A fascinating race for the White House just got more so.
And overnight, South Carolina became Ground Zero in the campaign.
If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney runs away with New Hampshire next Tuesday as expected, after winning Iowa, the race could essentially end if he also captures South Carolina Jan. 21. That means conservatives pining for an alternative to Romney will have to come together to build a firewall in the Palmetto State to contain him.
After his absolutely stunning near-win in Iowa Tuesday night – losing by single digits after a year of polling in them – former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum seems the most likely challenger to Romney. Michele Bachmann’s withdrawal from the race could help Santorum consolidate the conservative vote a bit.
With no discernible baggage, a consistent conservative message and some of the strongest debate performances of the season, Republicans have to wonder today: What’s wrong with Santorum? Why not give him a look?
That may end up being a fleeting feeling – ask Bachmann, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, all of whom were once flying high in the polls. Only time will tell.
But time is short, thanks to the rapid-fire primary schedule.
Interestingly enough, Santorum’s two main negatives have almost nothing to do with him.
The first is that the left-leaning “mainstream” media surely will work to defeat him. He’s just too conservative for their taste. He’s already been “glitter bombed” by gay activists opposed to his support for traditional marriage – and that, alone, will be enough for many in the media to join a feeding frenzy.
Inevitable and bitter anti-conservative sentiment in the media may render Santorum unelectable (and the media all-powerful). The media already were gearing up for a reprise of their 2008 unquestioning glorification of Mr. Obama, despite his owning one of the most dismal records in presidential history; just imagine the frothy love-hate to come if he faces a rock-ribbed conservative in November!
The other thing working against Santorum, sadly and remarkably, is his devotion to traditional American values: God, family, limited government, individual liberty, responsibility and self-reliance. The media frown on such things, and the society at large does more than frown: Today’s increasingly coarse culture venerates alternative lifestyles and ignores their many repercussions, while deriding and disregarding the values that built the country whose seed corn we now blissfully devour.
Given these realities, conservatives may be faced with deciding whether they want to take on the media and risk a second Obama term – or to play it safe with a more electable Romney.
Some may come to look at it this way: Right now, our boat is leaking. The federal government is spending us over the same cliff we see Europe dangling from, and the current administration would have the government only grow in size, scope and power. It would be nice to paint the boat – with a real conservative president – but Job 1 has to be to plug the leak – with any president not named Obama.
This historic choice may be made just across the river from Augusta.