Bubble in the Heartland

“Why Not Santorum?” One can imagine many ways to answer that banner-headline question at National Review Online. But some conservatives—along with pundits desperate to inject a spark of interest back into the Republican race—are posing it seriously as the Iowa caucus winner appears poised to give Mitt Romney a run in three low-profile GOP contests in Heartland swing states on Tuesday. Polls released on Sunday showed Santorum slightly ahead in one caucus state, Minnesota, and running second in another, Colorado,  while the most recent numbers had him leading in Missouri, which holds a “beauty-contest” primary that won’t select any actual delegates. This may be Santorum’s last chance to regain a bit of the oomph he lost after Iowa, and he’s been campaigning hard—and mostly alone—in the three states since giving up Florida and Nevada for lost. The Romney campaign, determined to have no more right-wing “surges” that disrupt their man’s smooth gallop to the nomination, are doing Santorum the honor of attacking him, issuing news releases calling the former Pennsylvania senator a “proud defender of earmarks and pork-barrel spending” and holding a press conference today where Romney supporter Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and former presidential candidate, echoed that “big-government conservative” line. One reason they aren’t ignoring the latest Santorum blip: Rasmussen’s tracking poll, released over the weekend, showed that Santorum was the only Republican candidate leading President Obama nationally in a one-on-one matchup—by one point, but still, better than Romney and far better than Gingrich. [Rasmussen


So They Say

“Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie ‘Spend It Now.’”
Young Asian woman, bicycling through rice paddies in a Super Bowl ad aired in Michigan by Republican Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra, who’s trying to unseat Senator Debbie Stabenow

Daily Meme: Political Football

  • Who knew a Super Bowl car commercial could make so many politicians angry? 
  • Karl Rove is bitter that Clint Eastwood isn't doing voice-overs for the GOP. 
  • Chrysler says it was just trying to make money.
  • The hopeful ad makes a vivid contrast with the Republicans’ doomsday scenarios. 
  • Was it anti-Romney?
  • Michelle Malkin tweets: “Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???”
  • David Axelrod tweets: “Powerful spot.” 

What We're Writing

  • Jamelle Bouie analyzes the strange re-birth of birtherism. 
  • The longer Gingrich stays in the GOP race, writes Harold Meyerson, the better it is for Obama.

What We're Reading

  • James Fallows provides backstory to the instantly infamous Hoekstra ad. 
  • Ron Brownstein says Obama-Romney is looking a lot like Obama-McCain. 
  • Jane Mayer profiles Larry McCarthy, the negative-ad master who’s doing his bit for Mitt Romney.
  • Christine O’Donnell hits the skids. 
  • How pathetic was turnout for Saturday’s Nevada GOP caucus? (Hint: very.) 

Polls of the Day

Two new polls show Obama’s lead over Romney widening to six and seven points.