In Politics, When You Are Explaining, You Are Not on Offense

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 23, 2012

And there was a lot of explaining going on in last night’s presidential debate, courtesy of Rick Santorum. Here is just one example. I am sure that Team Romney stacked the halls with supporters, but the booing that Santorum encountered wasn’t just due to the possibility that he might have faced an particularly skeptical audience. I mean, when you double-down on your endorsement of Arlen Specter, of all people, you don’t look particularly conservative to an audience demanding conservatism.

To be fair to Santorum, legislators cast a number of votes for reasons that may be justifiable, but appear convoluted and difficult to explain during the course of a debate with strict time limits on answers. That may not be fair, but who ever said that life in politics was fair? At the end of the day, legislators face a particular disadvantage in running for office–even their own. That disadvantage is magnified when they seek to run for an executive office like the presidency. And don’t think for a moment that Barack Obama won’t seek to take advantage of the difficulty that Santorum has in explaining a number of his votes, should the two take each other on in a general election campaign.

Of course, that advantage would dissipate in a measurable way if the president had to take on Mitt Romney.

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