Even though he is a columnist for The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer often makes shrewd observations about American politics.
On Fox News the night before the Iowa caucuses, however, Krauthammer indulged in a false appeal to common knowledge -- before casually dismissing Rick Santorum as a nonviable presidential candidate
Bill O'Reilly asked: Who is going to win Iowa?
"I'll tell you that it's win, place and show, everybody knows: Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul," Krauthammer responded. "And I'm not sure it will matter either way, because Santorum has a one-in-50 chance of winning the nomination. Paul has zero chance."
As I write this, the Iowa caucuses are still a few hours in the future. I do not know who is going to win, place or show.
But I know this: A month ago, someone looking for a frontrunner in Iowa might have picked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who hit 33 percent in a CNN poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers -- 13 points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 16 ahead of Paul.
Before that, former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann all took turns at the top of the Iowa polls.
Before December, Santorum never topped 7 percent in the state. Why did he emerge?
First, Santorum passed the basic test all candidates face: He is up to the office.
Santorum's knowledge of public policy -- developed over two terms in the U.S. Senate -- is deeper and broader than any other candidate's except, perhaps, Gingrich's. He is clearly qualified to be president -- even if he has never been a community organizer like Barack Obama or a venture capitalist like Mitt Romney.
Secondly, Santorum has done something fairly radical in modern presidential politics: He not only has insisted on saying exactly what he believes, he has turned his heartfelt beliefs into the foundation of a visionary message for the country's future.
Responding to a question at a town hall meeting (broadcast by C-SPAN from Marshalltown, Iowa) on Friday, Santorum used one of his signature issues -- the right to life -- as a launching point to explain his broader vision.
"You have a lot of presidential candidates who will say the words: I believe life begins at conception," Santorum said. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't believe life begins at conception. I know life begins at conception. It is a biological fact."
"We need someone who is going to go out and be unapologetic in laying out the truth to the American public -- not only on faith, family, life, but on all the issues that we are dealing with," said Santorum.