Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And Then There Were Two Three Again

Well, it looks like my endorsement carried a lot of weight throughout the Midwest yesterday:

It took one night for Rick Santorum to become a player again in the Republican presidential race.

The former Pennsylvania senator came out on top in the voting in all three contests Tuesday night, including an unexpected five-point victory in Colorado's caucuses. Santorum also won the Minnesota caucuses, by an 18-point margin, and he won by 30 points in the Missouri primary.

Santorum moves on without any new delegates, but with plenty of momentum.

For everyone who flat-out declared the GOP battle a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, voters in three states Tuesday night said, "Not so fast." Rick Santorum pulled off huge wins in Missouri, Minnesota and, incredibly, Colorado -- a state Romney was supposed to have locked up.

"Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota," Santorum told a cheering crowd in Missouri.

Santorum was such an underdog that, just a week ago, people were speculating he'd drop out. Last night, he not only won -- he blew out his competition.

"Your votes today," he declared, "were not just heard loud and wide across the states of Missouri and Minnesota, but they were heard loud and louder all across this country."

I think there are a couple major takeaways from last night, one of which is mentioned later in the article:

Still, Santorum's strong showing is a huge blow to the front-runners, especially Newt Gingrich, who's been campaigning as the conservative alternative to Romney.

But with Gingrich's stumbles, and voters nervous about his baggage, Tuesday night, Santorum assumed that title.

The Republican establishment wants Romney.  The Republican base wants anyone but Romney.  Romney has demonstrated himself to be a flip-flopper approaching John Kerry status, and he clearly has no genuine connection to conservative principles, instead just using the words as a tool to try to sucker a base that he must secure in order to win.  Perhaps even more critically, Romney has the millstone of Massachusetts' failing Romneycare around his neck, and the Republican base still fervently wants Obamacare repealed.  If Romney is the nominee, there is zero chance of that happening, and, in fact, the removal of one of the most potent campaign issues will dramatically elevate the probability of a second Obama term (I'm planning a major post on Obamacare in the coming days, so stay tuned for that).  Polling has remained consistent that Republican voters don't want Romney, and Gingrich had positioned himself as the most logical non-Romney choice.  He was making headway on that despite his considerable baggage...until last night.  As this article said, Santorum could now have unseated Gingrich.

The other interesting thing to me is the fact that none of these candidates worked really hard at any of these three states.  Relatively little money was spent on advertising by all of the candidates, and none of them spent a significant amount of effort campaigning in any of them.  One could argue, then, that these three states are perhaps more representative of what middle America thinks of these candidates based purely on the candidates' histories and records rather than on a chosen media spin blitz.  If that is the case, then this means more good things to come for Santorum.

Of course, the reality is that these wins mean little if increased fundraising doesn't follow.  Considering that Santorum has now gained Romney's attention, the 'front runner' will likely extend his scorched-earth campaign and start pummeling Santorum with negative ads.  Just ask Gingrich -- who was out-spent by Romney 65:1 in Florida -- how painful that can be, especially with no money to fight back.  We'll see in the coming days if that increased fundraising materializes.

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