New Gallup polling shows the clearest picture yet of the great divide in the Republican Party that has been pushing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to the head of the class.
Behind Santorum's eight-point national lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a yawning gap in ideological support for the two candidates.
Conservative support for Santorum stands at 42 percent, compared to 24 percent for Romney. Among those who attend church frequently, support for Santorum is at 44 percent and for Romney 22 percent.
In the nation's heartland in the Midwest and South, Santorum leads by 19 and 8 points, respectively. It is only on the more liberal East and West coasts where the two are running neck and neck.
The poll also challenges conventional wisdom that Santorum is too conservative for the tastes of independent voters. He is leading Romney among Republican-leaning independents by 8 points.
With Santorum establishing himself as the candidate of choice among conservative and churchgoing Republicans, Romney's tactic, manifest in the debate in Arizona, is to try and discredit Santorum's credentials.
Having served two full terms in the U.S. Senate, Santorum cast enough party-line votes to expose him to the attacks he got in Arizona as being a business-as-usual party politician.
I don't believe this approach will dissuade those generally attracted to Santorum's traditional-values conservatism.
Even in the case of the most ideologically disposed candidate, politics will always be the art of the possible, particularly in a nation as big and complex as ours.
Consider, for instance, that the Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear a challenge to racial preferences in admissions policies at the University of Texas. There is a good chance that the court decision will overturn the Grutter v. Bollinger decision of 2003 in which racial preferences were upheld.
That decision, arguing that the nation needed to continue racial preferences in college admissions, was written by then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was President Ronald Reagan's first Supreme Court appointment.
Given Reagan's legacy as a conservative hero, it is hard to believe that his first Supreme Court appointment was a pro-choice moderate.
It is also worth recalling that shortly into his first term, Reagan convened a commission under the leadership of Alan Greenspan to fix Social Security. Rather than proposing bold changes in the structure of Social Security, the panel simply slapped temporary patches on a broken system, raising taxes and cutting benefits. By avoiding addressing the core structural problems of the system, the Greenspan commission allowed the problem to get worse, and bequeathed to us today an even more difficult challenge.
Do the O'Connor appointment and the Greenspan commission challenge Reagan's legacy as a great conservative leader?
Certainly not. Leadership is art. Even the most principled leaders must set priorities and choose which battles to fight. It is impossible to do it all.
A leader must identify the biggest, most immediate challenges and decide where compromises are unthinkable.
In the case of Reagan, this was cutting taxes, shrinking government and taking a hard stand internationally against communism and the Soviet Union.
The most immediate challenge for our nation today is understanding that our hobbled economy reflects erosion of the cultural pillars that make possible a free society.
When Reagan became president, 18 percent of American babies were born to unwed mothers. This has grown today to over 40 percent.
The way to stop runaway government is to understand that it reflects the collapse of core values, which define personal responsibility and form the glue that keeps American families intact.
There is no candidate today clearer on this than Santorum. It's why I think, despite the onslaught of attacks, he will not only not lose his attractiveness among conservative voters, but the attraction will strengthen.
The irony does not drip but pours forth like a tsunami when liberals start talking about morality and ethics. (comments)
Black Americans are bearing the brunt of the cost of a nation that has lost its moral rudder as a result of wantonly legal and available abortion. (comments)
As our reverence for life has diminished, so has our reverence for the institutions that surround and support it. (comments)
National pro-life leaders were demonstrating outside Kermit Gosnell's abortion center as early as February 2011. (comments)
Carson, through diligence and traditional values, achieved on his own what trillions of dollars of government programs were supposed to deliver. (comments)
Employment set-asides designated for unskilled foreign workers, with wage levels determined by the government, are nothing but a stick in the eye to competing low-wage workers in the American market. (comments)
The purge of religion and traditional values from our public schools has produced a new generation of with values different from those of their parents and grandparents. (comments)
If we are going to save our cities, we need to get back to what built them in the first place: Freedom, enterprise and entrepreneurship. (comments)
I saw a once-barren land -- a land once described by Mark Twain as "a desolate country ... a silent and mournful expanse" -- now fruitful and ripe. (comments)
No gun-sale background check could have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy. (comments)
Medicaid is a pure welfare program. (comments)
Gun control initiatives mask the issues that really need attention. (comments)
At the National Prayer Breakfast, Ben Carson reminds us that religious ritual devoid of content is pointless and destructive. (comments)
No matter how hard you squint and try to discern the values of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in those now wielding the money and power at the top of the party, they've disappeared. (comments)
Why are the president and Feinstein so ready to compromise basic American freedoms with gun control measures to solve a problem that Obama acknowledges we don't understand? (comments)
It is no accident that as the American welfare state grew, the American family collapsed. (comments)
What was once understood as religion and tradition is now called bigotry and pushed off the stage. (comments)
An ultrasound picture, showing the growing and moving fetus, has raised awareness that this unborn child is alive and that abortion is murder. (comments)
Economic growth happens when success and risk taking is rewarded and sloth and failure is not. (comments)
Blacks, of all people, should know that taking arms from the law-abiding many puts too much power in the hands of a perhaps ill-intending few. (comments)