So that proposed GOP boycott of Steph lasted not quite two weeks. Good job, everyone. Are we sure we don’t give him another shot at moderating a crucial Republican debate?

When you’re at two percent in the polls, I guess you can’t afford to be choosy when a broadcast network offers you free airtime. Well played, Mr. Stephanopoulos. Very well played.

Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, will announce today that he will seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016, ABC News has learned. ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos will sit down for an exclusive interview with Santorum this afternoon.

Santorum, 57, is set to reveal his presidential intentions at an event today in Cabot, Pa., near his childhood home. It will be his second run for the White House, almost four years after he won primaries and caucuses in 11 states and finished second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination.

Don’t be too hard on Santorum for re-legitimizing Steph, though. He wasn’t the first big-name Republican to grant him an interview lately.

Three days after [the Clinton Foundation] controversy broke, Stephanopoulos hosted an exclusive interview with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell…

In the heat of the moment, with criticism mounting, it was hard to tell whether ABC News would be forced to take punitive action against Stephanopoulos, a marquee personality and co-host of the network’s lucrative morning broadcast, “Good Morning America.” The McConnell exclusive signaled that they would be pursuing a more supportive strategy, and the Santorum exclusive is a sign that they may be out of the woods.

Maybe Santorum figured he owed Stephanopoulos for dropping that infamous contraception question on Romney (allegedly inspired by an answer Santorum himself had given the week before) during one of the 2012 debates. Ah well. All of this is wonderful news for Huckabee-haters, no? Huck and Santorum occupy precisely the same niche in the GOP field, not just as social-con warriors but as blue-collar candidates aiming to reach out to disaffected working-class rural voters. But Huckabee’s better on the stump, he’s got higher name recognition because of his Fox News show, and he has a southern base that Santorum lacks. The only thing Santorum accomplishes by jumping in this time, I think, is … peeling votes away from Mike Huckabee, which should slightly elevate the chances of a more electable center-right candidate sneaking through to victory in Iowa. Laugh at the sweater vest if you must, my friends, but he may be the key to a a huge Scott Walker early-state victory.

Question: Who’s going to be the social conservative champion in the next competitive Republican primary, be it in 2020 or 2024? Huck and Santorum are both done after this cycle, I think. Cruz will still be around, but Cruz is more of a full-spectrum righty than a guy whose claim to conservatism stems foremost from his social views. Same goes for Bobby Jindal. Is there another, younger candidate on the horizon who fills that niche? Or will Huckabee and Santorum take this niche with them when they go?