Rick Santorum clearly is a social conservative, but not so clearly a fiscal conservative or smaller government conservative.
One of Santorum’s selling points is how he has conducted himself this campaign season. While he attacks hard, he has not gotten personal or rattled.
Santorum did not have several million dollars in attack ads dumped on him in Iowa, or $15 million in Florida. Santorum has not had the pro-Romney media seek to distort his history the way they lied about Newt’s Reagan history, or have the Romney campaign dredge up everyone who ever had a gripe with him.
Republican Rick Santorum complained bitterly Monday that a political action committee that supports presidential rival Mitt Romney is lying about his record. He called on Romney, the front-runner in the nomination race, to ask the group to edit or remove its advertisements from the air before Saturday’s pivotal primary in South Carolina.
“He has a long track record of sending out his henchmen … to go out and not talk about himself but try to spread disinformation,” Santorum said at a news conference Monday.
Santorum even raised the topic of the attack ad at a debate.
In short, Santorum has not been tested in any meaningful way, largely because he has not been viewed as a serious national threat to Romney.
The one time Santorum was tested in a small way with negative ads in South Carolina, he reacted like Newt has reacted. Can you imagine how Santorum would have reacted if he faced what Newt faced?
There is every sign that Santorum’s attack-free honeymoon is about to end. The Romney campaign has rolled out Tim Pawlenty for an anti-Santorum conference call, similar to what was used against Newt as a precurser to a large ad dump:
It’s hard to know how strongly the Romney campaign will go after Santorum. Everything will be driven by internal polling as to whether Santorum represents more than a localized problem.
Santorum’s days in Congress were described by critics as making Newt look like Miss Manners.
We may find out if that’s true, very soon.
Update: Ed Morrissey, who recently endorsed Santorum, is expecting negativity from the Romney campaign.
And, the argument (h/t HotAir) that Santorum is doing better than Romney versus Obama and on favorability ratings also does not take into account that Santorum has not been attacked by anyone in any significant way so far.