Senator Santorum’s Tuesday wins in Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota changed the dynamics of the Republican campaign for President. He is now clearly the non-Romney candidate – a mantle Speaker Gingrich has been unable to wear.
The Speaker has been running as the true conservative, attempting to coax the Senator out of the race after South Carolina. Gingrich concentrated his efforts in Florida, only to be decisively defeated. He wasn’t even on the ballot in Missouri, and performed poorly in Colorado and Minnesota. Republican voters, the core of the Republican Party have been clear. They don’t want the Speaker as their nominee.
That leaves Senator Santorum, who is the most consistent conservative in the race. Congressman Ron Paul may be conservative on social and economic issues, but his national security views make Senator George McGovern look like a hawk.
Senator Santorum should have had momentum coming out of Iowa, but the initial returns showed Governor Romney with a 8 vote victory. The Governor received the boost and media attention out of Iowa. He then, as expected, won New Hampshire by a wide margin. Once again, Senator Santorum was neglected by the media, as he returned to his tortoise versus hare campaign.
The Governor and Speaker concentrated their sometimes vitriolic attacks on each other while the Senator quietly sailed through the rhetoric and has now won 4 states in the Midwest – 4 more than the Governor or Speaker. He won yesterday states that Governor Romney carried four years ago. Senator Santorum won in the heartland of America. That bodes well for November.
Colorado and Missouri were caucus states, but he won the Missouri Primary by 30 points over Governor Romney, 55%-25%. That is a landslide that sends shock messages through the campaign. It is a game changer.
He projects a warm, engaging presence versus the often robotic Governor and stridently negative Speaker. His course is steady while Congressman Gingrich veers from message to message, looking for the winning approach.
The Senator was helped on Tuesday by recent mistakes from Governor Romney and President Obama. Governor Romney’s comment, taken out of context, about not caring about the poor, was damaging to compassionate conservatives.
The President’s attack on the Catholic Church was politically stupid. It brought back President Obama’s campaign quip in Pennsylvania four years ago about small town workers: “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Both the Speaker and Senator are Catholics, but the Senator won the Catholic vote.
The Senator is about to become the latest Republican to receive the shots from the circular firing squad. He will survive.
The media will perversely aid his campaign by dumping on him. Their shock last night that a Senator who lost reelection 6 years ago by 18 points has no right running for President is but the beginning. They will have to do better than that to slow the Senator down.
2006 was a bad year for Republicans, as was 2008. Liberal pundits were celebrating the collapse of the Republican Party. The Democrats captured the House, Senate, and Presidency. They had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The future was theirs.
2010 was a dramatic rebirth of conservatism in America.
The question is who will carry it in 2012?
Speaker Gingrich is gunning for Super Tuesday in the South. He just spent 2 days campaigning in Ohio. He might as well say “Goodbye Columbus” as the momentum from South Carolina has failed him.
Senator Santorum is the conservative alternative in this year’s Presidential election.