Santorum offers Romney advice he is unlikely to follow

Mitt Romney met with Rick Santorum today. Reportedly, Santorum urged Romney to focus his campaign message on economic and family issues.

This, of course, is what Santorum did during his campaign. And his ability to tie together the two issues – economics and the family – gave the Santorum campaign seriousness and depth that Romney’s lacked. Better than any politician I can remember, Santorum was able to explain the relationship between the decline of the American family, with the resulting social pathologies, and our economic woes.

Mitt Romney may be a great turnaround artist when it comes to particular businesses. But he won’t the able to stem America’s economic decline in a meaningful way without a revival of the traditional American family. Indeed, it may be impossible over the long haul to implement and maintain consistently conservative economic policies in the face of the social pathologies caused by the decline of the family. The byproducts of these pathologies in areas like education and health provide the basis for demanding more and more government programs. Some of these programs end up reducing our freedom, further undermining the family, and producing more demands for government help.

It is true that we can’t legislate and regulate our way back to better families. But in my opinion, a president who doesn’t understand the relationship between the family and economy stands little chance of stemming America’s decline.

It so happens, I’m pretty sure, that Mitt Romney does understand this relationship. By all accounts Romney is second to none as a family man, and his religion is second to none in exalting the traditional, 1950s style family. This is ironic, of course, given history of Mormonism. But it is true nonetheless.

Romney, however, has an election to win. He plans to win it by appealing to swing voters in general, and to women in particular. President Obama plans to defeat him by scaring voters — women in particular. Obama also hopes to again ride the crest of an energized youth vote. Romney would prefer not to help Obama out by playing the ultimate square.

In this environment, Romney will talk plenty about the economy but not much, I predict, about the family, except in a very vanilla way. Rick Santorum may not like this, but it’s okay with me.

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