published Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Santorum attracts campaign funds, higher poll numbers

The astonishing rise of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has made it clear once again that nothing is certain in this year's Republican presidential nomination contest.

Santorum made a splash in January with his victory in the Iowa caucuses. Initial counting of the votes gave the win to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but further review belatedly handed the victory to Santorum. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich then divided primary and caucus wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada.

But then Santorum shocked the political establishment with overwhelming victories in Minnesota and Missouri and a highly unexpected win in Colorado, which was assumed to be an easy Romney victory. Romney later took a razor-thin win in Maine over Texas Congressman Ron Paul, though fewer than 6,000 people voted. And those results are in dispute because votes won't be counted from some areas of Maine that delayed their caucuses due to a snowstorm.

The long and short of it is, Republican primary and caucus voters are far from sold on Romney at this point.

And now it appears that the more conservative Santorum has parlayed his victories into big nationwide support. He collected $3 million in campaign donations in just three days after his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

And he has leapt to the top of national polls. Surveys show Santorum even with or well ahead of Romney nationwide, and recent polls give him a sizable lead even in Romney's home state of Michigan.

Santorum is benefiting from his conservative positions, while Romney is struggling on key issues such as ObamaCare. ObamaCare was based largely on Romney's health care reform in Massachusetts, and that would make it difficult for Romney to campaign on an anti-ObamaCare platform in the general election. Santorum has also been more consistent in opposing abortion.

The GOP nomination is still up for grabs. But for the moment at least, Santorum is the front-runner.

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