It’s hard to know just how much of an effect Rick Santorum’s horrible debate last night will have on the vote in Michigan and Arizona.

It’s hard to believe it helped, and it has to have hurt badly.  I think Philip Klein from The Washington Examiner got it right:

Santorum’s biggest blunder on this front came in how he described his vote for Bush’s expansion of the federal role in education, saying “It was against the principles I believed in. But when you’re part of a team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader.” This gets at the heart of the problem with Santorum, which I wrote about the day he announced he was running for president — he was the quintessential Bush era Republican. As the number three Republican in the Senate, he was a loyal soldier and went along with Bush’s big government policies, from NCLB to the Medicare prescription drug law. The very problem with the Bush era was precisely that too many Republicans decided to be team players rather than push back against the president when he was violating conservative principles. It’s this very “team player” mentality that the Tea Party movement, in part, was created to combat.

The issue of No Child Left Behind came up twice, first when Ron Paul hit Santorum on it:

Then came the clip to which Klein was referring:

The other issue which hurt Santorum badly was his endorsement of Arlen Specter.  Romney tied the Specter win over Pat Toomey to Specter’s vote for Obamacare (I wonder where he got that idea?)

John Hayward at Human Events described it as follows:

Romney landed a devastating blow when he brought up Santorum’s support for “moderate Republican” Arlen Specter, who ended up switching parties, over conservative Pat Toomey, who eventually did make his way into the Senate.  Santorum said he supported Specter because he played a crucial role in providing moderate cover for conservative judicial nominees, while Romney hammered him for putting Specter in place to vote for ObamaCare.  No matter what you think of Mitt Romney’s campaign, you’ve got to chalk it up as a win when he makes someone else look more responsible for ObamaCare.

It’s a measure of just how quickly Santorum rose to the top of the Republican field that no one brought up Arlen Specter until the eleventh-hour final debate.  Short of using hypnosis, there was just no way Santorum could have made voting for Specter look good to the Republican electorate of 2012.

Rick Klein of ABC News called Romney’s tying Santorum to Obamacare “masterwork”:

While these may have been the low-lights for Santorum, his overall performance was no better.

Three people on the stage appeared to be having enjoying themselves and exuded confidence, deserved or not. Santorum was not one of those people.

Will it make a difference? I think it will.

 
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