Santorum surges in Iowa while Romney and Paul remain out front

December 29, 2011

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Online Staff Report

With Iowa’s Jan. 3 first-in-the-nation caucuses less than a week away, the race for the Republican nomination for president continues to tighten.

Recent polls show a close contest in Iowa between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

A Dec. 28 Rasmussen Reports poll had Romney at 23 percent, Paul at 22 percent, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at 16 percent, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry tied at 13 percent, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 3 percent.

A Dec. 28 Insider Advantage poll had Romney, Paul and Gingrich tied at 17 percent, Santorum at 13 percent, Bachmann at 12 percent, Perry at 11 percent and Huntsman at 3 percent.

A Dec. 27 report by Public Policy Polling (PPP) had Paul at 24 percent, Romney at 20 percent, Gingrich at 13 percent, Bachmann at 11 percent, Santorum and Perry tied at 10 percent, and Huntsman at 4 percent.

The big news in Iowa has been the recent surge of Santorum. With polls now showing Santorum running as high as third at 16 percent, his campaign has taken on new life in the waning days of the campaign in Iowa.

Throughout the campaign, Santorum had been polling at around 5-8 percent in Iowa. However, his number first surged to double digits when he hit 10 percent in a Dec. 16-18 PPP poll.

According to a Dec. 29 report on the Washington Post blog “The Fix,” by Chris Cillizza, two factors have been crucial in Santorum’s late rise in the Iowa polls:

First, social conservatives started jumping off the Gingrich bandwagon and, as they have done repeatedly in this election, starting looking for a new thing,” Cillizza wrote. “Santorum is the last new thing out there with the exception of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman who has been openly dismissive of Iowa and the caucuses. (‘They pick corn in Iowa,’ said Huntsman this morning. ‘They pick presidents in New Hampshire.’ Ouch.)

Second, Santorum — and a super PAC aligned with him — finally cobbled together the money to make ad buys in the state, commercials that reminded people of his social conservatism on issues like abortion,” Cillizza continued. “The ads also play up Santorum’s large family (our favorite is the ‘pop up video’ style spot the campaign put up just before Christmas); ‘It’s a big part of who he is,’ explained Santorum media consultant John Brabender.”

Santorum, 53, served in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007 and the U.S. House from 1991 to 1995. He is most noted for his stances against homosexuality and the Terri Shiavo case. He has also supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, intelligent design and the privatization of Social Security.

In Iowa, Santorum has visited all 99 counties. As quoted in Cillizza’s “The Fix,” Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa political operative, said of Santorum: “I think of him as the tortoise in the tortoise and hare fable. He’s been steadfast throughout the Iowa process and I think the benefits of his strategy will pay off for him.”

While he has gained ground in Iowa, Santorum’s campaign continues to struggle nationally. The most recent national polls still have Santorum trailing in sixth at 4 percent. A Dec. 22-28 national Gallup Tracking poll had Romney at 27 percent, Gingrich at 23 percent, Paul at 11 percent, Perry at 8 percent, Bachmann at 5 percent, Santorum at 4 percent and Huntsman at 2 percent.

While Santorum’s star is rising in Iowa, conservatives are taking shots at Paul.

Paul’s rise in Iowa has resulted in concern among the GOP establishment that a strong showing by the Libertarian-leaning Paul in Iowa could make him a force in New Hampshire and future primaries.

Ron Paul is a dangerous man,” wrote New Hampshire Union-Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid in a Dec. 29 Politico column. “While his domestic libertarian views are quite attractive to some voters fed up with politics as usual, it is Paul’s position on issues of our national security that are truly dangerous.”

McQuaid’s column concluded: “His defenders say they admire Ron Paul’s ‘consistency.’ It is true, Paul has been consistently spouting this nonsense. It is about time New Hampshire voters showed him the door.”

Quoted in another Politico report, Jesse Benton, a Paul adviser, said Paul “is bound to take a lot of arrows from supporters of the status quo, but he has broad shoulders and will never stop fighting for what is right.”

Huntsman, meantime, released a website ad titled “Unelectable” attacking controversial newsletters from the 1980s published under Paul’s name. The ad asks, “Can New Hampshire voters really trust Ron Paul?” and quotes from some of the newsletters and shows old footage of Paul talking about them.

The newsletters refer The Ron Paul Investment Letter and The Ron Paul Survival Report, which were first published by Ron Paul & Associates, Inc., in 1985. The Ron Paul Political Report was added to the newsletter in 1987.

Many articles in the newsletters appeared without a byline, but used Paul’s name or persona. Paul’s critics have cited statements in the newsletter that they described as racist, such as 95 percent of black men in Washington, D.C., being “semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” and the advice about using an unregistered gun to defend against black criminals.

According to Wikipedia: “In 1996, Paul told The Dallas Morning News that the newsletters were accurate but needed to be taken in context. In 2001, he told the Texas Monthly that his campaign staff told him not to say others had written what was in the newsletters because it was ‘too confusing.’ In December 2011, on CNN, Paul, who was a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist when not in political office or running for office, said that he only read the newsletters ‘on occasion,’ did not write them, and disavowed the racist comments in them.”

Santorum also joined the attack against Paul, saying at an Iowa campaign stop that Paul “passed one bill in 20 years.” He also attacked Paul’s stance on foreign policy: “Create fortress America and leave the rest of the world to who? The Brits? Think they’re gonna step up? The French? How about the Belgians? The Dutch? How about the Chinese? The Russians? How about the Iranians? I could go on down the list,” Santorum said.

Iowa’s caucuses are the first test in the primary election season. Although followed closely by the media and central to determining which candidates remain in the race, the only non-incumbent candidates to win their party’s caucus and go on to win the general election were George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008. Neither Ronald Reagan nor Bill Clinton won in Iowa prior to their first terms.

The next step in the race for the Republican nomination will be the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary. Romney has been a clear leader in New Hampshire from the start of the race, and a Dec. 21-27 CNN/Time poll had Romney at 44 percent, Paul at 17 percent, Gingrich at 16 percent, Huntsman at 9 percent, Santorum at 4 percent, Bachmann at 3 percent and Perry at 2 percent.

Following New Hampshire, the candidates will head to South Carolina for the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. A Dec. 18 Insider Advantage poll showed Gingrich in front in South Carolina at 31 percent, Romney at 19 percent, Bachmann at 8 percent, Paul at 7 percent, Perry at 5 percent, and Santorum and Huntsman tied at 4 percent.

The race will close out the month in Florida with the Jan. 31 primary. A Dec. 4-7 NBC News/Marist poll had Gingrich at 44 percent, Romney at 29 percent, Paul at 8 percent, Perry at 4 percent, Bachmann and Huntsman tied at 3 percent, and Santorum at 2 percent in Florida.

The Illinois primary is scheduled for March 20.

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