Rick Santorum, who wants to take America back to 1900, takes me back to 1984.
That was the year of the Hunt-Helms race. In the dying days, we were behind in the polls – and desperate. With the help of (believe it or not) Dick Morris, we came up with a bomb to blow up Helms’ lead: an ad that said Helms opposed all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. (True.) But we went farther. We also said he would make birth control and contraception illegal. (Also true.)
All hell broke loose. The Helms campaign rushed Mrs. Helms out to defend her husband. The charge was true, so all she could say was that Hunt was despicable saying it.
Internally, I learned later from Carter, the ad scared the Helms campaign. It really did have the potential to change the outcome.
But all hell had broken loose inside our campaign. We were deeply divided – along gender and generational lines – over the ad. Eventually, the high command got cold feet. We backed off. Big mistake. We might have won.
The point of this (to me) painful history is that Santorum is treading on thin ice. Yes, President Obama runs some risk of running afoul churches. But Santorum and Republicans run a huge risk by making it clear they will be perfectly happy if government bans all contraception – either right before or right after they do away with public schools.