Is it time for Santorum to surge

Dick Morris's picture

All along, the Tea Party voters have yet to get behind a single candidate. They still aren’t united, but in Iowa, there is evidence that Rick Santorum may be surging ahead.
In the Tea Party Patriots (TPP) telephone poll of 23,000 supporters nationally, Newt Gingrich led with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Michele Bachmann at 28 percent, Mitt Romney at 20 percent and Santorum with a surprising 16 percent.

But on the ground in Iowa, where it counts, Gingrich has gone through a gauntlet of $10 million of negative TV ads sponsored by Romney, Paul and the others. Without funds to defend himself, Gingrich has seen his vote share drop. Paul’s has risen, Bachmann’s has fallen, and Santorum has increased quickly.

Here are the stats from the past three Iowa Rasmussen Polls (Nov. 15, Dec. 13, and Dec. 19):
— Romney: 19, 23, 25
— Paul: 10, 18, 20
— Gingrich: 32, 20, 17
— Santorum: 5, 6, 10
— Perry: 6, 10, 10
— Bachmann: 6, 9, 6
— Huntsman: 2, 5, 4

There has always been a sort of mini-primary with the Tea Party followers among Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Cain and Santorum — the candidates they find acceptable. Gingrich’s and Bachmann’s drop; Cain’s withdrawal; and Perry’s stagnation all contrast sharply with Santorum’s surge.

The former Pennsylvania senator has been the also-ran in the field, the Rodney (“I get no respect!”) Dangerfield of the Republican primaries. But with the lack of poll numbers has come a lack of scrutiny. These days, the spotlight can get too hot very quickly. Santorum, whose conservative record is as solid as they come, is benefiting from the fall of Gingrich in a way Bachmann seems unable to do.

Ron Paul remains terrifying. He is really the ultimate liberal in the race. He wants to legalize drugs, repeal the Patriot Act, slash our military spending, pull out of Afghanistan and remove all limits on abortion. On these issues, he’s way, way to the left of Obama. What makes him a conservative is hard to tell. But, whatever he is, he would be a disaster as the Republican candidate. His bland assertion in the last debate that anyone will beat Obama is both self-serving and inaccurate. He wouldn’t.

Anyone who votes for Paul and is not brought up short by his denuding us in our defenses against terrorism and his passivity in the face of Iranian nuclear weapons has to realize that nominating him is tantamount to re-electing Obama.

Most likely now, Romney will win Iowa and go on to win New Hampshire. But then, a kind of buyer’s remorse may set in as Republicans contemplate a nominee who backs Romneycare and once supported abortion choice. His past apostasies combined with his religion may give Newt an opportunity to come back in South Carolina. Then the two of them will slug it out down the road.

But they may have company in the person of Rick Santorum.

[Dick Morris, former political consultant and pollster, writes a nationally syndicated political column and provides commentary for Fox News.] COPYRIGHT 2011 DICK MORRIS AND EILEEN MCGANN; DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM