Jonathan Alter: As Best Anyone-But-Mitt Choice, Santorum Can Win

January 5th, 2012

Bloomberg View
By Jonathan Alter
Jan. 5, 2012

Even after a surging Rick Santorum had tied Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, Intrade, the predictions market for politics, put Santorum’s chances for the Republican presidential nomination at less than 5 percent. Traders apparently think Romney will win because he has the funding and organization.

This shows why investors should stick to making money on companies, not candidates.

Although Romney remains the favorite, this now looks to me like an emerging two-man race, especially if Saturday’s Texas conclave of social conservative leaders rallies around Santorum. (Rick Perry’s reversal of his decision to withdraw could complicate that.) Because money follows momentum, Santorum now has a good shot at mounting a stiff challenge to a stiff front- runner who, despite his peerless establishment support, has shown little ability to appeal to three-quarters of today’s GOP.

On Tuesday, Romney will finally break 25 percent among his summer-home neighbors in New Hampshire, where his business-class profile fits the state well even though he lost there in 2008. Romney may win handily but won’t beat the expectations spread, thanks in large part to Jon Huntsman’s traction (every one of his votes comes from Romney’s hide) and the likelihood of a withering assault from a steamed Newt Gingrich in two debates this weekend. Santorum, in single digits in New Hampshire this week, almost certainly will surpass the forecasts. The old mill towns of the northern part of the state contain the same blue- collar Catholics who were his base for so many years in Pennsylvania, and they’ll probably respond well to his message about the manufacturing sector.

Read more