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August 23rd, 2011
 

Santorum Gains Momentum

Two presidential candidates received a momentum boost from the Ames Straw Poll.  One was the victorious Michele Bachmann.  The other was fourth place finisher Rick Santorum.  Working with a much smaller budget than most of the field, the former Pennsylvania senator exceeded expectations.

Santorum campaigned harder in Iowa than anyone, visiting more than 60 of the state’s 99 counties.  He traveled to places other candidates ignored.  Santorum launched his “Courage to Fight for American Jobs Tour” around Iowa in early July, visiting factories and community colleges.  It helped Santorum hone his economic message.

Meanwhile, local newspapers and radio stations covered Santorum’s visits, giving him important media coverage in towns that had received few, if any, visits from other candidates.  The “jobs tour” was followed by a 50 city jaunt that included Santorum’s large Pennsylvania family.  In the process, he won over conservative activists and secured endorsements from several grassroots organizers.

Although Santorum languished near the bottom of most Iowa polls, Santorum’s fourth place finish was not a surprise to some political observers.  “He was conversant and conservative in all the issues, not just fiscal policy,” said Adair County GOP co-chair Ryan Frederick.  “And he worked parts of the geography that no one else did.  Going to those small towns and talking about their issues breeds a lot of loyalty.”

Santorum’s ability to talk in depth on a wide variety of issues led many Straw Poll voters to decide in the final days before the event to cast their ballot for him.  He is perhaps the most well-rounded candidate in the race.  Although Santorum is best known for his strong pro-life, anti-gay marriage stances, he is also extremely knowledgeable on economic issues, spending, energy policy and foreign affairs.

“There’s only one person in this race who has actually worked and fought and succeeded in passing entitlement reform, welfare reform, back in the mid 90s,” Santorum said on Fox News Sunday.  “I was the author of it when I was in the House of Representatives.”  He added that he was able to go “toe-to-toe with the lions of the left” in the senate to get welfare reform passed.

He has also shown a willingness to tangle with his fellow GOP candidates.  Santorum’s tussle with Ron Paul at the debate two days before the straw poll was part of the reason he was credited as one of the victors that night.  He has also been very vocal in his criticism of Rick Perry’s stance on gay marriage, arguing the issue trumps states’ rights.

“My record on national security is better than anybody in this race,” Santorum told Fox.  “It far exceeds anybody in this race.  My record on moral cultural issues far exceeds anybody in this race. And if you look at my record on entitlement reform, there’s nobody that can touch my record.  And those are the things I’d love to be talking about, particularly in the area of healthcare reform and taxes.”

Although he is still a long shot in the presidential race, Rick Santorum is no longer an afterthought, at least in Iowa.  He has developed a loyal following that appreciates his depth on a wide variety of issues.  That versatility might give Santorum the opportunity to pick up some of Tim Pawlenty’s supporters, as well as secure some important endorsements.  Rick Santorum is good for the GOP presidential race.  His knowledge trumps most of the field and Santorum will make sure substantive policy issues remain a part of the campaign.  He probably will not win, but Rick Santorum will make the Republican field better.

 

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com

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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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