Can Santorum capitalize on his Feb 7 victories?

So Rick Santorum swept Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri on Tuesday, and now all and sundry are scrambling to catch up on what that means and what his prospects are moving forward. Clearly the result took many (including me) by surprise.

There hasn’t been much coverage of his operation on the ground, and I don’t have any inside leads on this, so I’d be happy to hear from people who knows something about his campaign.

So far, he has operated with a pretty bare-bones organization compared to Romney or even Gingrich and hasn’t raised nearly as much money for his campaign or for outside groups supporting him as his rivals have.

Now his people are putting it out that he will be building a national organization. They have to say that. The hard thing is actually doing it. It will be interesting to see how they go about it and whether they succeed.

Here are some elements worth watching–

  1. Can Santorum expand his base amongst wealthy conservative donors? So far, one man, Foster Friess seems to have been his major financial supporter (but not on a Sheldon Adelson scale). More money is bound to come in now, but how much, and from whom?
  2. Will various Tea Party-type groups find Santorum more appealing than Gingrich and start rallying around him? These activists have in the past months been supposed to be coalescing behind a number of various candidates, including Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and now Santorum. Will they or won’t they? And will they ultimately matter much? (A recent article in the National Journal argues that the movement is in decline.)
  3. How much will the support of many social conservative activists and groups help Santorum–in terms of endorsements and raising money, but also in terms of positioning himself and building an organization? Various parts of the Christian Right have played a central role in many previous Republican primary campaigns, and Santorum will have to hope they will this time too–because they sure don’t like Romney (who only got three votes at a meeting in January where Santorum with 57 votes secured the backing of a number of Evangelical conservative groups).

As said, there has been little coverage of Santorum’s campaign and its organization so far. To capitalize on his February 7 victories, he will need to build an operation on the ground (and his campaign is well aware of this). It will be interesting to see what they can cobble together on such short notice and how well it will work as we approach Super Tuesday.

My book, Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns, deals with how American political campaigns mobilize, organize, and target their field operations, using large numbers of volunteers and paid part-timer workers to contact voters at home at the door or over the phone. It has just been published by Princeton University Press and is available on Amazon.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr)

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One response to “Can Santorum capitalize on his Feb 7 victories?

  1. Pingback: Rick Santorum was never supposed to win Michigan, but the media will tear him apart if he doesn't – Telegraph Blogs

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