Via BuzzFeed. As expected, they’re going hard after his fiscal heresies. I’m giving you Santorum’s new ad here too, which is noteworthy first because he touts his tea-party cred (ironic) and second because he’s now making electability a core component of his pitch. No other Not Romney has been in that position before — but the numbers do back him up, for now:

One thing that has remained constant in the ever changing GOP Presidential race is that Mitt Romney is the strongest candidate against Barack Obama…at least until now. PPP’s newest national poll finds Romney trailing Obama by 7 points at 49-42, while Santorum trails by only 5 points at 49-44

Santorum’s net favorability is 21 points better than Romney’s. Santorum’s at -7 (39/46), while Romney is at -28 (29/57). That’s mostly because Republicans like Santorum a lot better (+40 at 62/22 to Romney’s +2 at 43/41). But Santorum also does a good deal better with independents, coming in at -6 (40/46) to Romney’s -23 (32/55). In the head to heads Obama leads Romney by 9 with independents, but has only a 4 point advantage on Santorum with that group.

Santorum’s also viewed slightly more favorably by independents than Romney is, and his favorable rating among Republicans is now a point better than Mitt’s — thanks to a 13-point surge since last month among Republicans who lack a college degree. Gonna be awfully hard for Santorum to resist going full metal populist on Romney if those numbers hold or even improve. On the other hand:

I’m amazed that Mitt’s numbers are perfectly steady over the past month. I guess the loss in South Carolina to Newt, the big win in Florida, and then the kinda meaningless but kinda not sweep by Santorum in the midwest last week all canceled each other out. But this is what I meant in yesterday’s post about a potential Romney death spiral: What happens if/when these perceptions of his electability start to fade? If Santorum beats him on his own turf in Michigan, will undecideds and other tepid Romney supporters start to break toward Sweater Vest because they finally believe that he really might win? See why Michigan is so huge now?

Exit question: Will Romney challenge Santorum’s supposed electability on grounds that his social views are too far right? Don’t look now but there’s already a gender gap developing between them.