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July 12th, 2012
 

Santorum Lends A Hand While Taking A Victory Lap

Rick Santorum returned to Iowa for the first time since winning the Iowa caucuses.  Santorum’s itinerary included two large events to thank his supporters, events to help congressional candidates John Archer and Ben Lange, in addition to helping a few others along the way, too.  The Iowa trip was also part victory lap since Santorum was named the winner of the First-in-the-Nation caucuses two weeks after the caucuses were held.

Hindsight 20/20

Rick Santorum first dipped his toes into Iowa’s presidential waters on stormy fall night in 2009.  While that October night in Dubuque wasn’t the official start of his presidential campaign, it did signal to the media that he was seriously considering a run for the White House.  However, it didn’t matter how serious Santorum was to the media, most of whom said the former Senator from Pennsylvania was out of his mind.

Santorum would labor in Iowa for the next two years.  Despite his dedication to the caucus process, his campaign, and the principles he espoused on the campaign trail, Santorum had little to show for his effort.  The media still wrote him off.  Most of the news coverage he received over that two-year span was the repeated question of why his hard work in Iowa wasn’t paying off.

The polls didn’t reflect Santorum’s effort either.  In August of 2010, Santorum didn’t did not surpass the one percent threshold in TheIowaRepublican.com presidential poll that showed Mike Huckabee leading the field, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  In July of 2011, just a month before the Straw Poll in Ames, Santorum registered at only two percent in the same poll.  Santorum broke a threshold in his first Iowa poll in late October, when he garnered five percent in the Des Moines Register’s poll.

Looking back now, many pundits seem to be claiming that they knew that Rick Santorum was going to come out of nowhere and win the Iowa Caucuses in 2012.  Seeing Santorum go on to win eleven total contests and give the well-financed campaign of Mitt Romney all it could handle and then some is something nobody could have ever predicted.

Santorum garnered large, energetic crowds during his two-day trip across the state this week.  His admiration for Iowa is now reciprocated by a large and diverse cross section of Republican activists.  Santorum was always liked, but his success in the caucuses now overshadows the long slog he took to victory in Iowa.  To really appreciate Santorum, one has to remember his hard work and dedication, not just his victory.

A Well Deserved and Appropriate Victory Lap

On the day following his fifth place caucus finish, Texas Governor Rick Perry said of Iowa, “This is quirky place and a quirky process to say the least.”  Perry’s Iowa defeat broke an unbeaten streak for the Texan that began in 1984.  Still, if any candidate is justified in critiquing the caucus process in Iowa, it’s Santorum, not Perry.

Even though he trailed Romney by only eight votes on caucus night, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn declared Romney the victor.  When the state party’s certification process showed that Santorum had won by 34 votes, Strawn refused to declare Santorum the winner, tried to spin the results, and eventually resigned his chairmanship.

Yet, when talking with Santorum, there is not an ounce of bitterness in him when it comes to Iowa.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  While talking to his wife Karen on the phone as he traveled from Dubuque to Waterloo on Tuesday night, Santorum spoke glowingly about the state and its people.  Before he hung up with her, he said Iowa is like their new hometown, a statement that he repeats seconds later when he’s off the phone.

If anyone ever deserved a victory lap after winning the caucuses, it’s Santorum.  For every campaign, caucus night is a mix of emotions.  These people campaign in the state for months, sometimes years, and then everything stops at 7 p.m. as the caucuses take place.  After the wait, there are the results.  For some campaigns, there is celebration.  For others, doom and gloom.

However, a caucus victory is not something that you can stop and savor.  In a few days, New Hampshire votes.  For the winners, a caucus victory doesn’t symbolize a well-earned victory.   Instead, it means you get to continue on.  It’s like running a marathon, and when you finish, they say, “Congratulations, now keep on running.”

For Santorum, his victory in Iowa wasn’t recognized until the eve of the South Carolina primary.  Even though his initial second place finish on January 3rd was basically treated like a win and he celebrated with his Iowa supporters, he never really got to savor the moment, especially in the national media.  While Santorum traveled to Iowa this week to help out local candidates and thank his supporters, it’s impossible not to think that it feels a bit like a victory lap.

2012 Is Still The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime

At every campaign event Santorum ever held, he told the audience that this election was the most important of their lifetime.  He would often be even more specific and say that this election is the most important since Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.

At every stop on his two-day swing through the state this week, Santorum reminded people  that the 2012 election is still the most important of their lifetime.  He said that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare made it even more important than it was before.  On Wednesday night in Des Moines, he also didn’t hold back his criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts.

However, President Obama was the main focus of Santorum’s remarks.  Just like he did on the campaign trail, Santorum eviscerated the president on a number of issues.  Santorum said that a lot of people think that the President is a good guy, but make no mistake he’s also a very dangerous man as far as the future of America is concerned.

While Santorum continued to warn about the ramifications of Obamacare once it is fully implemented, his harshest criticism came when speaking on Obama’s total disrespect for the Constitution.  He sited the President’s new immigration policy that grants amnesty to young people who are in the country illegally.  Santorum reminded the audience that the president did not sign any legislation or issue an executive order.  Instead, the President merely set policy by the words that he spoke.  Santorum warned that when a president sets policy by his remarks and not by passing legislation through Congress, America is no longer a Republic.

While Santorum was in the state to help eastern Iowa congressional candidates John Archer and Ben Lange, he also attended events for State Rep. Walt Rogers, the Scott County GOP, and the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute.  He constantly reminded people that we need to elect more conservatives to congress and also said that working hard in local races will help Romney win the state as well.

In Des Moines on Wednesday night, Santorum said that there is a clear choice in this election.  While he admitted that the Republican nominee might not be everyone’s first choice in the caucuses, there is no question that the country will be better off under him than the scary proposition of giving President Obama another term in office.

He reminded those in attendance that Iowa is one of just 12 swing states, and that it could be the decisive state this fall.  While praise from Romney was hard to find in Santorum’s speeches, he made it crystal clear that it is imperative that Republicans unite in opposition to President Obama. 

Unchanged By Whirlwind Campaign

You really get to know a person when you spend some time in a car with them.  I have escorted Rick Santorum around Iowa on two occasions now.  The first time was in October of 2010, and it happened again on Tuesday as he went from Davenport to Waterloo, with a stop in Dubuque along the way.

I doubt that Santorum enjoyed riding around in my wife’s 2008 Toyota Camry.  He said as much as he squeezed into the car in Davenport.  He should just feel fortunate that I wasn’t driving my 2002 Carolla.  Both trips were the result of interview requests, but observing a candidate up close for an extended period of time helps me learn more about them than any question I could ever ask.

It was uncanny how similar Santorum was in the car on Tuesday when compared to how he was with me the last time I drove him in October of 2010.  We reminisced about the lead up to the caucuses, but other than that, he was exactly the same.  Between radio interviews, he’s conversational.  He asks as many questions as he is asked, and he loves to challenge others with his own version of Iowa trivia questions.

When traveling north on Highway 61, we passed a sign that told us how much farther it was to Maquoketa.  He smiled, and inquired what happened in Maquoketa.  For never having living there, I know all one would want to know about the town.  But I give him the answer I know he’s looking for – it was the final county in his quest to visit all of the state’s 99 counties.  I was rewarded with a fist-bump and a smile for my correct answer.

Success changes a lot of people, but Rick Santorum has not changed one iota.  I find that to be refreshing.

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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