Manufacturing Stance Fuels Santoum's Rise
With Rick Santorum's recent surge to the head of the GOP pack, many pundits are trying to find out what fueled his rise. Over at The Nation, John Nichols seems to be on to something:
To a far greater extent than Romney, the venture capitalist who made his money dismantling American factories and offshoring jobs, and to a significantly greater extent than the wonkish Newt Gingrich and the ideologically rigid Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, Santorum appealed to blue-collar workers and to Iowans who would like to be blue-collar workers. And he’ll do more of that in New Hampshire.
Eschewing predictable “let-the-market-decide” rhetoric about free markets and free trade, Santorum has made proposals for the renewal of American manufacturing an important part of his Iowa agenda. That is not an approach that endears the unexpected contender to the hedge-fund managers and Wall Street speculators who provide so much of the funding not just for Republican candidates but for conservative groups such as the Club for Growth.
But Santorum bet on the appeal of industrial renewal message. And there is good evidence to suggest that it was a smart bet. Santorum won communities such as Newton, a United Auto Workers town that was hit hard by the shuttering of its sprawling Maytag plant, and Ottumwa, a packinghouse town where the United Food and Commercial Workers union has a rich history. These are both communities President Obama has visited since his 2008 election, and they are communities where Obama will do well in 2012. But Santorum made inroads where Romney never will. In Ottumwa-based Wapello County, for instance, while Santorum finished first, Romney ran fifth—behind not just Santorum but Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. In the Newton area, it was Santorum, then Paul and then Romney.