Rick Santorum, that vintage mid-aught candidate, that would-be star of Jesus Camp, might be having his moment. Or at least, says Salon, his poll numbers in Iowa are no longer in the single-digit stagnant state that they have been since the former Senator from Pennsylvania threw his moralizing self into the GOP primary ring.
Salon's Steve Kornacki offers the following tentative bullet points on some reason for optimism in camp-Santorum —remember, it's not a surge, it's a "surge watch." As we all know, the GOP is dying for someone who isn't Mitt Romney and whether their flirtations with just about every Not Romney contender who is also not Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson, or Jon Huntsman are just flirtations or something serious remains to be seen. But Newt Gingrich's poll numbers are falling after peaking and the Evangelical Iowa vote is hot and Santorum has picked up some of their endorsements recently.
So lists Kornacki:
- A parade of influential Iowa evangelical leaders has stepped forward to support him. In 2008, 60 percent of GOP caucus-goers identified themselves as evangelical Christians. That number may have been inflated by the Christian right's enthusiasm for Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, but religious conservatives still hold disproportionate sway in the caucuses — and many of their leaders have been particularly eager to unite behind an alternative to Romney. With his extramarital baggage, Gingrich was apparently too much for them, and with time running out before the January 3 caucuses, some big names are turning to Santorum. Over the weekend, Albert Calaway, a retired pastor who heads a group called Truth, Values, and Leadership endorsed Santorum and offered harsh critiques of his opponents. On Tuesday, Bob Vander Plaats, perhaps the single most influential evangelical leader in the state, added his support, as did Chuck Hurley, a key Vander Plaats ally. Several other leaders with influence among Iowa's Christian right have also come out for Santorum recently.
- Finally, some good polling news: A PPP survey released late Sunday night showed Santorum at 10 percent in Iowa, his first time in double-digits in the state. Bachmann and Perry were tied with him. The leader was Ron Paul with 23 percent, followed by Romney at 20 and a fading Gingrich at 14.
- Democrats are taking note, with one of the leading Obama-aligned Super PACs, American Bridge, suddenly deciding to assign a video tracker to follow Santorum around. The group's spokesman told ABC News that they made the move after sensing momentum for Santorum.
- It's probably too much to call this a surge, since Santorum's numbers really aren't moving nationally or in any other early state. And there's even a chance the PPP result is a mirage, with a new survey from the (less reputable) Insider Advantage giving him just three percent in the state.
Well, here's to the sudden credibility of Insider Advantage over PPP. Santorum may sound less offensive than in earlier years when asked about that whole gay people exist issue, though his definition of "equal rights" for gay people leaves something to be desired.
He actually got a 100 percent rating on free trade from Cato's Institute for Free Trade Policy way back in 2002, and he's made the near-enlightened point that "like Blitzkrieg, terror is a tactic" (except that just means the U.S. is in a War on Islam, not Terror) but he's still fighting the last war on social issues. Even his excitement about homeschooling cannot warm my cold, cold heart since he also really wants to sanction, sanction and possibly bomb, Iran.
So yes here's to its continuation of the meme of Santorum not being worth taking seriously, and to the "Santorum surge" being more of a fluke than all the rest of the candidate's moments in the sun, including that pizza fellow's. What's his name.