Republicans are caught in a nearly impossible situation, none more than the more temperate-minded Mitt Romney. It is important to remember, however, why contraception came up in the first place. Republicans were forced to man their battlements by the Obama administration’s new health-care rule requiring that Catholic organizations pay for contraception in violation of conscience. From there, things spiraled out of the realm of religious liberty, where this debate belongs, and into the fray of moral differences.
Santorum’s original surge was based not on social issues but on his authenticity and his ability to identify with middle-class struggles. He was the un-Romney. But now this appealing profile has been occluded by social positions that make him an outlier to mainstream Americans.
Republicans may sleep better if they nominate The Most Conservative Person In The World, but they won’t be seeing the executive branch anytime soon. It’s too bad this election season got lost in the weeds of religious conviction. It wouldn’t have happened if the Obama administration had simply taken one of several other routes available for providing birth control to women who want it. Instead, Obama aimed right at the heart of the Republican Party and, one can only assume, got exactly what he wanted: a culture war in which Rick Santorum would be the natural point man and, in the broader public’s perception, the voice of the GOP.