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The View from New Hampshire

1:03 AM, Jan 4, 2012 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Bedford, N.H.
Rick Santorum’s New Hampshire headquarters say he’s the quintessential insurgent. It sits in a small strip building housing a vacant office and an evangelical church. The ceiling is low, the carpet is a dingy gray, and the desks are makeshift slabs of Formica balanced on old filing cabinets. The entire operation might be 900 square feet—the size of a generous one-bedroom apartment.

Rick Santorum

Yet the room is cheerful. A small contingent of mostly local media is there along with maybe 30 supporters to watch the results on Fox News. The feed is projected onto a white sheet hanging on the far wall in place of a proper TV screen. The little band of Santorum supporters doesn’t seem to mind, though. The general mood in the room is happy, but not jubilant; excited but not fervent. It’s a nice, friendly group of people. They put out bottles of water and pizza slices for everyone—press, staff, and volunteers. (Not like some other campaigns.)

***

The most interesting nugget in the cross-tabbed exit poll concerns the Tea Party. Among voters who support the Tea Party, Perry, who was supposed to be the Tea Party champion, finished behind Romney.

Yet among voters who oppose the Tea Party, Romney was the runaway winner, taking 44 percent of the vote. That’s one of the biggest numbers any candidate put up in any of the crosstabs. (He also won the group of voters who were neutral on the Tea Party.)

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Tweet of the night: From Buddy Roemer: “Herman Cain is currently beating me in Iowa. #seriously.”

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The biggest cheers of the night at Santorum HQ came not during the announcements showing their candidate ahead, but from Gingrich’s white-hot speech. Gingrich congratulated Santorum and lauded him for campaigning the right way. And then he unleashed a withering barrage toward an unnamed “Massachusetts moderate” and promised that, going forward, he’s going to take it to this timid, dishonest, say-anything-to-get-elected gentleman. The Santorum people loved it. And, truth be told, the prospect of Bad Newt returning like a retired samurai on a quest for vengeance is kind of irresistible. Kumite! Kumite! Kumite!

It’s already begun. Tomorrow’s Union Leader will carry a full-page ad by Gingrich providing some contrast between himself and Romney.

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By the time Santorum finally came out to speak, even his New Hampshire headquarters was almost empty. Twelve people were left, a mix of supporters, college volunteers, and staff. But they were rapt watching his speech. And Santorum made the most of it. He used it as a national introduction, highlighting his commitment to social conservatism, explaining he was for cutting taxes and government, but also spending a lot of time on the populist aspect of his program. It was a very strong performance.

And he trotted out a line that is going to bring the house down across the country during the next several weeks. Talking about his time in Pennsylvania, he said, “Those are the same people President Obama said cling to their guns and Bibles. . . . Thank God they do.”

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