Whither Santorum and Those 'Guns and Bible' Voters?

After his stunning surge in Iowa, Rick Santorum's virtual tie for fourth place in New Hampshire is being interpreted negatively by some commentators and pundits who are gleefully declaring that the social conservative and evangelical voters -- those "guns and Bible" folks -- have run out of steam. They are also claiming that Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry are splitting the evangelical vote, making it likely that Romney will coast to a win in South Carolina as well.

The New Hampshire facts are complex and defy easy interpretation.  Romney won handily with 39.6 percent of the votes cast.  Between them, Paul (23 percent) and Huntsman (16.9 percent) edged Romney with nearly 40 votes that don't really count, because neither of those candidates are likely contenders for the GOP nomination.  That leaves Gingrich and Santorum, who tied at 9.5 and 9.4 each -- meaning that nearly 60 percent of New Hampshire voters did not vote for Romney.

Santorum, who sacrificed time in South Carolina to campaign in New Hampshire, overcame negative expectations to gain a respectable 9.4 percent of the vote.  Note that in 2008, Huckabee only got 11 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote.  So, Santorum did about as well in New Hampshire this year as Governor Huckabee did in 2008.  Going into South Carolina, Santorum should not be discounted; more importantly, neither should those "guns and Bible" voters.

After the Iowa victory, as in his New Hampshire concession speech, Santorum related the saga of his immigrant grandfather making two key points: the basis for his social-conservative views plus his commitment to cutting taxes and reducing government expansion.  Santorum couldn't have drawn a harder hitting, more effective distinction between himself and the president than when he spoke of his roots in Pennsylvania, "Those are the same people President Obama said cling to their guns and Bibles. ... Thank God they do."

People of this stripe were the very same constituency Santorum targeted in Iowa.  Even in New Hampshire, he did not shy away from his opposition to same-sex "marriage" or his passionate defense of life.  He walked a fine line in expressing his faith, neither flaunting his beliefs nor hiding them, and he came across as authentic.  While he is typically described as a "social conservative," Santorum's debate performances revealed a man well-versed in foreign affairs and fully competent to discuss a wide variety of economic issues as well.  He describes himself, accurately, as a "full-spectrum" conservative -- social, economic, and foreign policy. 

Unable to afford a bus, Santorum engaged in retail campaigning -- personal handshakes and willingness to talk to crowds, no matter how small.  Santorum was able to show a personal touch that has great appeal to mainstream America.  While Romney has the money, operations staff, and media advantage, Santorum's campaign is aptly described as hand-to-mouth.  His "organization on the fly" is a dramatic contrast to Romney's "years in the making," well-funded, smooth running, but rather impersonal campaign machine.

By running neck-and-neck with Romney in Iowa, and by a good showing in New Hampshire, Santorum has a winning narrative, if the media will listen.

In fact, some of the after-Iowa analyses point out that Romney's 2012 performance was no better than his results in 2008.  Jay Cost's Weekly Standard analysis of the exit polls shows that Romney won exactly the same 25 percent of the caucus vote in both 2008 and 2012.  In New Hampshire 2012, Romney did better than his 32 percent in 2008, but given all the money and campaigning he did in the Granite State, it is surprising he did not do better.  The pundits agree that Romney is a far more skillful campaigner now than in 2008, but he still lacks the human touch and does not inspire the passion of voters.  Exit surveys of GOP voters reveal that Romney's support is predominantly from those who vote on electability.  

Santorum's strength was with evangelical voters -- nearly a third of them voted for him in Iowa.  His standing with conservatives and evangelicals is well-earned.  Elected to Congress at age 32, he became the youngest member of the Senate after serving in the House for a mere four years and quickly rose to the third highest spot in Senate GOP leadership.  He was instrumental in winning the ban on partial-birth abortion, and he was a champion of welfare reform.  He paid for those unpopular stances (and his ill-advised endorsement of Arlen Specter) by losing his Senate seat in 2006 by an 18-point margin.

By his come-from-behind tie in Iowa and good showing in New Hampshire, Santorum took a huge step in shedding the label of "unelectable loser," thus giving him a second chance, slim though it may be given the nearly impossible odds he faces going forward.  He does not have the time to do the intensive, across-the-state campaigning in South Carolina that he did in Iowa.  He does not have Romney's deep pockets or wide organizational outreach.  His "incredible journey" may face the same fate as the 2008 GOP Iowa caucus winner, Mike Huckabee, but for now, Santorum has his "game on."  He has the advantage of supporters who take the importance of candidates' principles and character very seriously.

Before Iowa, many of the "Guns and Bible" folks contemplated an outcome where they'd have to "hold their nose and swallow their medicine" when it came to settling on a candidate to oppose Obama; it could be that Santorum's Iowa surge and good showing in New Hampshire is just the impetus needed for an infusion of excitement -- and enthusiastic voter involvement -- that has been missing.

Janice Shaw Crouse, author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, is a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.

After his stunning surge in Iowa, Rick Santorum's virtual tie for fourth place in New Hampshire is being interpreted negatively by some commentators and pundits who are gleefully declaring that the social conservative and evangelical voters -- those "guns and Bible" folks -- have run out of steam. They are also claiming that Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry are splitting the evangelical vote, making it likely that Romney will coast to a win in South Carolina as well.

The New Hampshire facts are complex and defy easy interpretation.  Romney won handily with 39.6 percent of the votes cast.  Between them, Paul (23 percent) and Huntsman (16.9 percent) edged Romney with nearly 40 votes that don't really count, because neither of those candidates are likely contenders for the GOP nomination.  That leaves Gingrich and Santorum, who tied at 9.5 and 9.4 each -- meaning that nearly 60 percent of New Hampshire voters did not vote for Romney.

Santorum, who sacrificed time in South Carolina to campaign in New Hampshire, overcame negative expectations to gain a respectable 9.4 percent of the vote.  Note that in 2008, Huckabee only got 11 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote.  So, Santorum did about as well in New Hampshire this year as Governor Huckabee did in 2008.  Going into South Carolina, Santorum should not be discounted; more importantly, neither should those "guns and Bible" voters.

After the Iowa victory, as in his New Hampshire concession speech, Santorum related the saga of his immigrant grandfather making two key points: the basis for his social-conservative views plus his commitment to cutting taxes and reducing government expansion.  Santorum couldn't have drawn a harder hitting, more effective distinction between himself and the president than when he spoke of his roots in Pennsylvania, "Those are the same people President Obama said cling to their guns and Bibles. ... Thank God they do."

People of this stripe were the very same constituency Santorum targeted in Iowa.  Even in New Hampshire, he did not shy away from his opposition to same-sex "marriage" or his passionate defense of life.  He walked a fine line in expressing his faith, neither flaunting his beliefs nor hiding them, and he came across as authentic.  While he is typically described as a "social conservative," Santorum's debate performances revealed a man well-versed in foreign affairs and fully competent to discuss a wide variety of economic issues as well.  He describes himself, accurately, as a "full-spectrum" conservative -- social, economic, and foreign policy. 

Unable to afford a bus, Santorum engaged in retail campaigning -- personal handshakes and willingness to talk to crowds, no matter how small.  Santorum was able to show a personal touch that has great appeal to mainstream America.  While Romney has the money, operations staff, and media advantage, Santorum's campaign is aptly described as hand-to-mouth.  His "organization on the fly" is a dramatic contrast to Romney's "years in the making," well-funded, smooth running, but rather impersonal campaign machine.

By running neck-and-neck with Romney in Iowa, and by a good showing in New Hampshire, Santorum has a winning narrative, if the media will listen.

In fact, some of the after-Iowa analyses point out that Romney's 2012 performance was no better than his results in 2008.  Jay Cost's Weekly Standard analysis of the exit polls shows that Romney won exactly the same 25 percent of the caucus vote in both 2008 and 2012.  In New Hampshire 2012, Romney did better than his 32 percent in 2008, but given all the money and campaigning he did in the Granite State, it is surprising he did not do better.  The pundits agree that Romney is a far more skillful campaigner now than in 2008, but he still lacks the human touch and does not inspire the passion of voters.  Exit surveys of GOP voters reveal that Romney's support is predominantly from those who vote on electability.  

Santorum's strength was with evangelical voters -- nearly a third of them voted for him in Iowa.  His standing with conservatives and evangelicals is well-earned.  Elected to Congress at age 32, he became the youngest member of the Senate after serving in the House for a mere four years and quickly rose to the third highest spot in Senate GOP leadership.  He was instrumental in winning the ban on partial-birth abortion, and he was a champion of welfare reform.  He paid for those unpopular stances (and his ill-advised endorsement of Arlen Specter) by losing his Senate seat in 2006 by an 18-point margin.

By his come-from-behind tie in Iowa and good showing in New Hampshire, Santorum took a huge step in shedding the label of "unelectable loser," thus giving him a second chance, slim though it may be given the nearly impossible odds he faces going forward.  He does not have the time to do the intensive, across-the-state campaigning in South Carolina that he did in Iowa.  He does not have Romney's deep pockets or wide organizational outreach.  His "incredible journey" may face the same fate as the 2008 GOP Iowa caucus winner, Mike Huckabee, but for now, Santorum has his "game on."  He has the advantage of supporters who take the importance of candidates' principles and character very seriously.

Before Iowa, many of the "Guns and Bible" folks contemplated an outcome where they'd have to "hold their nose and swallow their medicine" when it came to settling on a candidate to oppose Obama; it could be that Santorum's Iowa surge and good showing in New Hampshire is just the impetus needed for an infusion of excitement -- and enthusiastic voter involvement -- that has been missing.

Janice Shaw Crouse, author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, is a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.