Santorum rises in Golden State

As recently as a couple months ago, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was a long shot with no money and no campaign infrastructure. Moderators at debates barely gave him any attention, and none of the talking heads were taking him seriously.

All the while, he calmly camped out in Iowa day after day, month after month, talking to voters and building support.

Well, his patience paid off. After some initial vote-counting confusion, Santorum was declared the winner of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses in January.

The former Pennsylvania senator has continued to gain steam since then. After winning non-binding contests in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, he’s passed up the previously de facto frontrunner Mitt Romney in most polling.

But to put this into perspective, consider this polling data. Just three months ago, Santorum won just 2 percent of support from registered Republicans in California. Peanuts, right? But this week, a poll has him at 25 percent support — still behind Mitt Romney, but within striking distance.

Winning California has huge implications for the race because of its sheer size. A victory here could be the difference between heading for the nomination or heading for the exits.

Even in Michigan, Romney’s home state, Santorum has been polling well, sometimes even ahead of Romney himself. And if that weren’t already enough to make Romney pee his pants, even Santorum’s name sounds scary. No, not his legal name — I mean one of his nicknames, Darth Vader.

Santorum’s worldview is unapologetically ultra-conservative. He has railed against classic progressive causes like gay rights, contraception and women’s health access, and social programs.

On defense, he’s hawkish, supporting an oversized military and the United States’ continued involvement in overseas conflicts.  He has even stated that he would willingly bomb Iran if the need arose.

Santorum has promised to undo many of the achievements of the Obama administration, including the healthcare reform law passed in 2010.

Many complain his positions are too conservative for the general electorate, especially among women.  There are also concerns about the difference between what he says about his time in Washington, and what actually happened there.

And after losing his 2006 reelection campaign by the widest margin for an incumbent in history, he became a lobbyist.  Not a particularly well-liked profession, by any measure.

If that weren’t bad enough, in 2006, Santorum was named one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).