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GOP Analysis: Are Santorum's Wins A Whole Lotta Froth?

Tom Dotan |
February 8, 2012 | 1:36 a.m. PST



Screenshot from MSBC
Screenshot from MSBC
So that's what he was staying in for.

Rick Santorum had squeaked a win in Iowa and was entirely irrelevant in the subsequent Atlantic races.

But Tuesday he pulled out a glimmering trifecta of victories in socially conservative Minnesota, Missouri and more moderate Colorado.

The race marches on and the play that had an prewritten ending refuses to reach its denouement without exploring every possible twist.

Of course even in light of Santorum's boffo showing in the midwest and south, Romney is still the inevitable. His organization is just too organized, his super PAC is just too super.

Until that moment--be it in March for Super Tuesday or at the convention in August--when Republican voters finally achieve their anagnorisis, there are lessons to be learned and plot to be unwound.

For starters, conservatives aren't buying in yet. While Minnesota and Missouri were expected to go Santorum for some time, Colorado actually fell to Mitt in 2008. The vote was close, but losing supporters between elections is not the way a number one with a bullet should behave.

Evangelicals in particular are uncomfortable either with a Mormon or a perceived moderate. Santorum's message, staunchly pro-life and family values is very 1990s and that may be enticing to a group that has been misled through the Bush years and the current Tea-infused GOP.

Speaking of the Tea Party, if there's one thing to be gleaned from the Tuesday results it's that their influence has been reduced to a trickle.

Newt Gingrich, who was an ersatz Tea Party figure at best, had a disastrous night. While his commitment to take his brand of performance to the convention is no doubt as bullheaded as ever, the money is dwindling. 

His campaign has fluctuated widely in terms of funding, and they are used to functioning during the lean times. Still salaries need to be paid and offices, no matter how ramshackle, must be set up. Will Sheldon Aldelson, Newt's super pac-y sugar daddy, be willing to throw millions more at the campaign? Tuesday wasn't a strong pitch.

Ron Paul no doubt hoped for better. His Nevada caucus showings were disappointing and he never managed to crack into the top two for any race Tuesday. His wide birth of donors provides a steady, albeit meager cash flow and he's not one to care about the GOP establishmenet's hopes that a race ends soon. Yet it's getting harder to accept his ongoing line that victories are a matter of time. Sometmes the spectre of power is just that.

Romney's attention then can be aimed squarely at Santorum, a new target of scorn. Already he has called the former Pennsylvania Senator a devout DC insider. It's a dodgy claim, because while Santorum did once embody the religious right that became the GOP base, the last thing the establishment wants to see now is Santorum dragging out this race.

But after Tuesday they better start liking it.

Santorum just solidified his standing in the cast and he doesn't look ready to take on a supporting role.


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