Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shoots to the top among Ohio likely Republican primary voters with 36 percent, followed by 29 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich runs third with 20 percent, while Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul gets 9 percent.
This poll comes on the heels of polling in the state that Mitt Romney ought to win in a walk: his home state of Michigan, where Santorum holds a statistically significant lead. So, what’s the takeaway?
Respect the Vest. Rick Santorum is for real as a Republican primary candidate. If only Newt would drop out, as he suggested Santorum ought to do not too long ago, the “not Romney” crowd would coalesce around Santorum, and he would likely sweep the table against Mitt.
Now, two caveats. First, Santorum has not yet experienced the full wrath of the Romney war machine, which will be gentleness itself in comparison with the lies cooked up by the Obama machine. Not too mention that Rick Santorum is just too, well, you know, Catholic.
A lot of secular Americans are not anti-Catholic, per se. They’re just uncomfortable with anyone who truly lives his faith. Especially those who vote for Democrats: their kind of Catholic is Nancy Pelosi, Catholics who claim to be faithful but who find more than a few doctrines difficult. To put it mildly. Back in the day when I was a dues-paying, Rosary-praying member of the RCC, they were called “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing those doctrines and beliefs they liked.
The good news is that Santorum isn’t Newt. He’s not a serial adulterer who just can’t control his musings (a colony on the Moon?). Rick certainly has his flaws, but his fiscal improprieties (increasing the debt ceiling; earmarks) are hardly impediments running against the Obama, who has no rational defense against being a big spender. Rick Santorum is, as the saying goes, clean as a hound’s tooth. And if Rick seems to do a very good impersonation of being a regular guy, it’s likely because he is one.
As is always the case, it’s the voters who will have the last word. My prediction is that it will be Mitt vs. Rick as we head into Super Tuesday on March 6. After that? My heart says Rick will win the nomination. My head, however, says Mitt will gain the nod.