On The Road

January 21st, 2012
 

Can Santorum’s Strong Debate Performance Help Pull Off Another Surprise?

I wouldn’t write of Rick Santorum any time soon.  The most recent polls in South Carolina suggest that Santorum’s momentum has stalled, but with as many as a third of primary voters still undecided, there is plenty of room for him grow in the final hours before people being to cast their votes.  In Thursday night’s CNN debate, Santorum made a powerful case to those who are either still undecided or open to be swayed.

As the number of candidates on the debate stage has dwindled, Santorum has used the extra time to draw sharp distinctions between himself and the rest of his opponents.  While many credit Newt Gingrich as the best debater, he usually scores his points by delivering witty one-lines and attacking the debate moderators.  Santorum on the other hand actually debates his opponents, and on Thursday night he was on the top of his game.

Santorum was able to show the difference between him and his opponents on almost every issue of importance to a conservative voters in the CNN debate.  On the issue of healthcare, which should be the most important issue in the general election, Santorum took apart Mitt Romney for his Massachusetts law that has been described as the precursor to Obamacare.  Romney could only respond with a chuckle and tell Santorum that he doesn’t understand the legislation he signed into law.

Santorum also went after Gingrich by claiming that there is no way he could debate President Obama on the issue since he previously supported an individual healthcare mandate.  Gingrich, the undisputed debate champion of the race, could only respond by saying that he would have no problem because he would just admit that he had been wrong.  It was a witty answer that allowed him to skirt the issue, but not an answer that would win the argument.

Santorum also went after Gingrich and Romney on social issues and immigration policy, while also pushing his populist conservative message.  While Gingrich and Romney were bickering about tax returns and venture capitalism, Santorum was talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America and getting people back to work.  That populist message is one that sets Santorum apart from his competition.

Even though the state has a large evangelical base, South Carolina has proven to be more difficult for Santorum than Iowa ever was.  The main reason for that is the number of negative TV ads that are running against him.  Romney, Romney’s super PAC, and Ron Paul are all attacking him.  Romney is also sending out negative and misleading robo calls against Santorum.

Santorum’s strong debate performance on Thursday night couldn’t have come at a better time.  Mitt Romney has had two horrible debates and is being hounded about not releasing his tax returns and has admitted to having off shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, which looks suspicious to the average person.  Romney’s campaign is off kilter in South Carolina.  That could hurt him in a close contest.

While Gingrich is the toast of the debate stage, he’s done far more to entertain people than to convince them that he should be the conservative standard bearer.  Even though he has done a good job of deflecting the interviews that his second wife gave ABC News and the Washington Post, there could still be negative ramifications in a conservative state like South Carolina, especially with female voters.

Just like in Iowa, Santorum needed a spark in South Carolina to help him convince people that he is a candidate worthy of supporting.  He made the best possible case he could at the CNN debate on Thursday night.  Only time will tell if he was able to seal the deal.  Fortunately for him, the environment seems ripe for another surprise.  He may not win, but he could do much better than people think and the polls currently indicate.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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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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