Santorum has a hard-won wisdom that only shows up in the long view. You can see snatches of it during the Republican primary debates, when he schools Ron Paul on foreign policy and America's obligations to its allies and its own self-defense. Santorum projects a self-confidence that is not paternalistic, but straightforward and respectful. He has the air of authority that comes with experience, and the refreshing authenticity of a guy who is a happy father and husband, a guy who clearly misses his family while on the long campaign trail.
Even while Santorum is ridiculed by the left for being a culture warrior, my own Facebook page experienced some fireworks the other day as he was blasted as a "pro-life fraud" for some endorsements he's made over the years, the kind one can agree or disagree with but which also suggest some appreciation for forming alliances in an imperfect world -- in other words, for governing.
His is the confidence of a man for whom experience has helped generate optimism, the realistic sort that comes with knowledge of something greater than oneself and one?s campaign, even one?s exceptional nation. As a person who has worked with him puts it: "He is a man who simply loves his work, without an ounce of cynicism. And I?ve never heard him say 'no' to a request, schedule permitting. If it can be done, he wants to do it."
We are not the ones we have been waiting for. Nor is Santorum. Which is precisely why he wakes up every day and works, and why Iowa voters see something of what they?d like to see in Washington (again) in him.
(Kathryn Lopez is the editor-at-large of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)