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As birth control flap goes on, who benefits most? Santorum? Obama?

The two sides are hardening their positions on contraception. The divide between many Catholics and bishops remains. And it’s raising questions over who benefits in the presidential election.

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. 'It's not about contraception,' he said. 'It's about freedom of religion, it's about government control of your lives and it's got to stop.'

Evan Vucci/AP

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The controversy over President Obama’s order on contraception and religious institutions is not going away as a political issue.

The two sides seem to be hardening their positions. The divide between many American Roman Catholics and their bishops remains. And it’s raising questions over who benefits most in the run-up to the presidential election.

Is it Rick Santorum, who seems to edge out his main GOP rivals on the issue – thrice-married Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, whose record on the issue as governor of Massachusetts has opened him to criticism from hard-line social conservatives?

"It's not about contraception," Mr. Santorum said at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday. "It's about economic liberty, it's about freedom of speech, it's about freedom of religion, it's about government control of your lives and it's got to stop."

Or is it President Obama who’s benefiting most?

In this coming week’s issue of Newsweek, Andrew Sullivan (who describes himself as conservative and a Catholic) suggests that “this could be the moment when the culture-war tide finally turns and the social wedge issues long deployed so effectively by the Republican right begin to come back and bite them.”

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