What’s Next For Rick Santorum?

By Tara Jerry, Contributing Writer

Today has the potential to be a disappointing day for the Romney campaign and a energizing day for the Santorum campaign.  Caucuses in three battleground states (Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri) will be held and Rick Santorum is expected to perform well.

Following all of the buzz surrounding the Iowa caucuses and Newt Gingrich’s surprise victory in the South Carolina primary, this past weekend’s Nevada caucuses passed by relatively unnoticed by many Americans.  More than likely it was because Mitt Romney took such a wide lead in polling that the fact that he won with over 50% of the vote was unsurprising.  Many news commentators have all but given him the nomination already, but there are still more than forty states that still have to vote.  Does Rick Santorum stand a chance as the race shifts westward?

Public Policy Polling released new numbers in anticipation of today’s caucuses in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri that show probable wins in Missouri and Minnesota, plus a likely strong second-place showing in Colorado.  Political observers think Santorum has a better chance of staying around long-term because he has less baggage than Gingrich and is generally better liked than the other candidates (PPP’s polls also show that Santorum has a much higher favorability rating than the other candidates).

The Santorum campaign and his supporters are painting him as the true conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, which is evidenced in the fact that Santorum is now winning among those identifying themselves as “very conservative.”  This could be an advantage for Santorum in the crucial swing states of the Midwest.  The only one that has voted so far, Iowa, already went to Santorum.  These Midwestern states also have large working-class populations, a demographic which strongly dislikes Romney and Santorum feels he can relate to better than any of the other candidates.

Pollsters and pundits aren’t the only ones taking notice of Santorum’s chances:  the Romney campaign has refocused their attention on Santorum instead of a slipping Gingrich.  Tuesday’s caucuses will likely be a huge moment for the primary:  even if Romney wins, a solid showing from Santorum plus a weak showing from Gingrich would help his case as the best alternative to Romney.

However, he does have a tough road ahead.  Romney still has some wins under his belt, and is typically seen as the candidate with the best shot at beating President Obama in the general election.   In addition, Santorum has thrown around some controversial statements that could alienate a lot of voters.  He recently said Susan G. Komen should stop funding Planned Parenthood because abortions cause cancer, same-sex relationships don’t benefit society, and that pregnancy through rape is a gift from God.  A study by the Tax Policy Center shows that his tax plan would balloon the deficit more than any of the other candidates.

While the race is not yet over for Santorum and the other candidates, it’s looking more and more likely like Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.  Santorum believes that once Gingrich is out of the race, he’ll emerge as the leader; as long as he has the money, don’t expect him to drop out any time soon.  Even if the media has declared Romney the presumed winner, the candidates seem more than willing to let this contest go on until the summer. Today’s caucuses, however, could give the Santorum campaign some much needed momentum.

February 7th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Presidential, Top Stories | No Comments

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