Santorum surprise as Romney wins

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By K.P. NAYAR
  • Published 5.01.12
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Washington, Jan. 4: The first voting in the year-long process of installing a president in the White House was true to form. It stuck to what the “Iowa caucuses” are all about: the customary 15 minutes of fame for Iowans as the trend-setters in every presidential election.

Like in almost every presidential primary season, the surprise last night was the runner-up for the Republican nomination in Iowa and not the winner. The bigger surprise was that merely eight votes separated the winner, Mitt Romney and his nearest challenger, Rick Santorum.

Santorum, a former US Senator from Pennsylvania came up from behind in the final weeks of the campaign without any nation-wide campaign machine or significant funds to nearly knock Romney, a former Massachusetts Governor, off the perch as the front-runner so far to gain the Republican ticket for the November election.

Santorum’s biggest claim to fame nation-wide is that thanks to an organized campaign by gay activists opposed to his hatred of homosexuality, a Google search of him now instantly throws up an association between his name and the byproduct of a sexual act which many people consider to be abnormal.

Since Santorum is unlikely to prevail across the US as the Republican nominee for November, the joke here is that he is running in the primaries hoping that a slew of political stories about him in the coming months will replace the sexual definition of his name on Google and refocus an Internet search for Santorum on his record as a Senator and politician.

The unflattering sexual reference to his name in any Google search is the result of millions of gay activists continuously clicking on the site “spreadingsantorum.com” since 2003 to push it to the top of the Internet search engine.

Santorum missed the finishing line by a whisker after Catholics, who constitute 23 per cent of Iowa’s population, solidly lined up behind his anti-abortion, anti-gay-lesbian, far right conservative social agenda in the fight for support in the caucuses.

Romney is a Mormon: many conservative Christians regard Mormonism as a cult and not an acceptable branch of Christianity. Besides Romney is seen as typifying the Republican establishment and does not enthuse many of the party faithful on the far right.

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager for his re-election bid, said today that in the Republican caucuses in Iowa, “the extremist Tea Party agenda won a clear victory. No matter who the Republicans nominate, we will be running against someone who has embraced that agenda in order to win.”

Messina warned that the Tea Party agenda will “let Wall Street write its own rules, end Medicare as we know it, roll back gay rights, leave the troops in Iraq indefinitely, restrict a woman's right to choose, and gut Social Security to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.”

The Obama campaign is right in the sense that if Romney prevails in the New Hampshire Republican primary next week, as he is expected to, the only way he can be stopped from winning the party’s ticket is by getting a candidate who can consolidate the conservative, anti-establishment support in his favour as a viable opponent of everything the former Massachusetts Governor stands for.

The Iowa caucuses represent a curious form of grassroots democracy inherited from the Algonquin tribe of native Americans, where the tribal chiefs met to decide the fate of their nation. In modern times, Iowans gather in identical meetings from 7 pm in about 1,800 locations across the thinly populated state and declare their support for candidates.

Nevada is another state where caucusing is practiced in preparation for the presidential nomination. Most states have primaries, instead, where Republicans and Democrats cast secret ballots throughout the day like in any normal poll to choose their respective presidential nominees.

In 2008, the Democratic party’s caucuses drew a record attendance of 239,000 Iowans and a surprise win for underdog first time Senator Obama eventually catapulting him as the presidential candidate and then as the occupant of the White House.

The Iowa caucuses are also the first opportunity for each party to draw up a viable shortlist of candidates with several of them dropping out after a poor showing. Today native Iowan Michele Bachmann, now a Congresswoman from Minnesota and a leader of the Tea Party movement, bowed out of the presidential race after she finished last in the caucuses.

Bachmann’s departure leaves this year’s race for the White House as an all-male exercise. Obama is not being challenged by anyone in his party.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who had hoped to inherit the mantle of George W Bush for a second time, fared only slightly better than Bachmann although he too claims Tea Party credentials. Perry is now oscillating between suspending his campaign and going further despite obvious difficulties along his way.

The sole winner last night appeared to be the people of Iowa. Forty years ago they rescheduled their caucuses to January so that they would be the first to vote in all of US in the presidential campaign process and thus draw the entire nation’s attention to their state.

In 2008, both the Republican and Democratic parties came down heavily on their state units which tried to upstage Iowa by moving forward their primaries. As a result of such firm action, Iowans were able to preserve their legacy in presidential politics again this year.