The GOP's massive Santorum-Paul schism

Santorum is an unrepentant Bush-era interventionist. Paul is a fierce critic of U.S. interference abroad. And the GOP can't decide who's right

Daniel Larison

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul finished in a close second and third in Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses. But they could scarcely be farther apart in their foreign policy visions, not to mention their views on the proper role of government — revealing a massive fracture in the Republican Party. If the trajectory of their careers in the last five years is any indication, Paul's ideas are gaining influence, while Santorum appears to be one of the last of the completely unrepentant Bush-era Republicans. Paul was never going to be the nominee this year, but the party continues to move gradually in his direction.

Paul was overtaken Tuesday by Santorum's late surge, but the Texas libertarian's showing in Iowa represented more than a doubling of his 2008 result, and his numbers were boosted by strong backing from independents and young voters. Unlike Santorum, Paul has a significant campaign presence in other early states, and will still be reasonably competitive in the weeks to come. Considering the amount of time Santorum spent in Iowa over the last several months (by far more than any other candidate), and the presence of a natural constituency of social conservatives and evangelicals he should have been able to win over, the former Pennsylvania senator's result is not all that impressive compared to Mike Huckabee's four years ago.

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