For many voters, tonight was the first time they got a chance to see Rick Santorum as a real contender, after he has spent the past months quietly canvassing every county in Iowa. Tonight viewers of his speech were reminded that hard work and aspiration pay off. Santorum said tonight he learned these essential lessons from the example of his grandfather and father.
He was inspiring, effective, while sounding fully like himself. He contrasted his positions with both the Democrat and Republican establishment, arguing that "cutting taxes is not enough." He offered more: for America to reach its full potential, he said, it must embrace the values that made it into the great country it is. American values, Santorum said, which are not shared by those who currently occupy the White House.
One of my favorite lines of his speech: “Thank God for people who cling to their guns and bibles... They understand that when the family breaks down the economy does." One of Santorum's unique contributions to this debate has been to constantly tie American's economic success to the strength of her families and marriages.
Another favorite line of his: "What motivates me? The dignity of every human life." He also tied human dignity to the particular dignity of work and labor. An uplifting vision which reveals a heart that has been touched by serving rural Pennsylvania areas where shuttered steel mills marked the landscape.
Mitt Romney began his speech by graciously congratulating Santorum for his strong finish tonight. We've got a real race on our hands. And I look forward to seeing how it plays out in the coming critical weeks.