You Think This Is Bad? Yes, It’s Bad.

I have a real hard time feeling any sympathy for Rick Santorum (who, among other things, does not think I am a Real Christian). But his 2016 presidential campaign is not off to a real good start, as evidenced by this sad scene from Iowa presented by the Des Moines Register‘s Josh Hafner:

When just one Iowan showed up to Rick Santorum’s 2 p.m. campaign stop at a restaurant here Monday, the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses made a quick decision: Might as well order lunch.

“I haven’t eaten, actually, all day,” he said to his guest, Peggy Toft, an insurance agent and chair of the county’s Republican Party.

For Santorum, who’s making a second go at the Republican nomination for president, the low turnout wasn’t surprising, he said, but all part of the plan.

He spent 2011 building momentum in Iowa by touring all 99 of the state’s counties, speaking one on one to voters in sparsely populated stretches of the state. He scraped together two committed caucusgoers here, another two there, ultimately defeating Mitt Romney, the GOP’s eventual nominee, by 34 votes in Iowa.

You get the idea of this not very sound syllogism: nobody paid attention to Rick Santorum early in the 2012 cycle. He eventually won Iowa. Nobody’s paying attention to him now. Ergo he’ll win Iowa in 2016, too!

So as he endures one painfully humiliating event after another, Santorum’s like the Dustin Hoffman character in Wag the Dog, greeting each fresh disaster with the words You think this is bad? before relating some horrible incident from his show biz career.

Trouble is, Rick Santorum won Iowa in 2012 not because he plugged along in obscurity for so long, but because his rivals for Electable Conservative Alternative To Mitt Romney mostly self-destructed. He didn’t. The odds of this happening all over again are remote enough to begin with, without the problem that the field’s more than twice as large, which means that even more True Conservative aspirants would have to croak themselves before caucus-goers turn to Santorum.

Enjoy the breaded tenderloin, Rick. A few good meals may be all you take away from this cycle’s 99-county tour.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.