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Rick Santorum Described As A 'Force,' Because It's March Of 2011 And So Why Not?

Rick Santorum

First Posted: 03/11/11 11:08 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:40 PM ET

By now, you are probably aware that Rick Santorum is running for president. You're also probably aware that he plans to participate in this thing called the Iowa Caucus. You're also maybe aware that Santorum has been a political non-entity for many years. But have you considered that Santorum could be a "force" in Iowa? Because I hadn't been forced to consider how forceful Santorum could be until Politico told me that "Rick Santorum could be an unlikely Iowa force." (As with most pieces of pure, uncut campaign speculation, the equivocation begins right in the headline.)

Why would Rick Santorum be a force, in Iowa? Because he has visited Iowa, "11 times since 2009." That's a good start, actually going to the place in which you want to be a "force." In 2008, Rudy Giuliani did not go to Iowa that much, and he ended up not being a "force." Of course, it's a fine line. John Edwards practically lived in Iowa, for years, before the Iowa caucus, and he was not a "force." Tom Vilsack went to the extraordinary length of actually serving as the governor of Iowa for two terms, and it didn't end up dong him any good at all.

But maybe Santorum is walking the right line. What are Iowans saying about him? Well, they are "open to the possibility" and have "questions about Santorum's viability."

So what could change this? Basically, if a bunch of other people don't run for president, Rick Santorum could unleash his awesome power of being one of the default possibilities for a cross-section of Iowa voters.

Recent history proves there's a space for an unyielding cultural conservative. Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, who took 25 percent of the Iowa vote to come in second place in 1988, and Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 caucuses with 34 percent, are the best-known examples. But even in 1996 and 2000, when establishment Republicans Bob Dole and George W. Bush captured Iowa, candidates to their right drew roughly a quarter of the vote.

And if Huckabee and Sarah Palin both sit out the 2012 race -- as their inaction at this still-early moment suggests they might -- there will be a vacuum within the GOP's social conservative wing. Santorum, with his sterling anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage credentials, would have a strong case to make to Iowa caucus-goers, 60 percent of whom were self-described evangelicals or born-again Christians in 2008, according to entrance polls.

This would tend to indicate that Santorum isn't much of a force at all -- nothing he can do on his own can alter his fate, it's actually the actions of other people that would benefit him the most. Still, you really have to admire Santorum's political savvy -- should two more impressive candidates decide not to run for president, Santorm can make the case that he has very skillfully managed to remain in existence.

At any rate, about Santorum: he could almost certainly be a force, unless he isn't, in which case he won't. Bet on it!

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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