On Monday, I started getting serious about interviewing SC Republicans, both those who have committed to candidates and one or two who are staying on the sidelines.
I arranged to meet fellow Rotarian Rusty Depass before our weekly meeting. Rusty is supporting Rick Santorum, and made sure to tell me that he’s backed him from the start — no post-Iowa bandwagon-joiner is our Rusty.
It’s very much like Rusty not to support Mitt Romney, whom he calls “the successor to Ford, Dole and McCain” — all relative centrists who led the party to defeat in the fall.
And Rusty isn’t looking for a defeat this year. In fact, he surprised me when he explained why he is unmoved by Republicans who say they back Romney because he can beat President Obama in the fall.
“We’re not trying to beat Obama,” he said, which grabbed my attention. “He’s beat. We’re picking a president.”
Really, I said? Other Republicans have sounded far less certain. Some — not for attribution, of course — just come out and say that they’re resigned to a second Obama term, as much as it displeases them. I got the strong impression that some of the people who did not run this year — Mike Huckabee in particular — stayed out for that very reason. In fact, Huckabee was saying it as early as the start of 2010. And I think he was right, to the extent that anything like that can be predicted so far out.
But Rusty definitely doesn’t think so. And he wants “a real conservative,” rather than “some milquetoast moderate leading us to defeat again.”
But why Santorum? It’s not like Rusty is always drawn to cultural conservatives. I can understand why my friend Hal Stevenson — who dropped by our table while Rusty and I were speaking (to tell me what he thought of “Tinker, Tailor”) — is supporting Santorum. But Rusty supported Rudy Giuliani last time. (And we all remember what Alec Sanders said about him: “He supports gay rights. He supports banning all handguns. He supports abortion. His wife kicked him out, and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don’t think so.”)
Well, we know why he’s not for Romney — aside from the wishy-washiness, Rusty wants “a real person… I don’t begrudge Romney his money, but he’s hard to relate to.” And he maintains that the others have become such “luminaries” that they’re “hard to talk to.”
There are things he likes about the others. “Newt Gingrich has more bright ideas before breakfast than most people do in a lifetime.”
“I would like to see a debate between Gingrich and Obama, and see him just demolish him.” But “when the debate’s over, people don’t like him.”
And Santorum is likable. Rusty DePass thinks so, anyway.
For more on the subject, go read Rusty’s letter to the editor from last week. Here’s how it begins:
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is not only well-informed and articulate, but he is a likeable, dedicated, committed, unapologetic conservative. The one election he lost, which seems to be the only gig against him, was because he refused to budge from his conservative principles, and in a heavily Roman Catholic state, he got beat by the last pro-life Democrat in America. All of which brings us to the practical political considerations of nominating a candidate for president. What do they bring to the table? Except for Santorum, the answer would appear to be nothing.
Rusty’s not a guy to mince words. As he sums up, “We have a country to save, and Rick Santorum is the right man to do it.”