Santorum Surges: Could He Win the GOP Nomination?

Rick SantorumRick Santorum's recent surge in popularity among Republican voters has shocked reporters and political analysts.

The uber-conservative candidate is gaining momentum in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and he's become enough of a threat that yesterday, Mitt Romney turned the subject of his stump speeches from cricitizing Obama to slamming Santorum. Romney's camp also has unleashed a slew of negative ads about Santorum in Michigan, where a primary is slated for February 28th.

Clearly, Romney's rattled -- but Santorum's latest surge begs the question: Can this social conservative win the Republican nomination, and if he does, could he ever hope to win in a general election?

What do you think?



Judging from the consensus here on CafeMom, Santorum is going to have a hard road ahead of him when it comes to winning over women voters in particular.

We called for questions from CafeMom members prior to hosting a forum with Rick Santorum and his wife last month -- The response in the comments was passionate and unprecedented.

"His positions on social issues place him contrary to large portions of the American population, depending on the topic," wrote CafeMom member Starrsitter. " How does he see that as representing the people?"

"I would love for my family to meet his ideal of the hetero-normative nuclear family, raising and teaching my own children," added CafeMom member BigMommaJesca, "except that it's nearly impossible for the average American family can make it work on one income alone, even WITH our college degrees, as I've almost had to take a second job just to be able to pay back my student loans alone."

While many women are expressing concern about Santorum's views on social issues, Romney is trying to sway Tea Party conservatives to his side by charging that Santorum is not a true fiscal conservative. In Idaho yesterday, he brought up Santorum's voting record while serving as a Congressman and Senator in Washington.

"During that time, the size of the federal government doubled," Romney told voters, according to the LA TImes. "By the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts. And he's a big proponent of earmarks — he voted for billions of dollars of earmarks, including the 'bridge to nowhere.'"

With all of these concerns, why is Santorum doing so well?  I have my own theory.

As I've written before, the man is a tireless campaigning workhorse. While other candidates are sticking with three or so events per day, Santorum generally squeezes in far more. I get the impression he'll appear just about anywhere that he gets a request, and as a reporter in this election, I can tell you that he's never turned down an interview with CafeMom when we've asked for one (nor has Newt Gingrich).

This kind of accessibility goes a long way with diehard primary voters. Those who care about meeting Santorum have ample opportunity to do so. The other candidates are far less accessible, and since all of their campaigns match up fairly closely when it comes to the issues, for many voters it's likely coming down to which candidate gave them the best overall "feeling." Is it the candidate who blew through their town, surrounded by a horde of reporters and campaign staff? Or is it the candidate who has made multiple appearances in their town and stuck around afterward to shake every hand and answer every question?

What do you think of Rick Santorum's momentum in this race? Can he pull out a nomination? And does he have any chance at all in a general election?

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