BLOG: Santorum gets close, but not close enough

Emil Whitis
Mar 28, 2012

It was March 1. The Ohio primary was closing in.

I knew there’d be prominent Republicans nearby.

Weeks earlier, Register reporter Tom Jackson told me Rick Santorum was speaking at Bowling Green State University on March 3. 

In my pocket: tickets to the Black Keys concert in Detroit, purchased six months prior.

I had promised my buddy — expecting his second child — that I’d go with him. It’d be our last hurrah before he had to plunge into another three months of 24-hour diaper changing, bottle feeding and infant screaming.  

I couldn’t back out.    

Still, I felt guilty about letting an attention-seeking, pre-nomination Santorum slip by untouched.

So I looked at his schedule for the weekend, which showed some sort of elbow-rubbing planned for the happy suburb of Willoughby, on Cleveland’s east side.

It seemed a little more intimate — a good chance for a reporter to land a quick conversation with him.   

Then, on March 1, I got a call from a relative of the two brothers who had died in a truck crash on Perkins Avenue; he invited me to attend the funeral, where I could hear “the whole story.”

That’s how the Santorum situation baked in my brain as I dozed off at about 1 a.m. March 2.  At 7 a.m., my phone rang. The caller said Santorum might swing by Sandusky.

My morning daze wore off instantly and reality swirled into focus.

“Hold on,” I grumbled, readjusting. “Now, what?”

“Somebody just told me Sanatorium, or whatever his name is, is coming here,” the caller said.

Salvation. I knew God was watching out for me. 

I sprang of bed, jumped in the shower, inhaled breakfast and started dialing numbers.

First on my list was Erie County Republican party Chairman Alex Jones. His father picked up.

“I don’t think anything’s going on,” Jones’ father said. “I think he’d would have told me if it was something that big.”

Undeterred, I went down the list of phone numbers posted on the local Republican party’s website. I got answering machine after answering machine.

The clock was ticking and I had a funeral to attend.

I shifted gears and called up Congressman Bob Latta’s spokeswoman, Izzy Santa, who was arranging the Bowling Green event.

Santa said she’d heard nothing about a pit stop in Sandusky, but she provided me a number for Santorum’s Ohio coordinator, Lee Crognale.

Of course, it went straight to voicemail.

But minutes later, to my pleasant surprise, Crognale called me back.

I told him I was looking for a face to face with Santorum.

“If he’s heading to Bowling Green Saturday, he should be coming right through Sandusky,” I reasoned. “I can meet whenever and wherever works for him. I just need five minutes.”

Crognale said he’d do his best, but that after the Willoughby stop, Santorum was headed south. 

He said he’d try to get in touch with somebody closer to Santorum.

I’m still waiting on that call back. 

In retrospect, it’s probably better that it didn’t work out.

Santorum lost Ohio, and he has since slipped well behind Romney in the primaries. I’m chasing the Republican presidential nominee, not the guy in second place.