In light of Mitt Romney’s absence from the stage tonight, we cannot issue a full ballot of Primary Awards. However, one standout deserves recognition. Rick Santorum not only clinched both the Mississippi and Alabama primaries, but he made a distinct rhetorical choice: he did not mention divisive social issues at all in his victory speech. Instead, he appeared to be taking the advice of Chris Matthews, who suggested on air last week to the campaign’s top adviser that the former Pennsylvania senator stay away from talk of contraception and religion, rather sticking to jobs, populism, and the economy. This is exactly what Santorum did — even though one could imagine he could have more easily done so in the context of these Deep South audiences. Talk about his immigrant grandfather and his big hands working in the coal mine, Matthews advised John Brabender. “Get off the social issues. Somebody got the memo. (Santorum also debuted a new campaign placard as his backdrop: “Made in America.”)
If Santorum maintains this position, presenting a stark populist contrast with the awkward, patrician Romney, he is on a potential path to the nomination.
Postscript: Newt Gingrich does deserve the MadMen Self Promotion Advertising Award recognition for his mention of one Samuel Samford, an unemployed man who took the Speaker up on his appeal to donate 1 gallon of “Newt Gas” at the imaginary price of $2.50 per gallon. A-la Ronald Reagan, Newt closed his speech with a tribute to Mr. Samford, who did just that, and whom Newt gave a personal phone call to thank him for donating $2.50. Great speechifying, but his campaign is done.