Monday, November 21, 2005

Poor Little Ricky

He's stupid and he's ugly and nobody likes him.

WASHINGTON - After 11 years in the Senate, Rick Santorum has become one of the most powerful and influential leaders in state and national politics.

He boasts a close relationship with President Bush, he's the No. 3 GOP leader in the Senate, and he is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the White House.

An incumbent running for re-election with such credentials normally would scare off most challengers and have few political worries.

Yet low public approval ratings, a well-liked opponent, an increasingly unpopular president mired in an equally unpopular war, an unhappy electorate, public perceptions of ethics lapses by Republicans and Santorum's own miscues have turned next year's Senate election upside down.

Advisers to Santorum concede they are growing increasingly frustrated by his weak support and the tactics of state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., his likely Democratic opponent.

Some analysts and party officials say Santorum's campaign tactics, such as calling for 10 debates a year before the election, are bordering on desperate, particularly for a two-term incumbent.

When asked about what he would do when he left the Senate, Santorum said he was considering opening a chain of kennels.