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Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared at American Spectator.

The question for Republicans right now seems obvious: Would you prefer Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney to run against Barack Obama?

Well, it depends on whether you prefer to engage President Obama on cultural grounds or on terms of class warfare. Obama and his chief political strategist, David Axelrod, are going to give us one or the other. Thus, maybe the better question is: Can Santorum articulate and defend social conservatism better than Romney can defend free markets? Which of the two is a more forceful, eloquent spokesperson for the area that Obama and Axelrod will use to define and malign him?

Not only has President Obama been employing class rhetoric unceasingly for three years now, butDavid Axelrod has been planning precisely such an assault against Mitt Romney. “Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession—a sort of political Gordon Gekko,” reported an August 2011 Politico piece titled, “Obama plan: Destroy Romney.” The piece quoted Axelrod: “He [Romney] was very, very good at making a profit for himself and his partners but not nearly as good [at] saving jobs for communities. He is very much the profile of what we’ve seen in the last decade on Wall Street.”

This was the plan even before the Occupy Wall Street movement exploded. Axelrod and Obama view Mitt Romney as red meat for the Occupy movement, the poster-boy for Wall Street greed.

“[Romney] says he represents business,” Axelrod told MSNBC in October, “but he really represents the Wall Street side of business.”

Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos that Romney is “not a job creator” but a “corporate raider” who outsourced “tens of thousands of jobs,” “closed down more than 1,000 plants, stores, and offices,” and joined “his partners” in making “hundreds of millions of dollars” at the expense of the poor. Axelrod calls this the “Bain mentality.”

This caustic, class-warfare rhetoric is just a taste of what will come if Romney gets the GOP nomination. The class envy will get far worse. And no one will do it better than a smiling Obama.

Perhaps the only thing that might energize the president and his team more is a battle with the Catholic Church over his HHS mandate on “contraception.” And that’s where Rick Santorum comes in.

I’m increasingly convinced that President Obama wants this fight with the Catholic Church. I think this is a fight not only close to Obama’s ideological heart, but one he perversely feels can help him politically. If he can frame this debate as not about taxpayer support of abortion drugs, or about religious liberty, or freedom of conscience, or the First Amendment and Constitution—all of which it is—but about “women’s rights” vs. the stodgy old men who run the Catholic Church, he will make headway with certain voters. Don’t underestimate Obama’s ability to do just that.

If Rick Santorum becomes the 2012 GOP nominee, he’ll be an automatic spokesman for the Catholic Church’s position. He’s a living, breathing testimony to the Church’s teaching, from his own personal life to his well-informed intellect on Church teachings. Rick Santorum is the rarest candidate who has actually read Church encyclicals like Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

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