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Posted at 03:31 PM ET, 01/02/2012

The Duggars, and a vacuum, join the Santorum party

Perry, Iowa — Rick Santorum is going to win Iowa, even if that means he has to have a cup of coffee with every last state resident and one or two people who turn out to be members of the press corps.

He has been at it for months, pursuing people into coffee shops and diners and lying in wait for them behind their garages.

Rick Santorum has been hunting down Iowans with a tenacity generally reserved for people who suspect you owe them money. He’s been at it for months. You would go home or go to church, and there Rick Santorum would be, like the Elf on the Shelf or one of those malevolent clown dolls that follow people around in horror stories. The people waiting outside the Reising Sun’s back door had seen him several months ago at church. “Hey,” they’d said to each other, “that’s Rick Santorum.”

Today, they are waiting for Santorum outside the back door.

The restaurant — Reising Sun of Polk City, Iowa — is crammed well past its capacity of 49 people. Several TV cameras, media of all sorts, a smattering of intrigued locals and a button salesman who claims he’s sold hundreds of his wares have turned out in bone-chilling weather to shake hands with the man they hope will be the next president of the United States — or at least kiss the hem of his sweater vest.

And it’s not just the locals. A caravan pulls up. The Duggars, they of “19 Kids and Counting” on TLC fame, are here — Jim Bob Duggar with 12 of his hardiest children in tow. They arrived at 1:30 last night from Arkansas to fling their warm support behind Sen. Santorum.

If this were a film, I would be yelling at the screen to accuse it of lacking verisimilitude.

The Duggars stand shivering outside the Reising Sun.

Like the Magi, following their star, or that guy in the New Testament who started following Jesus wearing nothing but a linen garment, the Duggars seemed to have brought no winter clothing in their eagerness to follow their savior. It is so cold that I am contemplating burning my BlackBerry for warmth. But Mr. Jim Bob Duggar tells me that “it’s worth it. We believe in Rick Santorum. He’s a godly, Christian man who consistently has stood for what’s right.” He stops to instruct the kids, “Go in the store next door so you don’t freeze to death.”

They move into a neighboring shop. A Santorum staffer marshals them behind a Santorum sign and urges them to yell, “We Pick Rick!” “Better identify which Rick!” yells Mr. Duggar. I suppose “Santorum, We’re For ’Im” was already trademarked or something.

Is it really happening? I pinch myself. I can’t feel it because my arm has gone numb in the high winds, but I assume it is.

Rick Santorum has momentum. Rick Santorum, whose voice has the range and expressiveness of cardboard, who wears brown sweater vests with blue shirts and gray pants, who has spent the past dozen debates at the Outer Rim podiums saying things about Iranian influence in South America. Rick Santorum, whose repertoire of facial expressions is comparable to that of Al Gore, whose name is quite literally — on Google — mud, might just pull this off.

I remember when sex columnist Dan Savage and I were the only people who had anything to say about Rick Santorum. Santorum.com, with its spurious and frothy neologistic definition, still maintains its stranglehold on the top rank of Google results, but people are actually Googling Rick Santorum for other reasons.

“I think he just shook my hand,” they say. “He popped up out of nowhere with a cup of coffee and shook my hand, and then he said something that sounded values-oriented. He claims he’s running for the Republican nomination. If he actually is, I am pretty sure he isn’t Mitt Romney, so we should fling our enthusiastic support behind him.”

But the next stop brings more of what Santorum’s used to.

At the Hotel Pattee in Perry “Wrong Rick,” Iowa, Santorum boasts, “I’ve had two-hour town meetings with 15 people.” This shows, he says, that he is about serious person-to-person politics. Admittedly, at the time, it showed that only 15 people were willing to show up to a Rick Santorum town hall, because none of them had any idea who he was but they had heard there might be coffee. But hindsight is always clearer.

“That’s what this race is about,” Santorum said, standing on the steps of the warm and lavish hotel. In the background, someone is vacuuming loudly. “Ordinary conversations over ordinary and sometimes extraordinary cups of coffee.” He starts talking about going hunting and then pauses. “I guess we’re interrupting the vacuuming.” He seems resigned. “I’m used to people not paying attention to me.”

Pick Rick?

It might work. It’s a “grass-roots campaign for president,” Santorum says. “If this guy can do this well in Iowa spending this little money, imagine what he’ll do in Washington.”

I imagine it’ll take a lot of coffee.

By  |  03:31 PM ET, 01/02/2012

Tags:  Rick Santorum, Legends of the Caucus, GOP 2012

 
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