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Iowa Caucus: Wild Night for Santorum, Network News, Pickup Trucks, and Sweater Vests

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shakes hands during a meet and greet campaign stop in Iowa. | AP Photo

Last night, the Iowa Caucus held on to its reputation as an electoral circus with wildly unpredictable results, while politicos throughout the nation were captivated by its demonstration of rural backwardness bringing ever stranger results.

Until the last percent was counted, all national news networks were delayed in waiting for 2 precincts to report their result. This was done, according to Bret Baier and the Fox News team (later denied by the Iowa GOP) by having some farmer drive them over in his truck to have them counted, instead of just calling them in.

True or not, it seems that when Iowa Farmer Einstein got his truck to his destination, the Iowa GOP couldn’t find the votes. Those 5-20 caucus votes that the nation was waiting for must have gotten lost by rolling under the truck’s seat – or, in his excitement at finally contributing to something important, the driver forgot the votes at the precinct altogether. The frustration on the faces of Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly was unbearable to watch – at least they got some pizza during a break – while CNN’s panelists looked as if they were going to fall asleep. John King didn’t seem to care anymore at one point, and was walking away from the table during the live broadcast. The Iowa caucus was cutting into their bar time and Candy Crowley was hungry. By this time, they should have just brought beer onto the set. It was almost 1am anyway; no children were watching.

But the lesson that should not be missed from Rick Santorum’s impressive display is that old-fashioned stumping, handshaking, and door to door campaigning, is still the most reliable method of winning over voters – well, I cannot say that I am sure that it is the most reliable, it should not be underestimated.

I admit that although I knew Santorum would make a surprise showing, I doubted his methods would have earned him so good of a turnout. It is common in our day to have too much faith in the power of mass media, especially new media. Rick Perry’s $4 million expenditure on ads in Iowa seems to have had no effect.

If you are still skeptical about the power of “face to face” campaigning, I strongly encourage attending a candidate’s event. There is a completely different energy transmitted to an audience in person that does not get through to a TV audience. Even attending a rally of an insignificant candidate, one you don’t even need to agree with, can make the most firm believer reconsider that candidate as an option. This angle was played to perfection by Santorum’s persona in Iowa. His sweater vests contributing to his common man appeal.

I still think that Santorum’s victory will be a singular event. Michele Bachmann’s exit from the GOP race will not mean that all of her voters will jump on Santorum’s bandwagon. Voters still have Newt Gingrich and Perry as viable alternatives. There is hardly a chance for him to pull off a victory in New Hampshire or South Carolina, thus blunting the edge of his Iowa momentum, along with concerns that his funds will not be enough to be effective in the coming primaries – yet, with so many surprises already, nobody can claim any certainty.

Dmitriy Shapiro can be reached at dmitriy_shapiro@hotmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @dmitriyshapiro

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