by Jerry Weissman
Going into last night’s debate among the four candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Santorum had the wind at his back. Having swept the contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado two weeks ago, he surged to the head of the polls for next week’s primary election in Michigan—the home state of Mitt Romney, the presumptive favorite—a potential bump in the latter’s road to the nomination. CNN moved Mr. Santorum to center stage for the debate, a promotion from his wing position in the previous 19 televised debates. However, being the front runner also means being in the cross-hairs of the other candidates and, as expected, Mr. Romney, Ron Paul, and John King, the CNN moderator, as any moderator would, went after Mr. Santorum.In the run up to the debate, one of the major subjects drawing attention in the media was Mr. Santorum’s social conservatism, particularly his views on birth control. A viewer sent a question on the subject to CNN via the Internet, and Mr. King asked it of each candidate:
KING: We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here: “Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control and if not, why?”Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich each gave his answer, and then came Mr. Santorum’s turn:
SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. [Title X Family Planning program, was enacted in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act.] I've always opposed Title X funding, but it's included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including the funding for the National Institutes of [entity display="Health" type="section" active="true" key="/health"]Health[/entity], the funding for [entity display="Health" type="section" active="false" key="/health"]Health[/entity] and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It's a multi-billion-dollar bill… So while, yes, I -- I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn't like, things in there I did…Now flash back to the 2004 presidential campaign and candidate John Kerry’s statement about his position on support for the Iraq War:
KERRY: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
Now flash forward to the current campaign and Mr. Santorum’s repeated accusations of Mr. Romney’s flip-flopping. As philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” After last night’s debate, NBC News/Marist released a new poll that showed Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum “locked in a statistical tie” in Michigan.
This post also appears on Forbes.com