A week ago, if you’d said that through 8 elections the number of wins for each candidate would be Santorum: 4, Romney: 3, and Gingrich: 1, you’d have been met with mocking and perhaps a suggestion to seek a mental health professional.
A week later, you can make with the “I told you so’s,” but I’m guessing even Santorum’s own team didn’t expect to win a hat-trick last night in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota.
Before we anoint Santorum as Romney’s biggest threat – remember it was Gingrich just a week or so ago – remember that a caucus is very and I mean very different than a true election.
If you’ve never seen or been to a caucus, it’s a mass of humanity, noise, confusion and politics.
Caucuses attract the hardcore conservatives, the extremists, the most politically active. It makes sense that the candidate most perceive as the “most conservative,” won those elections.
Conservatives don’t like Mitt Romney no matter how often Ann Coulter screams that he’s the most conservative candidate left.
Rush, Levin et al will go with the standard, “The media/left won’t want to give credit to Rick Santorum,” shtick, which is fine since they’ve been trumpeting the laurels of Mr. Google Problem (look it up) from the beginning.
Look, Rick Santorum seems like a nice enough guy. His conservatism is genuine and rooted in a working-class family background, the only politician on the stage including Mr. Obama who can say that.
That being said, he can’t be president.
His recklessly inflammatory comments about gay marriage and record as a big government conservative (something the conservative blow-hards conveniently seem to miss) make him a wildly unlikable character for moderates and his polling numbers nationally still fall considerably short of Gingrich, much less Romney.
On the other hand, Santorum appears to be gaining some momentum. A recent Rasmussen poll found Santorum actually ahead of Obama in a poll of 1000 likely voters – an important difference than just Republican voters.
A more recent Rasmussen poll actually has Romney behind Obama, puncturing holes in the theory that Romney is the only candidate capable of beating Obama.
To be fair, I still don’t think he can and to be honest, I’m becoming less and less convinced this field of Republican candidates can best Obama in a general election, but there’s plenty of this campaign left.
It’s important that Santorum is getting the support of the extremists and evangelical right because we know they’re going to vote.
The people who caucus not only vote, but campaign, go door-to-door and help turn out other Republican voters. People who vote in primaries are most politically active than those who don’t.
All this recent surge by Santorum tells us is that conservatives don’t like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, which we already knew. It perhaps also showed that the shine of Gingrich’s South Carolina performance has worn off.
Santorum hasn’t even been close in traditional elections, particularly after the landslide victory Romney posted in Nevada – a state where the Senate Majority leader for the Democrats resides.
Romney is still the front-runner, but Santorum has quickly turned this into a three-man race. If, somehow, Santorum could win over a few moderates and independents, his blue-collar background and family values could really be tough to beat in November.