Santorum Surge Watch Special Edition: The Des Moines Register Poll

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 31 2011 9:22 PM

Santorum Surge Watch Special Edition: The Des Moines Register Poll

"Momentum's name is Rick Santorum." - Des Moines Register pollster Ann Selzer, December 31, 2011

The poll, the last one we will see before the caucuses on Tuesday, has Mitt Romney and Ron Paul locked in a close race for first place -- both under 25 percent. Santorum, unable to move all year, is at third place with 16 percent. Ah, but go deeper:

If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

There's your surge. I have little to add to the CW about how Santorum can now win -- staying on the air (his Super PAC has been up all week, getting little media buzz) and getting Bachmann and Perry voters, motivated by anti-Romney animus, to come over to him. But the long game gives us a primary between Romney, Santorum, and Ron Paul. Romney's been here before, but last time, he had to compete with John McCain, and the social conservative candidate was the huggable Mike Huckabee, not a K Street Project veteran and Arlen Specter endorser.

Also: Santorum is surging after spending 101 days in Iowa. Iowa has roughly 3 million people. To play out this retail campaign in Florida, with its 19 million people, Santorum would need to spend 639 days on the ground. I'm being silly, of course -- Florida will play out after Santorum gets a ticket out of Iowa and at least one candidate, probably three, drop out. But on record, on economic conservative credibility, on ties to big donors, Santorum's not the opponent Romney feared most.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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