Published On: Wed, Feb 8th, 2012

Game Change

Santorum Victory Changes Everything

The question of Why Not Rick?  that we asked here at These New Times on January 29 appears to have been answered in a big way by Republican voters in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday. That answer was a resounding “Hell yeah! Why not Rick!”

Rick Santorum pulled off a hat trick by sweeping all three contests and trouncing his opponents in all three states. In the Missouri primary, (which was really a beauty contest awarding no delegates) Santorum won 55% of the vote.  That was a full 3o percentage points more than the second place finisher, Mitt Romney, who came away with just 25%.

In the Minnesota caucuses, Sen Santorum also took first place with 45% of the vote. That put him 18 percentage points in front of the second place finisher, Ron Paul, who garnered 27% of the vote in that state.

The really big surprise of the night was the Colorado caucuses which produced an unexpected victory for Santorum over Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points.

No one, I repeat, no one predicted this outcome, not even Rick Santorum. The pundits at CNN and Fox News all seemed stunned by the results. Who would have guessed that at this point in the primary season that it would be Rick Santorum who had won the greater number of state contests? Political operative Ed Rollins had said of Santorum: “We all bet as professionals he’d be the first guy out.”

As it turns out, Rick Santorum now appears to be the most credible non-Romney candidate. With little money and little support from Republican office holders, the former Senator just went directly to the people with a message that they seem to have taken to heart. And that message carried the day for Santorum in all three states.

Santorum’s one advantage seems to be that he gains popularity as people get to know him better. After the primary and caucus sweep on Tuesday night a lot more people are going to take a serious look at Rick Santorum. But the former Senator is going to need more than recognition. He will need an infusion of cash into his campaign and he will need volunteers to help him organize individual states for future contests. Tuesday night was certainly a good start to fulfilling those goals and the dramatic results may indeed be a game changer.

Next comes the state of Maine. Republicans will caucus in the state of Maine on February 11, 2012. That is in Romney’s backyard and Ron Paul has also been putting in a substantial effort there. There is no way of predicting if the Tuesday results in the Mid-West and Colorado will give Santorum a boost this coming Saturday in Maine.

The next debate will be on Wednesday February 22, 2012 and Rick Santorum had better be well prepared as all three of the other candidates will be gunning for him big time. That debate will be followed by primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday February 28, 2012.  The polls have Romney leading in both states, but up to last night the polls had Romney leading in Colorado also.

Senator Santorum gave an exceptional victory speech last night from Missouri after it had become clear that he had won big in Missouri and Minnesota. In that speech, the Senator made two salient points. The first was when he said; “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.” That comment by Santorum was brilliant in that it raised him above the Republican fray and directly targeted the President as his opponent.

The second comment in the speech that was equally brilliant was the one where he cut the legs out from under Romney’s perceived advantages. Santorum said; “Governor Romney’s greatest attribute is, well, I’ve got the most money and the best organization. Well, he’s not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?” There is no doubt that it will be Barack Obama who will have those advantages.

This race is far from over. It will be a long hard fight all the way through the spring for the Republican nomination. Romney still has the money and organization, Ron Paul has his loyal and dedicated supporters and Newt Gingrich has his outrage at the unfair treatment he believes that he has received from the Republican establishment. But on Tuesday night in the American heartland, Rick Santorum set the markers for the other three candidates to follow.

There is an old Chinese proverb and curse which is said to be “May you live in interesting times.” There is no doubt that the Republican primaries have us all living in interesting times.

About the Author

- Paul Bianco, retired from a career in sales, now spends his spare time as a gadfly on the many political blogs. Paul says he is just going through a phase, but that phase seems to have lasted two decades. Paul's conservative political philosophy was formed well before conservative talk radio and Fox News came along. Paul remembers the days when conservatives like William F Buckley Jr were voices in the wilderness "standing athwart history, yelling stop!" From time to time Paul contributes some of the insights he has gained from observing politics for so many years, and hopes that readers will be entertained and perhaps even enlightened.