The possibly final Republican faceoff was notable for what didn’t happen, the classic Sherlock Holmes clue of the dog that didn’t bark in the night.
Neither the moderator nor Santorum’s opponents pressed him to explain his positions on religious issues that have been making headlines, so extreme that even Rush Limbaugh concedes he must answer because they make him look like “an absolute religious nut and wacko.”
But none of the debate dogs barked on the subject as they went at him on government spending and earmarks.
Santorum was asked about contraception but not Satan. He gave waffling answers about his votes to fund Planned Parenthood as well as a short speech about young poor women having babies that sounded as if it were leading to an argument for birth control but ended as an endorsement of abstinence and family values.
CNN’s John King may have still been traumatized after being mugged by Newt Gingrich at a previous debate, but why did the others hold back?
The most likely answer tells us about the state of the GOP today, held captive by the Tea Party and the Religious Right to the point that it may be politically dangerous to ask a Presidential candidate what he meant by saying “mainline Protestantism in this country...is in shambles” and “gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”
If Santorum somehow manages to get the nomination, Democrats may not be so shy.
Update: Two New York Times columnists have an off-page dialogue about the turn the election is taking.
“You may be right,” says Gail Collins to David Brooks, “that the big issue for America now is class, not race or gender. But in this presidential campaign, gender rules. Really, sex rules. Who’d have thought?”
“Class is gender,” Brooks replies. “Specifically men. The wage stagnation and inequality stories are largely stories about how badly men have been doing over the past few decades. Women’s incomes have been up, up, up.
“So let’s return to our normal subject. Men, men, men. Let’s go back and have a normal election: men talking about themselves. The love that won’t shut up.”
After the GOP makes its least worst choice, Barack Obama may have something to say about that.