Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Santorum’s Monday Announcement Key?

Former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum will announce he’s running for president when he makes a visit to Southwestern Pennsylvania Monday. His campaign is officially playing coy despite leaking the news to most major news outlets. The official press release announcing the event f at the Somerset County courthouse labels it “a major announcement regarding the 2012 campaign for President of the United States.”

Santorum makes the announcement after more than a year on the campaign trail. The Republican first visited the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire in April 2010. He’s made repeated trips to the Granite State, as well as Iowa and South Carolina. He even took part in a presidential debate last month.

So is the fact he’s now officially running for president news? Alex Roarty, who covers Santorum and other GOP presidential hopefuls for the National Journal said, not really. “But, you know, at the same time it is a marker when someone officially declares, even when we’ve been treating them like a presidential campaign for awhile. So it’s the sort of thing you cover, but it really doesn’t change anything.”

Political scientist Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College agreed presidential announcements don’t carry the same weight they did just four years ago, when Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton kicked off their campaigns in the early winter months of 2007. “Look – none of these events, as symbolically important as they are to candidacies, make or break the success. This is a moment in time,” he said, adding the rollouts can do more harm than good. “A good event is marginally helpful. A bad event can kill a campaign. I think we saw that with Newt Gingrich’s entrance into the [race].” Gingrich spent the days after his official online announcement backtracking, after he ripped Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, backtracked from that criticism, got “glitter bombed,” and faced stories about a half million dollar tab at Tiffany’s, among other mishaps.

Madonna said Santorum’s choice of venue – a picturesque county courthouse in his home state – will draw more reporters to the event than an Iowa or New Hampshire announcement would. No matter how well he pulls off the announcement, Santorum will still face a long road to the nomination. He registered one percent among Republican presidential contenders in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

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