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It’s a question that may not be as absurd as it sounds: Why isn’t Rick Santorum the GOP’s 2016 frontrunner?

The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York took this provocative query and spent about 1,000 words explaining why the former senator from Pennsylvania might just be the answer for Republicans who are trying to find the “missing white voters” who stayed home in 2012, even though Santorum’s proposed tax giveaways for millionaires may have have been even larger than what Mitt Romney proposed.

There’s a simple reason Santorum — who is visiting Iowa this week and is “open” to a 2016 run — should be the frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination: tradition.

The GOP tends to engage in a sort of primogeniture in which the runner-up from the last GOP primary, when he runs, tends to become the nominee the next time the slot is available. The last time this didn’t happen was in 2000 after Bob Dole steamrolled his competition and didn’t really have a runner-up in 1996.

Rick Santorum was the runner-up in 2012, just barely edging out Newt Gingrich for that title.

History already seems to have forgotten how close the hero of the fundamentalist movement came to defeating Mitt Romney in Michigan, the state where Romney was born, and potentially becoming the GOP nominee. Romney himself feared a “Waterloo” in Michigan.

Santorum likely would have won the state if he hadn’t told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that John F. Kennedy’s speech about the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.” Romney only won his home state by 3 percent — and Santorum, a devout Catholic, lost the Catholic vote by 6 percent, according to exit polls.

Could this proud defender of the sanctity of marriage and all sorts of other sanctities end up pulling off the upset he teased last time around in 2016? Here’s why that’s not likely — and one reason it could happen.

It Won’t Be 2012

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Donald Trump has used just about every presidential election since he became a celebrity as a publicity campaign for whatever he happened to be selling at the time. The crazy thing was that in 2012 Republicans took him seriously, simply because he was the most famous person in America willing to traffic in racist birther allegations.

The desperation to find anyone but Mitt Romney to run against President Obama was so palpable that both Trump and Herman Cain, neither of whom have ever won an election, led in the national GOP primary polls at some point in 2012. Cain was pretty much the frontrunner when he dropped out over allegations of extramarital and inappropriate affairs.

As 2016 approaches, Republicans have a half-dozen strong candidates who are more popular with the base than Romney ever was — including Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Governors Scott Walker (R-WI) and Chris Christie (R-NJ), though Christie’s embrace of President Obama during Hurricane Sandy has made him more Romney-like than any of the other candidates.

Of course, Trump is threatening to run again. But Republicans should be too busy to notice.

Photo: Mike Licht via Flickr.com

Santorum’s Fiery Rhetoric Is Hard To Contain

The suggestion that JFK nearly made him “throw up” was hardly Santorum’s only inflammatory statement targeted toward a fundamentalist audience that ended up scaring away voters. He also called President Obama “a snob” for wanting all Americans to be able to go to college. His most famous flame-throwing has been reserved for the gay and lesbian community.

Santorum not only opposes same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, he’s compared gay marriage to 9/11. He is so reviled by the LGBT community and its allies that they take great joy into turning his name into a dirty word.

The contempt that Santorum feels for those who don’t hold his views — which is now a majority of Americans — is obvious. And though it thrills Republicans, even they will likely reject it for the next reason.

Photo: Dave Maass via Flickr.com

Republicans Want To Win — Badly

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Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the last six elections. They were so sure that they were going to defeat President Obama that Karl Rove had a nervous breakdown on Fox News.

The GOP may have abandoned many of the recommendations in its autopsy report, but they’re trying to restrict the number of debates, hoping to to limit the damage candidates can do to each other. They can’t stop the SuperPACs that will wage war on behalf of candidates, but if the donor class recognizes that the likely nominee is being crushed, the way Sheldon Adelson’s PAC destroyed Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, they will probably rush in much more quickly to shorten the primary, leaving an insurgent like Santorum without the opportunity he had when Romney lost South Carolina’s primary to Newt Gingrich.

And though Santorum had billionaire Foster Friess behind him in 2012, he’ll likely have just as hard a time keeping up with the frontrunners’ spending as he did when Romney’s “Death Star” of cash helped save the former governor’s candidacy in Michigan.

Photo: Greg Elin via Flickr.com

He Hasn’t Won An Election Since 1998

Santorum lost his re-election bid in 2006 to a senator you probably can’t name — Bob Casey.

The last time Santorum won a general election, Marco Rubio was just a year or so out of law school. Ophthalmologist Rand Paul was still a decade away from even considering running for office. Donald Trump was still two years from supporting single-payer health care.

The former senator is an old-fashioned compassionate conservative in a Tea Party world. Socially, the Tea Party loves him but they may find his tolerance for government power contemptible. Santorum was visibly enraged at Ron Paul when the former congressman proposed engaging with Iran. Paul’s son is positioning himself to make the same sort of argument in a way that appeases hawks but speaks to the war weariness that even Republicans are feeling after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Santorum’s arguments for an aggressive military posture will probably be taken by Governor Christie and Senator Rubio, both of whom won elections in blue states in the last decade.

Photo: Matt Wansley via Flickr.com

Who Else Speaks For The Far Right?

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If Rick Santorum does have a prayer in 2016, it is because there is no stronger voice for fundamentalism in his party — and fundamentalists make up a nice chunk of the GOP base.

Rand Paul believes the states should be able to legalize gay marriage. Chris Christie has made himself a roadblock as his state has tried to legalize same-sex marriage, but he’s notoriously soft on Sharia. Marco Rubio’s support of immigration reform has made him the object of some Tea Party hate. Paul Ryan has Mitt Romney’s stink on him. Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

The evangelical vote helped Santorum sneak in and win the Iowa caucus in 2012, and could do the same thing in 2016.

If the former senator can keep to the right of Scott Walker — who has nearly all the same hardline stands as Santorum — and Ted Cruz — who is clearly a fundamentalist but may end up confusing the base by competing with Rand Paul for the libertarian vote — he may have a chance of branding all his opponents as RINOs and winning over what used to be known as the Christian Coalition.

But even then, he probably won’t have the money, discipline or message to compete nationally.

Forget it. Santorum as a frontrunner is as silly as it sounds.

Photo: Taber Andrew Bain via Flickr.com

Photo by G20Voice/ CC BY 2.0

Here's a policing story with a happy ending: Deputies in Deltona, Florida, recently stopped a black jogger who fit the description of a burglary suspect. The jogger, Joseph Griffin, is a former military police officer and currently a registered nurse. Griffin knew to be calm and cooperative.

The deputy asked Griffin to bear with him. He said he had to detain him but added, "Buddy, you're not in trouble or anything."

Griffin responded saying that with "everything going on, it's just a little bit scary."

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