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January 6, 2012 - Mike Frank
Well, here we are in 2012.
My New Year’s resolution: More blogs!
I’ve been in a pretty good mood since Tuesday night. In case you’ve been under a rock like the guy in the Geico commercial, Rick Santorum battled big man Mitt Romney to a draw in the Iowa caucuses.
Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I spent many years following the political scene. And as a hard-core conservative, I was thrilled to have Rick Santorum representing the Keystone State in the U.S. Senate. (especially compared to Republican In Name Only “Snarlin’ Arlen” Specter.)
I first became aware of Santorum my sophomore year of college when he beat Harris Wofford, who had been appointed to fill the seat after John Heinz was killed in a helicopter crash.
As he had in the House as part of the “Gang Of Seven” (which also included future speaker John Boehner), he was not shy about making a name for himself.
He also built a relationship with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, which has paid off in the debates and during the Iowa campaign. After Gingrich finished fourth Tuesday, he specifically thanked Santorum, saying, “He waged a great, positive campaign. And I admire the courage and the way he focused, and I admire how positive he was. I wish I could say that for all candidates.” The last part refers to Restore Our Future, the “super PAC” fund which hammered Gingrich with negative ads, and oh by the way, is in Romney’s camp.
It has been great to have someone to fully back in this campaign. The last few times Republicans have been the challengers, it seems like it’s been somebody’s “turn.” McCain in 2008 (after failing in 2000); Dole in 1996 (came up short in 1980 and 1988); Reagan in 1980 (having almost knocked off Ford in 1976). As I have often said to my colleagues, THERE ARE NO TURNS!
Reagan’s run made sense because it was the next cycle. But Dole and McCain played the role of cranky old men against relative young ‘uns Clinton and Obama (both of whom preached “change”), and Bob and John both got whomped.
So, what now? Romney (who couldn’t beat out McCain four years ago), because of his money and the fact he was governor of Massachusetts (2003-07), is still the favorite in New Hampshire. But with Michele Bachmann out and Rick Perry focusing on South Carolina, Santorum has a good chance to make it a fight, and keep the momentum going.
Romney constantly reminds audiences of his business experience, having run the investment firm Bain Capital and derides others in the race as “career politicians.” Newt had the best comeback to this in the debate on Dec. 10. “The only reason you weren’t a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.”
Speaking of losing, yes, I know Santorum lost to Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. Casey’s father was a very popular governor (one of the few Democrats I’ve truly admired), and Pennsylvania isn’t exactly a red state. Plus this was the year that the state GOP decided it would be a good idea to run Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steeler, for governor.
But a single loss doesn’t mean things are over. Example A: Richard Nixon, who lost the California governor’s race in 1962 and six years later (hint, hint) won his party’s nomination for president, beating Nelson Rockefeller, who was unpopular with the conservative wing.
And Santorum is, as he puts it, “a full-spectrum conservative.” He’s untouchable on social issues, but also helped author the 1996 welfare reform bill and is WAY more experienced and trustworthy on foreign policy then Ron “Chock Full O’ Nuts” Paul.
I plan to make the trek to New Hampshire on Sunday morning for some up-close-and-personal experience of the primary. And I’m betting that for Sunday’s debate on ABC, Santorum will be right next to the Mittster.
Until next time ... keep speaking Frankly. Aloha!
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Rick Santorum celebrates his finish in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night with his wife Karen. AP photo