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Rick Santorum… Wow

Rick Santorum’s late surge and very strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses is a jolt for the Republican primary process. “Game on!” indeed.

For months we conservatives have all said that “We love Rick Santorum but he just isn’t getting any traction”. That now has changed. He is now center stage.

Indeed the race up until Iowa, without a single vote cast, elevated and then cast aside people like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama launched their presidential quests with a surprise win in Iowa. Is Rick Santorum about to do the same with his almost-victory?

Time will tell. Each of the previous challengers to ostensible front runner Mitt Romney has stumbled. Santorum, on the other hand, has been lurking in the field and playing an Iowa Strategy by visiting, by Santorum’s own count, more than 380 town hall meetings. That is also called a Shoe Leather Strategy with hardly any money available or spent. The stories of Santorum’s penniless campaign were legend.

Now Santorum’s gamble has paid off. And this could be the start of something very big. Because voters will see a man without much money but with a lot of heart. And with America in the straits it is in, that could mean a great deal.

We must not be too quick to pin our hopes on Santorum, however, or dismiss Romney who is probably going to win New Hampshire by a hefty margin.

But what if all the Anyone But Romney voters now decide in New Hampshire to flock to Santorum and abandon Perry or Bachmann or Gingrich? Then Santorum could win. Because the undecideds are a big crowd in the Republican primaries this year and the conservative vote is widely split.

Santorum, a two-term US senator from Pennsylvania who lost re-election in 2006 in the Democrat landslide of that year, now has what George HW Bush called “Big Mo” in the 1980 campaign after Bush defeated Ronald Reagan in Iowa.

Suddenly people are going to want to meet him. Suddenly conservatives will perk up and say, “This is the guy we have been looking for and he is shining bright just when we need him.”

After all Santorum’s conservative credentials and his personal story (he and his wife have seven children and he is a pro-life Christian) are very impressive. He has not stumbled in the debates and he does not have the checkered past of a Newt Gingrich.

In 1980, George HW Bush was the Establishment Republican choice as Mitt Romney is today. But in 1980 conservative Ronald Reagan went on to win the presidency.

Are we going to see 1980 all over again with Rick Santorum suddenly swooping down and collecting all those undecided Republican primary voters and grabbing the nomination and going to the White House? After all Barack Obama is a very weak incumbent as Jimmy Carter was in 1980.

Time will tell. But let’s face it… going into the crucial New Hampshire primary, Santorum has rock-star status precisely when it is needed. Santorum is going to be Lady Gaga compared to Mitt Romney’s Bruce Springsteen – younger, fresher, more exciting to this year’s primary voters.

And a prayer answered for many religious conservatives. Evangelicals and other Christians could flock to Santorum and could easily tip primaries to him.

This can only be causing major heartburn among the Republican Establishment… again. Like the heartburn they were having over Newt Gingrich’s surge.

Then again, Santorum may fall back after some scrutiny. But stalwart conservatives may not be willing to take any nonsense from the Bush wing of the party, the wing that gave us John McCain and ultimately Obama and that is going to start launching attacks on Santorum.

With an 88 rating out of 100 from the American Conservative Union, Santorum may be just what the political right is seeking in this race – a real conservative who is willing to fight for all of the agenda, not just part of it.

Romney has been playing a conservative game since he joined the 2012 fight. Now New Hampshire will show whether he is being perceived as the real deal or if his mask is going to be ripped off by a resurgent conservative right. He is expected to win New Hampshire, but a strong showing – never mind an upset win – by Rick Santorum, could throw the whole nomination process up in the air.

And Rick Santorum could be a very strong challenger to Barack Obama. He is very smart, a good debater and just an all around solid guy.

Whether his rock-star status lasts is another question. But his Iowa Strategy certainly paid off.

Congratulations senator Santorum. Job well done…

Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.

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