by Joe Shea
January 3, 2012
THE WHITE OBAMA
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 3, 2012 -- Rick Santorum is to Iowa Republicans what Barack Obama was to Iowa Democrats in 2008: young, smart, well-credentialed and very much the embodiment of his party's principles. He is, indeed, the white Obama.
His startling last-minute rise in the polls should have surprised no one that followed Democratic developments in 2008. Santorum apparently went from 10% to 21% over a four-day holiday weekend, just as he was finishing his tour of all 99 counties and his 380th "town hall" meeting with Iowans and witnessing the birth of his third grandchild.
His surge came too late to get him attacked in the huge, expensive wave of attack ads from the ROF (not Rolling on the Floor, but Restore our Future) PAC Mitt Romney backers have bankrolled, but in time to catch a flood of new money that will help him drag his weary butt into New Hampshire and start fighting there and in South Carolina and Florida for his party's nomination.
Santorum will be very unlikely to quit unless he fails to "get a ticket" - which is what they call a qualifying step in 2012 politics - to New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney is probably impregnable, if not definitively conservative. Santorum is a "true" conservative and has the voting record in the U.S. Senate - "No" on everything - to support it.
His months in Iowa, as they did for Mike Huckabee in 2008, are likely to get him the top spot today. He answers the need conservatives say they have: he is personally attractive, undivorced and with seven happy children (one has Down's Syndrome), is opposed to all kinds of abortion - a revised position - and young, or at least, in his '60s-era sweater-vest, reminiscent of a big college kid with big eyes, a nice smile and not a lot between his ears.
But there is enough there, in fact, to have gotten him re-elected twice to represent Pennsylvania - which is a key swing state in the 2012 election. He can stand up against Obama in a debate, even though he might lose it if it comes to a questions about constitutional issues where Obama is so strong. While some of Santorum's positions make little sense in 2012, they are shared by many voters.
Iowa has managed to produce upsets several times in the past six elections, but winners - President Gerald Ford among them - only three times. If they select Santorum today, it may be the first time that they have single-handedly rescued a struggling campaign from oblivion and pushed it successfully into New Hampshire.
Moreover, since Santorum has never devised a health care plan, as Romney has, and never divorced a wife in her hospital bed - as Gingrich did - and never had racist newsletter sent out under his name, as Ron Paul did, he is eminently electable at the convention in Tampa this August. Some 120,000 white Iowans can't be wrong.
Write AR Correspondent Joe Shea at email@example.com.