It’s Santorum!

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As Romney’s Veep. If he wins Iowa. Which he could.

That’s my takeaway from the Des Moines Register‘s final Iowa poll–the
gold standard of caucus polling. In the final two days of surveying,
Santorum doubled his numbers, accumulating 22 percent of the total on
Friday, just one point behind Romney. That’s based on some 600 hundred
interviews–a hefty total.

For our purposes, pollster J. Ann Seltzer has the following to say:

EVANGELICALS — In 2008, they were 60 percent of those who
participated in the entrance poll at the Republican caucus and famously
handed Mike Huckabee the win. This year, our polls are showing far fewer
likely Republican caucusgoers identifying themselves as born-again or
evangelical Christians — about one in three.

When we weight our data from the last two days in the field to match
2008, Rick Santorum wins with 25 percent, Mitt Romney is second at 20
percent, and Ron Paul has 16 percent. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich
and Rick Perry barely break into double digits. Each is within a point
of one another.

Now, Selzer locates evangelicals by
asked whether respondents would describe themselves as “a ‘born again’
or fundamentalist Christian, or not,” whereas the normal exit poll
question uses the phrase “born again or evangelical Christian.” Given
that more Americans describe themselves as evangelical than
fundamentalist, it’s likely that the poll underestimates evangelical
turnout. If the latter reaches the 50 percent level, and the Santorum
Surge continues, then the former Pennsylvania senator could win this
thing going away.

Even so, given his lack or resources and
organization–to say nothing of the slings and arrows that will seek him
out–he’s likely to achieve only a respectable second to the former
Massachusetts governor. That may be just what he’s angling for. For
number two, Romney needs a social conservative who can bring
evangelicals on board, and he needs some foreign policy cred. Santorum
is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Catholic with strong neocon chops.
He’s got the youth and the big family values. Maybe his former
constituents could even be persuaded to love him again, and he could
keep the Keystone State in play. Sign him up.