Why Santorum has a shot in New Hampshire

GOP candidate Rick Santorum addresses a town hall meeting on "Faith, Family and Freedom" in Brentwood, New Hampshire.

Story highlights

  • S.E. Cupp says she's a fan of Rick Santorum and his linking of family values to the economy
  • She says it would be good if he could make the most of his surge in Iowa, but he faces obstacles
  • She warns success in this race is fleeting; Romney has money, support in New Hampshire
  • Cupp: But don't count Santorum out; he has good ground game, endorsements there
I like Rick Santorum. Actually, scratch that. I really like Rick Santorum. Sweater vest and all.
I'm a sucker for his emotional story. I dig that he quotes C.S. Lewis. And I like that he's had the courage to insist at every turn that social issues and the breakdown of the American family directly relate to the economy, and that economic decisions have moral consequences. Not an easy thing to do at a time when most voters -- including conservatives -- are focused on jobs.
And anyone who's had the pleasure of getting to know him, like I have, is not at all surprised that he was able to deliver such a moving victory speech from Iowa -- without notes.
I'd like to see him make the most of this surge, if not to compete in the general election, then to pull front-runner Mitt Romney further to the right in the primary.
S.E. Cupp
But as impressive as his performance was, winning Iowa was the easy part for Santorum. As Herman Cain, Michele Bachman, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich can tell him, fleeting success comes easy. Longevity is another story altogether.
If Santorum was going to win anywhere, it was going to be in Iowa, where he famously visited 99 counties and staked his claim as the state's mayor of Pizza Ranch. Now, all eyes are on New Hampshire next week. Can he turn his surge into staying power?
Conventional wisdom (and brutal honesty) says probably not. Romney's expected to win in his backyard, and Jon Huntsman skipped Iowa to build a solid foundation in the Granite State. Further, Ron Paul, Iowa's third-place finisher, has serious appeal among New Hampshire independents, who are notoriously squeamish about social conservatives such as Santorum. Then, of course, there's the issue of money. Does Santorum have enough?
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Finally, he'll have to survive what will be a brutal week of scrutiny from the press. Opposition research will be directed almost entirely at Santorum.
All that said, don't count him out. His surge is well-timed, heading into a debate and a primary, and if he makes it to South Carolina, he could gobble up the votes that would have gone to Bachmann.
Plus, as his campaign representative pointed out to me this week, he's got a legitimate ground game going in New Hampshire. He's spent a lot of time there -- behind only Huntsman.
He's got the second most endorsements of any of the contenders in the state behind Romney, including 23 state representatives, a state senator and 82 county captains spread through all 10 New Hampshire counties.
It's hard to say if Santorum can make it another week, let alone another couple of months. But I like that he's finally having his moment. Maybe he'll surprise us all, and turn his moment into momentum.