Like many people who admire his output, I disagree with Santorum on key matters like immigration, abortion, gay marriage. I’m often put off by his unnecessarily slashing style and his culture war rhetoric. ~David Brooks, The New York Times

It is not surprising that the things David Brooks dislikes about Rick Santorum happen to be some of his best features in my eyes.  Would that there were more of the slashing culture war rhetoric and less of the rhetoric for war against Iran!  More talk about immigration, and less about Islamic fascism!  But Santorum has decided that he is going to pretend to be Churchill in his latter years, politically rejected but supposedly far-seeing and wise on matters of foreign policy. 

Obviously, it is precisely these things that make Santorum so obnoxious to the bobos and the Brookses of the world that have made him an important social conservative figure–these are also the only things that are keeping him from getting completely destroyed in this election.  His position has firmed up, though he has never been able to recover enough ground to make it truly competitive, because of his positions on immigration and gay marriage, among the more hot-button issues.  This year conservatives are defecting from Santorum in considerable numbers, as we all know, because of his siding against Toomey two years ago.  In that episode the great culture warrior, such as he was, became the predictable party flack and lost a lot of the respect he had earned on social conservative issues.  Had he bucked the party then, he would not only have more loyal conservative supporters today but would also have demonstrated his independence from the national party in a way that does not involve being more hawkish than Michael Ledeen.  In the current atmosphere, it probably wouldn’t have won him the election (PA Republicans were always going to be in for a rough ride this year), but it would have made the race a lot closer.