OMG: The Santorum Surge?

Geez, guess I mocked Rick Santorum’s campaign a little too soon.

A lot of the speculation about Iowa has been in the relative dark, thanks to sparse public polling (aside from the indefatigable PPP). Now CNN/Time/ORC has a new Iowa survey out confirming Newt Gingrich’s collapse in support in the state, but showing Santorum as the Man on the Move, with 16% as compared to Gingrich’s 14%, Paul’s 22%, and Romney’s 25%. Perry’s mired in fifth place with 11%; and Bachmann’s trailing the pack at 9%.

This development, if it’s real, is not totally unexpected, since Ricky’s gotten some high-visibility Christian Right endorsements of late (most notably from Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley of the FAMiLY Leader organization); has already visited all 99 counties; and appears to have more money to spend down the road than his theocratic rival Bachmann. Moreover, he’s the only candidate competing in Iowa’s conservative-alternative-to-Romney sweepstakes who hasn’t already had a “surge,” so why not now when all the others have had their chance?

But on the other hand: let’s say Ricky winds up finishing second or third in Iowa. Then what? As RedState’s Erick Erickson pointed out today, Santorum has zero organization outside Iowa, and lots of vulnerabilities to exploit if anyone took him seriously enough to go after him. So if he does “surge” to a shocking performance in Iowa, it could turn out to be just another signpost on the road to a Romney nomination.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.