I was reading the post-debate chatter, and stumbled across an article in the New York Daily News on RealClearPolitics. It raised an interesting point when discussing Rick Santorum:
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a candidate who has largely been ignored during previous debates, boasted his campaign best. Though he's trailing the pack, he demonstrated a keen knowledge of the issues and a mastery of conservative thought – another deficiency of both Romney and Perry.
A "mastery of conservative thought" is certainly something Santorum can boast above the other candidates on the stage. A reading of his book, "It Takes A Village," demonstrates his thorough steeping in Catholic doctrine and conservative intellectualism. Neither Romney nor Perry seem like they have any kind of deep thought about conservatism. Their ideas run as deep as the talking points used to sell technocratic policies as governors.
There is a sense in which experience governing is a better teacher of wise statesmanship than anything else. However, there is something to be said for a well-rounded understanding of ideals - the kind of ideals derived from careful study of enduring truths - that can create a solid framework to view in the world truthfully.