Rick Santorum is the top culture warrior of the 2012 presidential race, and he trounced Mitt Romney in three contests Tuesday. Gay marriage, abortion funding, and church-state clash over birth control are all in the news.
The culture war is back – and so is Rick Santorum.
The two developments may not be coincidental. Mr. Santorum – who clobbered Mitt Romney in all three Republican nominating contests Tuesday – is the biggest culture warrior in the 2012 presidential race. And the most incendiary social issues have lately come roaring back, with the church-state clash over birth control, funding for Planned Parenthood, and gay marriage all making headlines.
Another factor was likely at play in Tuesday’s stunning result: Mr. Romney, still the front-runner for the GOP nomination, didn’t try very hard. After all, the Minnesota caucuses, Colorado caucuses, and Missouri primary were just “beauty contests.” No delegates were awarded. Romney and the biggest "super PAC" that backs him did not spend much on advertising in any of those states. And he didn’t log the hours on the ground wooing voters that Santorum did.
But even straw polls have consequences, and now Romney may be kicking himself: In a shocker, Santorum won all three states, two by big margins, giving the former senator from Pennsylvania a sudden burst of momentum. In Minnesota, with 89 percent of results in, Santorum took 45 percent, Ron Paul 27 percent, Romney 17 percent, and Newt Gingrich 11 percent. Four years ago, Romney trounced eventual GOP nominee John McCain in Minnesota, 41 to 22 percent. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph misstated the Minnesota results.]
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