Charles Krauthammer explains:
Rather than sticking to his considerable working-class, Reagan-Democrat appeal, he kept wandering back to his austere social conservatism. Rather than placing himself in “grandpa’s hands,” his moving tribute to his immigrant, coal-miner grandfather as representative of the America Santorum pledges to restore, he insisted on launching himself into culture-war thickets: Kennedy, college, and contraception.
He averred that John Kennedy’s 1960 Houston speech on separation of church and state makes him “throw up.” Whatever the virtues of Santorum’s expansive view of the role of religion, the insulting tone toward Kennedy who, living at a time of frank anti-Catholic bigotry, understandably offered a more attenuated view of religion in the public square, was jarring, intemperate, and utterly unnecessary.
As was his sneering at President Obama’s wanting to open college to all. Santorum called that snobbery and an attempt at liberal indoctrination. Sure, there’s a point to be made about ideological imbalance in higher education and about the dignity of manual labor. But to do so by disdaining the most important instrument of social mobility — one that millions of parents devoutly desire for their children — is simply bizarre.
Finally, the less said about contraception the better, a lesson Santorum refused to learn. It’s a settled question. The country has no real desire for cringe-inducing admonitions from politicians about libertinism and procreative (versus pleasurable) sex.