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Pundit: Santorum Cleaning Up In Aftermath Of President Obama-Contraception Mess

Deeply Devout Catholic Surges To Top Of Latest CBS News/NY Times Poll
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Rick Santorum

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum pauses during a rally Feb. 13, 2012 in Tacoma, Wash. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Rick Santorum has catapulted to the top of the leader board in the Republican presidential primary, but is he just the latest flavor of the month or does he have staying power?

“I always carry my pocket constitution with me,” a confident Santorum said Tuesday.

It wasn’t a card; it was a poll. But it was a great Valentine’s Day present for Santorum – an “I love you” from Republican voters that sent him to the top of the GOP presidential race.

The CBS News/New York Times poll has Santorum with 30 percent, just ahead of Mitt Romney, who is at 27. Ron Paul comes next with 12, followed by Newt Gingrich with 10. Santorum is way among conservatives, 38 to Romney’s 24 percent.

Political observers say Santorum has a better shot at staying on top than other GOP wannabes who shot to the top and then flamed out.

“Santorum is absolutely not the flavor the month. He can actually do this. Why? It’s a battle inside the Republican party for its soul between the conservatives and the non-conservatives,” pundit Hank Sheinkopf told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer on Tuesday.

Sheinkopf said the ongoing high-profile battle over contraception between President Barack Obama and the Catholic Church may also have helped Santorum, a deeply religious Catholic, and hurt Romney, a Mormon.

“This may the first time that anti-Mormonism really raises its head. Catholics are saying you know he’s really not like us. He makes more money than we do. Santorum is one of us and by the way people tend to vote for one their own,” Sheinkopf said.

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue also thinks the contraception fight has helped Santorum, and if he gets the nomination it could help him in the general election against President Obama.

“Mitt Romney is good on the social issues now. He hadn’t been in the past, which is why a lot of people are somewhat skeptical of him,” Donohue said. “Rick Santorum has had the steadiest in supporting the traditional rights dealing with sexuality, marriage and the family of any candidate.”

Experts say the upcoming primaries — Michigan in two weeks and Ohio on Super Tuesday — could also help Santorum because there are large numbers of Catholic voters.

Local residents will have to wait to cast their ballots. The New York and Connecticut primaries are on April 24. New Jersey’s is on June 5.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …

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