Adam Graham
Letters to conservatives: Santorum's path to victory
By Adam Graham
January 24, 2012

Dear Fellow Conservatives,

In my first piece, I responded to the call of certain supporters of Newt Gingrich, as well as Gingrich himself, for Senator Rick Santorum to withdraw from the race — as well as condemned the strong-arm and high-handed tactics taken by some Gingrich supporters, while further urging that as South Carolina rejected a coronation of Mitt Romney, it fell to conservatives across the nation to consider and weigh our options.

Indeed, it's worth noting that our new "proportional" primary process is quite different from previous ones when candidates had to run the gauntlet of a Super Tuesday full of winner-take-all states shortly after South Carolina and Florida.

However, I am often asked if I'm not aware that Senator Santorum will not win the Republican nomination. I'm unaware of that because it is not fact, it is conjecture. Senator Santorum, just like Speaker Gingrich and Governor Romney, has won one contest. He is raising enough money to remain in the race and has obtained endorsements from national conservative leaders. He faces obstacles, but these obstacles are not insurmountable.

We must first recognize the extreme volatility of the race. In both national and various state polls, there have been various challengers to Romney that have risen to become Romney's main competition. During the past eight months, Herman Cain (twice), Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Gingrich (twice), and Santorum have been either right at Romney's heels, or in second place in early polls. When, in the prior week, there was a 26-point swing, anything can happen.

There are at least three paths for Santorum, all plausible. Santorum could, with impressive performances in the Florida debates, and with the help of his Florida leadership, surge past Newt and finish second in Florida.

Even if Santorum should not beat Gingrich in Florida, Gingrich remains, in the words of Gingrich endorser and former Congressman Bob Livingston (R-La.), "volatile." Gingrich's tendencies to go off-message and inflict damage on himself with remarks such as his criticism of Paul Ryan for "right wing social engineering," means that he could self-destruct at any moment. Following Thursday night's CNN debate, Republicans are not set to meet for another one until February 22nd. Gingrich wilted when deprived of media attention debates in mid-December through January.

In addition to the possibility of a Gingrich implosion, Mitt Romney is on the ropes. In 2008 and 2012 primary processes, while Romney has won several caucuses, he's not won a single primary in a state in which he has not lived. In 2008 he won Massachusetts (where he was Governor), Michigan (where his father was Governor), and Utah (where he rescued the scandal-plagued Utah Olympics). This time around, he won New Hampshire (where he bought a home after 2008). Romney needs a win in Florida to maintain a position as a credible candidate, as his performance so far has been disappointing, given the money and organizational resources at his disposal.

The only potential back-up from a Florida loss for Romney would be a win in the Nevada caucuses. Here, the news is not particularly encouraging for Romney. The last poll taken in Nevada before Christmas last year showed Romney only up by 4 over Gingrich. In addition, Ron Paul has stepped up his organizational efforts, particularly in caucus states. In each state so far, Paul has more than doubled his 2008 totals. In 2008, Paul finished second with 14% of the vote in Nevada. It is conceivable that on the 31st, Romney could lose Florida and then on the February 4th, be forced out after the Nevada caucuses by Ron Paul.

Santorum suspected this when he called Gingrich to congratulate him on his South Carolina win, and told the former Speaker that if the race was going to be a two-person race, that it may very well be him and Gingrich.

With the specter of Romney removed, there would be no reason to cast a vote for Newt Gingrich in order to stop Romney. Each candidate would stand on his merits, rather than on "stopping the bogeyman."

Over time, some paths to victory may close, but at this point, the situation remains volatile. Having spent more than a year of his life making the economic and personal sacrifices to run for President, and having achieved success in Iowa, it's fitting for Senator Santorum to continue to fight for the values that he, his supporters, and his family have sacrificed for.

Of course, it can be fairly asked why, all things being equal, conservatives should choose Santorum. This issue, I'll take up in my next letter.

© Adam Graham


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Adam Graham

Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and in 2004 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Idaho State House... (more)

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