How long can Santorum last?

It might be instructive to compare Mr. Santorum’s position to that of another social conservative, Mike Huckabee. Mr. Huckabee was in a much stronger position outside of Iowa than Mr. Santorum is right now, polling at about 17 percent in national surveys at this point four years ago. Mr. Santorum, by contrast, is at only 4 percent support nationally in the latest Gallup poll. That Mr. Huckabee was not able to capitalize on his Iowa victory, despite seemingly being in a more advantageous position to do so, is one reason to be skeptical of whether Mr. Santorum would be able to, either.

With that said, there are two factors that Mr. Santorum has going for him that Mr. Huckabee did not. First, whereas Mr. Huckabee’s win had been expected in Iowa for some weeks in advance of the caucuses, Mr. Santorum’s would be a come-from-behind victory, something which has historically been associated with a larger post-Iowa bounce. Second, Mr. Santorum could potentially benefit from consolidation in the field if other conservative candidates like Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Perry were to drop out of the race after a poor finish in Iowa…

I also think, however, that it would be hard for Mr. Santorum to draw favorable contrasts with Mr. Romney. Mr. Santorum cannot exactly lay claim to being an outsider, having been the former chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. His voting record on fiscal issues was much less conservative than you might think, although he tended to side with his party on key votes.