Election Update: Santorum Now National Front-Runner

A few weeks ago, when Santorum was surging in upcoming primary states like Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota, Romney had a few “outs” to keep his status as a front-runner in the media narrative.  He could say:

 -> Santorum is just the latest in a series of challengers and is benefiting from a lack of media exposure
 -> Santorum only has a small part of the country to play to. Social conservatives don’t run this country anymore
 -> Santorum is on a sugar high. His national polling numbers aren’t rising
 -> Santorum can’t compete in multiple states simultaneously when we hit Super Tuesday

etc.

But now, Santorum is leading the Gallup National GOP race by TEN WHOPPING POINTS 36 to 26 (to 13 for Gingrich and 11 for Paul), he leads the National Rasmussen poll by six points (42-36-11-9, same order), he leads in Michigan according to the latest suite of polling data as summarized by RealClearPolitics.com by an average of 15 points (46-31-8-8, same order), and he trails in Arizona (where he’s spent ZERO time personally campaigning) by a measily 7 points (34-41-13-2 with Paul in third).

As they guessed at National Review Online a week or so ago, the national Republican electorate has apparently FINALLY seen enough of Santorum to feel comfortable (just enough) that he is electable, reasonable (and likable) and can defend himself well against media attacks and are therefore throwing their support enthusiastically his way.  The Not-Romney crowd seems to have more or less united under Santorum without his having to put on a huge ground game or even run a ton of commercial spots.  Will this momentum hold?  Hard to say yet, but I think he’s got more staying power than Newt.

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