A Cheap Shot at Rick Santorum

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 19 2012 5:36 PM

A Cheap Shot at Rick Santorum

No, I'm not going to make it this time. BuzzFeed did it for me. Zeke Miller (who's generally doing fantastic work on this and other primaries) is the first reporter to clip a line from one of Santorum's Illinois speeches.

I don't care what the unemployment rate is gonna be. It doesn't matter to me.
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The context? I've heard Santorum make this point in other speeches. Roughly: Mitt Romney can only win if the economy is lousy. I, a full-spectrum conservative, can win in any situation. Juanna Summers, a Politico embed on the Santorum campaign, clipped another line from this speech: "My campaign doesn't hinge on unempoyment rates and growth rates." Santorum's meaning is pretty obvious. You can disagree with the theory that a guy who lost his last race by 18 points, when the economy wasn't an issue, can more easily defeat Barack Obama than Mitt Romney. But that's a different point than "the unemployment rate doesn't matter to me." To wit: The Romney campaign response.

Wow. Sen. Santorum may not care about the unemployment rate in this country or the nearly 24 million Americans struggling for work, but Mitt Romney does and is running to get people back to work.

Santorum didn't say he doesn't care about the unemployed! The Romney campaign is attempting to press its rapid-response advantage, because the Santorum campaign isn't ready to push back on this, and the media generally moves quickly enough for the bogus version of this quote (complete with a Romney campaign version of the clip) to traffic everywhere. It's a meta-story, as if there were any other kind of story these days -- Republicans should nominate the guy who can punch quickly, not the guy who brags about not needing a teleprompter and as a result can be easily taken out of context.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.