The past few days my wife and I have been watching episodes
of Walking Dead. I have simultaneously kept a close eye on the herds of zombies
roaming the Iowa
countryside. Those ‘walkers’ are lurching after Rick Santorum now, mostly
because he’s the one who still smells like fresh meat.
Santorum was the beneficiary of a much-hyped CNN/Time poll last
week, which suggested that he was emerging from the pack of “right-of-Romney”
models I described in a post at the time. Other, arguably more reliable polls,
didn’t show that. But, hungry zombies working on pure brain-stem instinct gotta
give chase. The “Santorum Surge” was the political – nay, the news of the day, and drove a huge round of media attention on
Yesterday’s much-hyped Des Moines Register poll, at close
inspection, appears to pretty much confirm that by late in the week, Santorum
was where CNN/Time said he was at the beginning of the week, and rising fast
into the weekend.
In other words, the overall evidence seems to suggest that most
of Santorum’s surge came after, and
was caused by, the CNN/Time poll.
But this does not mean that Santorum’s surge is entirely
random and phony. As I described recently, you’ve got a lot of Republican
voters still shopping for a candidate, and the CNN/Time poll was like a
salesperson bringing in a model they hadn’t yet considered.
Santorum is capable of getting this late surge precisely
because he hasn’t been considered worthy of careful, potentially disqualifying consideration. Romney and
his allies don’t consider Santorum viable in the long run, so they have had no
interest in attacking him. The other non-Romney campaigns haven’t previously considered
Santorum a threat, so they haven’t bothered to attack him. The media hasn’t
previously had any reason to pay attention to Santorum, and thus hasn’t given
him a high-profile vetting.
Most likely, they were all correct, and Santorum never was
worth paying attention to, and will fade away quickly. But perhaps he’ll prove
Meanwhile, if the top three in Iowa
are in fact Romney, Santorum, and Paul, in any order, that’s heaven-sent for
Romney – as I wrote in early 2011, Romney’s best scenario is the least establishment-acceptable candidates finishing high in Iowa.
Still, you could raise the following argument: the
right-of-Romney majority split too much in Iowa
– but could coalesce by South
Carolina. And if it does, the beneficiary – maybe Santorum,
but maybe Gingrich or Perry – wins SC, knocks out the rest of the
right-of-Romney candidates, wins Florida, and then we get the ‘long siege’
That’s certainly still possible. And, it’s why you could see
candidates like Perry, Gingrich, and Bachmann stay in, even if they do poorly in
if they have enough rich friends to finance their Super PACs.)