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by
Tom Blumer

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February 21, 2012 - 12:00 am
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Friday evening, a rural southwestern Ohio event booked months ago at a fraternal lodge with a planned crowd of a couple hundred ended up with over 800 enthusiastic partisans packed into a nearby elementary school’s multi-purpose center.

The occasion was the Brown County, Ohio Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner. The reason for the venue change and overflow crowd: Rick Santorum. His extemporaneous (take that, President ‘Prompter) 53-minute speech, while in need of a bit more polish and continuity, did not disappoint the crowd, and brought them to their feet several times.

Less than three weeks earlier, sensible, Constitution-based conservatives were disheartened when former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s January 31 Florida primary victory seemed to establish him as the frontrunner. At the time, I wrote: “Boy, are we in trouble.” If anyone had told you of their certainty that Santorum would completely turn the tables on Romney and then-closest pursuer Newt Gingrich, trounce them both a week later in three states (Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado), move from a 16-point national deficit to a 12-point lead in Rasmussen’s national poll, and take strong mid-February polling leads in the upcoming Michigan and Ohio primaries, you would have questioned their sanity.

After an initially determined narrow second-place finish in early January’s Iowa caucuses, which an utterly incompetent Hawkeye State GOP changed into “nobody won” sixteen days later and to “Santorum won” the very next day, the former Pennsylvania senator impressed no one during the next four races. Sure, he didn’t aggressively campaign in most of them, but he failed to break 10% twice. Gingrich seemed to be leaning on Santorum to drop out. In your dreams, Newtster.

What in the world has happened? Opponents’ gaffes and intemperance have helped, as have key blogospheric endorsements from Coloradoan Michelle Malkin and Minnesotan Ed Morrissey. But in my view, “Santorumentum” is sweeping the nation principally because he has a powerful message which is getting through, and is the only candidate with an overarching agenda whose ambition matches the challenges America faces.

Three of my key takeaways from Santorum’s speech were:

  • The guy is instinctively likable. Because of that, the nonstop efforts by the Obama administration and the press (as seen in numerous Daily Caller reports during the past week, the two entities might as well be one and the same) to demonize him if he’s the nominee don’t seem likely to work if he gets the resources he needs to fight through the long campaign.
  • He is adeptly managing the difficult feat of coming across as genuinely positive while being appropriately foreboding concerning where this nation is headed.
  • His strategic focus is in the right place: “We’re gonna win” by making “Barack Obama and his failed policies the issue in this election.”

Above all, what I appreciated was Santorum’s assertion with accompanying proof that “this campaign is about big things.” Because it is. When Santorum’s two relevant challengers try to make this argument, Romney comes off as hollow, and Gingrich as too rehearsed.

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