Rick Santorum Drops the Mic

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 5 2012 2:09 PM

Rick Santorum Drops the Mic

Political reporters are restless, busy creatures. They fancy themselves experts on what campaigns do right and what they screw up. They can't write about the same campaign speeches every day. Give them some process story to chew on, and the mastication will commence.

And so, at 12:32, Rick Santorum's campaign announced a "MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL" to begin at 1:30. The candidate himself would speak: "Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum will hold a tele-press conference call today to discuss the multiple smoking gunS that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney supported federal healthcare mandates and urged President Obama to join with him to do the same on a federal level." The "guns" were articles, in BuzzFeed and other outlets, demonstrating that Mitt Romney had talked up Massachussetts's mandate model of health care coverage up through 2009.

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The call began. Santorum talked for a little while about how well his campaign was doing in Ohio. "To suggest this is David and Goliath is probably a little bit of an understatement," he said. Well, sure. On to the new Smoking GunS. "People are starting to realize that what you have with Governor Romney is someone who's simply not a genuine article," said Santorum.

What was new about this? Reporters got no chance to ask; his national spokesman J. Hogan Gidley announced that Santorum had to return to the trail and participate in more interviews, and that reporters could follow up if needed. This was odd, as Santorum has remained fairly accessible to the press even when he's surged. The attempt to break into Mitt Romney's favorable news cycle had succeeded only making Santorum sound like he was scrambling.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.