In a surprise Colorado upset leading to a 3-state victory Tuesday night, Rick Santorum finally won his place in both the Republican primary and national limelight. Did he win because he best exemplified a "conservative," because people simply couldn't warm up to Mitt, or, did his social/moral values, coupled with an outgoing, stay-positive campaign, strike a chord with the voters, who decided to send a message in light of the latest ObamaCare brouhaha? The Romney heat lamp and the media strobe light have yet to fully shine upon Santorum, therefore, it's wait and see if he'll be able to carry his caucus victories into the large state primaries, attracting the money and resources necessary to win.
However, my takeaway from the Santorum win is twofold. The negativity and savagery of the Republican primary has been unequaled in past pre-election cycles. The fight between Gingrich and Romney has become self-defeating and personal, with Santorum the resultant beneficiary. The bitterness has not been lost on the American public, especially the Republican/Republican-leaning voters, who don't see "politics as usual" despite what the commentators tell us. The President's re-election campaign couldn't ask for a bigger gift; they won't need nearly $1 billion to defeat the Republicans.
Second, if the average conservative to moderate voter is anything like this author, we know, we feel, that simmering undercurrent of discontent, anxiety, and in some cases, anger, about what is happening in our country, to our country, and the direction in which it's headed. The candidate who taps into this undercurrent, gives it voice, and is able to draw distinctive contrasts between his vision for the future state of America vs. our current state, will be able to beat Obama. Nothing less will suffice.
Consider some of the headlines and stories that have infiltrated our collective consciousness within the past 10 days:
- § TheCongressional Budget Officereleased its forecast for economic growth, unemployment, and the national debt. Tax revenues will increase by $200 billion in the next two years, and the national debt is quoted as follows: "The deficits that will accumulate under current law will push federal debt held by the public to significantly higher levels. Just two years ago, debt held by the public was less than $6 trillion, or about 40 percent of GDP; at the end of fiscal year 2010, such debt was roughly $9trillion, or 62 percent of GDP, and by the end of 2021, it is projected to climb to $18 trillion, or 77 percent of GDP."
- § The Heritage Foundation's2012 Index of Dependence on Governmentindicates 1 in 5 Americans receives some form of government assistance; nearly 50% of the population pays no federal income tax.
- § The Operation "Fast and Furious" investigation continues to be stonewalled by incompetence, arrogance, intent to cover-up or all of the above.
- § Nineteen Americans continue to be held under house arrest in Egypt, while we continue to pour in $1.3 billion in foreign aid so as to delay as long as possible the decline of our relations beyond the point of no return. The question soon to be asked, if not already: who lost Egypt? Meanwhile, Syria is imploding.
- § Iran warns the world and the US specifically of a "great event." Secretary of Defense Panetta opines that Israel may strike Iran's nuclear facilities this Spring.
- § ObamaCare 's mandate requiring all employers that provide health insurance, including faith-based ones, to provide and pay for all forms of contraception, including birth control, provokes a strong backlash among religious organizations and the general populace, who see this as an incursion against first amendment rights of freedom of religion.
- § A sitting US Supreme Court Justice expresses her opinion in aninterviewwith the Egyptian Al-Hayat news outlet, "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012 ...I might look at the constitution ofSouth Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, have an independent judiciary."
Considering that the primary wins of Santorum have now changed the dynamics of the race, the Romney and Gingrich campaign staffs are re-strategizing their next moves. CPAC is in full swing, and the conservative base of the Republican party has yet to unite behind a candidate for various reasons, all known and dissected by pundits and bloggers alike. But in the spirit of, "I want to get it right" in the choosing of a candidate, the passions that have ignited the discourse are in danger of creating that which we fear most, the re-election of Barack Obama.
Undercurrents can also create undertows.