The Other McCain

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SANTORUM DROPS OUT

Posted on | April 10, 2012 | 154 Comments

UPDATE 6 p.m. ET: In a post at Rachel Maddow’s blog (!) lefty Steve Benen says, “Santorum has done something I honestly didn’t think was possible,” going on to list the miraculous successes of Santorum’s low-budget underdog operation. Beyond the credit due to the candidate and his family — his wife and kids were, at one point, nearly the only people working full-time for his campaign — much of the credit goes to the scores and hundreds of dedicated volunteers whom I mention below.

Also: Because he went so long without any significant media recognition, Santorum was always the most accessible of the candidates and was willing to answer almost any questions. That got him in trouble a few times, and drove his staff and consultants nuts, but the folks in the press corps — including liberals who totally disagreed with Santorum on the issues — appreciated the honesty and openness of his campaign.

UPDATE 4:50 p.m. ET: Video of Santorum’s speech today:

UPDATE 4:40 p.m. ET: A volunteer just started the “Rick 2016″ Facebook page.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m. ET: In a message on the Team Santorum Facebook page, the campaign’s grassroots coordinator Shelley Ahlersmeyer links Rick and Karen Santorum’s note of thanks to their supporters.

The story of Santorum’s grassroots army has been seldom mentioned in the media, even in my own coverage of the campaign. Some people were mystified by how Santorum kept winning — from Colorado to Louisiana — and so often out-performing the polls.

Shelley Ahlersmeyer had run grassroots outreach for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, and when she joined Team Santorum, it was a big gain for his campaign that didn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved at the time. Ahlersmeyer brought with her not only her experience, skill and energy, but also extensive connections with Huckabee’s volunteers from four years ago.

So: How did Santorum win, for example, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, states that had seemed likely to go for Newt Gingrich? How did Santorum stay competitive in Michigan and Ohio, despite being massively outspent by Romney?

Three words: “Phone from home.”

A comparative handful of fired-up, dedicated volunteers — mostly moms and grandmothers — each made many thousands of phone calls to Republican primary voters in those states. Exactly how many people participated in Santorum’s phone-from-home program, I don’t yet know, but there were a hard-core handful who have spent practically every day for the past four months calling up total strangers and asking them to vote for Rick Santorum.

God bless ‘em, they pulled off a miracle or two — Rick’s campaign manager, Mike Biundo, told me that the top campaign staff didn’t think they could win Mississippi until they saw the votes come in — and those volunteers deserve far more credit than they got.

Linked by The Lonely Conservative, Republican Redefined and Bob Belvedere at the Camp of the Saintsthanks!

UPDATE 3:50 p.m. ET: Michelle Malkin came through with a crucial endorsement of Rick Santorum on Jan. 31 — the day of the Florida primary — and says of his scrappy underdog campaign:

Rick Santorum fought hard, he fought well, and he gave voice to a large contingent of grass-roots conservative activists across the country who wanted a candidate who lived the values he preached. He held Mitt Romney’s feet to the fire on health care, challenged Newt Gingrich’s green flirtations and past support for the individual mandate, and took on Ron Paul’s foreign policy extremism. His presence improved everyone else’s game — and that will serve the GOP ticket well this fall, whoever ends up on it.

Let’s not talk about that yet, huh? By the way, Michelle Malkin is hereby formally invited to “DoomCon 2012,” which I hope to convene in Tampa the day before the RINO coronation Republican convention in August. The general theme will be, “How screwed are we?”

UPDATE 3:55 p.m. ET: I hope Jeff Goldstein can make it to Tampa, too.

UPDATE 3:40 p.m. ET: Chris Moody, my young friend who was covering his first presidential campaign this year, reminds us how it was:

In the final days before the first Republican caucuses in Iowa — a contest on which Santorum rested his entire strategy — it appeared that his campaign would be laid to rest in the state where it was born. Iowa Republicans did not turn their eyes to the man who had spent more time in their state than any other candidate until the very end, but they ultimately awarded him with a surprise, hair’s-breadth victory — not formally confirmed until weeks after the vote–that helped keep his fledgling campaign afloat into the spring.
The first public whispers of his impending rise came with a CNN poll released three days after Christmas that showed Santorum in third place among likely Iowa caucus-goers, higher than he had ever been before in a public opinion survey.

Oh, that wasn’t first whisper, Chris: Have you already forgottten the Dec. 1 earthquake in Vanuatu? And I was calling it the “Santorum Surge” for weeks before that CNN poll confirmed my insight. Just the other day, I recounted some of those headlines.

UPDATE 3:05 p.m. ET: Video report from Associated Press:

Donald Douglas at American Power:

Santorum’s campaign represented the great hope of “full-spectrum conservatives” in 2012, and his exit will leave a mark on the general election campaign, as social issues and working class concerns will continue to resonate with the electorate into the fall.

I’d been planning to travel tp Pennsylvania next week to cover the campaign leading up to the April 24 primary. Now? To look on the bright side, I can begin planning for “DoomCon 2012.”

*** PREVIOUSLY (2:36 p.m. ET) ***

The news broke online while I was sending an e-mail, and I just watched Santorum’s speech on TV.

UPDATE: You know what’s gonna hurt? Telling my son Jefferson.

UPDATE II: Lisa Graas must be heartbroken.

UPDATE III: Chris Stirewalt and his fellow Romneyites on Fox News are talking about how Mitt will win now. We won’t forget their glee.

UPDATE IV: More of the news I missed at The Hill. As one commenter said, “We’ll always have Iowa.” And New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Louisiana, to name some of the places I encountered Santorum on his long, wild campaign trail.

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