A new Des Moines Register poll has shown that GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is the latest Republican candidate posting a surge at the polls. Santorum's last minute surge may reflect a coalition of conservative votes in the process.
The new poll showed that Mitt Romney was still on top with 24 percent, Ron Paul, 22 percent; Rick Santorum, 15 percent; Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Rick Perry, 11 percent ;and Michele Bachmann, 7 percent.
Rick Santorum, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, said he had always told people that his surge would come at the last minute: "People have asked me, 'When are you going to get your surge? You're not going anywhere. Your message must not be resonating.' I said my surge is going to come on January 3rd after the people of Iowa do what they do, which is actually analyze the candidates, figure out where their positions are, find out who's the right leader, who's got what it takes to defeat Barack Obama and to lead this country, and I've always relied that when that crunch time comes, in these last two weeks, that's when we were going to start to pick up, and that's exactly what happened."
CNN points out the implication of the fact that conservative voters seem to have been "test driving" alternate candidates against Romney. According to the Des Moines Register poll, 41% of those surveyed say they could still change their minds about who to vote for.
Pundits have pointed out that the poll may be a snapshot of the dynamics of a late surge with sufficient momentum to bring Santorum close to Romney and possibly beating him. New York Post quoted J. Ann Selzer of Selzer & Co., who conducted the poll, as saying, “Momentum’s name is Rick Santorum." Indeed, the potentials of Santorum for a surge that could overtake Romney at the last minute is so strong that pundits are warning Romney to watch out for Santorum, and certainly the Romney camp could not be missing the fact of the threat that Santorum's last minute surge poses.
Pundits on Chris Matthews "Hard Ball" on MSNBC, repeatedly pointed out that a coalition of conservatives votes may see Santorum overtake Romney whose lead has so far depended on the split among conservative voters between Gingrich, Perry and Bachmann.
The Guardian reports that the Santorum surge may be the direct effect of endorsement last week by two leaders of the Christian evangelical movement, Bob Vander Plaats, director of the Family Leader and Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center. Christian evangelicals are estimated to make up about 50% of the more than 100,000 voters expected at the Iowa caucuses.
But Santorum's surge will turn attention of his opponents on him and a negative ad campaign against him may come. His areas of vulnerability are already being highlighted. The Guardian reports that Perry's campaign has referred to the $1 billion in earmarks that Santorum approved while a Pennsylvania senator even while portraying himself as fiscally conservative. CNN reports that Perry said on Fox News Sunday: "Well, there are a lot of differences between myself and Rick Santorum, as Michele talked about, he's (Santorum) got a spending problem, he's got an earmark problem. I'm going to let him explain to people, why did you vote to raise the debt ceiling...You're telling us you're a fiscal conservative?"
If he wins Republican nomination, Democrats will emphasize his stock conservative views to dissuade moderate voters, and these includes his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion and his support for bombing Iran.
MSNBC reports that meanwhile, Romney is reminding everyone that Santorum endorsed him in 2008. Romney also highlighted the difference between himself and Santourm by pointing out that Santorum spent the majority of his career in Washington. Romney, who avoided a direct attack on Santorum, said:
"Senator Santorum was kind enough to endorse me last time around. I appreciate that. And we’ve been friends...I can tell you that our backgrounds are quite different. Like Speaker Gingrich, Senator Santorum has spent his career in government, in Washington, nothing wrong with that, but it is a very different background than I have and I think the people of this country recognize that with our economy as the major issue we face right now that it would be helpful to have someone who understands the economy firsthand."