Santorum and His Crowds and His Earmarks

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 7 2012 4:39 PM

Santorum and His Crowds and His Earmarks

HOLLIS, N.H. -- It's disarmingly easy to compare Rick Santorum's post-Iowa campaign to Mike Huckabee's campaign of four years ago. Huckabee won the caucuses, then used the five days before the primary to campaign in New Hampshire. I attended a few of his stops -- big sloppy rallies in VFW halls and the like, Chuck Norris sharing the mic for as long as 15 minutes. Huckabee moved up from the margin of error to the low double digits, coming in third place.

Rick Santorum's campaign here is far, far better organized. At stop after stop, a crowd builds for more than an hour before the start time. An half hour before the start, the event location is packed. When it starts, there's an overflow crowd. This makes for incredible photos, bracing anecdotal evidence of the Santorum surge.

This was in effect, sort of, in Hollis, a town very close to the Massachusetts border.

photo (49)

But this was misleading! Of the 600 (at least) people in Hollis (the campaign tweeted about 1000 people), it looked like half were out of state. Two buses from a Rhode Island school waited outside; its occupants eventually, politely, gave up his seat. When Santorum asked how many people were from out of state, half of the hands inside went up, and this matched my anecdotal evidence perfectly. After Santorum spoke outside, I watched dozens of people with Mass plates walk to the patches of grass where they'd parked their cars.

Oh, right: The speech. I heard Santorum best outside, where he stepped on a rock (one that had been protected from other traffic by the blogger/reporter/endorser Stacy McCain), and launched into an epistle on his electability. He retold the story of his 2006 loss in a horrible Republican year, then pointed to a friend in the crowd, a state senator who had won by only 6 points then.

"How much did you win by last year? You won 70 percent of the vote!"

Point made. "The media does not want a conservative nominee," he said.

A heckler interrupted, asking Santorum to prove he was a conservative. "What about a billion dollars in earmarks?"

"Pennsylvania's one of the biggest states," said Santorum. He was only getting the money his state deserved, in a Constutional manner. Exactly the issue Paul plans to pick up and sledgehammer him with tonight.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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