Santorum Backs “Income Inequality”

Most conservatives will vigorously agree with Rick Santorum’s message here, but is this the right way to frame it? In the age of the micro-soundbite, throwing your support behind “income inequality” carries a certain amount of risk. There’s no doubt Santorum’s words will be twisted here to make him seem indifferent to Americans who have been hit hard by the economic crisis:

“The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern — and it’s a legitimate one — that blue-collar workers, lower-income workers, are having a harder and harder time rising,” the former Pennsylvania senator said at a presidential campaign stop. “They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.”

Santorum goes on to express his support for equality of opportunity, which he says can be achieved by reducing corporate taxes and regulations. But he may have been better off framing this in more optimistic terms – like Jeb Bush did with the “Right to Rise” earlier this week – rather than supporting “income inequality,” which has a distinctly negative connotation and cedes the language to the political left.

Perhaps more interesting than Santorum’s speech is the fact that he’s actually receiving media attention for it, a sign that he’s seen as the next in line for the “not-Romney” spot in Iowa. We’ll have to wait for the polling companies to catch up before we can see if Santorum got a bump from his two major social conservative endorsements yesterday, but Politico reports that internal polling already looks promising for Santorum:

A source with one of the 2012 campaigns relays this view from its ID calls in Iowa, of a two-tiered race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney on top, and the other four hopefuls in the second tier.

There is “some shifting among the second tier,” per the source, but Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum seem to be moving up. Newt Gingrich’s trajectory is still falling.

Bachmann is rising too, which isn’t a surprise after her impressive debate performance last week. Now that Newt Gingrich is waning and Rick Perry is staying flat, Bachmann will probably be Santorum’s biggest obstacle for winning social conservative voters in the state.