COMMENTARY | The Santorum Surge -- born from a perfect storm set up by the media and those worried about Mitt Romney's ability in Iowa -- is over. The caucus was moved up to the first business day after a long holiday weekend, voting college students are still away on break, and everyone is taking that weekend to relax at home after the busy Christmas holiday.
It was a very cold weekend with nothing to do but watch the news in the warmth and comfort of home. Monday the high was 19 degrees and the winds were a painful 30 mph (in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area where I was) and no one was outside where I was driving and walking around.
The voters in Iowa got hours and hours of only positive Santorum media on the last few days before the caucus. It was intentional to break up the anti-Romney vote away from Ron Paul. Take a look at the Iowa results on a county map and you'll see that the center of the state that Paul was poised to take just weeks before the caucus would have given him a massive victory, an Iowa mandate. Paul took more 2008 Romney counties than he did 2008 Huckabee counties. If Paul was left alone to be the Christian/anti-Romney option, he would have likely won in a landslide -- and the media saw it coming about a week ahead of time.
I first heard the news of the "Santorum Surge" when Santorum went from just 7% to 9% in Iowa, and I was thinking, what surge? The media kept reporting it over and over and before long he was polling at 16%, and then at 20%.
The fact that Paul garnered the same percentage of votes as his RCP polling average, shows that Paul can build and maintain electability and is the anti-Romney candidate. Paul didn't lose support, his main rivals predictably gained support by a huge amount of free positive media in the final days in Iowa -- no real mystery there.
Santorum won't have the appeal he had in Iowa for long. It's an appeal that can only be obtained by not knowing much about him and the results of the next contest will prove it. Iowan voters who decided who to vote for in the final three days before the caucus should feel duped by the media for pushing Santorum. Which begs the question: If most Republicans feel that CNN is an example of liberal media, why do they let CNN tell them whom to vote for? It seems foolish to let your opponent pick your candidate for you.
Casting a vote should be an informed decision, not one similar to a college student deciding which shirt to wear when all of their clothes are dirty. In the end that is what Rick Santorum seemed like to undecided Iowans on caucus night -- the least dirty shirt on floor.