Posted on | January 1, 2012 | 27 Comments
“Ten days ago I was at 5 percent [in the polls] and every question I got was ‘Why don’t you pack it up and endorse another candidate?’ And now they’re saying ‘You’ve got to win [in Iowa] to exceed expectations.’”
– Rick Santorum on NBC’s Meet the Press
One of the stupid assumptions pundits keep making about Rick Santorum is that he’s got nothing happening beyond Iowa.
There is no need to call out by name the people who have been promoting this counter-factual nonsense that Santorum is “another Huckabee,” who will do well in Iowa on the basis of his support among hard-core evangelical Christians and accomplish nothing meaningful thereafter. This myth has become a sort of conventional wisdom among some conservative pundits, a talking point promoted by advocates of the campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, who have insisted that only their well-funded “brand name” candidates have the wherewithal to fight Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. And it’s high time for people to begin critically examining that conventional wisdom because:
A. It’s not true;
B. It prevents consideration of a viable alternative strategy for the “Anybody But Mitt” movement; and
C. The campaigns promoting it — Gingrich and Perry — are evidently on their way to finishing fourth and fifth in Iowa.
Conservatives: Why let a bunch of losers dictate strategy to you? Why outsource your thinking to people who are only repeating what they’ve been told by paid campaign operatives? Why not examine the facts and think for yourself?
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. What I want to point out is that, while Rick Santorum has campaigned relentlessly in Iowa, it isn’t as if he has ignored New Hampshire. In fact, Santorum’s campaign manager Mike Biundo is a veteran of New Hampshire politics with strong Tea Party connections, as was pointed out by ABC News a year ago:
Biundo is a seasoned Granite State political operative who most recently helped Republican Frank Guinta defeat incumbent Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in state’s 1st Congressional District. Biundo also served on Guinta’s successful campaign for mayor of Manchester and has been involved in politics for two decades.
“I am thrilled to have Mike a part of our team. His experience and knowledge will be invaluable in New Hampshire,” Santorum said in a statement. “As I continue on this journey, it is important we determine our ability to build grassroots support and Mike will be an integral part of this process.”
Biundo served on the presidential campaigns of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Pat Buchanan, who won the New Hampshire primary in 1996. He is also a veteran of grassroots organizing in the crucial early primary state and led the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, a group promoting limited government.
“As former Senator Santorum continues to consider a run for president, I am pleased to have the opportunity to play a part in that process,” Biundo said in a statement. “The Senator’s fiscally responsible approach to government and vision for America’s future will play well here in New Hampshire.”
Biundo was originally hired to run Santorum’s New Hampshire operation and is now national campaign manager and it is a national campaign. Santorum is already running this new TV ad in New Hampshire:
That’s a pretty strong signal that, while Santorum is now in the midst of an all-out final push here in the Hawkeye State, his campaign hasn’t neglected the rest of the country.
As I mentioned Friday, the plan is that if Santorum does well here — as he clearly expects to do now — his Iowa field director Jake Braunger will hopscotch ahead to South Carolina with two-and-a-half weeks to work on the “ground game” there before that state’s Jan. 21 primary. Given the possibility that Rick Perry is supposed to be the candidate to beat in South Carolina, and Perry may suffer a humiliating fifth-place finish in Iowa (and may not even try to compete in New Hampshire), there is a chance that Santorum could come into South Carolina with a wave of momentum, looking like the most viable conservative alternative to Romney.
We talked about this Saturday on Granite Grok’s “Grok Talk” podcast with Skip Murphy and Mike Rogers, and I’d urge you to listen to that because one of the things we talked about was the danger of looking too far ahead in the campaign, trying to base decisions on hypothetical suppositions about what will happen two weeks or two months in the future. Too many people, I suggested to Skip and Mike, began their 2012 calculations by asking, “Who can win?” And they ruled out the potential of a candidate like Rick Santorum (or Ron Paul, for that matter) to have an impact on the results.
We are now about 48 hours away from Tuesday’s caucuses, and I hesitate to predict what’s going to happen Wednesday until I know what happens Tuesday. But those who have pre-emptively dismissed Santorum as a possible contender for the final “Not Mitt Romney” role in this campaign may need to re-examine their calculations. And the sooner, the better.