Newcomer believes he has God on his side, but he will need a miracle to beat Obama

Rick Santorum will now face the media scrutiny that his obscurity has allowed him to escape so far

At 53, Rick Santorum is a comparative political stripling. After his surge from nowhere to the brink of victory in Iowa, he is being promoted by his conservative supporters as the fresh-faced Great New Hope of the Republican party.

In truth though, he’s been around for decades – indeed, of the current GOP field, only the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich can more justifiably be tarred with that dreaded label of ‘Washington insider.’

 But his success should not be a surprise. From the outset of his  career, Santorum has specialised in upsets. He first entered Congress after a spectacular win in 1990 over a seven-term incumbent in a seemingly solid Democratic district in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Four years later, at just 36, he became the junior US Senator for Pennsylvania after defeating another incumbent, the Kennedy-era civil rights activist Harris Wofford who was almost twice his age, in another triumph of fearless youth over gentlemanly experience.

 That victory came in 1994, the year of the Gingrich-led ‘Republican revolution’ and Santorum was the revolution’s spearhead in the Senate. His brash, sharp-elbowed style won him few friends in that courtly and tradition-bound institution. Within a month of his arrival, he had the temerity to pick a fight with Democratic grandee Robert Byrd (who had entered the chamber in 1958, the year Santorum was born). “Santorum, that’s Latin for asshole,” was the reported quip of Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey, that summed up a widespread distaste for the newcomer.

 Over the years however the young pup mellowed. A first sign came in 1996 when he worked across the aisle to secure passage of the controversial Republican-sponsored welfare reform that was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Santorum’s ascent thereafter was rapid; after winning a second term, he became chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, promoting the party’s new inroads into Washington’s lobbying industry, long dominated by Democrats.

 Nor did he conceal his ambitions: Santorum briefly considered a shot at the leadership, before announcing that if re-elected in 2006 he would seek the No 2. Senate post of Republican whip. But it was not to be. That November he was crushed 59-41 by his Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. Pennsylvania’s youngest ever Senator had suffered the biggest ever defeat by a Republican incumbent in the state. Far from calling it a day however, he gradually set his sights on the biggest political prize of all.

 In Iowa he operated as he had in his first Congressional campaign 22 years before: spending months on the ground, knocking on doors, meeting virtually every voter and enlisting a small army of helpers, most of whom shared his social conservative views, above all his ferocious opposition to abortion and gay rights.

 The road however is about to get far harder. Money may belatedly flow in the Santorum coffers. But having concentrated almost exclusively on Iowa, he must now set up a campaign infrastructure across the country virtually from scratch, in a matter of weeks at most.

 To be sure, after yesterday’s withdrawal of Michele Bachmann and the poor Iowa showing of Rick Perry, he is positioned to become the main conservative opponent to Mitt Romney, the party establishment’s anointed standardbearer: indeed, Santorum’s new momentum, coupled with his strong Christian credentials, might propel him to victory on January 21 in the bible-belt state of South Carolina (although he is a Catholic).

 But Romney, prepared for the long haul, has a national organisation that no rival cannot emulate. Nor has Santorum faced the media scrutiny that his long obscurity allowed him to escape until now. As the Iowa results came in, Santorum told supporters  he had prevailed thanks to “the daily grace that comes from God.” But if he is to become the Republican nominee to face Barack Obama, more than daily grace will be required. It will take a miracle.

Iowa in numbers

$113 The amount spent per vote by Mitt Romney during campaigning in the Iowa caucus.

1.65 Despite spending a mere $1.65 for each vote, Rick Santorum lost to Mitt Romney by only eight votes.

817 The amount per vote, in dollars, spent by Rick Perry, who won only 10 per cent of the poll.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick