I’ve been pretty quiet about Rick Santorum’s “surge”

That has been by design.

As I’ve made no secret of Santorum is my candidate of choice he edges Bachmann due to his ability to cut a senate deal over Bachmann’s house experience.

But I’ve also seen the pattern on tea party candidates. The media knowing the true electability or lack thereof of this president (why don’t you ask Ben Nelson how electable Obama is?) wants him to face the weakest possible GOP candidate.

So the deal has been to puff up then tear down candidate after candidate (Rick Perry managed to do it for them due to poor debate performances) to eliminate. The actual numbers no longer matter, the EXPECTED numbers become the yardstick. Six months ago if Newt Gingrich finished in the top three in Iowa it would be a sign of a Gingrich surge, now if he finishes 3rd it becomes weakness. Same in NH.

Unlike the others Santorum has been slowly gaining, that is important.

The reality is that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina with the new delegate system are much less relevant than before these three primaries are all battles against the expectations game. If the chattering class think you are under-performing the fundraising dries up and it’s over.

In other words is a game of perception.

Romney and Paul don’t have this problem because of their organizations and Perry as the governor of Texas has a built-in incentive for donors to give, but the other candidates do not.

If the MSM decides to play up a “Santorum Surge” than any finish below 2nd suddenly becomes a “loss” or a “disappointment” and the conventional wisdom suddenly becomes death.

Thus if Santorum becomes expected to finish first or second and doesn’t that becomes disaster, particularly since he will not win New Hampshire thanks to the Romney lock and the independent (read democrat) crossover vote nor South Carolina due to the open primary. It’s no coincidence that we see this story out of Iowa:

In a sign that he actually feels quite confident that he’ll finish well in Iowa (remember, he still intends to win the state), former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he’ll drop out of the GOP presidential race if he finishes “dead last” in the Hawkeye State.

I’ve pointed to enough of Stacy’s posts and others to note Rick’s progress, but right now top 4 for Santorum is a ticket to go on. Once that changes it becomes harder.

Is that bias? Of course is it, I want Santorum to win! I’ve not made a secret of it. He is my candidate of choice. I will support the GOP nominee but I would like it to be Rick.

If Santorum is going to surge the next few days is the time to do it but I’d just as soon he quietly move forward.

Update: While preparing to do some first-rate shoe leather reporting in Iowa Stacy McCain totally misreads me:

Pete seems to be worried that if he blogs too much about Santorum, he’ll be “unfair” to the other candidates.

I have no idea where he is getting the “fairness” business from, the word “fair” anywhere in this post. It’s a pure strategic decision to not build up the expectations at this point, fairness has nothing to do with it. This proves conclusively that one should avoid blogging while wet and naked.

I would however suggest that you keep an eye on Stacy’s site for the next few days as he will be doing the first hand reporting that he does best. As it is unlikely that he will be wet and naked while covering these events (at least not until rule 5 Sunday) his analysis and coverage is likely to be superior so you won’t want to miss it.