Bloomberg News

Santorum Channeling Pat Buchanan Faces a Changed New Hampshire

January 11, 2012

(For more campaign news, see ELECT.)

Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Rick Santorum, working to channel the populist success of Patrick Buchanan in New Hampshire, may be unable to recreate the coalition he needs to finish strong in the state’s Jan. 10 Republican presidential primary.

Buchanan scored an upset win in New Hampshire’s 1996 primary by consolidating a group of working-class voters stressed over threats to manufacturing jobs and a smaller bloc of anti-abortion Catholics. That’s the alliance Santorum is seeking to put together after his razor-close second-place finish in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses to cut into former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s lead in New Hampshire.

The environment is unlikely to be as hospitable to Santorum as it was to Buchanan in a state where the ranks of blue-collar workers have shrunk as manufacturing has contracted.

“He’s going after those same blue-collar workers I did: Catholic conservatives, right-to-life, and workers who were losing their manufacturing jobs,” Buchanan said in an interview. The challenge for Santorum, he said, is, “there aren’t as many of them as there were back when I was running.”

New Hampshire has about 66,000 workers employed in manufacturing, down from 98,000 when Buchanan won there, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While Buchanan, who also ran a strong second against then- President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire’s 1992 Republican primary, said he doubts Santorum can overtake Romney, he predicted the former Pennsylvania senator could draw as much as 20 percent of the vote.

‘Crowded Field’

A major challenge for Santorum is that he’s competing with Texas Representative Ron Paul and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to inherit parts of Buchanan’s base of support, said Republican strategist Greg Mueller.

“The question is how much of that vote in a crowded field in New Hampshire can Santorum claim,” said Mueller, a former Buchanan aide who is neutral in this year’s race. “It’s a little different environment up there than it was when Pat ran.”

Santorum is tempering expectations. He told reporters yesterday that while he had “no expectation” of defeating Romney in New Hampshire, “I do have an expectation of moving up.” His campaign’s goal is to finish strongly enough in the state to carry him to South Carolina, where social conservatives hold more sway. He planned to leave New Hampshire on Jan. 8 to campaign in that state, which holds its primary Jan. 21.

2008 Primary

Santorum, a Catholic who has made his opposition to abortion rights a central campaign issue, is also working to consolidate support among New Hampshire’s Catholic voters. Exit polls showed that 38 percent of voters who participated in the state’s 2008 Republican primary were Catholic. Winning that vote was Senator John McCain of Arizona, the party’s eventual nominee; those he defeated included Romney.

The grassroots advocacy group CatholicVote.org endorsed Santorum yesterday and e-mailed its 600,000 members saying it was “prepared to mobilize our rapidly growing grassroots network to help secure him the GOP nomination, and ultimately win the White House.”

“Rick Santorum is a workingman’s Republican with a record and a plan which are especially appealing to Catholic voters,” the group’s president, Brian Burch, said in the statement.

At campaign events in New Hampshire yesterday, large crowds greeted Santorum, as voters sought to learn more about a candidate who rode a late surge in Iowa to finish eight votes behind Romney in the caucuses.

‘Immigrant Experience’

Clad in khakis, a button-down shirt and cowboy boots, and riding passenger-side in a black Dodge Ram pickup truck, Santorum at each stop emphasized his working-class roots. He spoke about the “immigrant experience” of his Italian grandparents, and told a hardscrabble personal story, even making light of his “tough-love” Catholic upbringing that left “some scars from rulers” wielded by nuns on his knuckles.

“He knows how hard it is to work as a working man,” said Bob Grover, 61, who came out to see Santorum in his hometown of Northfield. “I’m an unemployed carpenter right now, so it means a lot that someone can come up and relate to people.”

‘Yacht Club’

Buchanan, who defeated eventual Republican nominee Bob Dole in the 1996 New Hampshire primary, delighted restive party members and some conservative Democrats by deriding his opponents that year as candidate who were out of touch with the needs of working people. He said businessman Steve Forbes’ flat- tax plan “sounded like something the boys cooked up at the yacht club.”

While Santorum hasn’t offered the same critiques of his rivals in this year race, he’s quick to highlight his working- class outlook and appeal.

He told voters at a Rotary Club breakfast in Manchester that his economic plan would “dramatically improve the condition of small-town America, which is where manufacturing is based, and blue-collar America, who are the folks who have been left behind in this country.”

Referring to himself, Santorum said, “You’ve got a guy who grew up in a steel town who can go out and deliver that message and contrast very clearly with” President Barack Obama.

Santorum is “more down to earth, he’s more working class,” said Claira Monier, a veteran New Hampshire activist who is co-chairing his statewide effort after having backed Romney in 2008. “Romney’s a little too...” Monier paused, grasping for the right word, “a little too rich.”

--With assistance from Albert R. Hunt in Manchester. Editors: Mark McQuillan, Don Frederick

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Manchester, New Hampshire at Jdavis159@bloomberg.net; Julianna Goldman in Windham, New Hampshire at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva@bloomberg.net


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