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The Insiders
Posted at 09:15 AM ET, 02/08/2012

From one big day for Santorum to another?

After his win in Nevada, it was going to be very hard for anyone to beat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. Well, last night Rick Santorum did exactly what someone would need to do to have a chance to stay in the race.

He slapped Romney, shifted the spotlight to himself and gave himself major credibility as the conservative alternative to Romney, snatching that claim from Newt Gingrich. Santorum made Romney stumble, and he may have mortally wounded Gingrich.

For Romney to be a humbled front-runner can be good; to get beat up is not so good. Yesterday he got mauled. There are some explanations for this defeat but no silver lining.

Santorum has some assets that Gingrich doesn’t have. Namely, Santorum is likable and he doesn’t have any of the sort of baggage Gingrich has. I wrote in the last few days that he had the potential to finish the race ahead of Gingrich, but I didn’t foresee a trifecta. This is big but not necessarily a game-changer.

Maybe now Santorum will get the attention he has always thought he deserved. The attention will produce good and bad revelations. Santorum is the real thing as a conservative, he has a great family story, and his enthusiasm is infectious. But he had a lucrative career on K Street that hasn’t really been scrutinized under the microscope, he has some policy positions that could be portrayed in a harsh light, and we will all find out the reasons he was beaten so badly for reelection to the Senate in Pennsylvania in 2006. This will lead to a serious examination of the case that he is electable against President Obama.

Importantly, there could be a confluence of circumstances that might give Santorum a voice. I believe Obama has hit an iceberg with Catholic voters. He has declared open, gratuitous war on them and the great work the Church does. Santorum is a serious Catholic. He can speak with authenticity about Obama’s hostility and it isn’t just the Catholics who will be listening. The Baptists and evangelicals in the primary states on March 6 won’t like what Obama is doing either. If Santorum has displaced Gingrich by then, watch out for another big day for Santorum.

More on Rick Santorum’s sweep

Achenbach: Voters, not pundits or pollsters, decide elections

Petri: Santorum, beyond the sweater vest

Rubin: The momentum swings again

By  |  09:15 AM ET, 02/08/2012

 
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