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I’ve been schooled by Rick Santorum

I had an article in the papers Sunday before last about how volatility in the GOP presidential race was increasing the chance – albeit still slim – that California Republicans, with a very late primary on June 5, could actually have some impact in choosing the party’s nominee.

Yesterday’s shakeup, in which Rick Santorum won the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses as well as the “beauty contest” nonbinding caucus in Missouri, probably only advances that possibility by further eroding the Mitt Romney inevitability meme.

However, in that story, I’d written:

The first three states already have winnowed the field from six candidates to four, and Florida alone could be big enough to scare someone else out of the race. (Hint: His name rhymes with “slick decorum.”)

Santorum ascendant (AP Photo)Polls had not predicted a Santorum victory in Colorado; some had predicted he’d win in Minnesota and Missouri, but he beat those projections by double or more. I think a lot of people are scratching their heads today trying to figure out the sudden Santorum surge. Did Newt Gingrich’s drubbing (and post-caucus news conference) in Nevada send conservatives running for Santorum? Did the 9th Circuit’s ruling on Proposition 8 yesterday galvanize people to vote for the candidate who has most staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, or could it have been the Obama administration policy on health insurance coverage for contraception? Or did Santorum’s strategy of concentrating on smaller states while Romney and Gingrich duked it out elsewhere simply pay off in spades?

I still don’t think Santorum will win the Republican nomination; Romney has a substantial lead in delegates which I don’t think anyone will surpass, not to mention a lot more money in his campaign war chest.

But I clearly missed the mark in thinking Santorum was on his last legs and about to drop out, too. I hereby tuck in the napkin for a healthy helping of crow.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Sandra Smith

    After Florida, Santorum just looks more decent than the other guys. And they’ve forgotten. his threat to start a war with Iran.

  • Truthclubber

    Enjoy!

    Ron Paul 2012!

    Jon Huntsman 2016!

    Christine O’Donnell 2020!

  • John W.

    I wouldn’t vote for Santorum in a million years but find him likable, well-informed and very authentic about his convictions on social issues. Speaking as a Dem, I say keep this contest going for a few months but not long enough for a brokered convention that could result in drafting somebody from the GOP First Team.

  • rew

    I thought Santorum was history as a candidate, the fact that he won all these primaries was really kind of a shocker, I just was amazed when I read this. He didn’t just win one primary, it was three. I think in these small states maybe the bible thumper vote pretty critical? In a state like Florida the Christian vote would be not a factor I would guess, but in Missouri maybe more so? I understand Santorum resonates with Christian voters. I would agree with John W. this Santorumn thoughtful, experienced, very good candidate.

  • John W.

    Santorum is also the only GOP contender so far to get more than 50% of the vote.

  • For Liberty

    The phony surge for Gingrich has petered out and the powers to be are trying to make a second surge out of former Senator Rick Santorum. Nobody jumps from a 12% avg. rating to a 40% when nothing spectacular has happened in any debate, any political commercial or anything else worthy of note. This is a first and it smells of vote manipulation.

  • John W.

    According to polls reported today (2/13) on Realclearpolitics, Santorum is leading Romney in Michigan; and Gingrich is leading Romney in Georgia. If Romney can’t beat Santorum by a comfortable margin in Michigan (where he was raised, his father was a very popular governor and business leader and at least one of his sons lives), his candidacy will be in deep do. Also, according to one reported poll, Romney is barely ahead in California.

  • Truthclubber

    Two words:

    Brokered Convention!

    Obama/Biden in a landslide in 2012!

    Hillary C. v. Joe B. in 2016!