Back in September, I predicted that Rick Santorum (or Herman Cain) would "shock the world" in Iowa and emerge as this cycle's Mike Huckabee. Still, now that we're here I have to pronounce myself shocked:
Rick Santorum, whose determined Republican presidential campaign offered strong fiscal convictions and conservative social values, was rewarded with a dead-heat finish for first place with Mitt Romney in Tuesday night’s Iowa Caucuses.
The former U.S. senator, who wore a blue suit and a red striped tie, beamed with enthusiasm as he was joined by his wife, Karen, and six of their seven children as he spoke at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston.
“Game on,” Santorum said to cheers from the feisty crowd of about 500 supporters. He thanked his wife and he publicly thanked God, and he expressed his appreciation to Iowans.
“Thank you so much Iowa. By standing up and not compromising. By standing up and being bold and leading; leading with that burden and responsibility that you have to be first; you have taken the first step of taking back this country,” Santorum said.
The crowd chanted “We pick Rick. We pick Rick” and waved blue and red Santorum signs as Santorum described the upcoming November election as a choice for Americans between freedom and a government that wants to decide for people what’s best for them.
Santorum overcame long odds to achieve his strong showing. Just a month ago, his campaign appeared stalled with single-digits in Iowa polls.
To be honest, I also thought Santorum would slightly under-perform tonight, given how quickly his surge arose. But, give the guy credit: he is probably the one candidate, besides the doomed Michele Bachmann, who sought to run a traditional Republican campaign by appealing to all three legs of the conservative stool. Santorum may be famous as a social con, but he spent most of his time talking national security, debt, and fiscal restraint. Plus, he did literally hundreds of town halls and other events. You ever get the feeling that Rick Perry (now heading back to Texas to "reassess" his campaign) or Mitt Romney have been doing that? Yeah, me neither.
For much of this year, Santorum's campaign was little more than his wife and kids knocking on doors. Stacy McCain reports that, contrary to most media reports, Santorum does have an organization outside of Iowa, including a ground game in South Carolina. That's good to hear because he's going to have to ramp up pretty quick to meet what's coming. Because Santorum isn't just going to have to deal with Mitt Romney. He's also going to have to deal with the deranged leftists who think "Santorum" is just another way of saying "Palin without a uterus."
Whether he intended to or not, Rick Santorum is going to spend the next week as the center of the American political universe. Hope he's better equipped to deal with it than Pawlenty, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich were able to.