Santorum polling (pretty) well on home turf 

I have been one who has been inclined to dismiss the presidential candidacy of former Senator Rick Santorum, who was defeated when he sought a third term in 2006 by a 59%-41% margin. The argument has been that a politician who has been rejected by 18 points by his longtime constituents, and in a perennial target state, just isn’t a viable nominee with any chance to win a general election.

Well, I may need to revise this view, at least a little bit. National Journal reports that Quinnipiac has just conducted a poll in Pennsylvania showing Santorum trailing Barack Obama by just 45%-43%. The same poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of Obama 44%-42%. In other words, both races are essentially ties. You can argue that Santorum’s 43% is after all not so much more than the 41% he got against Senator Bob Casey in 2006 and you can make the point that he runs (very marginally) behind Romney. Also in the polling for the Republican nomination he runs behind Romney 21%-14%. But he also runs better in general election pairings than Michele Bachmann, who loses to Obama 47%-39%, and Rick Perry, who loses to Obama 45%-39%.

 

National Journal notes that Santorum’s strength is regional. “Santorum's mini-surge comes from his base in western Pennsylvania. He posts a 24-point lead in the southwest portion of the state, and he also leads by double-digits in the central and northwest sections of the state, nearly overcoming Obama's leads in the eastern half of the Keystone State, including Philadelphia and its suburbs.” Of course he’s best known in metro Pittsburgh—blue collar, aging, culturally conservative—where he won a Democratic-leaning House district in 1990 and 1992 before winning statewide in 1994.

This is just one poll, and it’s not proof that Santorum’s appeal in western Pennsylvania can be duplicated in demographically similar areas in other states. And he doesn’t do all that much better than Bachmann or Perry, who you have to figure are much less well known in Pennsylvania than he is. Still, it’s something to keep in mind.

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Michael Barone

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