A few weeks ago it seemed that Rick Santorum couldn't pay the media
to pay attention to his campaign. Now, having traversed the state of
Iowa relentlessly for weeks on end, he has a very close and surprising second place finish, right behind the steady (if increasingly bruised) Mitt Romney:
Romney won the Iowa GOP caucus by just 8 votes, following an intense
battle in which six GOP presidential candidates fought to the bitter
end to make a connection with voters.
had shaped up as a two-way dead heat between Romney and Rick Santorum
with Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn announcing Romney’s victory shortly
after 1:30 a.m. CST. The final vote total for Romney was 30,015 to
Santorum’s 30,007. Total votes cast: 122,255.
The AP reports:
surge was built on a traditional Iowa caucus campaign: showing up
often, meeting as many activists as possible, and paying attention to
the state where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating
"This has been an incredible journey - all 99 counties, 381 town hall meetings, 36 Pizza Ranches," Santorum said.
former senator from Pennsylvania based his showing on strong backing
from the evangelicals and social conservatives who play an important
role in the state's Republican politics. His victory speech reflected
There are a couple of big questions that come right to the fore.
First, can Santorum keep his momentum and build on it as the focus turns
quickly to the New Hampshire primary, which takes place in less than a
week, on Tuesday, January 10th?
The answer to that question will be based in many ways upon the answr
to the second question, which is: what will (or won't) attract voters to
Santorum rather than Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gringrich (who was sailing
strong just hours days weeks ago), and Company?
general consensus is that Santorum's reputation as a social
conservative is hard-earned and rock solid; there is no doubt about
the former Pennsylvania Senator's pro-life beliefs, rooted in his open and
oft-mentioned Catholic faith. For example, Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, lauds Santorum in a just-posted piece, writing that Santorum
excellent representative of his cause. Perhaps no politician in our
national life has been so pointedly forced by circumstances to live up
to his creed. ... The phrase “pro-life” is considered a tendentious
label by supporters of abortion rights, but the Santorums show how apt
it is. They have embraced life in all its glory and heartbreak, with a
devotion borne of their ideals and a humility brought by their
Lowry concludes by stating:
Santorum can come across like the Saturday Night Live version
of Tim Tebow, who is so overeager when Jesus visits the Denver Broncos
locker room that even his Lord and Savior asks him to “take it down a
notch.” Santorum will always be a ripe political target. Few
politicians, though, have his credibility as a champion of people who
refuse to learn how to let go.
The challenge now, whatever you think of Santorum and his campaign,
is the "s" word: scrutiny. Flying under the radar worked for Herman Cain
and Rick Perry (and, I suppose, for Gingrich in a certain way), but
only for a while. Some, such as The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, are outrightly dismissive:
“Santorum surge” in recent days has little to do with the candidate
himself and everything to do with the fact that he is the last man
standing after voters discarded all the rest. There’s little time left
to scrutinize Santorum before the Iowa vote and in his case, that’s an
exceedingly lucky thing. Given more time in the spotlight, he would
reveal himself as a hard-edged Dan Quayle. ... I’ve covered Santorum on
and off since his first run for Congress, in 1990, when I was a rookie
reporter in Pittsburgh. Months ago, I predicted there would be such a
Santorum surge in Iowa. But if and when he receives serious scrutiny,
the surge will surely subside.
That's hardly unexpected, of course, and there will be plenty of hot,
barbed, and otherwise intense (if not overly intelligent) rhetoric from the usual suspects over the
next few days; I won't be surprised if Santorum is presented as a some
sort of freakishly radical Fundamentalist who eschews modern technology
and only listens to traditional hymns, sans drums or other suspect rhythms.
this will miss what is a more substantive issue: Santorum's views about
the role of the federal government (and what might rightly be called "statism") in, well, nearly everything. Michael
Tanner, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, writing on the NRO site, also uses the "s" word, but with a different tact and concern:
however, Santorum’s record will come under much more intensive scrutiny
and it is a record that should give supporters of limited government
considerable pause. ... There is no doubt that Santorum is deeply
conservative on social issues. He is ardently anti-abortion, even in
cases of rape and incest, and no one takes a stronger stand against gay
rights. In fact, with his comparison of gay sex to “man on dog”
relationships, Santorum seldom even makes a pretense of tolerance. While
that sort of rhetoric may play well in Iowa pulpits, it will be far
less well received elsewhere in the nation.
At the same time, on
economic and size-of-government issues, Santorum’s record is much
weaker. In fact, Eric Erickson of Red State refers to Santorum as a
When Hillary Clinton was justly excoriated by
conservatives for her book It Takes A Village, which advocated greater
government involvement in our lives, Rick Santorum countered with his
book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, which
advocated greater government involvement in our lives. Among the many
government programs he supported: national service, publicly financed
trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, and
economic-literacy programs in “every school in America” (italics in original).
These two aspects of Santorum's approach are fairly readily evident in this 2005 Ignatius Insight interview with
Santorum, who was fighting at the time to keep his seat in the Senate
(he lost the November 2006 election to Democrat Bob Casey Jr.).
Would you explain your anti-poverty agenda, including the Senate
Republican Poverty Alleviation Agenda [info available here in PDF format]?
I fold the anti poverty agenda into this whole idea of
strengthening the family because, to me, you’re going to deal with
a lot of issues related to poverty if you can strengthen marriage and
strengthen traditional families. If you look at the poverty rates
among married couples, it’s in the low single digits. Whereas if
you look at it among single head of households it’s four, five,
or six times the rate it is among married households. The
anti-poverty agenda includes things that are family-strengthening
activities and marriage-promoting activities, but it goes beyond that.
In my bookthe name of the book is It Takes a FamilyI
lay out a whole host of ideas that deal with different aspects
of family life, economics as well as the culture, education, and
social connectednessall of which are important, particularly to those
at the lower end of the economic strata. The reason is, they’re
the ones who are most impacted by all of these macro-level ideas.
So what we need to do is focus our overall policy in these areas
on how we can affect them and the quality of their lives.
Read the entire interview
to get a good sense of Santorum's perspective on a number of big
issues, including health care and reforming Social Security. One massive
change from seven years ago, of course, is the economy. Can Santorum outline a plan for economic growth and stability that will appeal to a
necessarily large swath of voters? Can he present himself as an outsider
while he also presents himself as a candidate who can get things done
because he has experience as an insider? How will that play with voters
who are already starting to melt away from the increasingly annoyed, always potentially combustible Gingrich?
Milbank once again uses the "s" word, but does so, I think, to make a reasonable point:
would also expose Santorum’s attachment to Washington process. His
closing argument to Iowa voters moved from his cloture talk to mention
of the Senate Appropriations Committee, earmarks, the House Judiciary
Committee, the Syrian Accountability Act and a long discourse on
Honduras. He grew particularly impassioned when telling his
uncomprehending listeners that “we can take the 9th Circuit and divide
it into two circuits.”
The only thing certain at this moment in time is that Romney continues to hold
steady while many other candidates have burned bright, then either exploded
(Cain) or fizzled (Perry) or both (Gingrich). Seeing what happens with
Santorum will provide plenty of chatter, debate, and, yes, scrutiny in
the days to come.
Ignatius Insight Interview with Pennsylvania Sen.
Rick Santorum | June 29, 2005