That’s roughly where Romney is finding himself. I’m not ready to revoke my Seer of Seers prediction of him just yet, but I think there are signs that Santorum might be more of a challnege to Romney than any of the would-be challengers that have come and gone before.
Romney’s entire image was built on “fixing the economy.” With the economy starting to show signs of improvement, I think the GOP is realizing that they need a Plan B. As George Will (and I) have argued, for the first time the GOP is finding itself running against a Democrat who can actually beat them in foreign policy credentials, so that angle is pretty much out. If the economy improves, that angle is out.
For a GOP that wants to beat Obama, if they can’t win on the economy or foreign policy, that pretty much leaves the culture wars and social conservatives – Santorum’s raison d’être. I do not think it is a coincidence that the Santorum surge has corresponded to the economy’s seeming recovery. If the economy continues to beat public expectations, I would expect Santorum to do so as well.
The Romney camp, meanwhile has decided on his plan of attack against Santorum – “Big spender” and “Washington insider.” I think he’s going to need to do better than that. In an election and with an electorate that’s very much about “feel” Santorum just doesn’t (to me, at least) “feel” like either of those things – Romney may not be a Washington insider, but he’s most certainly an insider.