After a long year of debate focused on the economy, the national conversation has now lurched in Santorum’s direction. The controversy over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s funding of Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration’s treatment of religious hospitals in health care reform and Tuesday’s appeals court decision striking down the California gay marriage ban — all that adds up to a political opening made for an articulate, uncompromising Catholic Republican.

There’s only one candidate in the race who fits that description, and it happens to be the man who just had the second-best night of his campaign. If Santorum is going to seize and hold the political space to Romney’s right, it’ll be at least in part because he captures the soul of a fired-up social conservative base…

General-election viability has been a part of Santorum’s message since before the Iowa caucuses. Even when he was polling in the middle of the pack in Iowa, Santorum was urging Republicans there to think about which candidate in the race had a record of winning the blue-collar, Midwestern swing voters who decide elections.

Now, strategists suggest, is the time for Santorum to dial up that argument. The cornerstones of Romney’s campaign have always been his perceived electability and strength on the economy. With unemployment numbers dropping and Romney looking less formidable in polling match-ups with the president, Santorum has an opportunity to ask the GOP to reconsider their assumptions about the front-runner.