Rick Santorum has lived in Iowa for months, visiting every county, street, house, coffee shop, bakery, and front porch waiting for his time to come.  It may have arrived, if the recent polling is indicative of reality.

But because Santorum’s surge comes just days before the caucuses, he is the least scrutinized not-Romney candidate.  Whereas Newt underwent a full month of what David Limbaugh calls the “relentless, unmeasured scorched-earth savagery” of the Republican establishment, Santorum has led the life unexamined in this election cycle.

Santorum has no organization outside of Iowa; while Newt and Perry were criticized (rightly) for not making the Virginia ballot, Santorum either didn’t try or didn’t try very hard.  I agree with Erick Erickson that “any surge by Rick Santorum is another factor ensuring Mitt Romney wins the nomination” because Santorum has no structure for moving forward.

With no proven record of raising money (Newt is reporting $9 million this quarter and Perry raised a lot more when he was hot) and no organization, Santorum is a surge which cannot last beyond Iowa.

It’s as if the mad scientists in the Romney campaign concocted the perfect foil, someone they didn’t need to attack because he was their best means of preventing candidates with name recognition, organizations and money from succeeding, with no chance of succeeding himself.

And now that he is surging, it’s not at all clear Santorum could survive scrutiny.

Rick Perry just started running ads regarding Santorum’s earmarks when he was Senator, and Erickson points to many aspects of Santorum’s Senate record which are problematic; I’m not agreeing that these are problems, I haven’t done the research myself, it’s just that we only are starting to hear about the negatives.

We hear ad naseum that Newt is unacceptable because he backed Dede Scozzafava in NY-23, but Santorum backed Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004.

Santorum is in favor of federal medical malpractice limits (how is that conservative?) but his wife sued for an amount in excess of those limits at the same time Santorum was pushing the legislation.  This article from 2006 lists 20 reasons not to vote for Santorum from a liberal perspective; most of the reasons make Santorum attractive to conservatives, but several raise as-yet unexplored issues which are problematic, like this explanation of child sexual abuse by priests:

Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture.  When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected.  While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

I’m not writing Rick Santorum off or saying he could not be the conservative answer to Romney.  But I’d be a lot more comfortable if Santorum’s surge came a month ago.

Just a few minutes (literally) of internet research tells me there is a lot we don’t know about Santorum, a lot of issues which have not been vetted, and a lot of potential surprises if he surges to be the last not-Romney standing.

Update:  Here’s Perry’s radio ad against Santorum (via ElectAd):