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October 2nd, 2009

Don’t Underestimate Rick Santorum

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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A couple days ago, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote about Rick Santorum’s upcoming trip to Iowa. Cillizza’s article was entitled, “Is Santorum Serious?” In it, he also asked the question of whether the former senator is crazy. The answer is yes, he is serious, and no, he’s not crazy.

Before Santorum made his way to the University of Dubuque to give his speech at the American Future Fund’s Conservative Lecture Series last night, he first joined a small group of people for dinner at a quaint restaurant near the Port of Dubuque. The former senator was relaxed, and the conversation weaved between topics as serious as the direction that President Obama is taking the county, to less serious matters like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Iowa Hawkeyes trouncing of Penn State last week. Santorum didn’t spend much time on the latter.

The American Future Fund event, which was held at the University of Dubuque’s Charles and Ramona Meyers Center, was attended by over 130 people, a tremendous crowd considering that AFF didn’t use any paid advertising to drive people to the event like they did for some of their previous events. In addition to the 130 in attendance, more than 150 people watched the live stream on the AFF website.

After being introduced by University of Dubuque President Jeff Bullock, Santorum took to the stage with only the aid of a two page outline. Right out of the gate, it seemed as if Santorum called an audible. His speech was entitled, “Jumpstarting America’s Economy by Putting People First,” but he used the first ten minutes of his time talking about the nuclear situation with Iran.

Santorum, who served eight years on the on the Armed Services Committee, is also a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank where he founded a program called “America’s Enemies.” Santorum is alarmed by the news that Iran has constructed a new nuclear facility. He said that we have known about the facility for over a year, and yet President Obama failed to mention it when he chaired a meeting of the United Nation’s Security Council.

In addition to being critical of President Obama and his administration, Santorum was also pretty tough on his former Republican colleagues. He chastised Republicans for passing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He said that he prayed that Sen. John McCain would suspend his campaign to go back to Washington to blow up the idea, something Santorum admitted McCain was good at. Yet McCain supported it, which Santorum believes lead to his defeat.

He also stated that, by supporting TARP, Republicans helped pave the way for the newly elected President Obama to expand on what Congress had already started. In essence, he said that after Republicans had opened the door to government takeover of certain businesses, President Obama was given the green light to kick the door open by bailing out the auto companies and pushing for government controlled health care.

Santorum’s speech had a populist tone, which the audience responded well to. TheIowaRepublican.com asked the people in attendance via text message what they thought about Santorum’s speech and whether or not he should run for president in 2012. Below are some of their responses.

“He definitely should run for President in 2012; he might be the best conservative answer to America’s problems.”

“Yes, but leave the religious right behind.”

“He is a great leader that is trying to explain and repair the understanding of what the government is destroying. Yes he should run in 2012 for President.”

“I sure hope he runs for President.”

All of the comments sent to TheIowaRepublican.com last night following Santorum’s speech were positive. If you doubt the seriousness with which Santorum seems to be considering a run, he didn’t come to Iowa all by himself. Accompanying him on his trip was an aide and his longtime media consultant John Brabender. He also talked warmly about the Iowa caucuses and the important roll that Iowans play in the electoral process.

Many national political pundits scoff at the notion that Santorum could be a legitimate 2012 contender. Yet, the Iowa Caucuses are tailor made for him. It’s not just because Santorum is a staunch social and fiscal conservative, but because he might be one of the most complete conservatives to run. Santorum’s focus on his national security credentials were no accident. It is the one area in which his potential primary challengers are lacking. Mitt Rommey, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Tim Pawlenty all lack national security credentials.

With all of his positive attributes, Santorum still has plenty to overcome. First, there is the issue that he lost his re-election bid in 2006 by nearly 20 points. There is no doubt that 2006 was a bad year for Republicans, but such a lopsided defeat is tough to recover from. That said, we do not disqualify candidates who chose not to seek re-election because they might lose. In 2008, George Pataki and Mitt Romney fit that bill, and in 2012 Tim Pawlenty has taken a similar route.

The other issue is Santorum’s support of Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary against Pat Toomey. Some Iowa Republicans who I’ve talked to recently say that it’s a deal breaker. Either way, it will be an issue that Santorum will have to face head on if he does decide to stick his toe into Iowa’s political waters. While Santorum will have to maneuver around some major obstacles, if there is any state that would give a guy a second chance, it’s Iowa.

Special Note: The University of Dubuque campus and facilities were amazing. It’s great to see that one of our state’s private universities is thriving. One of the night’s pleasant surprises was finding out that UD’s President is an avid reader of TheIowaRepublican.com. President Jeff Bullock and his wife were gracious hosts, and after meeting them it is no surprise that the University of Dubuque is doing so well.


About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.




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