(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Whoa, looks like our old pal Rick Santorum's cranking it up in Iowa, boss.

BE: Everybody already knows he's running for prez.

JB: Yeah, but now he's getting serious in a key, first-in-the-nation test of the GOP field. Check out today's piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

BE: Save me some time.

JB: Well, the P-G picks up on the announcement Friday that Rickie hired the Concordia Group, a Des Moines-based political firm specializing in Iowa grass-roots politics. It also quotes Santorum's long-time political ad guy/advisor, John Brabender, saying Santorum will name a nationally known political consultant this week.

BE: Hmm. Got himself an in-state Iowa firm, eh?

JB: Yep, and the firm, according to its website, has ties to another Republican wannabe-prez, Mitt Romney.

BE: How so?

JB: One of the Concordia folks now working for Rickie, Jill Latham, was Mitt's political director in Iowa last time around.

BE: How'd that work out?

JB: Well, as you may remember, Mike Huckabee won the GOP contest there in `08, but Romney finished second in an eight-man field.

BE: So maybe Rickie could be in the running, eh?

JB: Well, it's a funny state. Picks the eventual winner in both parties about half the time. Last time, for example, Obama won the Democratic caucuses but John McCain finished fourth among Republicans. Still, it's always kind to really conservative Republicans. Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Pat Robertson all did well there.

BE: So you're saying everything's up in the air.

JB: Especially Santorum. His office this morning announced he's traveling this week to New Hampshire (for the ninth time; he's already been in Iowa nine times), South Carolina and Massachusetts.

BE: Busy boy. But why Massachusetts?

JB: Probably meeting with Mitt. Apologize for stealing his Iowa person.

BE: So this is really happening, huh?

JB: Buckle up, bub. The more Republicans race to the right, the better for Rick "Mr. Right" Santorum.