The Other McCain

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Don’t Underestimate Rick Santorum’s Campaign Strength in New Hampshire

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

JOHNSTON, Iowa
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.

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Comments

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Put down the pom poms Stacy, Romney is going to win New Hampshire. If he comes in 2nd in Iowa on top of that, he’s going to be awful hard to stop, maybe impossible.

  • Anonymous

    Santorum has distinguished himself from the other candidates as the social conservative of the race, focusing some, but less, on the economy.  That doesn’t play as well in New Hampshire as it does in Iowa.  It didn’t even play too well in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania in his last race, and PA is supposed to be Alabama outside of Philadelphia & Pittsburgh.

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  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ EBL

    Rick Santorum’s success is due to people like Stacy, Da Tech Guy, Lisa G, Smitty, Wombat, and others.  

  • http://twitter.com/DaTechGuyblog Peter Ingemi

    Let me inform my friends at the Pagan Temple that if Romney doesn’t win NH by at least 20 then he is looking pretty bad.

    Additionally if Romney can’t do better than 2nd in Iowa with all the financial and organizational advantages he has PLUS 4 years of campaigning then may I suggest he might not be the strongest candidate in the general

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    He’s not my choice Peter, but he does seem to be the choice of those who matter. I’ve just kind of resigned myself to that. It’s going to take a lot of money to stay in the primaries past Florida.

  • http://www.granitegrok.com Mike Rogers

    The good: Santorum’s voting record in the senate was decent, and he has not neglected New Hampshire, even while appearing to be all over Iowa every day. If he does well in Iowa, he could easily earn a strong pace in NH.
    The risky factor? Santorum manages to create the impression that he would use the power of government to impose morality, which crosses the line for some folks. Moral leadership, good; imposition of morals by the Feds, not so much.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    Know what I respect a lot from Santorum in this campaign?  He hasn’t backed off supporting earmarks, a correct and courageous position.  There is lots of disinformation out there on the subject:  without earmarks, Congress can’t really specify how money is spent, so the Executive has more leeway.  The problem is earmarks inserted in conference reports, secretly, and those directly benefiting friends or supporters.  Those are the ones which need to be eliminated, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Good for him!

    But his 30 visits to New Hampshire are fewer than most candidates make in their “exploratory” stage.  New Hampshire invented “retail politics” for Presidential candidates.  Can Santorum move his family to Iowa and visit 99 counties there and say retail doesn’t matter in New Hampshire?

    He announced his SC county chairmen on December 22, 30 days before the primary, and has no offices in the Palmetto State AFAIK.  Bachmann, Romney, Paul, Perry, and Gingrich have been keeping a high profile in the state for six months or more.

    It is a huge mistake to assume South Carolina will support the most conservative candidate.  In fact, they have voted for the eventual nominee in every single primary since the first in 1980.  Sure, that was Reagan, but both Bushes, Dole, and McCain all won the state, too.

  • Ccoffer

    ” Santorum manages to create the impression that he would use the power
    of government to impose morality, which crosses the line for some folks.”

    It “crosses the line” only for the mentally retarded.

  • http://theothermccain.com smitty

    As far as the lead quotation goes, why does Rick Santorum hate motorized goalposts?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Only the mentally retarded need the federal government to impose a particular brand of morality on the states. Well, the mentally retarded or the criminally sociopathic.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Wow, that’s a damn good point. Since the most ancient of days, bribery has been a time-honored and accepted way of doing business among government bureaucracies throughout the world. How ever could we keep going if we were to go down the slippery slope of doing away with earmarks? I really want to thank you Adjoran, as well as Santorum and Romney of course, for fighting to defend and protect this honored and most respectable of all ancient traditions, this venerable lynchpin of society.

    People like me and Bachmann are just blind and naive, aren’t we Adjoran? Thank you for opening my eyes, kind sir.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    In fairness to Santorum, he implied strongly in the debates that he had no interest in imposing morality on the states at the federal level, but would instead be a “leader” on social and moral issues in encouraging states to adopt moral laws. At least, that’s what I got out of it. That and he wants a constitutional amendment to ban abortions. Not the best use of a Presidents time in my opinion, but my candidate Bachmann wants the same thing. Right now all I want is a soda pop.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    He can try; but in a government where hopefully the Constitution is treated with respect he will have his hands full.  It’s not like he can appoint a morality czar with a straight face.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    Carbon emissions.

  • Anonymous

    Stacey, It is obvious that the talking point has been sent out to all the news outlets to emphasize the % of Santorum’s loss in 2006. He needs to address this quickly by pointing out the various electoral failures of the others. Romney in particular has only one election win out of 5 or 6 attempts. Santorum (or his surrogates) also should explain that he won two House races in a Dem leaning district before winning two statewide senate races. He should admit 2006 was a tough loss but also make the case that it was a tough year for the GOP throughout the country as President Bush was being castigated over set backs in Iraq.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    That’s what I heard out of Sen. Santorum as well, and it impressed me greatly. I’m a libertarian voter, socially pretty liberal (at least insofar as I want people left alone, even if it means homos, drugs and sex). Santorum is socially much more conservative than me.

    But Santorum seems to really understand that the President is not a King. The President does not get to rule by edict, and his every preference (and especially those of his wife!) need not be enshrined in law or public policy.

    The proper role of the President is to attempt to persuade Congress and the American people that the President’s perspective is the correct one, so that Congress might enact laws he likes.

    Santorum gets this. It makes me much more comfortable with his social conservatism.

  • Anonymous

    What happened to ‘senators make lousy presidents’…?

    That goes double for lousy senators lol

  • Anonymous

    The south is most of what matters… and they don’t dig Romney much: SC comes up first, where the Georgia doughboy is up solid double-digits. 

    In Florida Newt’s polling at almost 40%, while Romney’s been stuck at a hard 30% ceiling for what seems like forever. After that delegate jackpot puts him instantly out-front, Newt polls over 50% pretty much everywhere throughout the region…

    But you know that, right?

  • Stephen Nelson

    Right statists are as bad as left statists. See Huckabee. All this “socon” wants is for the Feds to stop spending money to actively work against Christians.

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  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Right statists are worse than left statists as far as I’m concerned, because given their way they would destroy the federalist principles the constitution was based on, and they would do so gladly any time it suited them. They are supposed to oppose the left when it comes to protecting and defending federalist principles, not provide them inspiration and guidance the way some of these assholes insist on doing.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    And its a damn good thing he can’t. I think there’s a few right here that would gladly volunteer for the job just for the shits and giggles, if they were capable of giggling. Of course I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down the pay.

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  • S-Henslee

    As a registered Republican in the state of Georgia I’ve followed the campaigns of the Republican candidates since that race began.  For me politics is not about religion, but about the needs of the country and it’s people, but values play a part in my decision. 

    A short while ago, I took a survey online to see which Republican candidate I most closely associated with based on their previous statements.  I was shocked at the results, (In order of precidence) Michelle Bachman, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum. I had not followed Mrs. Bachman that closely and based on that survey I now regret that ommision.

    As a registered Republican with Libertarian leanings I favorably followed a good bit of Ron Paul’s campaign promises, ideas and suggestions.  As a retired military man, I am not in favor of a blanket reduction of all things military just because.  Yes, a lot of waste can be and should be, redacted from our defense budget.  I also agree, in part, with Senator Paul on taking the sharp knife of ethics and common sense to foreigh aid.  But for some reason, possibly those of his supporters who seem to be driven by blind faith and conspiracy theories, something about a Ron Paul presidency scares me.

    As a Georgian, I’ve listened to Herman Cain and his radio show for some time and have always been impressed with his stand on issues and his value based common sense commentary.  People in this country are innocent until proven guilty in spite of the old addage “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” except. apparently, when it comes to politics in relation to the media and public oppinion.  I was disappointed in the media’s putting him in the ‘unelectable’ category.

    As a Georgian, I have also watched Gingrich in action.  Bold? Yes.  When it suited him.  Compromizing?  Occasionally, if it appeared he’d not succeed by other means.  Of course these are my opinions.  I’m not sure why exactly, except for issues like corn based ethanol in our gasoline when that is supposed to cause food price and other corn based prices to increase in a time when many people aready have finantial problems.  An issue, I might add, that he was joined in by Nancy Pelosi.

    As a Mormon, I am aware of what Romney’s values should be and probably are, and have been impressed with his steadfast position in the polls, his business experience, his determination to oust Obama, and his apparent electibility.

    That all said, last night I listened to Rick Santorum’s speach at the tail end of the Iowa Caucuses coverage.  His words hit me right where I live.  Like many, I’ve been searching for a Conservative with common sense, who could defeat the Democrat with a progressive agenda. 

    I am almost 65, already drawing social security.  I am also a disabled veteran drawing VA disability and a military pension.  As a former school teacher I have worked on a daily basis with people and administrators with a wide variety of political viewpoints, most notably progressive,  I am aware that politics breeds selective positioning, ethical compromizes, and rationalizatons of ‘truth.’

    For my own peace of mind, between now and the Georgia Republican primary, I will be watching Rick Santorum’s campaign a lot more closely.  He got my attention last night.  I hope he got the positive attention of others, and time will tell if he can withstand the media firestorm that is about to engulf him.  If he survives the tempering fire and maintains the values and positions he displayed last night, he’ll have my vote in that primary, and I hope, go on to become the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

    In any case, though I usually vote for the candidate based on the issues, I don’t believe this country can survive the serious consequences of another term with a Democrat and Progress as President and I intend to vote for the Republican nominee regardless of the outcome of the nomination process.

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