Santorum - Reuters - Jan. 3, 2012
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Johnston, Iowa, January 3, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size

Americans detest tie scores. In American baseball, football and basketball, players must achieve a clear-cut resolution of the game even if they are falling off their feet.

Americans believe that the world is divided into winners and losers, and a tie score borders on heresy.

Small wonder, then, that American commentators and analysts appeared perplexed last night with the amazing photo-finish to the Iowa Republican caucuses which produced at least two undeniable victors: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who was tentatively declared winner by a margin of eight votes, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who was undoubtedly the real hero of evening.

After appearing to be permanently lodged at the very bottom of the polling league, Santorum underwent a sensationally rapid metamorphosis by changing within a few weeks from a sad joke to an intriguing curiosity to a surprising phenomenon and finally to a blazing meteor who is now poised to take on Romney, the leader of the pack.

Santorum is an intelligent and pleasant candidate with extreme conservative views whose success will now inject him with a dose of charisma that he sorely needs. The devoted Catholic will now become the new “Great White Hope” of Evangelists and Tea Partiers and the standard bearer of the “anyone but Romney” pack that continues to include about 75 percent of the Republicans, according to the polls and last night’s Iowa caucuses.

Indeed, from Romney’s point of view, while his victory is no doubt welcome and impressive it may entail some negative consequences. Romney’s people are quoted as looking down at Santorum’s ability to raise funds and to put together an organization that would allow him to survive the long and arduous primary race, but the possible withdrawal of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has indicated that he will reassess his plans, and of Michele Bachman, whose campaign now seems hopeless, may concentrate the hitherto-split ultra-conservative vote and possibly forge a critical mass that would inflict embarrassing defeats on Romney in the future.

Even more dangerous to Romney is Newt Gingrich’s declaration of war in retaliation for the massive media campaign that played an important role in the former Speaker’s spectacular decline from the commanding lead that he held in the Iowa polls only three short weeks ago. Gingrich, who can wage fierce and poisonous attacks on political rivals with the best of them, is now lying in ambush and waiting to pounce on Romney in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida – along with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who can only draw inspiration from Santorum’s miraculous resurrection.
Finally, there is the irrepressible and non-conformist Ron Paul whose respectable third place finish, much to the consternation of the Republican establishment, will allow him to continue his campaign, inspire his legions of enthusiastic volunteers, spend his formidable campaign funds and thus, possibly, edge closer to the ultimate Republican nightmare, which is also the barely disguised dream of President Obama and the Democrats: to run as a third-party candidate that would siphon off more Republican than Democratic votes and thus foil the Republican hope of taking control of the White House.