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Romney and Santorum demonstrate hugely different bases of support

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Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum wound up in a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. And they did it from extremely different bases of support.

While Santorum relied on very conservative voters, born-again Christians, and social and moral conservatives, Romney relied on voters who were most concerned about the economy, who just want to beat President Obama, and those who don’t identify as born-agains.

And the difference, in almost every case, was stark.

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, pauses as he addresses supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party Tuesday in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

According to entrance polls, Santorum took 32 percent of born-again Christians but just 14 percent of everyone else, while Romney took just 14 percent of born-agains and 38 percent of everyone else.

While Santorum took 35 percent of voters who described themselves as ”very conservative,” Romney took 14 percent. Among those who called themselves moderate or liberal, Romney beat Santorum 35 percent to 8 percent.

Santorum took 58 percent of those who said abortion was their most important issue, and more than one-third of the vote from both those seeking the most conservative candidate and those seeking the candidate with “strong moral character.”

Romney took 33 percent among those who said the economy was their top issue and 48 percent who said they were looking for the candidate who can beat Obama — far outpacing his rivals on both of those measures.

Assuming Santorum gets a bump in the presidential race (a safe assumption) and suddenly becomes the new anti-Romney candidate in the field (a less-safe assumption), it sets up a very interesting contrast.

Arguably more than just about any other anti-Romney candidate, Santorum fits the mold of a tried-and-true conservative who has rarely compromised.

He will easily take the most conservative voters on social issues and other issues, while Romney will continue to rely on the establishment wing of the party.

The good news for Romney is that the kind of support Santorum demonstrated is much more valuable in Iowa than in other states, and it may not translate into New Hampshire and beyond. (Think Mike Huckabee.)

If Romney can continue to score large victories among those who see the economy as the top issue and just want to beat Obama, that’s probably better for him than being the candidate for true-believer conservatives and anti-abortion activists.

Santorum can still redefine himself, of course, and he stands to gain if and when other conservative favorites — Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, specifically — drop out of the race.

But the battle lines are certainly drawn for a Romney-versus-Santorum faceoff, if indeed that’s what we’re headed for.

And they are very clear lines.

West Virginia map struck down: A three-judge panel struck down West Virginia’s new congressional map Tuesday, giving the state legislature two weeks to craft a new one or have the courts draw it.

It’s not clear whether the legislature will get it done or not, but the most likely outcome, no matter who does the drawing, is a map that is pretty close to what we have now. The struck-down plan was very status-quo as well, and there’s no reason to expect major changes.

The issue with the struck-down map was the population of the three congressional districts, which differed too much. Thus, small changes could conceivably fix the problem.

It’s unlikely Reps. Nick Rahall (D), Shelley Moore Capito (R) or David McKinley (R) will be beatable under any circumstances. McKinley is a freshman who just beat a Democrat, but he has shown himself to be an able politician in his 2010 campaign and since he joined Congress. Democrats don’t consider him a top target.

Fixbits:

The Post’s Erik Wemple is skeptical that Santorum actually singled out African-Americans as recipients of federal aid. And he might have a point.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), heir apparent.

Businessman Steven Welch becomes the latest Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate to reach into his own pockets. He self-funded $1 million in the fourth quarter.

A three-judge panel makes some slight adjustments to the state’s new congressional map. The map is pretty status-quo.

North Carolina GOP (almost-) governor candidate Pat McCrory raised $1.5 million in the second half of 2011.

Oregon GOP special election candidate Rob Cornilles goes up on the air with an attack ad. Voting by mail is just around the corner in the race for former congressman David Wu’s (D-Ore.) seat. National Democrats have reserved $1 million in ad time.

Perry almost-endorses his lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, in the state’s crowded GOP Senate primary. But don’t tell former ESPN analyst Craig James, who just jumped into the GOP primary with Dewhurst. He’s up with an ad pledging to be just like Perry.

Asked whether he might run for retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) seat, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) says, “I continue to listen to the people of Nebraska.”

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is bringing on his son to run his campaign, after his top advisers left.

Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) will run for the state’s new 9th congressional district, which requires her to resign her current office.

Must-reads:

Super PACs already a winner in 2012” — Tom Hamburger and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

Conflicting reports: Political reporters share a home but not their stories” — Ned Martel, Washington Post

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