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February 7th, 2011

Number Five: Rick Santorum

By Craig Robinson

Current Status: Rising

Keep an eye on Rick Santorum. The way that the 2012 presidential field is shaping up, Santorum may find himself with very little competition when it comes to signing up Iowa’s numerous social conservative voters. There will be a huge void created if Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin don’t run in 2012, and those votes could easily go to a candidate like Santorum.

Santorum has been one of the more frequent visitors to Iowa over the past year. While many national pundits don’t give his campaign any chance of panning out, when you consider that the race is really a state by state campaign, and two of the first three contests occur in Iowa and South Carolina, which happen to be two conservative states, Santorum’s chances don’t look so bleak.

If the 2008 Republican caucuses taught us anything, it’s that we should never underestimate an authentic socially conservative candidate who is blessed with excellent communication skills. While you may laugh at his last name or scoff at the fact that he lost his re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Rick Santorum will be a major factor in Iowa.

The similarities between Huckabee and Santorum are uncanny. Both candidates made their first forays in to Iowa caucus politics by speaking at an Iowa Christian Alliance event two years before caucuses. In 2006, nobody in the national media noticed that Huckabee was Iowa bound. He slipped in and out of Iowa basically unnoticed. When Santorum keynoted the event in 2010, he had his pro-life beliefs questioned by some of his critics.

Santorum used the unforeseen early attack to his advantage. His speech at the Iowa Christian Alliance event in March of 2010 was as good of a pro-life speech as Mike Huckabee ever gave while campaigning in Iowa. You could have heard a pin drop in the room that night, and it reminded me of Huckabee’s speech at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner in April of 2007.

Santorum’s pro-life credibility will provide him with ample political real estate on which to build his presidential campaign. Many pro-life caucus candidates were able to find success in doing that in previous cycles. Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes all were able to take that single issue and carve out a significant portion of the caucus electorate. However, Santorum is different than those three candidates. Like them, he in unquestionably pro-life, but he is also a full spectrum conservative who has the ability to discus economics and foreign policy with anyone on the debate stage.

There is no doubt that Santorum will have to overcome his unsuccessful 2006 re-election campaign, which he lost by 18 points, as well as his unpopular endorsement of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004.

It’s the margin of Santorum 2006 defeat that’s going to be difficult to overcome, not that he lost. In fact, it’s probably an advantage that he is not associated with the 2007-2010 Congress that remains unpopular with the American people. During a visit to Dubuque in the fall of 2009, Santorum was 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 led to his defeat.

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

There is no doubt that his failed 2006 campaign will haunt him, but Santorum lost that race while standing firm on conservative principles, and there is no shame in that. Of all the candidates that have begun to position themselves in Iowa for the 2012 caucuses, Santorum has probably done himself the most good thus far. If, by some chance, he finds himself as the only credible social conservative in the race, he’s probably going to find the same success that Mike Huckabee found in Iowa four years ago.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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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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