Mitt Romney won the much anticipated CPAC Straw Poll Saturday afternoon but after attending CPAC this weekend you get the distinct sense that there is something else brewing among conservatives.
While Romney can breathe a sigh of relief because of his big straw poll win, Rick Santorum is right on his heels and that’s not a good thing for the Romney campaign.
Here’s why: Romney’s message is beginning to seem flat and repetitive. It’s jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy. "I’m Mr. Fix It. I’m Mr. Fix It. I’m Mr. Fix It. I can beat Obama. I can beat Obama. I can beat Obama." Romney has so much more to offer but playing it too close to the vest (not sweater vest) is dangerous politically.
Santorum’s message has taken longer to resonate but it has a greater potential for a wider bandwidth. His lunch bucket message to the heartland of the country is that we're fighting for the soul of America and that the United States is a “moral enterprise.”
In other words, while Romney’s message comes across as something important (jobs), Santorum’s goal comes across as something loftier, more sweeping. That’s not to say that Romney doesn’t believe in the same America Santorum believes in. But Santorum’s ability to capture the essence of America has the real potential to really catch fire with conservatives while Romney’s message has probably reached a plateau.
The point here is that while Romney’s CPAC win is good news for him, Santorum lurks beneath with a higher ceiling than Romney. That’s the danger.
The minute voters start REALLY buying the fact that Santorum is actually electable, then that will change everything. Santorum’s second place finish shows that it’s starting to happen. But will he run out of time and will he run into too much of the Romney machine?