A Closer Look at Santorum's Sweep

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum waits backstage before a rally February 7, 2012 in Blaine, Minnesota. Rick Santorum waits backstage before a rally February in Blaine, Minnesota. (Ben Garvin/Getty)

After Rick Santorum swept the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as the non-binding primary in Missouri, many started to wonder if Santorum could unseat Romney's seemingly inexorable path to the nomination. The field of Republican candidates for president is once again unsettled. But is Santorum really the favorite among conservative voters?

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and writes a weekly column for Roll Call.


Norman J. Ornstein

Produced by:

Ben Gottlieb

Comments [1]

Bill Martin from Massachusetts

What Mr. Ornstein (and most media outlets) neglected to mention is that Mr. Santorum's 21,932 primary votes in Minnesota represent 0.4% of the population of the state, certainly less than 5% of registered Republicans. So this was no "win" for Santorum, it was no "loss" for Romney. It was a loss for participatory democracy. The media don't seem to want to discuss this -- perhaps they need viewers to remain engaged and "Apathy Landslide!" is not such a gripping headline.

In spite of the hyper-focused media attention and in spite of record levels of campaign advertising (or perhaps *because* of the negative ads!) voters simply chose not to show up. Is it because the voter is content with the Romney trajectory? Is it because the voter finds none of the candidates attractive? Is it because we average voters don't think we can have any effect on the race? In any case, it's hard to argue that *not* voting is to be interpreted as support for Santorum or anyone other than a front-runner.

21,932 votes may win a caucus, but in a measure of GOP sentiment in general, it amounts to statistical noise. In other words, Santorum supporters "Google-bombed" the process. And that's the story Mr. Ornstein would rather not tell.

Feb. 09 2012 09:41 AM

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