Open Thread: The Iowa Caucuses (And a Santorum Surge?)

Today voters in Iowa head into their caucus chambers to choose who they want to support for the Republican Presidential nomination.

A big part of the story line heading into today’s caucuses is the surging support for Rick Santorum, now that many of the leading Mitt Romney alternatives (Cain, Gingrich, Perry) have failed to retain support:

In the closely followed Des Moines Register poll just released at 8pm, Romney is 24, Paul 22, Santorum 15, Newt Gingrich 12, Rick Perry 11, and Michele Bachmann 7. That’s the four-day result. If just the last two days are taken into account, Romney is still at 24, Santorum jumps to 21, and Paul is down to 18. That means–in the word of the hour–Santorum has momentum. If Bachmann and Perry fade more at the end–and this poll result could hurt them–Santorum is within striking distance of a stunning upset. [NRO]

Of course, there is still a good chance that Romney will eke out a victory.

Ron Paul’s support (currently placing him in the top 3) is largely due to democrats and independent voters supporting him. The race for GOP support is largely between Romney and Santorum at this point.

Santorum placed second in our CatholicVote straw poll, which was taken during the height of Newt Gingrich’s support (Thanksgiving weekend). Even when Santorum’s support in Iowa was in the single digits, he drew 14% support in the CV poll. Santorum is in a very good place at this point because the main thing holding him back was the perception that he was unelectable. As more people support him, he begins to appear more electable, which in turn earns him more support, and so on.

Back in June of 2011 I wrote “The Catholic Case for Rick Santorum” in which I said:

“I think there is reason to believe Santorum may go farther than we’d expect this time around. [...and] If a Rick run catches fire, there is plenty of underbrush ready to catch flame.”

That prediction seems to be coming true now. Or at least, we’ll see how true it turned out to be after the results from today’s caucuses are known.

On a somewhat related note, I’ve been asked by readers to talk about Ron Paul and why I don’t more vocally support him. The fact is I don’t support him. I was interested in him during the 2008 campaign but what I’ve learned about his views since then, and frankly, what his supporters have made his campaign about this time around is a deal-breaker for me.

If Rick Santorum wins today — or places in the top three — it will be a very significant development. Why? Because Santorum has unabashedly led on the social issues throughout his campaign (Deacon Keith Fournier at CatholicOnline, a friend of Santorum’s, has eloquently been singing his praises for some time and in particular this week.). Rick has vigorously campaigned as a pro-life and pro-family candidate and his victory would show that GOP primary voters want to elect such a candidate, which I think would be a very good sign.

One particularly disturbing trend I must note, because it pertains to Santorum’s Catholic faith, is the effort by some (mostly Ron Paul supporters) who are trying to use Rick’s faith against him. Here is one example (which quotes my praise of Santorum):

“So go Rick, go,” says CatholicVote.org,” This American Papist is pulling for you.”

Evangelicals drawn to Santorum after leaving Bachmann’s dwindling campaign should know what they’re getting into. It’s not evangelicalism; it’s liberalism and Social Justice no better than Obama, really.

And if you think Paul has a foreign policy problem, just imagine how complicated it gets when a man’s highest Spiritual allegiance is to the Vatican and not to the American people.

Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator gives another example of a Catholic Ron Paul activist attempting to draw Catholics away from supporting Santorum.

Catholics owe it to Santorum to stick behind him in these coming days, whatever the outcome in Iowa, so that voters are not deceived about his faith and what our faith holds.

And with that, I leave these open thread questions:

  • If you could vote in the Iowa caucuses today, who would you support and why?
  • Who do you think is the best candidate in terms of Catholic social teaching?
  • Who do you think is the best candidate to challenge Obama in the general election?

I’ll be tweeting throughout the day (@AmericanPapist) covering the news as it arrives from Iowa.

May God bless those caucusing in Iowa today!

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47 thoughts on “Open Thread: The Iowa Caucuses (And a Santorum Surge?)

  1. Eric Williams says:

    Well, this Catholic will only vote for Ron Paul when the GOP primary comes my way. When he doesn’t get the nomination (Really, people. Duh.), I’ll be hoping to see Gary Johnson on the LP ticket. I like my government vanishingly small and completely independent of my Church. Protecting life, liberty, and property is all the government should be concerned with.

  2. Paul S. says:

    Q: If you could vote in the Iowa caucuses today, who would you support and why?

    A: If I could vote in the Iowa caucuses this evening, I would support Representative Ron Paul, because I believe a five month GOP candidacy by Ron Paul against President Barack Obama is the best possible outcome that the United States can have in terms of the 2012 presidential election.

    I believe that President Obama will win re-election because:
    a1) he has finally found his “sea legs” as to beating up congressional Republicans on ‘governance’ issues, and I expect him to continue to beat them up in the year ahead
    a2) No Republican candidate (excepting Ron Paul) would sufficiently separate himself from congressional Republicans
    b) I don’t think that Ron Paul (if nominated) would be capable of running the tight sort of campaign that he would need to beat President Obama.

    On Sunday, Ross Douthat made the case that Ron Paul is a prophet or a madman and, as such, a non-ideal person for holding the office of the presidency. I acknowledge that Ron Paul may be a prophet or a madman and, as such, a non-ideal person for holding the office of the presidency. However, because I don’t think that Ron Paul or any other GOP nominee will beat President Barack Obama, the negatives of a Ron Paul presidency do nothing to undermine my enthusiasm for a Ron Paul GOP candidacy.

    Among the principle virtues of a five month (losing) Ron Paul GOP campaign is that many people of good will (here, I’m thinking of the majority of pro-life political activitists that I know) would finally be freed from most of the tyrannous beat of neo-conservatism. If Ron Paul were the GOP candidate, I am convinced that Fox News, American Papist, etc., would find a way to explain and reinforce to their viewers/readers why those persons should vote for Ron Paul rather than Barack Obama.

    If such a campaign (and societal discussion) occurred, I would have to believe that the prospective Republican slate in 2016 would include many more candidates with consistent records of working for smaller government, rather than just talking about it. Many of those candidates would not need to come in from the fever swamp (as so many seem people to suggest that Ron Paul has done).

    Q: Who do you think is the best candidate in terms of Catholic social teaching? (Which, being translated, means “tell me what you really think of former Senator Rick Santorum and his ‘catholicity’?”)

    A: After the 2004 PA Senate primary, I can never support Santorum for any elected position. c.f James 4:17. Any other Republican could have supported Specter out of ignorance; but Santorum was supposedly the foremost prolifer in the Senate.
    Villainous treachery can be “forgiven” on an individual level, but it must never be “forgiven” on the corporate level. Santorum’s political career must not be supported by pro-lifers. Proverbs 29:12 says that if a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will become wicked. In our representative republic, each of the voters is a ruler – If we accept treachery from our pro-life/social conservative “best” (i.e., Santorum), then we are accepting that all our pro-life public servants shall become wicked.
    Unless the Prince of this World himself announces his candidacy, I would never vote for Rick Santorum in a primary OR general election.

    More generally, Santorum’s positions on abortion, “same sex marriage,” etc., are probably the closest to mine, of any of the prospective candidates. That being said, he and national Republican leaders have accomplished approximately nothing in these regards during the 29 years I have lived and I can’t see him accomplishing anything regarding these issues going forward, even with four years in the White House. Santorum’s stances on other culture of life issues (war, capital punishment, etc.) do not strike me as sufficiently nuanced – while one could, of course, disagree with Blessed John Paul II’s analysis of the pre-emptive/”preventative” invasion of Iraq and still be an orthodox Catholic, there is nothing I have heard about Santorum’s Republican debate statements that suggests to me that he is familiar with Gaudium et Spes and/or any post-conciliar teaching on the nature of man and of human society. Nuance is possible on these points but I am not impressed with Santorum’s “catholicity” – as such, I completely disagree with the assertion “Catholics owe it to Santorum to stick behind him in these coming days.”

    In terms of Catholic social teaching, the only national candidates of my life time to have any notion of subsidiarity and its relationship to American federalism are Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. Of the two, only Ron Paul is a candidate in 2012. While his philosophy is open to all sorts of supposed horrors (heroin for sale at Walmart, etc.), it really strikes me as the only ‘compromise’ by which some of our United States can begin to work their way back toward some sane notion of the human person, human family, etc. – I’m not saying that Ron Paul would drive those advances, but that a renewed reality of federalism / states’ rights would empower people like me to get it done where we live. (I mean, I’m sorry for pro-lifers in New York and Massachusetts but, when you think about it, things were already screwed up in those states).

    Q: Who do you think is the best candidate to challenge Obama in the general election?

    A:
    A) See above
    B) Even if you changed the question to “who do you think could beat Obama in the general election?” I would still favor Ron Paul. I don’t think that Romney or Gingrich or Santorum or Perry can beat Obama. I don’t think that Ron Paul can beat him either, but he’s at least so obviously different that if the nation went nuts in its rebellion against the powers-that-be it is conceivable that Ron Paul could win. I don’t foresee anything that could help any of the other Republican candidates beat President Obama.

    1. Zoe says:

      All alone out here in California y’all. All I know is, no matter who wins the GOP nomination, I am voting for that person in the next election. Whatever your views are during the primaries, we must stay united in the general election. Obama must be a one term president!

  3. Tess says:

    Oh yes, I am so sure all these people living in Paulville are Catholics.
    1. Ron Paul supports gay rights
    2. Ron Paul does not think the US should have killed Bin Laden
    3. Ron Paul has conspiracy theories about the Fed
    4. Ron Paul thinks we should just mind our own business in regards to Iran (and everyone else)…he’s an America Firster..sound familiar?
    5. Ron Paul thinks Israel created Hamas
    6. Ron Paul made a million dollars off of his newsletter, but had no idea who was writing what in it.
    7. Ron Paul’s radical libertarism says that we should not aid foreign nations with disaster relief.
    8. Ron Paul has been in Congress for decades, wrote over 600 pieces of legislation, and only ONE passed

    I could go on and on…
    The only choice for conservatives is Santorum.

    1. David says:

      I am most certainly Catholic. Just because the support for Ron Paul among Catholics is particularly strong doesn’t mean there is a blog-commenting conspiracy. Paul’s supporters tend to be younger, net-savvy, organized, and well-educated. I fit all four of these, as do many other Catholic supporters.

    2. Francis P. says:

      Nothing is more corrosive than those who question the integrity (and even faith) of those who disagree with them politically.

      I am a conservative Catholic, strongly pro-life, pro-family and economically conservative. I voted for George H.W. Bush (twice) and George Bush (twice). I have been a registered Republican for over 20 years. Yet I will vote for Ron Paul this year.

      Why? Because after 20 years of supporting them, I don’t believe the establishment Republican candidates on pro-life issues or economic/government issues, and I do believe them when it comes to foreign policy. Three strikes and they are out.

      When it comes to pro-life, Republicans talk a good game, but have nothing to show for it – although they have had ample opportunities, we are no closer to reversing Roe v. Wade than we were 20 years ago. They haven’t even tried to repeal oppressive laws like FACE.

      And when it comes to economic/government issues, Republicans talk small government, but govern just like the Democrats: big, big and bigger. I don’t see how Santorum/Romney/Gingrich/etc are any different than Bush/McCain in this area, and they were terrible.

      But when it comes to foreign policy, the Republicans do walk the talk. In other words, they manufacture wars that clearly aren’t just and don’t seem to even once consider slowing down their march to another senseless war.

      Ron Paul isn’t perfect, and his end game doesn’t always match mine, but he is the only one who I believe would work to reverse Roe v. Wade, reduce the size of government, and keep us from senseless wars. For these reasons, he gets my (Catholic) vote.

    3. Patty says:

      I will vote for Ron Paul as well. I am Catholic. I wished I was young and internet savvy, but really I’m just a middle aged housewife who wants a better future for my kid. I think Ron Paul is the only candidate that sees that future.

  4. Phil says:

    Such nonsense. I’m supporting Dr. Ron Paul precisely for the fact that he is not neo-conservative like the rest of the field espousing war and the use of government for agendas not provided in the constitution. Other Catholics who support Dr. Paul understand a threat that is being posed by war mongering and fear mongering. Which candidate is lamenting the fact that Americans can now be detained without due process? Not even Santorum is talking about this. Yet, you want me to endorse a man who will sign off on torturing human beings and using the presidency as a bully pulpit? I’ve got news for everybody who is still largely ignorant on the issues supporters of Dr. Paul hold dear:

    We voted in Bush in 2000 and 2004. We swallowed the idea of supporting John McCain. In 2012, everything changes. Senator Santorum did not provide the greatest example during his time as Senator and even during this campaign. To fall in line with the rest of the protestant field when it comes to war and torture?

    These are just a couple of reasons for why Catholics like me are done with the established class.

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