Santorum’s surge surprised just about everybody and he came within 8 votes of beating perennial front-runner Mitt Romney in Iowa. Newt faded, and Bachmann and Perry are likely out of the race.
So the conventional wisdom is that Rick peaked at the right time. Santorum was flavor of the week on the right week, but he doesn’t have the money or the organization to compete in the next primary states of NH and SC. And since Santorum came out of nowhere, he has yet to receive the scrutiny that withered other candidates. And as people get to know him, he will fade like the rest.
While some or all of the above may yet happen, there are some reasons to think that Santorum will not entirely suffer the same fate as the other non-Romneys. While Santorum has just now received contender status, I don’t think he is in the same boat as the other contenders of the week. Bachmann surged at the beginning of the race but quickly faded to last place. Her initial surge, I believe, was a shot across the bow of the Republican party by tea-partiers letting the party know that they want a conservative. Nothing more. I like Michelle, but she never had a chance.
Then conservatives looked at the rest of the field to determine who THAT conservative would be. And they looked at Rick Santorum. Yes, back then. Rick is a solid conservative. Despite some of the knocks on him for his congressional voting record and his infamous endorsement, most everyone knows that Santorum is a very solid conservative. The big question on Rick is electability. Rick is easily caricatured because of his beliefs and he lost his Senate race big time in 2006. They worried about electability and they decided to put him in their back pocket.
Then they looked at the others. Perry seemed like a good alternative, until he opened his mouth and they had even greater concerns about his electability. They flirted with Cain until he wasn’t able. And then Gingrich.
The rise of Gingrich was/is of a different order. The flirtation with Gingrich was a serious one. Conservatives really wondered “Could this be our guy?” But Gingrich’s past and current erraticness coupled with his general unlikability caused many conservatives to sour on him and he faded to 4th in Iowa. Gingrich wants to believe that this is because of millions of dollars of negative ads against him in Iowa. But the truth is that Gingrich has equally faded in national polls as well and most of those people have never seen a negative ad other than Gingrich himself. Newt is his own negative add.
And so they came back to the solid conservative they know, Rick Santorum. They(we) still have concerns about electability, but Rick’s steadiness in the debates and general positive performance have more inclined us to think he can win.
So will Rick fade under scrutiny like the others? Maybe, but there are differences. We conservatives know Santorum is, for better of for worse. We shouldn’t have a lot of surprises in this area. The other big difference, there is no one left to flirt with.
Conservatives have consistently signaled that they want an alternative to Romney. That is either Gingrich or Santorum. That’s it. Those are the choices. The real question is whether conservatives will split their vote, like they always have in the past, and clear the way for the moderate establishment candidate. If I were a betting man, this is the most likely scenario because conservatives are very tribal and very stupid.
But this is the choice, the conservative alternative is Gingrich or Santorum. We know these guys. The question is whether we will get behind one? For me, electability concerns notwithstanding, Santorum is the guy.
Wildcard altert! Gingrich is really ticked off at Romney and might go scorched earth. His concession speech last night was a nasty piece of work. For those who saw it, like me, it only served to further remind me what I don’t like about Gingrich.
So now more than ever, Santorum is the only conservative alternative to Romney. Get on the bandwagon or get ready for the Romney ticket.