Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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RIP, the Santorum Surge

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 12:49 AM EST
Rick Santorum.

The klieg-lit ballroom inside Manchester's Derryfield restaurant is where Rick Santorum's unexpected surge coughed, sputtered, and stalled. Munching on chicken fingers, making small talk, and checking email on iPhones and Blackberries, reporters appeared to outnumber Santorum supporters at the candidate's primary party. This was where the reality of Santorum's spare, insurgent campaign overtook the media hype surrounding it.

The Santorum campaign had zeroed in on Iowa, where the candidate methodically hit all 99 counties, a strategy that paid off when the former Pennsylvania senator claimed the second slot—and the media spoils that accompanied it—in the state's GOP caucuses. But his focus on Iowa left Santorum with little beyond media momentum to carry him into New Hampshire, where he didn't have much of an infrastructure to speak of. (Though his campaign manager, Mike Biundo, does hail from the Granite State.)

Despite this disadvantage, the Santorum team ran a dogged campaign in the week leading up to the primary, stacking the candidate's schedule with town halls and meet-and-greets. But his social conservative message, which found a small but diehard base of support here, didn't really penetrate—at least not in the way the Santorum campaign needed it to in order to pose a real threat to Mitt Romney's slick, cash-flush operation. (The contrast between the two campaigns couldn't have been more stark. At Santorum's events, it was a crapshoot whether the candidate would even have a working mic; Romney's appearances were meticulously choreographed, resembling a presidential—not a primary—campaign.)

Before Santorum's Iowa near-victory, the former Pennsylvania senator was polling in the single digits in New Hampshire. Afterward, one poll briefly had him at 21 percent. In the state's primary, he ended up placing fifth, slightly behind Newt Gingrich, with less than 10 percent of the vote. The campaign's goal had been to score in the double digits and possibly overtake Gingrich, but it was ultimately unable to achieve either.

Taking the stage at the restaurant flanked by his wife Karen and two of his seven children, Santorum—appearing a tad dejected—spun his back-of-the-pack finish as a victory. The fact that he competed at all, Santorum suggested, was a win. "We wanted to respect the process here," he told supporters, to cheers of "We pick Rick!"

He added: "We came where the campaign was and we delivered a message not just for New Hampshire but for America—that we have a campaign that has a message and a messenger."

Now message and messenger head to South Carolina, running the same bare-bones operation. But now, the momentum—and the media swarm—that carried Santorum north to New Hampshire are quickly disappearing.

Rick Santorum's End Times Theory About a Nuclear Iran

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 7:00 AM EST

During a campaign stop at an Elks Lodge in Salem, New Hampshire, on Monday, Rick Santorum fielded a question about his stance on immigration, to which he provided his rote response: If you're in the United States illegally, he believes, you're breaking the law and should return home to pursue the immigration process through the proper channels. Period. End of story. As a first-generation American himself, his black-and-white position had nothing to do with a lack of empathy or compassion, he explained, but merely his belief in justice and law and order. He stressed that he certainly had no antipathy towards our neighbors to the south.

Then he launched into a curious tangent: "I thank God for America that our southern border is Mexico," he said. "And it's not Libya, and it's not Tunisia, and it's not Iran. Mexican culture and American culture is Western civilization, and the basic values and understanding of our laws and our government are based in those Western civilization traditions. That is not the case in Europe, and you're seeing the effects of it. I have nothing at all against people in this hemisphere who want to immigrate."

But what about immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere? Santorum seemed to be implying that he was uncomfortable with immigrants from other parts of the world—namely Muslims—who do not share America's Judeo-Christian values. Santorum has previously stated that Islamic "Shariah law is incompatible with the Constitution"—and, as the event in Salem progressed, Santorum's view of a civilizational clash between the Muslim and Western worlds came further into focus.

While talking about Iran—whose nuclear facilities the former Pennsylvania senator recently said he would bomb if they weren't opened to international arms inspectors—Santorum noted that one of the regime's enrichment facilities is located near the city of Qom, home to the Jamkaran mosque, which houses an ancient well considered sacred to some Shia Muslims. According to local belief, Santorum said, the Mahdi—"he's the equivalent in some respects to a Jesus figure—was going to come back at the end of times and lead Shia Islam to the ruin of the world and peace and justice. That's what their end of times scenario is." He continued:

Well he comes back at a time of great chaos. So there are many who speculate that there are folks over in Iran who wouldn't mind creating a time of great chaos for religious reasons. And the fact they built this nuclear program in the city next to where this man is supposed to return leads one to the think that there may be more to it because they could have picked anywhere else in the...country...to do so...

Contrary to what Santorum suggests, this is not a mainstream theory, but a fringe one that holds that the Iranian regime is trying mightily to sow chaos in the world—through any means at its disposal—to usher in the arrival of the Shia messiah. The fact that there's an enrichment site near Qom is hardly evidence of an Iranian strategy to bring about the Islamic apocalypse. That Santorum suggests it is speaks only to his perception of the Muslim faith as one either intent on undermining American values or eradicating America outright.

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