This latest eye-poke by the Administration was the product of months of consideration. As Secretary of HHS Sebelius diplomatically explained to a group of Administration supporters, "we are in a war" over the mandate to provide abortion and contraceptive insurance coverage. Ms. Sebelius neglected to explicitly name her enemies, but we now know who they are: Catholics.
There will be no deviance from the Democratic party line on abortion and contraception. It doesn't matter if it violates your most deeply held religious beliefs, you will be required to pay for it or participate in an insurance plan that does.
The Administration took a carefully measured decision to make an example of Catholics, and Catholics know it.
Such decisions have consequences. Santorum is very Catholic. Where will Catholics fly who want to register their anger over the President's latest shot at Catholicism? Not to Mitt, and not to Newt.
Santorum has risen dramatically in the polls over the last several weeks against Gingrich, Romney, and Obama. Right now Santorum is running ahead of Romney in Michigan and Ohio. (See the link). Michigan is where Romney was born. Romney's dad was Governor of Michigan.
"Electability" has been Romney's trump card, that and a big war chest. Not any more. Romney PACs are putting big money into a negative campaign against Santorum. That's a choice Romney can make, but I doubt it helps him much in the general election. So "electability" seems to boil down to "I have enough money to swamp other candidates." This may be true, but it hardly causes people to flock to the cause out of heart-felt conviction.
The Attorney General of Ohio just dumped Romney and signed on with Santorum. Ouch.
Here's the NRO article, which is a recapitulation of polling information from a Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling:
Riding a wave of momentum from his trio of victories on Tuesday Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP’s newest national poll. He’s at 38% to 23% for , 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul.
Part of the reason for Santorum’s surge is his own high level of popularity. 64% of voters see him favorably to only 22% with a negative one. But the other, and maybe more important, reason is that Republicans are significantly souring on both Romney and Gingrich. Romney’s favorability is barely above water at 44/43, representing a 23 point net decline from our December national poll when he was +24 (55/31). Gingrich has fallen even further. A 44% plurality of now hold a negative opinion of him to only 42% with a positive one. That’s a 34 from 2 months ago when he was at +32 (60/28).
The best thing Romney might have going for him right now is Gingrich’s continued presence in the race. If Gingrich dropped out 58% of his supporters say they would move to Santorum, while 22% would go to Romney and 17% to Paul. Santorum gets to 50% in the Newt free field to 28% for Romney and 15% for Paul.