The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Santorum: The Fight and the Fighter

Posted on | February 27, 2012 | 11 Comments

TROY, Michigan
Last night, when I neared the Colonial Valley Suites in Davison, I immediately realized a huge crowd had turned out for Rick Santorum’s event at the Crystal Hall. Cars were parked alongside the road. Pulling over to park the rented Toyota by the roadside, I had to walk a few hundred yards to reach the place, and went in through a side door.

Inside, police on security duty looked at me dubiously, but I spotted a familiar face — one of Santorum’s Michigan campaign workers — and said, “Howdy.” He recognized me and said hello, indicating to the cops that I was OK, thus avoiding the whole show-me-your-credentials hassle involved in covering a presidential campaign once it gets heavy-duty.

Gosh, I miss Iowa. Back in the summer days leading up to the Ames Straw Poll, when the media were ignoring Rick Santorum’s campaign, it was possible to just show up and hang out with the candidate. Now a cordon of uniformed police and plainclothes guys with wires in their ears separates him from the pressing throng of humanity: Hundreds of supporters hoping to get an autograph and a handshake, while scores of media — photographers, TV camera crews, reporters — try to wedge their way through and get a picture or shout questions.

“Pack journalism” has never appealed to me. Lacking the herd instinct, I always want to go somewhere and find some angle to cover that everybody else is ignoring. So when the former underdog zooms up to become a contender, I’m uncomfortable with the feeling that I’m just another piranha in the media feeding frenzy.

It’s kind of demoralizing, in a way, despite knowing that I was way ahead of the pack, pushing the “Santorum Express” in early December, when the polls showed him in sixth place in Iowa, and the only causes for hope were an endorsement by Pastor Cary Gordon, unexpected praise from Sarah Palin and an ominous earthquake in Vanuatu. I remember our phone interview while Santorum was on a layover in the Fort Worth airport, having taken the cheapest avaiable flight from Iowa to D.C.

Recalling the unheralded underdog’s long fight against impossible odds, and knowing that almost none of the other reporters following Santorum around now were giving him any credence back then, I resent having to jostle elbow-to-elbow with these Johnny-come-lately media types, just to get in a question or shoot a photo. As I say, it feels rather demoralizing.

My bruised feelings, of course, fade to insignificance when I imagine what it must feel like to be Santorum, the hardest-working candidate in the 2012 race, still running uphill against Mister Inevitable, Mitt Romney. It’s got to be difficult to keep focused on the message, while the media keep trying to write you off — again! — and most of the coverage you get is a predictable repetition of a familiar meme: “Another Shocking Controversy!”

Maybe that’s why I relate to Santorum: He keeps getting unfairly dissed, but when he dares to mention this fact, the people who dissed him then turn around and accuse him of “whining.”

OK, so what to do about it? To quote Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” Bill Kristol thinks Santorum might be able to do it:

 I’m sure the intensity is with Santorum, and my guess is the momentum is with him as well.

While I hesitate to believe in miracles, we have to keep in mind that Rick’s got the Dominican Sisters of Mary on his side. If, despite all the media abuse he’s taken the past two weeks, Santorum manages to pull off an upset Tuesday here in Michigan, his critics will be enraged and humiliated — and so Santorum just keeps campaigning as hard as he can.

But Lord, it’s gotta be tough to keep going.

Sunday, while I was driving up I-75 on my way to the event in Davison, I switched on the local classic rock station and heard a Romney ad that compared Santorum to “liberal Carl Levin.” Imagine what it feels like to be Rick Santorum, a lifelong conservative, and to know that this is what your more moderate opponent is saying about you.

Santorum’s own ads, as well as his campaign mailings, are playing off Romney’s attacks while continuing to present a positive message:

“Rick Santorum: He’s fighting for us.” Will this work? It”s hard to tell, and polls are always a lagging indicator, but it’s got to be encouraging to Santorum when he gets a reception like the one that greeted him when he was introduced Sunday in Davison:

You’ll notice I panned the camera twice over the crowd, to try to give you a sense of the size of the attendance. Some reports had the crowd size at 300, but I estimated 400. Either way, they were fired up, and the candidate himself was pretty fired up, too. This is from my American Spectator column today:

The attacks are a ridiculous distortion of Santorum’s record. During his years in Congress, Santorum amassed an admirable record as a fiscal conservative and, as recently detailed by Jeffrey Anderson and Andy Wickersham in the Weekly Standard , had one of the highest ratings from the National Taxpayers Union. Addressing the accusations of liberalism from Romney on the stump, Santorum sometimes seems astonished that anyone would believe such charges – especially considering the source.
“In 1994, [Romney] ran to the left of Ted Kennedy, and if you have any doubt, go look at the last debate between the two them – it’s hard to tell them apart,” Santorum told the audience Sunday in Davison, contrasting Romney’s failed Senate bid with his own successful upset victory that year over Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford.  “Now for someone to run, in a critical election year – 1994, the year of the revolution, the Contract With America – who says, ‘no I won’t be a Reagan Republican, not I don’t support the Contract With America, I’m not a conservative,’ to now go and run ads here in the state of Michigan, and say, ‘Oh, Rick Santorum, because he voted for this bill or that bill’ — out of the 4,000 votes that I cast in the United States Senate — ‘is not a conservative,’ just doesn’t hold water.“ . . .

Please read the whole thing.

Today I’m heading to Lansing to see Rick Santorum’s 3 p.m. rally there, then returning via Royal Oak to catch up with Mitt Romney’s campaign at a 6:45 event. Santorum’s primary night event Tuesday is in Lansing, and then on Wednesday I’ll be heading back to Ohio to begin my coverage of the campaign leading up to Super Tuesday, March 6.

Once again, I’ve fallen so far behind on my thank-you e-mails I know I’ll never catch up, but thanks to all the people who have contributed to the Shoe Leather Fund the past week to keep me on the road: Jeff in Walla Walla, Mike in El Segundo, Dianna in San Jose, Joseph in Cumming, Jill in Las Vegas, Will in Wimberley, Stephen in Plano, William in Dallas, Gregory in Everett, Brian in Maryland, Michael in North Carolina, Karen in Jamesville and Mike in New Hampshire.

It takes a couple of days for money from the tip jar to clear the bank, so your contribution today — $10,  $20, $50 – will provide money for me to travel Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Thanks in advance for your support.

 





 

PREVIOUSLY:


Bookmark and Share

Comments

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • The Wondering Jew

    Your nose for spotting an unepxected front-runner is to be congratulated, but all of the spinning in the world, can’t change the fact that Santorum was the #3 Republican in the Senate (hardly an outsider) and that his proposed policies are just a more aggressive packaging of the same Bush “conservatism” that dragged the party down in the first place.  It isn’t impossible that he’d win, but its more likely that he’d suffer a Goldwater-style defeat– but without the Goldwater-style commitment to the principles of liberty that made that candidacy worth fighting for in the first place. 

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

    Rick Santorum has a  ranking of 17% from the ACLU.  That’s a good starting point right there.  He has an 83% ranking from Freedomworks and 95% from Americans for Tax Reform.  The American Conservative Union ranked him at 96%. A+ from the NRA.     The man is as solid as you’re going to find in this election.

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

     Interestingly enough, George Romney was the governor of Michigan during Goldwater’s campaign, yet refused to endorse Goldwater, even after he won the nomination. It’s no wonder Mitt is a RINO, look at the scum who raised him.

  • DonaldDouglas

    Nice work, McCain!

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

     President Eisenhower also refused to give Goldwater more than cursory support.  Rockefeller was booed at the convention by Goldwater’s delegates, and the party was more divided than ever since 1912. 

    Basically the Goldwater forces – who I supported at the time – used scorched earth, in-your-face tactics when they took control after Rockefeller’s remarriage doomed his chances, just the sort of attitude many around here advocate.  It didn’t work out.

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

    I don’t recall Bill Kristol’s opinions being given much credit around here before.  I wonder what changed?

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

    So what exactly was the reason for these “scorched earth, in-your-face tactics”? Surely the RINOs were gracious in their defeat, and acted like civilized gentlemen, when Goldwater won the nomination. Didn’t they? 

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

     He just proved that he’s capable of thinking beyond the beltway mindset, so to speak.

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

    If this access thing is becoming an issuie, I think we need to take up a separate collection to buy Stacy a new suit.  I can get us a good discount at  ExTelevangelist.com to get that good ‘overpriced for the congregation’ look. Anyplace that can dress both Jim Bakker AND Al Sharpton has to be a quality operation!

  • Pingback: EXCLUSIVE: Election Day in Hell, Michigan: Does Romney Have a Snowball’s Chance of Winning? : The Other McCain