The List

5 reasons the Santorum surge won't last

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has shot to the front of the pack after his trifecta of victories last week. But can he really hang onto his lead?

It's official: Several polls confirm that Rick Santorum's recent surge has pushed him into the lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. A CBS News/New York Times poll was one of several this week showing the former Pennsylvania senator edging past longtime favorite Mitt Romney, with the support of 30 percent of GOP primary voters compared with Romney's 27 percent. Last month, Santorum placed third in a similar poll — behind Romney and Newt Gingrich — with just 16 percent. Still, many political strategists believe Santorum is destined to be steamrolled by Romney. Here, five reasons the social conservative's detractors believe he's ultimately doomed:

1. He'll drown in a sea of Romney's money
Many pundits believe that Romney can't take down Santorum with the kind of negative ads he used to annihilate Newt Gingrich, simply because Santorum doesn't have nearly as many skeletons in his closet as the thrice-married Gingrich does. But "even if he doesn't go heavily negative," says Ed Kilgore at The New Republic, "Romney can use his heavy money advantage to saturate the airwaves" with positive ads in Arizona and Michigan, which vote on Feb. 28. That should help Romney stage a comeback in those two states. And if Mitt wins both, "the road gets much rockier for Santorum."

2. Santorum can't appeal to mainstream Americans
"Santorum is essentially an ultra-right-wing protest candidate" in what is "essentially a centrist or center-right country," says John Cassidy at The New Yorker. The audience for "extremist views" always expands some during times of economic distress, which is how the neocons and Tea Partiers managed to burst onto the scene. But it just won't be enough to make the country at large interested in "supporting a religious zealot and armchair militarist of Santorum's stripe." And with the economy improving, "the market for political extremism is shrinking anyway."

3. Many conservatives still have eyes for Newt
In 2008, Santorum "was fighting to get former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney elected," says Chuck Norris at WorldNetDaily. It's still baffling that "an alleged conservative like Santorum would fight for the flip-flopping Massachusetts moderate" when there were real conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, in the race. "How can the 'alternative to Romney' also be a Romney supporter?" He can't. That's why, for many of us on the Right, Newt Gingrich is still the only true conservative alternative to Romney.

4. Nobody's endorsing Santorum
Santorum's victories last week in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado have "not resulted in a flood of endorsements from prominent conservatives, or even a trickle," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. Facing a massive financial disadvantage against Mitt, "it's critical for Santorum to have loud, influential Republican opinion-shapers making his case and defending him against Romney's attacks." Maybe GOP leaders just don't want Santorum.

5. Swing voters don't like him — even in his home state
Santorum likes to say he's the only GOP candidate who "has actually won a swing state." But six years ago, as a senator seeking a third term, "Santorum proved he can also lose in such a politically competitive state — and lose big," says Julie Hirschfeld Davis at Bloomberg. Santorum lost his last race in the swing state he calls home by a whopping 18 percentage points. Apparently he's not as popular with the undecided "Republicans who will determine who gets the party’s nomination," not to mention the independents who could swing the general election in November.

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