"I believe in free people and free markets," Rick Santorum told a spirited and well-informed town hall audience last night in Brentwood, a few miles down the road from our hometown, Exeter, New Hampshire. We caught the event in C-SPAN reruns this morning and were struck once again at the disconnect between old-media caricatures of "Soaring Santorum" and the man himself we're coming to know and admire through a full panoply of media, old and new. More on that below. Program Note: We're heading up to Manchester Saturday for "an evening of ruminating, riffing & debate watching" with National Review's Jonah Goldberg and company.
"The interest was palpable in Santorum’s first New Hampshire event since the caucuses," reports the Boston Globe as the former Pennsylvania senator steps up to the "very short but open window" of opportunity [Dana Perino's words on Fox this morning] to grab the nation's attention in this frenetically condensed primary season. First a few facts and then a bit of commentary:
The former senator from Pennsylvania has been a frequent, if under-the-radar, presence on the stump in New Hampshire for the past four months. But after surging to within eight votes of winning Iowa Tuesday, Santorum faced a standing-room only crowd at the Rockingham County nursing home hall …
The room, which had capacity to seat 160 people, was packed with voters and journalists standing in the aisles and lining the walls. It was a sharp contrast to his 100-plus previous town halls in New Hampshire, some of which attracted just a few dozen people … A campaign aide said Santorum plans to stay in New Hampshire through the primary Tuesday.
"This economy is suffering because this administration is crushing it with regulations," Santorum told town hallers last night. "Why are they doing it?" Because they know better than you. They don't trust you to make those decisions … The principle reason I'm in this race is because of Obamacare because I think Obamacare will turn every American into a dependent American … and the more dependent he can make you, the more power he has over you ….Obamacare is the tipping point." If you have the time, be sure to listen to the whole thing. See also James Pethokoukis's "Santorum vs. Romney is a conflict of conservative visions" for an enlightening discussion of two political world views, "traditional conservatism vs modern, free-market conservatism."
"It's all about media and momentum," says Fox political analyst Larry Sabato, seemingly troubled that "the process is being rushed. One reason why no big themes are being developed is because there isn't time." But there IS time, Dr. Sabato, and there ARE big themes if you know where to look, that "panoply of media, old and new" where fans of the Shining City can disintermediate the lamestream media narrative at will: C-SPAN, blogs, facebook, twitter, not to mention the town halls themselves, under the radar till Tuesday's "unexpected" Iowa caucus results.
Now a larger audience is getting a taste of this authentic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, deliberative, experienced, articulate, principled, humorous and good-hearted man, very much a formidable opponent in any debate with the current Leader of the Free World. And this "flavor of the week" appears to be sticking to the ribs. As Fox anchor Bret Baier just retweeted:
Like those NH voters, Tea Partiers like us — behind enemy lines here in Taxachusetts — have been craving "long answers." To our surprise, "Darwinian Libertarian" that we are, we haven't been so energized by a candidate's words and manner since that day in late August of 2008 when Sarah Palin burst onto the national stage.
Update: Bruce B. AKA Chickelit in twitter:
Santorum has many of the same archenemies in the media as Palin--so there's that similarity too.
BTW, I think your blogpost took heuvos. I hope you're not attacked.
Update II: Santorum's "Faith, Family & Freedom" tour schedule via our behatted men on the spot, longtime Santorum supporters Stacy McCain and Pete Ingemi. Here's the latest:
Crossposted at Riehl World View.