Rick Santortoise & the Hares: Will Slow-and-Steady Santorum Win the Caucus Race?

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by Andy Alexander

Last Thursday at the FOX News debate in Sioux City, the first question asked of Senator Rick Santorum was why he has “failed to catch fire with the voters” in spite of the fact that he has spent more time than any other candidate and has already visited every county in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

His response, “I’m counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me. That’s what this plan was all about from day one.”

The plan? Slow, steady, calculated. No flash, no buzz, no hype. Just good, old-fashioned work.

Work that involves visiting all 99 counties and having almost 350 town hall meetings here in Iowa. For the last nine months or so, the former Pennsylvania Senator has been crisscrossing the state of Iowa allowing the voters of Iowa to “kick the tires and ask the hard questions.”

We’re organizing,” Santorum said, “We have a very clear message. That’s the thing that’s going to pay off for us in the end. And we present a clear contrast that really nobody else in this race does.”

Nobody gives him a chance (at least nobody that “matters”). No one in the mainstream media is talking about him (at least not positively). But Rick Santortoise just keeps on running.

And what about the “hares”?

Hare #1: Mitt Romney

Romney, who entered this race as the favorite, and seemed to be on top for so long, just can’t seem to get over the 20% hump, and that’s on a national level. His performance here in the state of Iowa is bound to be less than his national polling status considering the fact that he has continued to dodge the state, choosing to spend neither time nor money here. That overconfident attitude will undoubtedly make a difference at the January 3rd finish line.

Hare #2: Tim Pawlenty

Remember him? That’s right, the other half of the “Minnesota Twins”. T-Paw hit the ground running early on here in Iowa. He seemed to be doing everything right. Laying the all-important foundational structure, hiring important people, Buying the ads, sending the mailers, shaking the hands and kissing the babies. But after a dismal straw poll showing, the Minnesota governor decided it was time to bow out of this race.

Hare #3: Michele Bachmann

Bachmann peaked leading up to her Iowa Straw Poll victory. Shortly afterwards however, she took the proverbial nap and has struggled to recover in this race ever since. In fact, following the big Iowa Straw Pool weekend, Bachmann made just one visit in five weeks to her former home state of Iowa. Will she be able to regain the lost ground? Only time will tell, but time is in short supply.

Hare #4: Rick Perry

The Texas governor made his triumphal entry into this race on the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll and managed to steal some of Bachmann’s victorious thunder. But then came the debates. To sum it up in a word, “Oops.” All of that early momentum came to a screeching halt. In hindsight, sleeping during the debates might have actually been a better idea.

Hare #5: Herman Cain

The Hermanator started this race early, making appearances in Iowa clear back in February. His oratory abilities and his “common-sense solutions” propelled him to front-runner status. But once he became a serious contender the attacks started flying. The questionable reactions to these allegations exposed the novice nature of the Cain campaign. The stumbles and ultimate collapse were inevitable.

Hare #6: Newt Gingrich

Cain’s exit from the race opened the door for the former Speaker to take the baton and surge ahead. Many Iowans were wooed by his intellect and logical political thought process. But they soon realized that he uses the same silver tongue to seduce the people on the opposite side of our issues (i.e. stem cell research, abortion, global warming, amnesty, etc…). And just this past weekend, attack ads from the Paul and Romney campaigns started rolling and Gingrich has so far been laying down on the side of the road catching some Z’s. Combine that with the lack of a grassroots structure and you have a rapid decrease of his lead.

Hare #7: Ron Paul

The latest public policy poll shows Ron Paul being the benefactor of the recent stumbles in the Gingrich campaign. The poll shows that he is now polling at 23%. As with most of Ron Paul’s poll numbers, these appear to be grossly inflated based upon support from non-typical sources. Most notably voters that identify as either Democrats or independents. Neither of those groups are likely to trudge through the snow and cold on January 3rd, stand in line to register as a Republican just so they can vote in the caucus.

Santorumentum: Latin for, “So You’re Sayin’ There’s a Chance?”

Over the past few weeks Rick Santorum has landed some major endorsements that could help propel him over the finish line and into a top-3 finish. One of those endorsements came in early November from Chuck Laudner, a long-time mover and shaker in Iowa grassroots politics. Laudner takes a similar approach to politics as Senator Santorum: Hard work. And that may have been a contributing factor to solidify Laudner’s decision.

It’s a matter of trust,” Laudner said when asked for his explanation of his decision. “Santorum is not only a full-spectrum conservative, but he’s had actual conservative victories in his career.  I’m not looking for someone who checks the pro-life box on a survey. I want a pro-life hero who has been in the arena moving the ball.”  Laudner added, “He’s earned my vote. His conservative credentials and a 99-county tour deserve all our support. He looked me in the eye and asked for my vote.”

Laudner has spent the last month or so traveling the state to round up his network of troops for Santorum’s campaign.

The same day of the Laudner endorsement, conservative blogger/pastor/political activist, Shane Vander Hart came out with a list of 10 reasons why he will also be caucusing for Santorum.

Another huge endorsement came from influential, evangelical pastor, Cary Gordon of Sioux City. Pastor Gordon and Chuck Laudner, were two of the driving forces behind the ousting of the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices in the 2010 retention election. Laudner on the political, grassroots front, while Gordon addressed the pastors of Iowa by leading an effort called “Project Jeremiah.” Gordon sent a letter to more than 1,000 Iowa churches calling for the removal of the state supreme court justices who played a role in a unanimous 2009 decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.

But it hasn’t been just pastors and grassroots political activists trying to help Santorum to an Iowa victory. Matt Schultz, Iowa’s very popular, up-and-coming Secretary of State, decided two weeks ago to support Rick Santorum saying that the Senator “is a strong advocate for faith, family, and freedom. He has a solid track record as a social and fiscal conservative from his time serving in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. As a Republican from a blue state, he has the experience to win in tough elections. Senator Santorum shares my core conservative principles and I believe he should be the Republican candidate to take on President Obama.”

Like Santorum, Schultz knows what it is like to be the underdog. In his 2010 race, few gave him a chance to win even the primary race. That would not deter Schultz. He relied heavily on a grassroots network to propel him to victory. Now, he hopes to become part of the boost to the finish line for Rick Santorum.

Santorum just keeps adding to his tail wind. In the days following the Matt Schultz announcement, two more prominent Iowa pastors backed the Senator. Walnut Creek Community Church pastor, Terry Amann, a former Mike Huckabee supporter and worker, as well as retired Assemblies of God pastor, Albert Calaway of Indianola both indicated their approval of Santorum.

Pastor Amann said of Rick Santorum, “By visiting all 99 counties in our state, Rick Santorum has proven that he will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He will be a refreshing change in Washington. He is exactly what we need in a president. I urge all Iowans to carefully consider giving your support to Rick Santorum.”

And Reverend Calaway took it to another level asking Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to endorse Santorum for the January 3rd Iowa Caucus. “There’s absolutely, positively no divine power vested in me for this, but if I had it, I’d personally love to pronounce Rick and Michele as lawfully wedded running mates,” Calaway told the Des Moines Register

But…He Can’t Win”

In a recent campaign swing through the northwest Iowa town of Storm Lake, Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus told an Iowa voter that he should not caucus for Rick Santorum because “Santorum can’t win.”

The voter, Andy Wobbema of Storm Lake, replied to the persuasion attempt saying, “I’m not necessarily looking for the person who can win, I’m looking for the best candidate.”

If the Santorum campaign had a caucus voter for every time the phrase, “I like Santorum, but…he can’t win,” has been uttered over the past nine months, the race would already be over and January 3rd would be a mere formality.

The idea that Santorum can’t win seems to be coming from his dismal poll numbers. I spoke with Santorum’s Iowa Campaign director, Cody Brown, and asked him about what they are seeing. According to their internal data, objectively, over 50% of Iowa Caucus goers are yet undecided. “January 3rd is the only poll that matters,” Brown said. If any one candidate can secure half of those undecided voters, they could easily walk away with the victory come caucus night.

It’s still wide open here in Iowa,” Brown said. “Iowans shouldn’t pay attention to the polls, but they should pick someone they believe in, and someone who lines up with their worldview. Rick Santorum is that candidate. He has proven that he knows how to get things done and our message is resonating with Iowans,” Brown added.

The 99 county tour and grassroots efforts of the Santorum campaign is starting to pay dividends. Santorum’s organizers have secured supporters at almost every caucus location in the state. “This gives us a huge strategic advantage,” boasted Brown.

People Vote, Polls Don’t

Another problem with this whole “He can’t win” notion is that the polls don’t vote, the people of Iowa do. And the people of Iowa are starting to take a liking to Santorum.

At last Wednesday’s premiere of Mike Huckabee’s Pro-Life Documentary, The Gift of Life, the Former Arkansas Governor encouraged the attendees to take note of the candidates that took the time to be a part of the event. While he understood the busyness of campaigning, he also commented that the four who were there: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum made it a priority. Although Huckabee stopped short of making an endorsement he pointed out that these four candidates endorse life.

Of the four candidates, Santorum received the largest ovation from the Hoyt Sherman Theater’s capacity crowd. His speech brought laughter and tears from the pro-life audience.

After the candidates gave their stump speeches only two stayed for the screening of the film: Gingrich and Santorum.

The scene that followed those on the screen were quite interesting. The cameras and reporters flocked around Gingrich, while the vast majority of the common folk were drawn to Santorum. Once Gingrich departed, the cameras descended upon Santorum like vultures on roadkill. Following the interview with the press in the foyer people were still wanting to shake the Senator’s hand and express their gratitude for his moving speech. It would not be a stretch to say that if there were a caucus taken among the crowd that night, Rick Santorum would have won in a landslide.

Can The FAMiLY LEADER’s Leaders Make Santorum the GOP Leader?

Yesterday, Santorum landed two huge endorsements, Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, and Chuck Hurley, President of the Iowa Family Policy Center, the education division of The FAMiLY LEADER.

These endorsements may be the confirmation that many undecided social conservatives here in Iowa have been waiting for. During his remarks, Vander Plaats mentioned that he feels that Iowans are looking for leadership in helping them decide which one of the strong, pro-life, pro-family candidates to support, while also minimizing his role of “king-maker”.

Hurley echoed the sentiments of Rev. Calaway that there would be a coalescing between the pro-life, pro-family candidates in the race.

After the announcement, the aforementioned Iowa Secretary of State, Matt Schultz tweeted to Iowa Congressman Steve King, “Hey @SteveKingIA, it’s time to get in the game and join me and Team @RickSantorum.”

It’s time for more Iowa caucus voters to help thrust Senator Santorum over the finish line to an Iowa Caucus victory on January 3rd.

Andy Alexander is a guest contributor to stevedeace.com and a Rick Santorum supporter.