Rick Santorum’s Prospects

The final polls out of Iowa show Mitt Romney with a slim lead but Rick Santorum was showing a surge at the end of the polling periods suggesting he could win the caucus. He benefits from surging at the last minute after other candidates could not take the scrutiny of a front runner. This leads to the question of whether he has any chance of winning the nomination should he win in Iowa.

Most likely Mitt Romney will win the nomination and a victory by Rick Santorum will be similar to Mike Huckabees’s win four years ago. That is the conventional wisdom and arguing why that is the likely outcome is rather boring. While unlikely to occur, it is more interesting to look at scenarios where someone else could possibly win. With Republicans desperately looking for a viable alternative to Mitt Romney, a candidate who can unite the conservatives behind him could still win the nomination.

The conventional wisdom is that Santorum cannot win beyond Iowa due to lack of funding and lack of a serious campaign infrastructure for  future contests. While most likely true, a win in Iowa would lead to increased contributions. As other candidates drop out, campaign infrastructures might be available to be picked up. One difference between this campaign and past campaigns might help someone such as Santorum. Debates have become more frequent, allowing each candidate to appear on the same stage in a roughly equal basis. If Santorum should manage to turn a win in Iowa into a means of uniting the anti-Romney majority in the Republican Party, he could remain a factor. The strong opposition to Romney by many conservatives could also lead to the conservative movement and Tea Party providing the elements of a campaign which Santorum now lacks.

Santorum might have a better chance of remaining alive as a candidate than previous Iowa front-runners. Coming from the Senate gives him the appearance of more credibility than candidates such as Bachmann, Cain, and Paul. (I figure that Newt Gingrich’s leadership position gives him more credibility as a candidate than the average Congressman.) As far as I’m aware, Santorum doesn’t have skeleton’s in his closet as with Cain and Gingrich.

Santorum’s major negatives might not be negative among Republican primary and caucus voters. His platform is outright repulsive, primarily consisting of using the power of the government to impose an archaic religious code upon the nation, but this form of Talibanism is widely accepted by the so-called advocates of small government in the GOP. He appears to be at a Dan Quayle level of intellect, but that didn’t stop Republicans from supporting George W. Bush. Attacks on minorities can be a plus among Republican voters.

Santorum remains a long shot to win, but I wouldn’t totally rule out the possibility should he manage to win in Iowa tonight and become the major non-Romney candidate.