His name is Richard John Santorum and he is sort of from Pennsylvania. He is a former congressman and senator and is the latest in the long line of conservatives to make a run at the perceived liberal mole, Mitt Romney.
His finish was a frantic blaze of lightning that struck just a few days before the Iowa caucuses were held. The question now of course is can he maintain momentum against a well oiled and increasingly ruthless Romney campaign. No one else has. Every right wing alternative to the former Massachusetts governor who has bobbed to the top has gone on to sink with breath taking speed.
Santorum lost Iowa by a total of eight votes out of 122,000 cast. So much for staying home on election day. He and Romney ended in basically a dead heat, each with a little more than 24% of the vote. Ron Paul faded, but not far, coming in with 21.5%. Former speaker Newt Gingrich slipped to 13%, while Rick Perry carried 10% and Michelle Bachman a mere 5%.
Bachman had the good sense to drop out immediately. Perry is hanging on, no doubt trying to sell his support and delegates somewhere later on down the line to the highest bidder. He will do better in the south, but the reality is that he's a dead duck. Gingrich vows to fight on and will do better in places like South Carolina and Florida where the distrust of Romney is at a fever pitch. His candidacy, among all the other losers probably remains the most viable. Paul is, well, Paul. He is going to pull in a respectable number of votes everywhere he goes and not win a single primary. His racist and conspiracy theory laced past doesn't seem to phase, or dismay large numbers of young conservatives who view him as the one true alternative to Washington as usual.
That brings us to the latest shooting star, former senator Rick Santorum. The reason he is a former senator is because he got his head handed to him in a 2006 re-election campaign that saw him lose by eighteen percentage points to Bob Casey. It is the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Republican senator in the history of the state. It isn't something you normally expect, or want to see on the resume of your party's nominee.
His political past is riddled with hypocrisy and what could be called fraud by some more brutally frank souls. He initially won a seat in congress by hammering his opponent for not living full time in the district. When he was running for senate re-election he admitted he lived at his Pennsylvania residence "maybe one month a year." Five of his kids attended a cyber school and The Penn Hills School District was billed $73,000 for their education, despite all of them living full time in Virginia. One might call him a Gingrich in training.
No, very shortly the media and Romney staff will begin to eviscerate him. He will start to flounder in New Hampshire and by the time the votes begin to roll in from south of the Mason-Dixon Line he will have gone the way of, Bachman, Perry, and the Triceratops. He is the conservative ice cream cone flavor of the month and ice cream cones don't stand up well under the bright lights of a presidential campaign. Just ask the pizza guy.
It appears Romney has withstood the initial storm, although he had to spend a ton of money and go negative to grab that eight vote victory. More ugliness will follow. Ronald Reagan's republican code of omerta has been blown away in all the desperation and rage. Republicans and conservatives in particular have always gone down and dirty in elections, it is their nature to do so. Don't look for that to change even though they are running against themselves.
There may have been a surprise in this round, but in the end keep your money on the big boys. First round upsets aren't rare, but Cinderella finishes are. There is nothing you can do, as Rick Santorum is about to find out, to stop the clock from striking midnight. Keep an eye out for a large unattended pumpkin rolling down the road in the very near future.