Rick Santorum left Ohio on Thursday to come to the Republican heartland of eastern Washington aiming to steal one more victory in advance of the multiple-state showdown on Super Tuesday.
The people and the money are over in urban King County on the western side of the Cascade Mountains. That’s where
But a big concentration of fervent Republican voters lives on the dry side of the mountains -- especially here in Benton County where the Columbia River slices through arid ranch and farm country -- and Romney has not dropped by.
It's a three-hour drive from Seattle to Pasco, but, politically and culturally, the cities are as far apart as San Francisco and Oklahoma City. The 700 people who turned out to see Santorum in the banquet hall of the Red Lion Motor Inn were clearly in his camp, at several points shouting out the ends of his sentences before he could get the words out himself.
Unlike Romney's rally in Bellevue, there were almost certainly no Microsoft millionaires in the crowd that greeted Santorum on Thursday night, and the only men in business suits were Secret Service agents. There were men in cowboy hats and hunting caps, though, and a large contingent of children brought by parents who were proud to say they home-school their kids and expressed admiration for Santorum, who home-schooled his seven offspring.
Amanda Alvine, a young woman toting her toddler son in a sling on her back, identified herself as a home-schooling math teacher with a doctorate from Harvard. She said economic problems cannot be successfully resolved without addressing social issues. That's why she likes Santorum.
"I'm looking to support a candidate for president who will fight for things I hold dear," Alvine said, "traditional marriage and the value of every life, no matter how weak or vulnerable."
Santorum clearly connected with the crowd when he spoke about rights coming from God, not government. They cheered when he declared that life begins at conception. And, in a state where the legislature just legalized gay marriage, his declaration that "marriage is between a man and a woman," was cheered even louder.
Santorum's stance as a gritty fighter against establishment elites also played well. Each time he told his audience that no government bureaucrats, liberal media or pro-Romney party bosses should tell them what to do or what to think, the folks in the audience showed they were with him.
"They say, 'Oh, it's over, oh, it's over' every time Romney wins another primary," Santorum said.
"It ain't over!" shouted a man in a hunting jacket.
"Don't let the establishment pick the nominee, just like they did four years ago," Santorum went on.
The crowd roared, "No!"
Santorum ticked off the names of
"We're just getting warmed up!" a voice in the crowd called out.
In caucus states like Washington, the race is, indeed, just warming up. After the precinct meetings, the delegate selection process will go on through county and state conventions. Enthusiasm and perseverance will count more than money.
Is the marathon battle for the Republican nomination becoming like the extended fight between