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Will Social Issues Sink Santorum?

Last week, Rasmussen Reports polled likely voters in the swing state of Ohio to gauge how the three GOP candidates matched up against President Obama. Somewhat surprisingly, Rick Santorum polled in a dead heat with Obama and Mitt Romney was slightly edged out by the incumbent president. Can Santorum withstand a full-scale assault on his conservative social values as the GOP frontrunner until the November elections and keep that edge?

Throughout his candidacy, Santorum has made a point to emphasize his pro-life, pro-family platform. He has made controversial comments on gay marriage, the role of women in the military, abortion and contraception which have been, until recently, largely ignored by the media and voters. While the GOP base may not mind his focus on social conservatism, liberals in the news and entertainment media will see his comments as so abhorrent they may take it upon themselves to ensure his campaign is over before it starts.

For the first time since his failed 2006 reelection campaign for Senate, journalists are pouring over Santorum’s book It Takes A Family and picking out what, in their minds, are the most offensive parts. Santorum is currently under fire for comments in the book (which he attributes to his wife) that discuss how “radical feminists” have devalued women who choose motherhood over going into the work force. With journalists at every major news organization waiting on their own copies to arrive since Santorum’s unlikely sweep last week, there will certainly be more potentially explosive tidbits from the book. The year after the book’s release, we saw the most conservative excerpts of the book quoted in and out of context in his opponent’s attack ads, and many analysts have cited these as a contributing factor in Santorum’s 18-point loss, a historic margin for an incumbent Republican Pennsylvania U.S. senator. In Business Week, G. Terry Madonna, a polling expert and public affairs professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, explained, “Santorum was putting an emphasis on the cultural issues, which didn’t sit well with independent, suburban swing voters in this state.”

recent poll conducted by Winthrop University of South Carolina residents showed almost 30 percent were unable to name Joe Biden as our vice president. How many Americans would be able to understand Santorum’s comments on the possibility of states banning contraception were based on the premise of states’ rights verses a Draconian desire to institute a Catholic theocracy in the United States? When Salon.com‘s warnings that “Rick Santorum really is after your birth control” go mainstream along with a Santorum candidacy, would a Santorum campaign outspent in advertisements and reviled in the liberal media be able to withstand the firestorm and clearly explain the nuances of his social conservatism?



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