Proving yet again that the right-leaning media establishment is down to slim pickings when it comes to its presidential endorsements, The National Review is asking conservatives to give Rick Santorum a look, not so much for who the candidate is but for who he isn't.
In the magazine's latest editorial, the editors write that they're pleased with Santorum's rise as the latest anti-Romney, writing off Newt Gingrich for his "poor judgment and persistent unpopularity" and Mitt himself for being "the undramatic figure at the center of the primaries’ drama." (Sorry, Paulites: Ron Paul was not mentioned.) Though the magazine did offer a sole paragraph summarizing what it liked about Santorum's candidacy -- basically that he's a humble and able campaigner -- prefacing the semi-endorsement with this suggests that the editorial was less about praising Santorum and more about dismissing his rivals:
At the moment Rick Santorum appears to be overtaking Newt Gingrich as the principal challenger to Mitt Romney. Santorum has won more contests than Gingrich (who has won only one), has more delegates, and leads him in the polls. In at least one poll, he also leads Romney. It isn’t yet a Romney–Santorum contest, but it could be headed that way.
The magazine made its dislike for Gingrich and Romney (plus Paul) just as clear in a December editorial that didn't manage to back any alternative besides hoping that another Republican would jump into the race. Back then the magazine was lukewarm on Santorum, writing that "weighing against him is a lack of executive experience." Apparently by February, with nine primaries and caucuses already completed and no savior like Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels in sight, The National Review is learning to live with Santorum.