Santorum surge could spell an Iowa upset

The dynamics of the Iowa race have changed and so have the latest polls. Santorum has momentum, and he just may be Iowa's Comeback Kid. Photo: Santorum in Iowa coffee shop Image: AP

EASTON, Md., January 2, 2012 — The Iowa political landscape underwent a humongous upheaval these past few days, upending everyone’s assumptions about the results of the Iowa caucuses.

It all began when former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s Super PACs successfully derailed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s lead in Iowa by going for the political jugular, so the former front-runner now stands at 12% in the polls, his campaign basically in tatters.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul and his growing army of fervent supporters stand shoulder to shoulder and, despite some of the unpleasant facts about his past newsletters and his isolationist foreign policy, he is virtually in a dead heat with Romney, trailing by only 2 pts, 24-22, which is statistically a tie for first place. The Des Moines Register poll, which was released on New Year’s Eve and is the most accurate predictor of how the caucuses will turn out, show that the ground beneath the feet of the GOP candidates shifted dramatically.

But the big winner, even before the Tuesday caucuses, is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who was basically Mr. Invisible in the polls all year. Now he has surged from the low single digits to 15%, within striking distance of winning. What is even more telling is the ultra-Conservative Santorum has momentum which mean his numbers are in play.

He is actually primed to upset this race, taking Iowa, and catapulting him into the national spotlight as a serious contender. Right now the trend lines are going his way.

Here’s why:

1. Romney TV ads badly hurt Gingrich, but they didn’t do much to boost Romney’s own standing with Iowans. His poll numbers have always been hovering in the mid-20s. For Republican voters, Romney is seen as laden with baggage of a different sort: he’s not Conservative enough to being a Mormon to not being one of the guys. On Tuesday, will Iowans hold their noses and vote for him? 

2. Paul slipped a bit, but not significantly because his supporters will never, ever consider anyone else. And remember he barely lost the August Iowa straw poll to Michelle Bachman. While she is now yesterday’s news, Paul’s contrarian streak has generated great appeal among the young. Will his supporters be able to hold the line on caucus night?

3. Gingrich never fought back except to whine about the negativity of Romney and Paul. Now he is talking about doing his own trash-talking. A bit late. And certainly too late for the caucuses.

4. Texas Governor Perry’s mouth fumbles and aw-shucks approach don’t generate a lot of confidence in voters who want someone who can go toe to toe with President Obama. And the Perry ads have generated some light on issues, but no heat.

5. Bachman evolved into Joanie One-Note, blaming the ills of the world on President Obama and only offering grandiose plans of what she would or would not do, that can’t withstand the light of day. She long ago lost her appeal.

6. Santorum, stiff as he is, always looking like a Boy Scout leader, rather than a candidate, has the Right credentials, and I do mean Right.  There probably is no more Conservative Republican running than Santorum as can be seen from his anti-views on issues ranging from abortion to government to spending. He loves our latest wars, lower taxes for the rich, and “job creators.”

7. Mike Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucus, the kind of Conservative Republican Iowans like nowadays.

Looking over the field in the waning hours, Iowans may see Santorum as their best bet, this year’s Huckabee. He can hold his own in a debate, so he could debate Obama without embarrassing the Republican Party. He has the Right stuff.  He is not a born-again Conservative like Romney. He’s the real thing. Yet he is not so far Right that he tilts Libertarian like Ron Paul.

Santorum just may be the Goldilocks candidate. Just Right for Iowa. And his surge may become a surprising win Tuesday night.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib in the Communities at the Washington Times. She can also be heard on the Democrats for America’s Future.

 

 

 


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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