For a while, there were just five votes separating Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The final count didn’t have much more difference, and came only after a recount of some “undercounted” votes; as one wag tweeted, “OK, who put Palm Beach County, FL in charge of the caucus?”
In 1980, the clear winner of the GOP Iowa caucus was George H. Bush; Ronald Reagan finished second. In 1988, Bush Senior was third behind Bob Dole. In 1988, Mike Huckabee clearly outdistanced John McCain.
Doesn’t matter. From being buried regularly in the polls, finishing in the back with wild cards like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, Santorum came up in the last two weeks to finish neck-and-neck with the media-preferred Mitt Romney, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “moral victory”. He is definitely a candidate to be taken seriously.
Moreover, when giving his end-of-the-night speech, Santorum exuded confidence and energy, hitting cheer line after cheer line, making jokes about eating at Pizza Ranches (“I’m not buttoning my coat for a reason!”), and unashamedly referencing God as many times as a Midwest evangelical could desire. By contrast, a couple different sources tweeted, Romney looked tired and stunned, giving one of his standard stump speeches as if the votes hadn’t been cast yet … and giving the impression that Santorum’s most-of-the-night lead had gotten into his head. When the news broke that McCain had thrown his support to Romney, the effect was that of an actor who has stuck to a thrown-away script while the rest of the cast was improvising.
Up until today, I’d held off backing any of the candidates. I gave up my GOP card almost twenty years ago, and still consider myself an independent. I liked Santorum’s position on the Catholic non-negotiables, but wasn’t sold on him otherwise. Even now, I’m concerned about his foreign policy stance; as for flat taxes, they sound much better to a guy making $350k/yr than to a guy making $35k (especially one who knows how $20 dollars a week less can be a crushing loss at certain income levels).
But then he brought up his “miracle child”, Bella. Afflicted — if you could say that — with Trisomy-18 (possessing a third copy of the 18th chromosome), doctors told the Santorums that little Bella would most likely die within a year. She’s now 3½. Then Santorum, an unapologetic pro-lifer, said, “People ask what motivates me. I say the dignity of every human life.”
So now I’m sold. The man lives the message.
* * *
While the congratulatory tweets were flying back and forth, Sr. Lisa Marie Doty (Nunspeak) offered Lisa Graas a passage from Acts, saying, “It came to me at the start of a novena for today’s caucus.”
What? There’s a novena for a caucus? Well, yeah, you can make any good cause the intention of a novena. But it just reminded me of a story:
Mrs. Flanagan and Mrs. O’Donnell were gossiping over the back fence, one fine day in Chicago, when Mrs. Flanagan suddenly said, “And have you heard the news about Congressman O’Malley?”
“I have not. What has the wee gombeen man done now?”
“He’s become a Raypublican, that’s what!”
“Sure he never has! Wasn’t I after seeing him at Mass last Sunday?”
I’ll be here all week.