Santorum’s strong showing in the debate Monday night was not much remarked on by MSM because Michele Bachmann shone so brightly, but he impressed many conservatives and reminded them of his conservative credentials. It is clear that one of the most interesting “below the surface” battles in Iowa and New Hampshire will be for the single-issue, pro-life voter and the single-issue, pro-traditional marriage voters.
All of the Republican candidates except Ron Paul are acceptable to social conservatives, most of whom are also influenced by economic and national security issues and by electability. While the “three legs of the stool” analysis is generally useful for sorting out GOP voters and their issue sets, most of these voters are mostly conservative on all three issue sets.
But there are thousands of GOP voters who cast their ballots in caucuses and primaries solely on the basis of a candidate’s commitment to the rights of the unborn or to the sanctity of traditional marriage. For these voters the choice between Bachmann and Santorum is a difficult choice between two visible and vocal champions of their cause(s), not just supporters. This debate about whom to support and why will be vocal, principled and fascinating, and if the MSM pays attention will demonstrate the depth of the passions surrounding the issues. The numbers of pro-life/pro-marriage voters are far greater than the Ron Paul followers, but as the MSM is so hostile to the issues that motivate them, these voters rarely get much in the way of attention much less careful reporting.