Santorum Should Look to Obama for Hope and Inspiration

According to the Washington Post, Rick Santorum’s 8 vote lose to Mitt Romney is the third-closest (in terms of actual votes) in modern history — behind only a Senate race in New Hampshire and a congressional race in Indiana. Santorum can look back to Obama’s historic win in Iowa in 2008 as a point of inspiration for what can happen with his campaign. Santorum’s close lose Tuesday that can legitimately be called a close win has many similarities to candidate Obama’s win. In 2008 conventional wisdom said that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrat nominee and few thought the nation was ready for a Black man to be president making Obama to most a long shot. That night in 2008 both Obama and Edwards beat Clinton. Why? Because many Democrats dissatisfied with Clinton as a candidate were looking for an alternative. They found that alternative in Obama and Edwards just like this year Republicans found their alternative in Santorum and Paul and to a lesser extent Gingrich and Perry who together made up 23.6% of the vote. Looking back on Democrats in 2008, 70.5% voted for someone else other than Clinton. Similarly, 69.5% of Iowa Republican caucus goers voted for someone else other than Romney. Also by nearly winning in Iowa, Rick Santorum has established himself as a serious candidate. Obama’s out of the box win in 2008 ended the doubts that White people would vote for a Black man. This gave Obama a tremendous boost.

Why were so many Democrats searching for someone else to support? I decided early on that I was going to vote for Obama.  I was upset with Hillary Clinton’s refusal to admit that the Iraq war was a mistake. Obama spoke out against it before he was a candidate and Edwards stated that going to war was a wrong decision. Clinton could not bring herself to say it. Her reluctance undermined trust with Democrat activists and ran counter to the anti-war sentiment in the general Left. This can be seen in 2008 exit polls where voters said the war and the economy were their top issues. The difference between Obama, Edwards and Clinton on economic policy was minimal with Edwards being the most aggressive with addressing poverty and economic equity. I have already outlined the difference in positions on Iraq. Similarly, trust is the obstacle facing Romney. He has been the front runner by keeping a steady poll number of 25% in a crowded field, but the most active conservative wing of the Republican Party, simply do not trust him. They do not believe he is a true Conservative, so they are shopping which gave Santorum the opening he exploited. The other similarity to Obama’s win in 2008 is that the activist wing of the Republican Party is pushing back on the establishment candidate and will continue to do so until they either win with an alternative candidate or lose and must rally around Romney.

The similarities end here. While going into Iowa in 2008 as an underdog, a significant number of supporters had already coalesced around Obama providing huge amounts of money second only to Clinton. Obama did not go into Iowa race weeks before in the bottom tier. As a result Obama was not underfunded and he had a very strong and organized ground game. This is almost the opposite of Santorum’s situation.

Though the Democrat field was crowded with six candidates in 2008, the top three received the vast number of votes with the next three posting a dismal 3%. This is in stark contrast to Tuesday 2012 where the bottom four of the seven Republicans received 29% of the vote. The packed race hurt Santorum. He might have received 9 of Herman Cain’s 58 votes or some of Buddy Roemer’s 31 (who is Buddy Roemer). If Michele Bachman had dropped out Monday instead of Wednesday I am sure he would have received 9 of her 6,073.

Perhaps the most important differences between Obama’s win and Santorum’s near win are money and organization. Santorum has these two enormous obstacles to overcome to beat Romney. He must rely on the dissatisfaction and energy of conservative Republicans to quickly fill his coffers and volunteer in mass to keep him competitive. This means that the Conservatives must agree to unite around Santorum and drop Perry and Gingrich. He may not have the time to affect the outcome of the January 10th New Hampshire primary, but winning conservative South Carolina on January 21st is definitely possible. So standby to see if Santorum can do what Obama did 2008, beat the establishment candidate of  his party to be its nominee for president. I don’t know if he would like the comparison, but it is what it is and it is in his interest to look to Obama for inspiration.

Sorry Rick, politics is a hell of a game.

 Links to status and more info about both races.

 Iowa 2012 Republican Caucus Results         Iowa 2008:  Rups and Dems Election Results  Exit Polls

Closes U.S. Election Races

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About Michael T. McPhearson

Currently Michael is executive director of Veterans For Peace and co-chair of the Don't Shoot Coalition, A Saint Louis based coalition that formed in the aftermath of Michael Brown's police killing death in Ferguson, MO. From August 2010 to September 2013, Michael worked as the National Coordinator with United For Peace and Justice. He is a former board member of Veterans For Peace and as well as Executive Director from 2005 to 2010. He works closely with the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress and the Saint Louis centered Organization for Black Struggle. Michel also publishes the Mcphearsonreport.org expressing his views on war and peace, politics, human rights, race and other things. Michael also launched Reclaimthedream.org website as an effort to change the discourse and ignite a new conversation about Dr. Martin Luther King’s message and what it means to live in just and peaceful communities.