The UT/Trib poll
Tue February 21, 2012 9:50 am

It should come as no surprise that Rick Santorum is far ahead in the Texas primary. Evangelicals are a major factor here, and Santorum carries their banner. Neither Gingrich nor Romney has done anything to get back in the race nationally, although Romney has the most resources. Intrade, the Internet wagering site, gives Romney a 71% chance to win the GOP nomination to Santorum's 15.1%

There are still questions about whether Santorum holds views on social issues that are too extreme for the electorate -- he recently questioned government-funded prenatal testing because it "often" leads to abortions -- and he favors allowing states to ban access to birth control. He would overturn the landmark privacy case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which prohibited states from passing laws that ban the use of birth control.

The poll results:

Santorum 45%

Gingrich 18%

Romney 16%

Paul 14%

A recent survey by the Barna Group found that 57% of Republicans believe that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches, and 51% regard themselves as born again. If Santorum has locked up that constituency, it not going to be easy for a challenger to take it away. But the history of this race is that most of the damage done by the main contenders has been self-inflicted. Santorum has a low-key, no-sharp-edges personality that separates himself from the rest of the Republican field, but his Achilles heel is that he is prone to extremist views on social issues that could undermine his surge.

Another factor that could allow Santorum to continue his success is that he comes from Pennsylvania, a state that once was the bellwether of American industrial might but today is in the economic doldrums. This allows him to relate to disaffected blue collar voters in a way that Romney, the capitalist, and Gingrich, the career politician, cannot.

* * * *

The current issue of The Weekly Standard features this interview with an unnamed Democrat:

"If he's not on his social crusade, he's a really dangerous candidate," says a well-connected Democratic strategist of Rick Santorum. "When he talks about the importance of manufacturing in America, he's talking straight to Clinton Democrats.  But when he talks about states being able to outlaw contraception, he goes over the edge and he's too far gone."

That's Santorum's problem, in a nutshell. And the edge is never far away in politics.

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