The Hawkeye Cauci and the Santorum Surge

We have finally made it to the Iowa Caucus…the first stop in a Republican primary race that has been so unpredictable that the front-runner has probably changed muliple times overnight.

According to gallup.com:

The lead in the Republican nomination race has thus far changed seven times since May in Gallup polling. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich each held the top spot at various points in 2011, with Romney’s standing rising and falling as other candidates surged and faded.

Mike Huckabee led the Republican field, or tied Romney and Sarah Palin for the lead, in Gallup polls at the start of the year; however Huckabee and Palin ultimately declined to run.

The volatility in Republican preferences in 2011 most closely resembles changes in Democrats’ preferences in 2003 when Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, Tom Daschle (not an announced candidate), Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean, and Wesley Clark each had their turn as front-runner, before Kerry took command of the race at the start of the primaries in 2004. The lead changed hands nine times in Gallup polling throughout 2003.

According to the Des Moines Register – the political ground zero paper of record,

The Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa Poll shows a surprise three-way match-up in contention to win the Iowa Republican caucuses: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

Santorum, who has been largely invisible in the polls throughout the campaign season, is now beating the other evangelical choices and has a clear shot at victory Tuesday night.

But political analysts note there’s little time for Santorum to cash in and regroup before New Hampshire, where voters weigh in nine days from now, while Romney is positioned to replicate what he’s done in Iowa in all the early states.

In four days of polling, Romney leads at 24 percent, Paul has 22 percent and Rick Santorum, 15 percent.

But if the final two days of polling stand alone, the order reshuffles: Santorum elbows out Paul for second.

“Few saw this bombshell coming,” GOP strategist David Polyansky said. “In an already unpredictable race this is another stunning turn of political fortune.

What makes Santorum’s growth spurt particularly striking is his last-second rise: He averaged 10 points after the first two nights of polling, but doubled that during the second two nights. Looking just at the final day of polling, he was just one point down from Romney’s 23 percent on Friday.

Santorum, who appears to be striking a resonant chord in the hearts of Evangelicals, has come from seemingly out of nowhere to claim third place in the hotly-contested race.  What’s behind Santorum’s surge?  Hard work.

Indeed, since discovering “pockets of support in the area months ago, Santorum has visited repeatedly, stumping for hours in little-known hamlets, Laudner says. From shaking hands in supermarket parking lots to pitching pastors in their homes, intense retail politicking has been the strategy. With few dollars to spend, it’s also a necessity.

For a while, it seemed like the hard work would never pay off, and until early December, Santorum lingered in the low single digits of Iowa polls. But now, in a state where the small things matter, Santorum is poised for a major political upset, mostly because of his diligent, low-key hustle. The evidence of his potential is plentiful. According to the latest Des Moines Register poll, Santorum is in third place, with 15 percent support. That’s nine points behind the poll’s leader, Mitt Romney, and seven points behind Ron Paul. But in the final two days of polling, Santorum moved into second place, a mere three points behind Romney. And among evangelicals, Santorum has catapulted into first place, garnering 25 percent support. He also leads, tellingly, among likely caucus-goers who describe themselves as “very conservative”.

“Right now, timing is everything and Santorum has it,” says Steve Grubbs, a GOP consultant who recently directed Herman Cain’s Iowa campaign. “He has the luxury of peaking late, and I think he will certainly finish in the top three.” In the final sprint, Santorum and his campaign advisers are cognizant of their new place near the top of the Iowa race, but in background conversations, many of his aides say they are wary of making predictions. Instead, they are focusing on turnout, corralling the campaign’s thousand-plus caucus captains, making innumerable phone calls, and tapping online social networks. Ensuring that Santorum’s supporters show up and bring along friends is crucial, many say. Sustaining Santorum’s position, especially against better-financed rivals, will be about organization as much as fervor.

Santorum is a devout Catholic.  He has been married to his wife, Karen, for 21 years.  They have 7 children.  He has a B.A., an M.B.A., and a Juris Doctor.

Santorum calls himself  ”a full-spectrum Conservative,” explaining at a town hall meeting that:

People want a clear contrast, someone who will fix the problem and someone who will be a conservative and not be afraid to be a conservative.

That would be a refreshing change, as compared to “The Legacy,” Mitt Romney, who seems to view Conservatism as something that one can put on in case of a stormy situation, sort of like donning a raincoat.

Today’s results, while only the first step in a long march to the White House, should be very interesting.

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3 Responses to The Hawkeye Cauci and the Santorum Surge

  1. dloosend says:

    During Santorum’s time in GOP leadership aka The Establishment–he was one of the biggest earmarkers in all of congress—what has changed??? He lost to a communist by almost 20 pts in a moderate State, not a good sign.
    There were more people in the stands at yesterday’s Rose Bowl than will fill out slips of paper in lowa tonight. The only benefit will be at some point this pathetic lot will actually spend time and money attacking America’s real enemy–Milhous.

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      The only benefit will be at some point this pathetic lot will actually spend time and money attacking America’s real enemy–Milhous.

      Heh…keep dreaming. Romney will be the nominee. What remains to be seen is if he takes the fight to Obama and rallies the Republican base.

  2. josephine says:

    Santorum is really a nice looking,good sounding guy. Listening to him I would never have known his political history. He may be a social conservative, but he is not a conservative. I hope Iowa has done their homework
    On the other hand, if Santorum wins Iowa that will knock Romney and Paul down a notch. Paul has only about 3-5% of the national support and so the race would again be back in the hands of Newt,Perry and Romney.
    The media has driven this all in the ground for me. I am tired of the media.
    I think we need to just keep on and remember that any one in this group will be better than Obama. If he wins we all may find ourselves detained somewhere we don’t want to be.
    I also think we need not unite behind anyone until SC and FL. have had their say. The media thinks otherwise. !