My son and I ventured out to hear GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Boise. It was an encouraging and historic event. Perhaps 2500 Idahoans came out on a chilly evening to learn more about the man most likely to challenge Mitt Romney for the nomination.
First, we must give kudos to Jonathan Parker and Norm Semanko of the Idaho GOP for engineering an historic moment. Not many candidates have found the will or interest to travel out here to meet real folks and talk about their vision for America. Idaho's March 6th Caucus date is meaningful and the presence of Rick Santorum proves it. Santorum's retail campaign effort has even forced Mitt Romney to hold his first public event when he comes to Boise on Friday to once again raise money.
Santorum is a rock solid conservative, but he is no rock star. The folks in attendance were hungry for the kind of battle cry that Newt Gingrich can dish up; Santorum seems almost shy about folks getting too worked up. A few times the crowd was on the verge of a standing ovation, but Santorum interrupted to continue with his lecture about the numerous threats posed by the continued reign of Barack Obama.
The presidential hopeful comes with a modest staff and a U.S. Constitution in his back pocket. He produced it to expound on the need for the next president to be steeped in its powers and limitations. He called upon the nation to restore the nation's founding vision, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence. Santorum recalled the courageous decision by the Founders to pledge their sacred honor at a time when they challenged the most powerful nation on earth: He demanded that those listening answer the call to service posed by these critical days.
No doubt that those in attendance were ready to answer that call. And there is the encouraging part of the evening: Ordinary citizens gathered in different parts of Capital High School to fight for their country at a time when she is in serious danger. Many, like me, brought their children. (Not only because of the historic opportunity to participate in history, but because these young people are the ones who will inherit the fruits of our present labor - or suffer most harshly the consequences of our failure).
No doubt these people will be present on March 6th. My guess is that most will be voting for Rick Santorum.
While Santorum does not have Gingrich's gift for the spontaneous battle cry, he does have a certain charisma. It is the kind of charm, alloyed with a few parts humility, that could wear well in the months and years ahead. That humility was best displayed by his insistence upon coming to the gym, used as an overflow room, to take a few questions and shake hands all the way around the floor.
-- David Ripley