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 "gay rights" crusade is not about a struggle for justice but rather it is a cultural war. (comments)
It is not accident that as values collapsed, as family disintegrated, the welfare state, big government, has grown and taken its place. (comments)
If the debt ceiling can be routinely raised simply by the president asking that it be done, why have it at all? (comments)
After the Citizens United decision, the president himself weighed in, expressing his outrage about the decision, indicating his intent to "develop a forceful response to this decision." (comments)
These wonderful new retirement accounts will receive bonds from the U.S. Government. And who guarantees them? (comments)
The owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, are Christians who cannot violate their religious beliefs by being complicit in the destruction of human-life, at any stage. (comments)
In 2013, 48 percent identify as "pro-life" and 45 percent as "pro-choice." (comments)
Politics and political rhetoric is no substitute for personal morality. (comments)
So far, providing "free" government health care through Medicaid has been attracting far more new enrollees than individuals signing up on the exchanges. (comments)
When most Americans feel the biggest threat facing us is big government, yet they do not want to take on the biggest factors driving the growth of government, we have got a problem. (comments)
Is A&E's problem that there are still Americans who believe there is something called sin? (comments)
Americans now in their forties and younger, who will be retiring in 20 years or more, will receive only 75 percent of their promised benefits. (comments)
The things that increase the likelihood of improving one's life are the very things the President and his liberal friends fight. (comments)
Obamacare was never primarily about getting the best, most affordable health care to Americans. (comments)
Anyone who knows just a little bit of history knew from the day President Obama signed this law in 2010 that what is happening today was inevitable. (comments)
He has demonstrated that his own political calculations are more important to him than his party or his nation. (comments)
The Republican Party still has not learned lessons necessary to reverse setbacks of recent years. (comments)
Both are living examples that personal success is not about government programs but about taking personal responsibility. (comments)
Because fewer are working for every retiree, our taxation nowhere near covers what the requirements for Social Security and Medicare will soon be. (comments)
Americans may have different opinions about what is wrong with the country. But there is plenty of agreement that the patient is sick. (comments)