In the News

Redistricting Doesn’t Need Fixing

September 16th, 2012

Via the Statesman:

With the primary elections in a redistricting year now in the rearview mirror, the predictable lament of losing candidates is to blame the district lines.

If only the process were fair!

Elected officials don’t own the voters. They don’t own their districts. They are allowed to rent them, for two-, four- or six-year periods, contingent upon review by the voters.

Incumbents have all the advantages — official staff, travel budget, favors to offer, ability to raise money, high name recognition.

If you are an incumbent, and you lost, you have no one to blame but yourself.

While this harsh reality escapes some, a new debate, which is revisited every 10 years, has emerged. Should we take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature? Should we change the process in place for decades? The U.S. Constitution requires that the state governing body is responsible for reapportionment every Census period. It does not say “judges” or “independent commissions.”

In Texas, one elected official who was just defeated in a primary runoff, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, consistently files a bill to create a nine-member, equally bipartisan special commission on congressional redistricting.

Texas doesn’t need a new special commission to do the business of the Legislature. In fact, the system we have now is rigorous, allows for accountability and is fair. The Legislature is tasked with drawing the state House and Senate maps.

If they don’t, a statute passed in 1951 created the Legislative Redistricting Board, which is made up of the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, the comptroller, the land commissioner and the attorney general. If the Legislature cannot agree on a map, the board is given the responsibility.

In either case, the maps are drawn and voted on only after public testimony. If the maps are unfair, the aggrieved party has recourse.

First, Texas is a Southern state and requires pre-clearance from the federal government under the Voting Rights Act. In the case of this year’s map, the courts have ruled that it must be rewritten after this November when interim maps, drawn by the courts, will be used. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to hear Attorney General Greg Abbott’s appeal of that decision by the courts.

Second, if the lines are truly unfair, voters can vote out the members of the Redistricting Committee, or their own member of the House or Senate. They can have opponents challenge them.

The maps can be made a political issue; in fact, they may be an issue both this November and in March 2014.

The Texas Legislature is responsible for drawing the congressional map, and they do so with heavy input from incumbent members.

Ultimately, the current process is deliberative and open and requires a full vote of both houses of the Legislature. Every candidate knows what the lines are before they must file.

Do you think incumbents only protect themselves and are virtually unbeatable? Control of the U.S. House switched from Republican in 2004 to Democrat in 2006 to Republican in 2010, with the 2010 election seeing a net of 67 seats change from Democrat to Republican.

This process has worked in Texas for decades. There is no need to change it now.

Paul Ryan: A VP with a mandate

August 15th, 2012

Via Reuters:

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza rightly called Mitt Romney’s bold selection of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) as his running mate, “the most daring decision of his political career.”

Until this weekend, most observers expected Romney to proceed cautiously by selecting a vice-presidential nominee who would neither shake up the race nor introduce new risk into the campaign.

Mitt Romney, we hardly knew ye.

This is the most consequential presidential election in a generation. It deserves a campaign on big ideas and contrasting visions, not petty personal attacks, small ball and obfuscation.

To date, the Obama-Biden campaign has said embarrassingly little about what a second term would entail. Republicans expect that it would include an effort to legalize millions of undocumented workers, fully implement Obamacare, raise taxes, expand government and push climate change legislation. But President Obama hasn’t had the courage to say it. And so if, in a war of attrition, Obama ekes out a narrow victory in November, it will be hollow, as no mandate for these legislative goals will be granted.

Likewise, until now Romney’s argument that Obama deserves firing is not enough to provide a legislative mandate, even If he were to win.

But now, with the addition of Ryan to the ticket, Romney has a golden opportunity to define his platform by offering a bold, honest, direct set of solutions to the voters. And he now has exactly the right partner to do it.

Romney and Ryan should frame the 2012 election in terms of growth vs. dependence.

The last three and a half years have witnessed greater American dependence on government than at any time since the Great Depression: expanded welfare access, record delivery of food stamps, seemingly unending federal unemployment insurance, and a massive new entitlement with Obamacare. And private industry now massively relies on government: bank bailouts, auto bailouts, wasted investments in “alternative energy,” nationalization of the student loan industry and the government takeover of one-sixth of the economy with healthcare. Where does it end?

Republicans should stress that America was not made great because Americans were dependent on government. The greatness of America has always been human initiative, entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness. The American Dream is not food stamps, welfare and unemployment insurance.

This theme ties in directly with the ‘”You Didnt Build That” controversy , a stunning moment of honesty from President Obama in which he requires that every private-sector achievement is directly attributable to the public sector.

This dependence on government is a cancer, which grows uncontrollably and decreases human initiative. It cannot, by its very nature, lead to economic growth.

With our national debt now reaching 100 percent of our gross domestic product, Republicans are right to speak the truth: We cannot afford the government we have.

President Obama, who promised to halve the deficit in his first term, is the owner of the four largest deficits in American history, each over $1 trillion. And 40 percent of our federal spending is borrowed.

Hard choices must be made to save America.

Raising taxes on the wealthy, a strategic canard created by the Obama campaign to attack Romney’s personal wealth and shamelessly employ class warfare to divide Americans is not a serious solution. If you taxed millionaires at 100 percent you would do little to balance the budget and much to destroy job creation and investment.

The only solution that will save America requires four parts: reducing spending to our historical average (to around 18 percent of GDP from 25 percent today (Medicare runs out of money by 2024, Social Security will go bankrupt by 2033 and we now have over $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities), reforming our individual and corporate tax code (broadening the base, lowering all rates, ending nearly all market-distorting tax breaks), and enabling rapid economic growth (at least 3 percent annually).

Without growth, the other three requirements are not enough.

Only by honestly describing the current danger and offering a bold case to the voters, which both Romney and Ryan are well equipped to do, can a Romney administration win the political mandate that this solution will require.

For this reason, Ryan is the right choice for vice-president. Now it’s time for Romney and Ryan to win the argument.

(The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and not those of Reuters.)

( Matt Mackowiak is an Austin (Texas)- and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.)

How Ted Cruz Did It

August 2nd, 2012

As seen in the Daily Caller

Tea party insurgent Ted Cruz’s thrilling and improbable victory over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in Texas’s GOP Senate primary provides a model for future long-shot candidates to follow, though repeating what Cruz did will be difficult.

A long line of dominoes had to fall, in the precise order that they did, for Cruz to overcome an opponent who had every advantage a political candidate can have.

Dewhurst had unlimited financing (he spent at least $19.9 million of his own money), universal name recognition, unanimous support from the Austin political establishment and massive political power as the leader of the Texas Senate.

Ted Cruz had courage, wisdom and a hunch.

When Cruz’s eventual campaign manager told me in early 2011 that the former Texas solicitor general would likely run for retiring U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat, I scoffed at the idea. The race was beyond his reach, he couldn’t raise enough money, he had never been on the ballot before, other likely candidates possessed statewide name recognition and Cruz’s Hispanic surname would hurt him in a Republican primary.

But Cruz and his team were undeterred by the naysayers. They went to work.

In Texas, if a primary candidate wins less than 50% of the vote, the top two primary candidates advance to a runoff. Cruz’s biggest insight was that he could win a runoff against Dewhurst; the hard part would be making it to the runoff.

Cruz set out to build the largest grassroots army in Texas history, believing that passionate supporters would act as force multipliers.

But first he needed help.

In politics, the shape of the field determines the race. Cruz needed to become the consensus conservative candidate in order to make it a one-on-one race against Dewhurst, so he could nationalize the campaign. When it began, four candidates sought the conservative mantle: Cruz, Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams. Cruz came out ahead by outworking and outperforming his competition.

Early on, Cruz won the support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (and later the Tea Party Express), whose outside efforts would prove critical later. He unexpectedly raised significant money (about $1 million every three months), a task made more difficult by the large, unsettled field.

Conservatives gradually lined up behind Cruz, giving him momentum and forcing the other conservative candidates to drop out. By the filing deadline, Cruz was the only tea party candidate in the race.

Traditionally, Texas has March primaries. But wrangling and a court battle over the state’s redistricting map forced election officials to move the primary to late May, with a runoff in the dog days of summer in late July, ultimately reducing turnout and giving Cruz more time to raise money and build momentum.

And Cruz’s momentum kept building. National Review put him on its cover, just as it had put Marco Rubio on its cover two years before. Syndicated columnist George Will wrote a glowing column in which he described Cruz as a candidate who was “as good as it gets.”

The five strongest conservatives in the U.S. Senate — Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey and Tom Coburn — all endorsed him. Talk radio followed, with Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and eventually Sean Hannity endorsing Cruz.

This momentum forced two other potential candidates — Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and State Senator Dan Patrick — not to run, keeping Cruz as the only movement conservative in the field.

But there may have never been a runoff between Cruz and Dewhurst were it not for two crucial late developments. Ten days before the runoff, Ron Paul endorsed Cruz, which brought Paul’s supporters into the fold. Then former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) endorsed him, bringing in a wave of invaluable earned media, small donor contributions and momentum. Those endorsements helped Cruz get enough votes in the May 29 primary to force a runoff. At that point, the race’s ultimate result was inevitable.

Two months later, on runoff election night, Cruz’s rabid volunteer base, outside support and huge momentum carried him to a crushing 13-point win.

Cruz is a once-in-a-generation candidate who ran a nearly flawless campaign in a favorable political environment. But he never should have been able to win. Indeed, as he has said to his supporters, “I alone could not win this race. But with your help, we could not lose.”

Romney’s Considerations for Vice President

July 12th, 2012

Via the Daily Caller:

When it comes to the vice presidential selection process, it’s important to keep in mind the maxim: those who speak don’t know and those who know don’t speak.

But that will not stop me from trying to predict who Mitt Romney will pick to be his running mate.

There appear to be four serious finalists: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ann Romney’s recent admission that they were seriously considering choosing a female vice presidential candidate, most likely Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) or former Secretary of State Condi Rice, is probably a calculated head fake or wishful thinking.

How to rate the four finalists? Consider five criteria, listed in order of presumed importance to Romney:

1.) Risk — In a post-Palin political world, the Hippocratic Oath of “first, do no harm” comes to mind. Of the four finalists, Portman and Pawlenty have been the most thoroughly vetted and thus offer the lowest risk (and perhaps the least excitement). No major controversies were uncovered during Pawlenty’s GOP presidential campaign. Portman ran statewide in Ohio and was twice appointed to cabinet-level positions in the Bush administration, surviving the White House vetting process and Senate confirmation twice with flying colors. Jindal is not as well known nationally, but his resume is remarkable: Rhodes Scholar, health policy expert, Louisiana State University chancellor, congressman, two-term governor. However, his State of the Union response in 2009 was widely panned, leaving the lingering perception that he is not ready for prime time. Ryan, who was shamelessly demagogued for his 2012 and 2013 budgets, would saddle Romney with that political baggage and has never been elected to anything other than Congress. Moreover, both Jindal and Ryan are young.

2.) Geography — No major-party candidate has won the presidency as a result of his vice presidential candidate swinging a major battleground state since Lyndon Johnson won Texas for Kennedy in 1960. The electoral power of vice presidential candidates is often overstated, as polling demonstrates that almost no one casts their presidential votes based on the vice presidential nominees. For Romney, though, choosing Portman or Ryan could help him carry Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively. Romney must win Ohio, and Portman, a former congressman from Cincinnati who easily won election to the U.S. Senate in 2010 after running one of the best campaigns of the cycle, would help. Wisconsin appears to be competitive in light of a great 2010 cycle and the striking victories by Gov. Scott Walker this year in a series of recall elections. Ryan is in a swing district with a party registration disadvantage, but he consistently wins with over 60 percent of the vote. Pawlenty likely cannot put Minnesota in play, but his working-class background could sell in Midwestern battleground states. A Southerner, Jindal would change nothing about the map.

3.) Relationship — It’s important for presidential candidates to connect with their vice presidential picks on a personal level. Romney’s campaign has wisely tested the relationships between Romney and his prospective running mates over a period of several months. Of the four finalists, only Jindal endorsed someone else (Rick Perry), yet all have campaigned publicly for Romney, served as Romney surrogates, raised money for him and been team players since Romney wrapped up the GOP nomination in April. Pawlenty appears to have ingratiated himself with Romney as a low-maintenance, easygoing teammate. Portman was seen as a crucial part of Romney’s critical and narrow victory in Ohio and has been a trusted adviser to the Romney campaign for a long time. Ryan, more policy wonk than political animal, recently stepped up his assistance to the campaign and appeared to click with Romney during Wisconsin rallies earlier this year. Jindal did not overlap as a governor with Romney and likely knows the nominee the least well of the finalists.

4.) Governing — Vice presidential candidates must be able to take the helm should something happen to the president. They also must bring something substantive to what could be an eight-year partnership with the presidential candidate. The strongest governing choices are Ryan and Portman. Ryan knows the budget better than anyone and has personally authored two budgets as House Budget Committee chairman. Portman is widely respected by members in both chambers for his intellect, experience and calm manner. He served as a legislative aide to President George H.W. Bush before winning a seat in Congress, and was appointed White House budget director and U.S. trade representative by President George W. Bush. Former Gov. John Sununu (R-NH), a senior Romney adviser, told National Review’s Robert Costa that Portman is a favorite at Romney’s Boston headquarters because of his “political diligence, his fundraising prowess and his policy acumen.” Pawlenty and Jindal have very limited Washington experience or relationships, but both have credible reform records as governors.

5.) Narrative — The media is more powerful today than ever before. As such, Romney’s campaign must consider what the narrative will be for each potential VP choice. For Portman, it will be: insider, Bush baggage, experienced, plain. For Pawlenty, it will be: failed presidential candidate lacking charisma. For Jindal it will be: first Indian American on a major-party ticket, conservative, young. For Ryan, it will be: austerity.

As I said, pundits make predictions. I predict Romney chooses Portman and unveils the pick Monday morning in Cincinnati, Portman’s hometown. But I’m not wagering money.

The Quiet Rescue of the Republican Party of Texas

June 7th, 2012

Via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

When Steve Munisteri, a retired Houston lawyer and businessman, campaigned to be state Republican Party chairman two years ago, he noted that he had been politically active for 38 years.

As Munisteri’s first term comes to a close and he stands ready to be re-elected (unopposed) to what he says will be his last two-year term, it is clear that he was the right man at the right time. In a difficult situation, he did what he said he would do.

When he was elected on June 12, 2010, the party reported $500,000 in debt. On June 17 he learned that the debt was $680,000.

Fixing the party’s finances was his mission. His campaign pledge was “to stop the party’s deficit spending, eliminate the debt completely in two years and to not deficit-spend ever again.”

That required reaching out to major donors, many of whom had either been ignored by the party or grown frustrated and stopped giving.

Within three months, by logging hundreds of hours on the phone and enlisting the help of many of the party’s historically most generous donors, Munisteri had brought in more than $250,000 of $500,000 pledged.

Munisteri asked everyone to pick up a shovel — and they did.

Meanwhile, the party was revamping internally to help Republicans win elections, launching a Trailblazers program to train and deploy more than 2,000 volunteers into targeted districts. The party also began significant minority and youth outreach and organized statewide block-walking activities.

Munisteri crisscrossed the state to attend party functions, fundraisers and candidate events, and he chaired the quarterly State Republican Executive Committee meetings.

By Aug. 31, 2010, the state party reached a crucial milestone — financial solvency. It had more cash on hand than debt.

Soon came the launch of a Grassroots Club of donors willing to contribute $8.25 monthly in return for invitations to regular conference calls with the chairman, a special event at conventions and a promise that solicitations would end.

By January 2012, the club had more than 1,300 members, with a goal of more than 2,000 by the end of this year.

It all adds up.

In happily reporting on the major election victories of 2010 for Republicans across the state (99 elected House Republicans that night, as well as a net gain of three in Congress), Munisteri said that under his administration the party had received more than $1.1 million in pledges, of which $876,000 had been put into the bank by Election Day.

Within six months, Munisteri had cut more than $370,000 from the budget he inherited.

The party launched a website and trained volunteers and campaign staffers. Munisteri’s team negotiated contracts for the 2012 state convention, which hosts more than 12,000 people and is larger than the national party convention. It supported Republicans during the legislative session. Munisteri personally recruited Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to serve as the victory chairman for 2012.

By June 2011, Munisteri reported that all debts were paid and that the party had more than $100,000 in a rainy-day fund, apart from nearly $800,000 in cash on hand. Last week, he told the executive committee that the party had $1.1 million in the bank.

State party Vice Chairwoman Melinda Fredericks summed up Munisteri’s work by complimenting him as a “team builder” who is “inclusive,” “dedicated,” and a “true leader in that he shares praise and credit.”

This year has brought, as Munisteri noted, “redistricting lawsuits, three different primary dates, a new process to select delegates and alternates [and a] reduced timeline.” Yet those challenges are being met.

On the most pressing issue, fixing the party’s finances, Munisteri has kept his promise. The party has been debt-free for more than a year.

Munisteri has quietly, resolutely and courageously led the state party, and all Texas Republicans are blessed that he will continue as chairman for another two years.

The Republican’s Secret Weapon against Obama

April 10th, 2012

As seen in the Washington Times:

Although we live in a post-Citizens United world of Super PACs, the national party committees remain relevant, in fact, vital, to winning national campaigns.

As any former or current party chair will tell you, there are certain things that only a national party can do. It’s important that it do them well.

As such, a functioning Republican National Committee (RNC) was one of the key requirements to Republicans unseating an incumbent president for only the second time in the last 100 years (first was Carter in 1980).

Reince Priebus, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, did not have a national profile when he won election to national party chairman on the seventh ballot on January 14, 2011. More importantly, he was inheriting an epic disaster, gallingly handed to him by Michael Steele, whose reign as party chairman was an historic and unmitigated disaster.

Upon taking over, on day one Priebus inherited a $21 million debt, a bloated staff with disturbingly low morale, and few prospects for immediate fundraising. How bad were things? Political director Gentry Collins, a respected senior GOP operative who had run the Republican Party of Iowa and had been a senior Romney and McCain campaign aide in 2008, released an unusual and scathing four-page letter in November 2010 detailing how bad a job Steele did.

Had Priebus done a mediocre job, he would deserve sincere appreciation for taking on this exhausting role in a presidential cycle after the mess that he was given.

But Priebus has quietly led a renaissance at the RNC, with a methodical, disciplined, hard-working, blue collar approach that has paid major dividends little more than a year later, at a critical time for the Republican Party nationally.

First, Priebus brought in respected operatives Ed Gillespie and Nick Ayers to oversee the transition. They quickly cut the staff and overhead drastically and undertook a thoughtful strategic analysis to forge a path forward. Together, they convinced top staffers to come to the RNC, with Jeff Larson moving from Minnesota to be Chief of Staff, vteran operative Rick Wiley joining as Political Director, Sean Spicer leading the communications team, and eventually Joe Pounder leading the round-the-clock research shop. Ambassador Ron Weiser, whose determination is legendary, was convinced to join as National Finance Chairman. The team was a significant upgrade, and sent a signal to the political and finance community that there was a new sheriff in town.

In the past 15 months, the RNC has raised over $110 million, a staggering figure for being the party without the White House, which the New York Times reported they had banked “nearly half of it in cash and trust fund reserves to be used in the upcoming general election.” About $22 million was placed into a Presidential Trust, which was chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), available to be immediately transferred to the campaign of the Republican nominee, a quick boost after this year’s long, costly and divisive primary.

According to the New York Times, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $27 million more dollars over the same period than the RNC, not unusual for the party with the White House, but their burn rate left them with less cash on hand ($21 million compared to $26.7 million at the end of March). The RNC has demonstrated greater discipline than its counterpart and the Republican nominee will benefit from it.

A former RNC Deputy Chairman, Frank Donatelli, recently said, “There was a donor strike of sorts at the end of 2010,” saying that Priebus has “regained the confidence of those major donors.” Strong fundraising has allowed the RNC to erase nearly half of its debt after 15 months.

True in a campaign of any size, strong finances allow for a strong ground organization.

The RNC already had campaign offices in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, more several more states in the coming weeks. In Wisconsin alone, Republican volunteers have already made over one million voter contacts – which equals the total number of voter contacts made nationally by the Obama campaign.

Efficient and effective voter contact requires first-rate data, and the RNC has made the requisite investments in updating and upgrading “Voter Vault,” which had deteriorated from the Bush reelection of 2004 to the McCain campaign in 2008.

One of the primary roles of the RNC when challenging a president of the opposing party is to always be on offense. Under Spicer, the RNC communications team has done this, bracketing President Obama’s travel, organizing a team of surrogates, and constantly unveiling new web and television ads, as they did Monday with a new ad, “Obama 2012 from Hope and Hypocrisy.” They set out to achieve “leaner but speedier” response efforts, recently detailed by CNN.

The RNC appointed Bettina Inclan with the role of managing their Hispanic voter outreach program nationally and in target states, which will eventually include field efforts, and already includes social media and a new website.

All this has been done in 15 months.

In a statement, Priebus recently said, “We are at least 90 days ahead of where the RNC has ever been in history.”

Given the mess he inherited, that is quite an accomplishment.

If Republicans win the White House in 2012, the RNC will be a major reason why.

Matt Mackowiak is an Austin, TX and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.

Matt Discusses 2012 Politics on CNN (3/20/12)

March 20th, 2012

Matt Discussing 2012 Politics on CNN (03/06/12) 5:30a

March 6th, 2012

Matt Discusses 2012 Politics on CNN (3/6/12) 5:30a

March 6th, 2012

Rick Santorum’s willful ascent

February 28th, 2012

As seen in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Rick Santorum was the longest of long shots when, five years after losing his bid for reelection to the Senate by 18 points, he spent much of 2011 campaigning for president in three early-primary states. But he campaigned longer and harder – albeit with less media attention, money, and staff – than any other Republican candidate. By the time Santorum barely won Iowa (as we belatedly learned), he had held nearly 400 town-hall meetings.

The rise of Santorum can be attributed to several key factors:

Media coverage: Santorum’s universally unforeseen sweep of the contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado last week won him enormous attention on broadcast and cable news across the country.

A campaign that had struggled to raise $1 million over three months in 2011 raised more than $2 million in the 72 hours that followed that romp.

Electability: Santorum is the most electable conservative remaining in the race.

Despite Newt Gingrich’s high name recognition and his history as a leader of the conservative movement, his baggage has proven insurmountable. Gingrich’s only win, in South Carolina, came on the heels of two dynamic but unrepeatable debate performances, and he has been unable to unite social conservatives with fiscally conservative tea-party voters.

Santorum has solid, long-standing support among social conservatives, and recent polling shows he is winning more tea-party support. It helps that he opposed the federal bailouts that Gingrich and Mitt Romney supported.

Absence of gaffes: This campaign has seen several national front-runners: Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich. But all of them were unable to sustain a burst of support in the harsh glare of national media scrutiny.

Santorum’s campaign had been left for dead many times, but it conserved its resources, developed a unique strategy, and let its workhorse drive it while committing very few gaffes. When Santorum has been given an opportunity – as he was when Romney’s campaign foolishly underestimated the potential impact of a Santorum sweep last week – he has seized it.

Solid debates: It’s hard to overstate the importance of the televised debates in this campaign. While nearly every Republican candidate has had a bad debate or a cringe-inducing moment, Santorum’s performances have been consistently solid, leaving audiences with the impression that he is intelligent, confident, and experienced. His tactic of lumping Romney and Gingrich together on such issues as bailouts and an individual health-insurance mandate has been particularly effective in setting him apart.

Timing: Santorum is the last of the anti-Romney candidates. And when you are the last to bat, you can be the last to score.

In 2008, John McCain benefitted from peaking at the right time, when he won New Hampshire and Florida, after faltering badly early in the campaign. Santorum never faltered; rather, for a long time, he never really got going. But he is benefiting now from peaking at the right time.

While the national media, pundits, and conservative leaders were flirting with the flavors of the month, Santorum was doing the grueling, unglamorous work of building an organization. That ultimately earned him wins in four of the nine states that have held contests.

Santorum has significant momentum. To maintain it, he will need to prevent Romney from winning both Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28. He also has to prove that he can win a large, expensive state, and that he can take harder punches from Romney, which Gingrich was unable to do.

More important, he needs to raise $5 million to $10 million over the next two or three weeks to fund his efforts on Super Tuesday, March 6, and in large states later that month and in April.

What Santorum needs most, though, is for Gingrich to exit, which would allow him to consolidate the “anti-Romney” vote.

Not long ago, no one had high hopes for the Santorum campaign – except perhaps Santorum, his family, and his longtime consigliere, John Brabender. Now Mitt Romney’s campaign is hoping to come up with an effective response. But how do you beat a candidate who held nearly 400 town-hall meetings and scarcely made a mistake?