Rick Santorum as this Year’s Mike Huckabee

This year’s election was supposed to be something new and different. However, Rick Santorum, the big winner in this year’s Iowa GOP primary is remarkably similar to the big GOP Iowa winner of 2008: Mike Huckabee. Like Huckabee, Santorum is a hard-core social conservative whose big government proclivities extend far beyond social issues. I covered Huckabee’s record in this December 2007 post. Santorum is remarkably similar, perhaps even worse. For the details on Santorum, see this post by David Boaz [HT: co-blogger David Bernstein], and Jonathan Rauch’s thorough review of Santorum’s 2005 book laying out his political philosophy. As Rauch noted, Santorum rejects what he once dismissed as “this whole idea of personal autonomy,” not to mention “the idea that people should be left alone.” He doesn’t just think that freedom should be heavily regulated; he’s against “the whole idea” on principle.

Santorum does have chutzpah. Despite his record, he just gave a victory speech where he emphasized that the main issue in this campaign is “freedom.” If that’s really what it’s about, Santorum’s campaign will end up the same way as Huckabee’s did. I’m no great fan of any of the other remaining GOP candidates. But none of them is as much a big government conservative as Santorum is.

UPDATE: There is one important difference between Huckabee’s success in 2008 and Santorum’s today. In 2008, Huckabee’s win seriously hurt Mitt Romney by preventing him from emerging as the main “conservative” alternative to John McCain until it was too late to stop McCain from winning the nomination. This year, Santorum’s success actually helps Romney by ensuring that his most prominent rival in the next few states will be a candidate who many Republicans see as unserious and unelectable against Obama.

UPDATE #2: Michael Tanner has more on Santorum’s big government version of conservatism here.