's former Sen. Talent (and others) space to trash Santorum. Talent did what he'd refused to in January: He criticized Santorum for supporting Medicare Part D. And then a reporter on the call pointed out that Talent had supported the same bill.

There may be a parable here, illustrating just how rote the Romney machine has become, or how tricky it'll be to find the weakness in Santorum's campaign to send a TIE Fighter in to shoot at.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
The Vault
Sept. 17 2014 1:04 PM The War Department's WWII Advice Booklet for Soldiers Headed to Syria
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Football Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.